Charles Stanley – How to Listen to God’s Word

Nehemiah 8

How is it that two people can sit in the same pew, hear the same sermon about the same portion of Scripture, and walk away with two different reactions? One is joyful and the other is unaffected. I think the reason is that some people do not know how to listen to the Word of God.

Nehemiah 8 is an amazing scene of God’s people coming together to hear His Word. Remember that they didn’t have individual copies of Scripture to read. For generations, the events of Genesis through Deuteronomy were passed down from parent to child. Moreover, the people had been in captivity for many years. This was the first time most of them heard the Word read. Imagine their excitement as they listened attentively for the Lord to speak to them.

The Israelites were hungry for God’s Word. Are you? Do you listen eagerly and with an expectant mind and heart? The length of a person’s attention span is directly related to the intensity of his hunger for something. If you crave to know more of God, then your mind is going to be fastened on what He’s saying through your pastor or your personal reading. And the reality is that nothing in the world matters as much as what the Lord has to say.

So many things clamor for our focus but few truly deserve it. The Lord is worthy of nothing less than our undivided attention. He has something to say to every person. So whoever listens to God’s Word with an open heart and alert mind will receive from Him.

Our Daily Bread — Solid-Rock Faith

 

 

Read: Psalm 18:1-3,46
Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 4-6; Luke 9:1-17

 

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. —Psalm 18:2

My wife and I both have grandmothers who have lived past 100. Talking with them and their friends, I detect a trend that seems almost universal in the reminiscences of older people: They recall difficult times with a touch of nostalgia. The elderly swap stories about World War II and the Great Depression; they speak fondly of hardships such as blizzards, the childhood outhouse, and the time in college when they ate canned soup and stale bread 3 weeks in a row.

Paradoxically, difficult times may help nourish faith and strengthen personal bonds. Seeing this principle lived out, I can better understand one of the mysteries relating to God. Faith boils down to a question of trust. If I do stand on a solid rock of trust in God (Ps. 18:2), the worst of circumstances will not destroy that relationship.

Solid-rock faith allows me to believe that despite the chaos of the present moment, God does reign. Regardless of how worthless I may feel, I truly matter to a God of love. No pain lasts forever, and no evil triumphs in the end.

Solid-rock faith sees even the darkest deed of all history, the death of God’s Son, as a necessary prelude to the brightest moment in all history—His resurrection and triumph over death. —Philip Yancey

Lord, You are the Rock, the object of my faith. My faith stands on You and not on my shifting feelings; otherwise I would be sure to fall.

Christ, the Rock, is our sure hope.

INSIGHT: Psalm 18 is a song of thanksgiving. The long superscription, taken from 2 Samuel 22:1, gives the circumstances that led David to write this song of deliverance: “A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord, who spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” David used seven metaphors to describe the Lord: He is a rock, fortress, and deliverer. He is our strength, shield, horn of salvation, and stronghold (vv. 2-3).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  A Body for Easter

 

There was a body on the cross. This was the shocking revelation of a 12 year-old seeing a crucifix for the first time. I was not used to seeing Jesus there—or any body for that matter. The many crosses in my world were empty. But here, visiting a friend’s church, in a denomination different from my own, was a scene I had never fully considered.

In my own Protestant circles I remember hearing the rationale. Holy Week does not end with Jesus on the cross. Good Friday is not the end of the story. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. And on the third day, he rose again. The story ends in the victory of Easter. The cross is empty because Christ is risen indeed, as liturgies all over the world proclaimed yesterday.

In fact, it is true, and as Paul notes, essential, that Christians worship a risen Christ. “[For] if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith is in vain.”(1) Even walking through the events of Holy Week—the emotion of the Last Supper, the anguish in Gethsemane, the denials of the disciples, the interrogation of Pilate, and the lonely way to Golgotha—we are well aware that though the cross is coming, so is the empty tomb. The dark story of Good Friday will indeed be answered by the light of Easter morning.

And yet, there is scarcely a theologian I can imagine who would set aside the fathomless mystery of the crucifixion in the interest of a doctrine that “over-shadows” it. The resurrection follows the crucifixion; it does not erase it. Though the cross indeed holds the sting of death, and Christ has truly borne our pain, the burden of humanity is that we will follow him. Even Christ, who retained the scars of his own crucifixion, told his followers that they, too, would drink the cup from which he drank. The Christian, who considers himself “crucified with Christ,” will surely “take up his cross” and follow him. The good news is that Christ goes with us, even as he went before us, fully tasting humanity in a body like yours and mine.

Thus, far from being an act that undermines the victory of the resurrection, the remembrance of Jesus’s hour of suffering boldly unites us with Christ himself. For it was on the cross that Christ most intimately bound himself to humanity. It was “for this hour” that Christ himself declared that he came. Humanity is, in turn, united to him in his suffering and is near him in our own. Had there not been an actual body on the cross, such mysteries would not be substantive enough to reach us.

Poet undertaker Thomas Lynch describes a related problem as well-meaning onlookers at funerals attempt to console the grief-stricken. Lynch describes how often he hears someone tell the weeping mother or father of the child who died of leukemia or a car accident, “It’s okay, that’s not her, it’s just a shell.”(2) But the suggestion that a dead body is “just” anything, particularly in the early stages of grief, he finds more than problematic. What if, he imagines, we were to use a similar wording to describe our hope in resurrection—namely, that Christ raised “just” a body from the dead. Lynch continues, “What if, rather than crucifixion, he’d opted for suffering low self-esteem for the remission of sins? What if, rather than ‘just a shell,’ he’d raised his personality say, or The Idea of Himself? Do you think they’d have changed the calendar for that? […] Easter was a body and blood thing, no symbols, no euphemisms, no half measures.”(3)

On the cross, we find the one whose self-offering transformed all suffering and forever lifted the finality of death. The fifty holy days of Easter that follow a dark and Good Friday set forth the very figure of God with us, a body who cried out in a loud voice in the midst of anguish, on the brink of death: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Precisely because the cross was not empty, the resurrection is indeed profoundly full.

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

(1) 1 Corinthians 15:14.

(2) Thomas Lynch, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (New York: Penguin, 1997), 21.

(3) Ibid.

Alistair Begg – Outside the Camp

 

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp. Hebrews 13:13

Jesus, bearing His cross, went to suffer outside the gate. The Christian’s reason for leaving the camp of the world’s sin and religion is not because he loves to be isolated, but because Jesus did so; and the disciple must follow his Master. Christ was “not of the world.” His life and His testimony were a constant protest against conformity with the world. Although He displayed overflowing affection for men, He was still separate from sinners.

In the same way Christ’s people must “go to him.” They must take their position “outside the camp,” as witness-bearers for the truth. They must be prepared to walk the straight and narrow path. They must have bold, unflinching, lion-like hearts, loving Christ first, and His truth next, and Christ and His truth more than all the world. Jesus desires His people to “go . . . outside the camp” for their own sanctification.

You cannot grow in grace to any high degree while you are conformed to the world. The life of separation may be a path of sorrow, but it is the highway of safety; and though the separated life may be painful and make every day a battle, yet it is a happy life after all. No joy can excel that of the soldier of Christ: Jesus reveals Himself so graciously and gives such sweet refreshment that the warrior feels more calm and peace in his daily strife than others in their hours of rest.

The highway of holiness is the highway of communion. It is in this way we shall hope to win the crown if we are enabled by divine grace faithfully to follow Christ “outside the camp.” The crown of glory will follow the cross of separation. A moment’s shame will be well rewarded by eternal honor; a little while of witness-bearing will seem nothing when we are forever with the Lord.

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

Charles Spurgeon – Effects of sound doctrine

 

“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Matthew 24:24

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-10

What effect does election have on our actions? If this doctrine be fully received and known, it breathes with all gratitude to God, an earnest desire to show forth his praise. It leads to all kinds of holy activity, and a hearty endeavour for the service of God. We are told continually by philosophic writers, that the idea of necessity—the idea that anything is fixed or decreed—tends at once to damp activity. Never was there a grosser misrepresentation. Look abroad, everything that has been great in the spirit of the age has had a Necessitarian at the bottom of it. When Mohammed preached predestination, he took a necessitarian view. Did that doctrine of predestination make his followers idle? Did it not make them dash into the battle, declaring they must die when the appointed time came, and while they lived they must fight, and earnestly defend their faith? Or to take an instance from the history of our own country. Did the Calvinism of Oliver Cromwell make his Ironsides idle? Did they not keep their powder dry? They believed that they were chosen men of God, and were they not men of valour? Did this doctrine mar their energy? So in every good enterprise our churches are never behind. Are we backward in missionary enterprise? Are we slow to send forth men of God to preach in foreign lands? Are we deficient in our efforts? Are we the people who would preach to a select few?—who would erect buildings for worship that the poor scarcely dare to enter? Are we the people who would keep our religious services for a privileged circle? The fact is, the most zealous, the most earnest, and the most successful of men, have been those who have held this truth.

For meditation: The doctrine of election is not supposed to turn us in upon ourselves, but to send us out to others (John 15:16; Acts 9:15).

Sermon no. 324
6 April (Preached 22 April 1860)

John MacArthur – Mourning Over Your Sin

 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

When your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!

Human sorrow is mourning over some tragic or disappointing turn of events. At such times believers are assured of God’s sustaining and comforting grace (2 Cor. 1:3-4). But when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4), He was referring to godly sorrow, which is mourning over your sin.

“Mourn” in Matthew 5:4 translates the strongest Greek word used in the New Testament to express grief. It is often used of the passionate lament expressed over the loss of a loved one (e.g., Mark 16:10). David was expressing that kind of sorrow over his sin when he wrote, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). His grief and despair made him physically ill.

At that point David wasn’t a happy person, but the blessing godly sorrow brings isn’t found in the sorrow itself, but in God’s response to it. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God. . . . For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:9-10, emphasis added). Godly sorrow is the path to repentance and forgiveness.

After David confessed his sin he proclaimed with great joy, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (vv. 1-2). When you understand that your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!

How do you deal with your sins? Do you deny and try to hide them, or do you mourn over them and confess them (cf. Prov. 28:13)?

Suggestions for Prayer; If you have allowed some sin to rob you of your happiness, don’t let it continue a moment longer. Like David, confess your sin and know the joy of forgiveness.

For Further Study; Read Luke 15:11-24. How did the prodigal son deal with his sin?

 

 

Joyce Meyer – Raise Your Level of Expectation

 

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord. Psalm 27:14

We’ve all found ourselves dealing with pessimistic attitudes and low expectations-describing the weather as “partly cloudy” rather than “partly sunny,” seeing the glass as “half empty” instead of “half full.”

For many people, low expectations keep them from enjoying their lives. They go through each day with negative, faultfinding, critical attitudes, rarely hoping for the best because they’re too busy expecting the worst. When things are going poorly they think I had a feeling today was going to be a bad day, and when things are going well they think This probably won’t last long. Good days or bad, on the mountaintop or in the valley, they’re not enjoying their lives . . . because they’ve never expected they could.

Low expectations are more than a few grumpy complaints on a longer-than-usual Monday or a feeling that maybe you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Low expectations are symptoms of a deeper problem, a spiritual problem. A person may have a history of disappointments that caused him to form a habit of expecting more of the same. Some people have such low self-esteem that they assume they are not worth anything nice, so they never expect it. And then there are those who don’t know that God is good and wants to do good things for His children.

What are your symptoms? If you were to conduct an honest evaluation of your heart, what would you find there?

Are you excited about the future, expecting today to be better than yesterday and tomorrow to be even better than today? Do you wake up each morning with a happy anticipation that God is going to do something amazing in your life?

Or do you find yourself bracing for the worst? Do you worry about bad things happening before they actually happen? Do you use phrases like here we go again, this will never work out, I should’ve known things would go sour, and I’ve got a bad feeling about this

The level of your expectation is the level of your faith. Show me a person with low expectations, and I’ll show you a person using very little faith. But show me a person with big expectations, and I’ll show you a person acting with bold faith. Just remember that we are talking about having our expectation in God. It is more than a mere positive attitude; it is trusting God to take care of you and everything that concerns you.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Reap What You Sow 

 

“Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows!” (Galatians 6:7).

Steve had just been introduced to this great and exciting law of sowing and reaping. “Is it really true,” he asked, “that I will always reap what I sow – and more than I sow – good or bad?”

I was able to assure him, from the authority of Scripture, from experience of 36 years of walking with Christ and by observing closely the lives of many thousands of Christians with whom I have counseled and worked, that the law of sowing and reaping is just as true and inviolate as the law of gravity.

If you want to judge a man, an American humorist once said, you should not look at him in the face but get behind him and see what he is looking at, what he is sowing.

For example, is he looking at God with reverence – or with no deference at all? Does he really believe God means what He says?

A student once asked, “If I give my life to Christ, do I become a puppet?”

The answer is a resounding no! We never become puppets. We have the right of choice; we are free moral agents. God’s Word assures us that He guides and encourages us, but we must act as a result of our own self-will. God does not force us to make decisions.

The more we understand the love, the wisdom, the sovereignty, the grace and power of God, the more we will want to trust Him with every detail of our lives. The secret of the supernatural life is to keep Christ on the throne of our lives and delight ourselves in Him as Lord.

We fail in the Christian life when we, as a deliberate act of our will, choose to disobey the leading of the Holy Spirit.

It is a tragedy of the human will that we often think we have a better way than God has for living the Christian life. But do not deceive yourself or allow Satan to mislead you: God’s way is best!

Bible Reading: Galatians 6:6-10

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will seek to sow seeds of love and kindness and faith knowing that as a result I will reap God’s best for my life.

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M.- Resurrected Heart

 

Brian Ivie wanted to produce a film that would compete at the Sundance Film Festival. Then he read about Pastor Lee Jong-rak of Seoul, South Korea. Lee and his wife, Chun-Ja, felt a supernatural call to personally care for South Korea’s abandoned children, many of whom are disabled. “Here was a story of a pastor who had built a mailbox for babies at this church. I thought this could be my golden ticket to Sundance,” Ivie said.

He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.

Romans 8:11

Ivie lived in Lee’s home while he made a documentary about his work – and found faith rather than fame. “When I witnessed the love and courage of Pastor Lee, I saw the real deal. He was giving his life for something that wasn’t cultural,” he said. Ivie discovered eternal life through Christ as well as freedom from anger issues and an addiction to pornography.

As the body and its desires act as the rudder for the unbeliever, the same Holy Spirit that resurrected Jesus from the dead is available to guide every person today. As you pray for the nation’s citizens and leaders, intercede for unbelievers to experience resurrected hearts by trusting in the Lord.

Recommended Reading: Philippians 3:7-14

Greg Laurie – An Oasis of Hope

 

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”—Psalm 122:1

I think we sometimes approach church more from the standpoint of consumers than communers. We may think of going to church the way we think of going to a movie: What time does the movie start? At seven? Well, they roll the trailers for the first twenty minutes, so we’ll get there at about seven. We’ll park and grab some popcorn first. And when the movie is over, we don’t want to wait for the credits to roll, so we’ll get up and leave.

We can have the same mentality toward church. Oh well, it’s just that worship stuff at the beginning. . . . I’ll get in late and maybe check my texts and e-mail while I’m waiting. Oh, and I’ll leave early.

But that is not the way to go to church. It is a place of worship, it is the house of God, and believers are the family of God. So we need to change the way we think about it. Worship is not the opening act; worship is prayer set to song. It is a time of communing with God.

And we should not go to church merely to have our needs met. Sometimes people will hop around to different churches because they like the style of music at one church or the teaching at another church. But that is actually not good for us spiritually.

We need a consistent place so we can get a consistent theology. We also need a place to be accountable to those who know us and can check in with us and help us in life—as we help them as well. We need a place to develop our gifts and serve the Lord.

The church is like an oasis of hope in a desert of hopelessness.

Max Lucado – A Heart Like His

 

What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you? His priorities would be governing your actions. His love would be directing your behavior. Would people notice a change? How about your enemies? Would they receive more mercy? Keep working on this for a moment. Adjust the lens of your imagination until you have a clear picture of Jesus leading your life—then snap the shutter and frame the image. What you see is what God wants. Nothing short of a new heart. In Philippians 2:5 it says, to “think and act like Christ Jesus.” He wants you to have a heart like His.

I’m going to risk something here. It’s dangerous to sum up grand truths in one statement, but I’m going to try. God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus!

From Just Like Jesus