Charles Stanley – Seeking After God

 

Read | 2 Chronicles 31:20-21

King Hezekiah of Judah served the Lord faithfully. He was committed to righteous living and intentionally pursued that course for most of his life. He sought God devotedly, and the Lord prospered him.

God wants to be intimately connected with us, like a father and child who share deep, mutual love. Our seeking after Him should be characterized by:

  • Wholeheartedness. When we approach God’s Word with a distracted mind or pray with our focus drifting to other topics, we have a divided heart. The Lord desires our full attention; He wants us to keep Him in first place, giving Him priority above everything else important to us (Jer. 29:13; Matt. 6:33).
  • Diligence. We should have a sense of devotion to God and give careful attention to what He is saying. This requires an unwavering effort to understand how God operates and what He wants us to do.
  • Persistence. Seeking the Lord is to be a continual, sustained effort toward deeper intimacy and involvement in His work (Ps. 42:1).
  • Confidence. We need to believe that God wants us to know Him—and that He desires the best for us. Trust is an essential component of confidence (Prov. 3:5).
  • Humility. We are totally dependent on God for everything in life, and He is pleased when we approach Him humbly (Isa. 66:2).

When our hearts yearn for God, He delights in revealing Himself and pouring out blessings on us (Heb. 11:6). Make an honest assessment of how earnestly you are seeking after Him.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –   Letting Illusions Die

 

Cemetery at West Point Military Academy through a foggy window. Photo by Ben May.

“[W]e are perpetually disillusioned. The perfect life is spread before us every day, but it changes and withers at a touch.”(1)

The author of this comment did not have the dashed hopes of a person weary of contemporary political promises; nor the disappointment of a child after his once-adored electronic toy lost its thrill; nor the dispirited outlook of a modern youth disenchanted with rampant consumerism and the daunting purposelessness of life. No, long before computerized games existed, long before Generation Y was disillusioned with Generation X or X with the Baby Boomers before them, disillusionment reigned nonetheless. It was a social commentator in the late 1920’s who made this comment about his own disillusioned culture, words which in fact came more than a decade after a group of literary notables identified themselves as the “Lost Generation,” so-named because of their own general feeling of disillusionment.  In other words, disillusionment is epidemic.

As humans who tell and hear and live by stories, the possibility of taking in a story that is bigger than reality is quite likely. (Advertisers, in fact, count on it.) Subsequently, disillusionment is a quality that follows humanity and its stories around. Yet despite its common occurrence, disillusionment is a crushing blow, and the collateral damage of shattered expectations quite painful. With good reason, we speak of it in terms of the discomfort and disruption that it fosters; we frame the crushing of certain hope and images in terms of loss and difficulty. The disillusioned do not speak of their losses lightly, no more than victims of burglary move quickly past the feeling of loss and violation.

And yet, practically speaking, disillusionment is the loss of illusion. In terms of larceny, then, it is the equivalent of having one’s high cholesterol or a perpetually bad habit stolen. Disillusionment, while painful, is evidence which shows the myths that enchant us need not blind us forever, a sign that what is falsely believed can be shattered by what is genuine. In such terms, disillusion is far less an unwanted intrusion than it is a severe mercy, far more like a surgeon’s excising of a tumor than a cruel removal of hope.

The crucifixion of the Son of God is something like this. The death of God? There are no categories with which to understand it. For those who first held hope in the person of Jesus, it was the same. The death of the one thought to be the Messiah? It was an event that leveled them with disillusioned agony. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright describes the force of this dissonance:
”There were, to be sure, ways of coping with the death of a teacher, or even a leader. The picture of Socrates was available, in the wider world, as a model of unjust death nobly borne. The category of ‘martyr’ was available, within Judaism, for someone who stood up to pagans… The category of failed but still revered Messiah, however, did not exist. A Messiah who died at the hands of the pagans, instead of winning [God’s] battle against them, was a deceiver.”(2)

For those who loved Jesus most, it took time to see that it was not hope but their hopeful illusions that died with him on the cross. Everything they thought God was, every hope for a messiah wielding power and control, every image of God winning the battle and taking a stand against their oppressors, everything they thought they knew about religion, painfully, but mercifully died on a shameful, Roman cross. We, too, can bury our illusions with the body of God. But it is no simple journey. The powerful words of poet W. H. Auden describe what is often the case in a world filled with sickly sweet illusion:

We would rather be ruined than changed;

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die.(3)

Yet if we will allow it, this death can be far more than loss. While advertisers count on our moving from one dead illusion to another, the death of Christ tells a completely different kind of story, a demythologizing story, which cuts through the storied layers of illusion we continually create about ourselves, the world, and others. Within such a story, disillusionment is the precursor to nothing short of resurrection. And faith is the audacity to confront our illusions with the cross upon which we find a self-giving God. In the words of author Parker Palmer, “[F]aith is the courage to face into our illusions and allow ourselves to be disillusioned about them, the courage to walk through our illusions and dispel them. Faith…[is] a disillusioned view of reality…that lets the beauty behind the illusions shine through.”(4) Burying our illusions with the body of Christ, we bury them with none other than the one who unites us to himself in life and in death. We may stand in painful disillusionment, but we stand with the vicarious humanity of the Incarnate Son. Thus, for any losses we mourn or graves of dead dreams and visions over which we lament, so we may stand equally aware that we will be mercifully startled by what emerges from the tomb.

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

(1) John Boynton Priestley, “The Disillusioned,” in The Balconinny and Other Essays (London: Methuen, 1929), 30.

(2) N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 658.

(3) W.H. Auden, Collected Poems (New York: Random House, 2007), 530.

(4) Parker Palmer, “Faith or Frenzy: Living Contemplation in a World of Action,” The Clampit Lectures, 1972.

 

Alistair Begg – Every Day

 

You have come…to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:22, 24

Reader, have you come to “the sprinkled blood”? The question is not whether you have come to a knowledge of doctrine or an observance of ceremonies or to a certain form of experience, but have you come to the blood of Jesus?

The blood of Jesus is the life of all vital godliness. If you have truly come to Jesus, we know how you came–the Holy Spirit kindly brought you there. You came to the sprinkled blood with no merits of your own. Guilty, lost, and helpless, you came to take that blood, and that blood alone, as your everlasting hope. You came to the cross of Christ with a trembling and an aching heart; and what a precious sound it was to you to hear the voice of the blood of Jesus!

The dropping of His blood is as the music of heaven to the penitents of earth. We are full of sin, but the Savior bids us lift our eyes to Him; and as we gaze upon His streaming wounds, each drop of blood, as it falls, cries, “It is finished; I have made an end of sin; I have brought in everlasting righteousness.”

Sweet language of the precious blood of Jesus! If you have come to that blood once, you will come to it constantly. Your life will be “looking to Jesus.” Your whole conduct will be epitomized in this–“to whom coming.” Not to whom I have come, but to whom I am always coming. If you have ever come to the sprinkled blood, you will feel your need of coming to it every day. He who does not desire to wash in it every day has never washed in it at all.

Believers constantly feel it to be their joy and privilege that there is still a fountain opened. Past experiences are doubtful food for Christians; a present coming to Christ alone can give us joy and comfort. This morning let us sprinkle our doorpost fresh with blood, and then feast upon the Lamb, assured that the destroying angel must pass us by.

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

Charles Spurgeon – Little sins

 

“Is it not a little one?” Genesis 19:20

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 2:1-11

There is a deep pit, and the soul is falling down,—oh how fast it is falling! There! The last ray of light at the top has disappeared, and it falls on and on and on, and so it goes on falling—on and on and on—for a thousand years! “Is it not getting near the bottom yet? No, you are no nearer the bottom yet: it is the “bottomless pit;” it is on and on and on, and so the soul goes on falling, perpetually, into a deeper depth still, falling for ever into the “bottomless pit” and on and on and on, into the pit that has no bottom! Woe without termination, without hope of coming to a conclusion. The same dreadful idea is contained in those words, “The wrath to come.” Notice, hell is always “the wrath to come.” If a man has been in hell a thousand years, it is still “to come.” What you have suffered in the past is as nothing, in the dread account, for still the wrath is “to come.” And when the world has grown grey with age, and the fires of the sun are quenched in darkness, it is still “the wrath to come.” And when other worlds have sprung up, and have turned into their palsied age, it is still “the wrath to come.” And when your soul, burnt through and through with anguish, sighs at last to be annihilated, even then this awful thunder shall be heard, “the wrath to come—to come—to come.” Oh, what an idea! I know not how to utter it! And yet for little sins, remember you incur “the wrath to come.”

For meditation: This shocking description can give only a faint idea of the just punishment of our sins. Are you trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver you from the wrath to come? He is able to do it because he suffered the wrath of his loving heavenly Father on the cross (Romans 5:9;

1 Thessalonians 1:10).

“We may not know, we cannot tell, What pains He had to bear;

But we believe it was for us, He hung and suffered there.”

Do you?

Sermon no. 248

17 April (1859)

John MacArthur – Breaking the Bondage of Legalism

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

Legalism can’t produce a pure heart.

By the time Jesus arrived, Israel was in a desperate condition spiritually. The Jewish people were in bondage to the oppressive legalism of the Pharisees, who had developed a system of laws that were impossible to keep. Consequently, the people lacked security and were longing for a savior to free them from guilt and frustration. They knew God had promised a redeemer who would forgive their sins and cleanse their hearts (Ezek. 36:25-27), but they weren’t sure when He was coming or how to identify Him when He arrived.

The enormous response to John the Baptist’s ministry illustrates the level of expectancy among the people. Matthew 3:5-6 says, “Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.” The uppermost question in everyone’s mind seemed to be, “How can I enter the kingdom of heaven?”

Jesus Himself was asked that question by many people in different ways. In Luke 10:25 a lawyer asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In Luke 18:18 a rich young ruler asks exactly the same thing. In John 6:28 a multitude asks, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Nicodemus, a prominent Jewish religious leader, came to Jesus at night with the same question, but before he could ask it, Jesus read his thoughts and said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

As devoutly religious as those people might have been, they would remain spiritually lost unless they placed their faith in Christ. That’s the only way to enter the kingdom.

Still today many people look for relief from sin and guilt. God can use you to share Christ with some of them. Ask Him for that privilege and be prepared when it comes.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those enslaved to legalistic religious systems.
  • Be sure there is no sin in your life to hinder God’s work through you.

For Further Study

Read Galatians 3.

  • Why did Paul rebuke the Galatians?
  • What was the purpose of the Old Testament law?

Joyce Meyer – God Gives Us All We Need

 

And they who know Your name [who have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy] will lean on and confidently put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek (inquire of and for) You [on the authority of God’s Word and the right of their necessity]. Psalm 9:10

In His Word God has given us the tools we need to help us through each new day. He has given us “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3 KJV). So, when you wake up in the morning, decide that no matter what hap¬pens, you will not be depressed today.

Put on the garment of praise first thing in the morning. Listen to worshipful music, read the Word, and renew your thoughts to bring them into line with what God says you are —righteous and blessed. You can think right, talk right, and act right all day, if you spend time with God before trials come your way.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Listens and Answers 

 

“Mark this well: The Lord has set apart the redeemed for himself. Therefore He will listen to me and answer when I call to Him” (Psalm 4:3).

My 93-year-old mother has known and walked with the Lord since she was 16. In all the years that I have known her, now more than 60, I have never known her to say an unkind or critical word or do anything that would be contrary to her commitment to Christ, made as a teenage girl.

Hers has been a life of prayer, study of God’s Word and worship of Him. The radiance and joy of her godly life has inspired not only her husband and seven children, but also scores of grandchildren and great and great-great grandchildren, and thousands of neighbors and friends.

A few days ago I invited her – for the hundredth time, at least – to come and live with us, knowing that all the rest of the children have made similar invitations. She responded, “No, I prefer to live alone. But I am not really alone, for the Lord Jesus is with me, comforting me, giving me His peace and assurance that He will take care of me.”

So she spends her days in prayer, in study of the Word and in being a blessing to all who enter her home, as the love of God flows through her. Only eternity will record the multitudes of lives that have been transformed through her godly example and her dedicated prayers of intercession.

Surely every Christian needs a daily engagement – with priority claim over everything else – to meet the Lord in the secret place if his life is to be a benediction to others.

Bible Reading: Psalm 5:1-7

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I recognize that if I am going to live a supernatural life, I must set aside time which will take priority over every other consideration. Only a genuine emergency will take precedence over such an engagement of prayer, study of God’s Word, worship and praise of my wonderful Lord.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Service Sidestep

 

Many voters prefer a presidential candidate who has served, and served heroically, in the military. Bill Clinton drew scorn after it was learned he had once said he “loathed” the military, George W. Bush was criticized because he allegedly joined the National Guard to avoid Vietnam. But the history of future presidents sidestepping military service goes way, way back. Chester Arthur and Grover Cleveland both paid a “substitute” the sum of $300 to take their place in the Union Army during the Civil War. It was perfectly legal – though certainly lacking in patriotism by today’s standards.

If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

Mark 9:35

There is no “substitute” permitted when it comes to the work God has called you to do. It cannot be left to another and it must not be deferred. Supporting the work of the Lord financially – whether it’s the church you attend, a local food pantry, or a missionary on a foreign field – is important, but your first instinct should always be like that of the prophet Isaiah, who said: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

As you pray for America today, tell God you are willing to be a “servant of all.” Be fervent, constant, and rejoicing in your service.

Recommended Reading: Romans 12:9-21

Greg Laurie – It Takes One to Make One

 

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.—Matthew 28:18–20

To be growing Christians, we must be disciples of Jesus Christ. Why? Because Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples. It takes one to make one. So first we have to know what a disciple is so that we can then go and make other disciples.

In Matthew 28 we find what is known as the Great Commission, where Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (verses 19–20).

What has Jesus told us to do? Go. Go where? Into all the world. And do what? Make disciples of all the nations.

There are two things in the original language of the Great Commission that we need to understand. First, it is a command. Jesus wasn’t saying, “If you can work it into your busy schedules, would you mind—as a personal favor to Me—to please go. . . .” Rather, Jesus was saying, “You have submitted your life to Me. I am ordering you now to go into all the world.”

Second, these words are given to every follower of Jesus—young and old, men and women, new believers and older believers.

It is not the Great Suggestion; it is the Great Commission. The commission of the church is not to wait for the world to show up. Rather, the commission of the church is to go to the world. Every follower of Jesus should be doing this.

So here is my question for you: Are you doing this? If we are not making disciples of others, then we are not really being the disciples that Jesus wants us to be.

Max Lucado – Led by an Unseen Hand

 

For years I viewed God as a compassionate CEO and my role as a loyal sales representative. He encouraged me, rallied behind me, and supported me, but he didn’t go with me. At least I didn’t think he did. Then I read 2 Corinthians 6:1, “…we are God’s fellow workers.” Fellow workers? Co-laborers? God and I work together? Imagine the paradigm shift this truth creates. Rather than report to God, we work with God. We are always in the presence of God; there’s never a non-sacred moment.

Our awareness of his presence may falter, but the reality of his presence never changes. What if our daily communion never ceased? Would it be possible to live—minute by minute—in the presence of God? Is such a goal realistic? Within reach? If we are to be just like Jesus, you and I will strive for constant fellowship with God!

From Just Like Jesus

C.S. Lewis Daily – Today’s Reading

 

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On the hard task of learning to depend only on God and on nothing and no one else.

6 December 1955

I was most distressed by the news in your letter of Dec. 2nd. . . . And I can’t help you, because under the modern laws I’m not allowed to send money to America. (What a barbarous system we live under. I knew a man who had to risk prison in order to smuggle a little money to his own sister, widowed in the U.S.A.) By the way, we mustn’t be too sure there was any irony about your just having refused that other job. There may have been a snag about it which God knew and you didn’t.

I feel it almost impossible to say anything (in my comfort and security—apparent security, for real security is in Heaven and thus earth affords only imitations) which would not sound horribly false and facile. Also, you know it all better than I do. I should in your place be (I have in similar places been) far more panic-stricken and even perhaps rebellious. For it is a dreadful truth that the state of (as you say) ‘having to depend solely on God’ is what we all dread most. And of course that just shows how very much, how almost exclusively, we have been depending on things. That trouble goes so far back in our lives and is now so deeply ingrained, we will not turn to Him as long as He leaves us anything else to turn to. I suppose all one can say is that it was bound to come. In the hour of death and the day of judgement, what else shall we have? Perhaps when those moments come, they will feel happiest who have been forced (however unwillingly) to begin practising it here on earth. It is good of Him to force us: but dear me, how hard to feel that it is good at the time….

All’s well—I’m half ashamed it should be—with me. God bless and keep you. You shall be constantly in my prayers by day and night.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

Compiled in Yours, Jack