Charles Stanley – The Way of Faith

 

Hebrews 11:23-28

Many people consider Moses a biblical “pillar” of Old Testament days—a man without equal in godliness. And certainly, he encountered the presence of the Almighty in a most unusual way and was called to do mighty things with the Lord’s help. But, like us, he was a normal, sinful human being. What the New Testament commends him for is something we all can have: belief.

Today’s verses come from the passage known as the Bible’s “Hall of Faith.” Those honored with inclusion in this chapter were chosen because they acted obediently, and God achieved great things through them.

We, too, can watch His hand in our lives as we act on faith. When we trust Him and obey, God demonstrates His power and shows that He truly is Lord. By operating out of His strength and through our weakness, He teaches us to rely upon Him.

That’s not to say the path is easy; Jesus warned that the way of faith includes suffering. Indeed, many early Christians were beaten or killed for His sake, and faith is still met with harsh persecution in various places around the world. While that may not be our experience, each of us has encountered ridicule, misunderstanding, or lost friendships because we follow Christ.

Even mild persecution can cause us to question whether living out our faith is worth the sacrifice. The truth is, it’s the best way to live. God responds to faith by enabling His children to endure difficulty, demonstrating His power in their circumstances, and providing joy.

Our Daily Bread — Don’t Worry!

 

 

Read: 1 Peter 5:1-11
Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 25-26; Luke 12:32-59

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. —1 Peter 5:7

George Burns, American actor and humorist, said, “If you ask, ‘What is the single most important key to longevity?’ I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress, and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” Burns, who lived to be 100, enjoyed making people laugh, and apparently followed his own advice.

But how can we keep from worrying when our lives are so uncertain, so filled with problems and needs? The apostle Peter offered this encouragement to the followers of Jesus who had been forcibly scattered across Asia during the first century: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Peter’s instructions were not given to help us avoid suffering (v.9), but so we can find peace and power to stand victorious against the attacks of Satan (vv.8-10). Instead of being consumed by anxiety and worry, we are set free to enjoy God’s love for us and express it to each other.

Our goal should not be to see how many years we can live but instead to live fully in loving service to the Lord for all the years we are given. —David McCasland

Lord, I admit that I take things into my own hands and worry. That weighs my spirit down and sometimes robs my nights of rest. Lift the heaviness from my heart as I lean into You.

I will never think of anything that [God, my Father,] will forget, so why should I worry? —Oswald Chambers

INSIGHT: Peter’s words in verses 1-3 are a challenge to those who serve in shepherding ministries—that is, as pastors or spiritual leaders. He reminds us that those who serve as shepherds are to reflect the heart of the good, great, and chief Shepherd—Jesus (see John 10).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A World of Glory

 

As one who flies often, dying in an airplane crash has been one of my greatest fears. The horrifying descent of the Germanwings flight chronicled in the news recently, killing everyone including the one presumed responsible for the intentional downing of the plane, is a terror I cannot imagine. I cannot begin to fathom the sheer panic that must have reverberated as loudly in individual bodies as the pilot’s desperate pounding on the locked door of the cockpit during the last eight minutes of the passengers’ lives. This, to me, is a kind of terror that is unimaginable.

What were the terrors in the mind of the young co-pilot that would propel him to this hopeless end? What were the fears that haunted him? The deep depression that stalked him relentlessly throughout his young life must have pervaded and colored his view of himself, others, and the world. So marred was his view, that it would destroy his dream of being a pilot, and destroy all of the other dreamers he took down with him. What must he have thought as he turned the nose of the plane downward, or heard the screams of the passengers and crew just outside the cockpit door? No one will ever know, but in one way or another, an overwhelming terror subsumed him, as well.

I have as little understanding about the terrors involved in this tragedy as I do about my own compulsion to read article after article about this flight. Doing so only heightens my own fears and sorrow. Yet, I am compelled to do so—when any terrifying tragedy occurs—be it in the French Alps, at Garissa University, or in my own community. I cannot turn away from the stories of those who have experienced terror; those horrifying scenarios in our worst nightmares we hope will never see the light of day, until they do.

Even though we are bombarded with stories and images of terror every day, for most of us it is likely difficult to relate to terror of this magnitude. Yet, perhaps wanting to connect with these kinds of stories is a way in which we try to process our own terror. We can recall the terror of the dark at night. Some might remember the terror of a particular nightmare, or of being utterly lost in a strange place without a map or any sense of direction. Perhaps for some, terror is the experience of being alone, or the fear of a future without anyone in it. For others, terror is being with others who harm and abuse, ignore and neglect, or who berate and belittle. Whatever the experience that conjures our deepest fears, the commonality is the human experience of terror, as the Hebrew psalmist felt and gave voice to thousands of years ago:

My heart is in anguish within me,

the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

Fear and trembling come upon me,

and horror overwhelms me.

And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest”(1).

While it would be a mistake to claim for the Bible the same impulse that lies behind modern horror stories, there are large portions of the Bible filled with terror. Whether the forces of nature, personal or national enemies, or God, stories of fear and terror are abundant. The story of Cain’s murder of Abel, the story of the flood, the offering of Isaac as a sacrifice, and Joseph’s being seized by his brothers are just a few examples all found within the very first book of the Bible.

Biblical scholars note that “the psalms are filled with vivid pictures of terror-sometimes recalled, sometimes averted, sometimes projected as coming in the future. The lament psalms often paint a heightened picture of the threat that surrounds the speaker-threats that lead the speaker to claim that his ‘bones are shaking with terror’ and that his ‘soul also is struck with terror.’”(2)

In the New Testament, Jesus paints a picture of the coming destruction of Jerusalem with people fleeing to the mountains in terror, anguished pregnant women, rumors of military invasion, famines and earthquakes. And of course, the whole passion of Jesus is an extended scene of terror. Not only do we witness the victimization of an innocent person condemned, but we are also led through a series of terrifying scenes of bodily mutilation and pain, accompanied by severe psychological suffering. Yet it is against this backdrop of terror—both recorded in the pages of Scripture and in our contemporary experience—that we sing in my church every Sunday:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts:

Heaven and earth are full of your glory

As if by means of protest, I sing these words against the terror that is too much with us. But more than protest, I sing them in the hope that God is there in the midst of terror. I admit that sometimes when I sing the whole world is full of God’s glory after reading about yet another tragedy, I am perplexed at the ways in which God’s glory shines. But the glory of Christ crucified is no less mysterious, no less difficult. Yet I affirm this beauty as both protest against the darkness of this world and as the very sustenance of hope in a seemingly hopeless world.

Christians, having just celebrated the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, surely place their hope in the God who brings life from what was dead. The good news of the gospel proclaims that even in the most terrifying events, God is at work even there, even then, even now. And even in this most difficult world of sorrow, there is a King of Grief, one who came near enough to sorrow in kinship, and lead us to glory. And thus, we sing continually:

Heaven and earth are full of your glory,

Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna in the highest.

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

(1) See Psalm 55:4-6.

(2) Leland Ryken, James Wilhoit, Tremper Longman, Colin Duriez, Douglas Penney,& D. G. Reid, The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Electronic ed., pp. 854–855.

 

Alistair Begg – Even in the Face of Mockery

 

All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads. Psalm 22:7

Mockery was a large factor in our Lord’s suffering. Judas mocked Him in the garden; the chief priests and scribes laughed Him to scorn; Herod set Him at nothing; the servants and the soldiers jeered at Him and brutally insulted Him; Pilate and his guards ridiculed His royalty; and on the tree all sorts of horrible jibes and hideous taunts were hurled at Him.

Ridicule is always hard to bear, but when we are in intense pain it is so heartless, so cruel, that it cuts us to the quick. Consider the Savior crucified, racked with anguish far beyond anything we can imagine, and then picture that motley multitude, all wagging their heads or making mouths in bitter contempt of the poor suffering victim! Surely there must have been something more in the Crucified One than they could see, or else such a great and mingled crowd would not have unanimously “honored” Him with such contempt. Was it not evil confessing, in the very moment of its greatest apparent triumph, that after all it could do no more than mock at that victorious goodness that was then reigning on the cross?

O Jesus, “despised and rejected by men,”1 how could You die for men who treated You so badly? Here is amazing love, love divine, love beyond degree. We despised You in our pre-converted days, and even since our new birth we have given the world a place in our hearts, and yet You bled to heal our wounds and died to give us life. O that we could set You on a glorious high throne in all men’s hearts! We would ring out Your praises over land and sea until men would universally adore you just as they once unanimously rejected You.

Your creatures wrong Thee, O sovereign Good!

You are not loved, because not understood:

This grieves me most, that vain pursuits beguile

Ungrateful men, regardless of Thy smile.

  1. Isaiah 53:3

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

 

Charles Spurgeon – David’s dying song

 

“Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” 2 Samuel 23:5

Suggested Further Reading: Colossians 3:1-4

If God were to put my salvation in my hands, I should be lost in ten minutes; but my salvation is not there—it is in Christ’s hands. You have read of the celebrated dream of John Newton, which I will tell you to the best of my recollection. He thought he was out at sea, on board a vessel, when some bright angel flew down and presented him with a ring, saying, “As long as you wear this ring you shall be happy, and your soul shall be safe.” He put the ring on his finger, and he felt happy to have it in his own possession. Then there came a spirit from the vast deep, and said to him; “The ring is nothing but folly;” and by deceit and flattery the spirit at last persuaded him to slip the ring from off his finger, and he dropped it in the sea. Then there came fierce things from the deep; the mountains bellowed, and hurled upward their volcanic lava: all the earth was on fire, and his soul in the greatest trouble. By and by a spirit came, and diving below, brought up the ring, and showing it to him, said, “Now thou art safe, for I have saved the ring.” Now might John Newton have said, “Let me put it on my finger again.” “No, no; you cannot take care of it yourself;” and up the angel flew, carrying the ring away with him, so that then he felt secure, since no deceit of hell could get it from him again, for it was up in heaven. My life is “hid with Christ in God.”

For meditation: Satan is unable to snatch anyone from the mighty hand of God (Job 1:12; 2:6; Luke 22:31,32; John 10:28,29). But he still has the unbeliever in his grasp.

Sermon no. 19
14 April (Preached 15 April 1855)

John MacArthur – Following Christ’s Example

 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

Mercy is compassion in action.

Mercy is not a human attribute. It is God’s gift to those who seek Him. Psalm 103:11 says, “As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him” (KJV).

The verb form of “merciful” appears many times in Scripture and means “to have mercy on,” “aid the afflicted,” “give help to the wretched,” or “rescue the miserable.” In general it refers to anything you do to benefit someone in need. The noun form is used only twice: here in Matthew 5:7 and in Hebrews 2:17, which reads, “[Christ] had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” Christ Himself is both the source and illustration of mercy.

Christ modeled mercy throughout His earthly ministry. He healed the sick and enabled the crippled to walk. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute. His redeeming love embraced sinners of all kinds. He wept with those in sorrow and comforted the lonely. He embraced little children and the elderly alike. His mercy was compassion in action!

Despite His abundant mercy, Jesus received no mercy from His enemies. They hated Him without cause, accused Him falsely, beat Him, nailed Him to a cross, spat upon Him, and cursed Him. Even then He sought mercy for them, praying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Some have paraphrased Matthew 5:7 to say that if you show mercy to others, they will show mercy to you. Now that might happen in some isolated incidences, but in this jaded world that’s not often the case—as Jesus’ life clearly demonstrates. Many Christians have incurred slander, rebuke, lawsuits, and even death for their noble efforts. Jesus didn’t guarantee merciful treatment from others. His emphasis was that God shows mercy toward those who show mercy to others.

Don’t ever be reluctant to show mercy to others—even when they misunderstand or mistreat you. God will use your kindness for His glory and reward you accordingly.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise Jesus for being willing to suffer death that you might receive mercy.
  • Is there someone you might show mercy to today in some tangible way?

For Further Study

Read John 5:1-18.

  • How did Christ demonstrate mercy to the sick man?
  • How did the Jewish religious leaders react?

 

Joyce Meyer – Speak and Act with Humility

 

Talk no more so very proudly; let not arrogance go forth from your mouth . . . 1 Samuel 2:3

When we can do something well, or when we reach a personal goal, we tend to feel good about those things. As long as we feel positively about ourselves in a balanced way, it’s fine. When we become proud and fail to be merciful toward others who struggle with things we have mastered, it’s a problem.

I am fairly disciplined in my eating habits, and I recently spent a week with someone who really struggles in that area. She mentioned several times how disciplined I am and how undisciplined she is. Each time she did so, I said, ” I have areas of weakness also, and you will overcome this as you continue to pray and make an effort.”

There was a time in my life when I would not have been so sensitive to my friend’s feelings. I probably would have given a sermon about the dangers of overeating and poor nutrition. But I would not have succeeded in doing anything but making my friend feel guilty and con¬demned. I have discovered that one way to love people is to help them not to feel worse about things they already feel bad about.

Meekness and humility are two of the most beautiful aspects of love. Paul said that love is not boastful (see I Cor. 13:4). Love never wants to make people feel badly because they cannot do what we can do. Instead of bragging about our strengths, let’s thank God for them and encourage those who are weak in ways we are strong.

Love Others Today: What are some things you do well? Be merciful and humble toward people who are struggling in those areas.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Destroying the Devil’s Works 

 

“But if you keep on sinning, it shows that you belong to Satan, who since he first began to sin has kept steadily at it. But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

A young Christian came to inquire of me one day, “How do you account for the fact that so many Christian leaders, many of them famous personalities, pastors and heads of Christian organizations are involved in moral and financial scandals?”

He named several well-known pastors and Christian leaders to illustrate his point.

Sadly I acknowledged his statement to be true. It seems there is an all-out attack of Satan to destroy the credibility of the Christian message. My explanation to him was that our Lord and the apostle Paul dealt with the same problem because, even though the disciples had been with the Lord Jesus three years or more, Judas betrayed Him and the others deserted Him.

The apostle Paul spoke of several who had deserted him. Those included Demas, who loved the present world, and Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus, who strayed from the truth.

Only one person can help us live holy lives that will honor our Lord, who came to destroy the works of the devil, and that is the third person of the Trinity – God the Holy Spirit. As long as we cast our ballot for the Spirit in our warfare against the flesh, we can live supernaturally every day in the joy, the wonder, the adventure and the power of the resurrection. It is simply a matter of our will; the decision is ours.

Bible Reading: I John 3:4-10

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  “Oh, God, thank You that You sent Your Son to destroy the works of the devil. I will claim the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit so that I may live victoriously and never bring scandal or disgrace to Your name.”

 

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Someone Out There

 

America is a nation founded and nurtured on prayer. However, according to a recent Pew Report, prayer in America has “gone rogue.” In other words, anything goes: from spirit drumming to mystical chanting. People across the USA are praying, but most confess they are merely addressing “someone out there.”

We always pray for you, that our God…may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith.

II Thessalonians 1:11

In 1787, about five weeks into the Constitutional Convention, the framers were frustrated in their attempts to draft the U. S. Constitution. Benjamin Franklin challenged them to return earnestly in prayer to God on behalf of their nation. He asked, “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’”

God is still shaping America’s future in the hearts of those who seek Him. Today, pray specifically for those blindly praying to “someone” that they may discover the true identity of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; placing all hope for themselves, and for America, in His great power.

Recommended Reading: I Timothy 2:1-8

 

Greg Laurie – Why Fellowship?

 

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.  —Malachi 3:16

Have you ever been somewhere and someone mentioned your name? You noticed, didn’t you? When my grandchildren say to me, “Papa,” I will turn to look. And when I hear a little child say “Papa,” I will turn around instinctively. I am in tune to that word.

In the same way, God listens and hears when we talk about Him. We are told in Malachi 3:16, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them.” That phrase listened and heard means to bend down so as not to miss a single word.

The Lord likes to listen in on our conversations. He likes it when we gather together for fellowship. In the book of Acts, we read that the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (2:42). In this verse the word fellowship comes from the Greek word koinonia. It is an interesting word that also can be translated “partnership,” “communion,” or “commune.” There are many different facets of this word, but the idea being communicated here is that these first-century believers loved to gather together.

When you are walking with God, you will want to be with God’s people too. And when you are not walking with God, you won’t want to be with God’s people. It’s actually a pretty good gauge of where you are spiritually. If you want to hang around godly people, then I would almost guarantee that you are living a godly life. And if you don’t want to be around godly people, then it would be an indication that something is wrong spiritually.

If you find yourself out of fellowship with God, then you will find yourself out of fellowship with other believers as well.

Max Lucado – Ears to Hear

 

“Let he who has ears to hear, use them.” Jesus said these words more than once. We’re reminded that it’s not just enough to have ears—it’s necessary to use them.

Scripture has always placed a premium on hearing God’s voice. “Happy are those who listen to me” is the promise of Proverbs 8:34. When John wrote to each of the seven churches in Revelation, they were addressed in the same manner: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” John 10:3-5 says, “The sheep recognize his voice…” They follow because they are familiar with the shepherd’s voice.

Our ears, unlike our eyes, do not have lids. They are to remain open, but how easily they close. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing.” How long has it been since you had your hearing checked?

From Just Like Jesus

Encouragement for Today – The Miracle of Friendship by Melanie Shankle.

 

“As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:1 (ESV)

One of my dearest friends is dying of cancer right now.

I realize that’s not really an uplifting start to your day. But it’s the reality. I am heartbroken at the prospect of losing my Jen. She’s been a constant presence in my life since we first met at 18 years old and she swept into a room wearing a denim wrap skirt and Cole Haan loafers that caused me to immediately reexamine all my personal wardrobe goals. She was exuberant and confident, and immediately I wanted to be her friend … if I could get over feeling so intimidated.

Fortunately, I did, and she quickly became one of my dearest friends as we learned all the ways we were alike and all the ways we were different. God used Jen to draw my heart back to Him as she demonstrated how to make faith a priority. I look back at that time and realize God very purposely knit our hearts together during those years. He knew all the ways He would use us to encourage and strengthen one another.

As we see in our key verse, 1 Samuel 18:1, God sometimes knits our hearts with others like He did with David and Jonathan. He puts people in our paths because He knows we’ll need them.

Jonathan was just what David needed at that stage of his life. David was a young shepherd thrust into the spotlight. And based on some of his future writings in the book of Psalms, maybe a little overemotional at times.

David was often overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and depression, and being hunted by a crazy king. (I can relate to all of these things with the exception of the crazy king.) But Jonathan loved David, believed in him, and sought God’s best for him. Jonathan’s friendship was what David needed to grow into the king and leader he was to become.

As women, many of us spend our early lives thinking about marriage and hoping to find Mr. Right. Then we realize our husbands don’t necessarily want to hear all about the best waterproof mascara or cry with us over the kid who’s failing math or eat cookie dough straight from the bowl. That’s why God gives us our girlfriends.

Beyond common interests, affection and a sense of humor — the aim of friendship is to sow into each other words of eternal life and blessing. We remind each other of God’s wisdom and provision, refresh each other’s spirit and strengthen each other’s faith.

Good friendships require walking with one another down some hard roads, losses, a bad diagnosis, financial problems and much more. We need friends to help us remember what God has done for us and that He will be faithful.

In 2 Samuel 1:26b, David says of Jonathan, ” … Your friendship was a miracle-wonder, love far exceeding anything I’ve known — or ever hope to know,”(MSG). That’s ultimately what God gives us in friendship: a real life, everyday miracle in the form of another person.

But having your soul knitted to another isn’t for the faint of heart.

It means you bear your own hurts along with those of your friend. You cry when they cry and laugh when they laugh and feel like your heart will break wide open when you face not having them by your side.

But it’s worth it because they cause you to love harder, laugh louder, live richer and become more than you could ever be without them. It’s putting your heart and your name in the hands of another person and saying, “I trust you with all of this,” as they do the same.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the friends You have given us to walk with us through life here on earth. Please show us ways to love each other better and take away any fear we have of being authentic about our struggles. Help us have open hearts that love the way You love. Thank You for knitting our hearts together with the people You know will make us stronger. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (ESV)

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (ESV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Reflect on some ways your friendships have made you stronger and how God has used them in your life.

What are some tangible ways you can show your friends how much they mean to you?

RELATED RESOURCES:
Stop by Melanie’s blog today to connect with her and learn more about her writing and ministry.

 

Night Light for Couples  – Error Or Opportunity?

 

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

Many years ago, at what was then Standard Oil Company, an executive’s mistake cost the firm more than two million dollars. On the day the news leaked, the firm’s employees feared the wrath of the powerful head of the company—John D. Rockefeller—and found various ways to avoid him. One partner, however, kept his previously scheduled appointment. When he walked into the president’s office, he saw Rockefeller writing on a pad of paper.

“Oh, it’s you, Bedford,” Rockefeller said calmly. “I suppose you’ve heard about our loss?” The partner said that he had. “I’ve been thinking it over,” Rockefeller said, “and before I ask the man to discuss the matter, I’ve been making some notes.” Across the top of the page was written, “Points in favor of Mr. ________.” There followed a long list of the man’s virtues, including a description of how the executive had helped the firm make the right decision on three separate occasions. Since the earnings from these decisions had added up to many times the cost of the recent error, Rockefeller told Bedford that he had decided to seize the opportunity to encourage the executive instead of censure him.

The next time your spouse fails you, you could cut him or her down in a torrent of angry words… or you could see a golden opportunity to encourage.

Just between us…

  • When was I most encouraging to you during a crisis?
  • Is there a particular Scripture verse you cling to during tough times?

Lord, we so often underestimate how much influence our words can have. We ask for wisdom to speak encouragement—especially when criticism might be expected. Amen.

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