Charles Stanley – Pursuing God

Psalm 63:1-8

Deepening our relationship with God—through discovering His character and His will for our lives—is achieved in several ways. Each one, while familiar, represents an important discipline in pursuing the Lord.

Meditation is an excellent way to build our relationship with God. It involves reading a Bible passage several times with the express purpose of hearing from the Lord. Then, as we keep up diligent, sustained concentration, the Holy Spirit will communicate to us through the verses. Studying the Scriptures allows us to draw from many passages to gain a broader, deeper understanding of God’s character, plans, and promises. We benefit by asking ourselves questions such as, What does this study reveal about His nature? Is there a divine promise to remember? A command to obey? An example to follow?

Another key spiritual discipline—prayer—must undergird our meditation and study. Encountering God requires both a listening ear and receptive heart.

Recognizing how God operates in our lives and in others’ circumstances will help us desire to pursue Him. My granddad told me how the Lord had worked in his life, and his testimony created in me a deep, abiding hunger to seek after God. I wanted the Lord to work in my life the way He had in my grandfather’s.

We are seeking God when 1) we spend time discovering who He is and what pleases Him; 2) our day is not complete without fellowship with Him; and 3) we find ourselves trusting Him more and leaving behind ungodly habits.

Our Daily Bread — Outrunning Cheetahs

 

 

Read: Isaiah 40:6-11,28-31
Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 3-5; Luke 14:25-35

The grass withers, the flower fades . . . . But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:7,31

The majestic African cheetah is known for reaching speeds of 112 kph (70 mph) in short bursts, but it doesn’t do so well over distances. A BBC news item reports that four members of a northeast Kenyan village actually outran two cheetahs in a 4-mile footrace.

It seems that two large cheetahs had been feeding on village goats. So the four men came up with a plan to stop them. They waited until the hottest part of the day and then gave chase to the cats, tracking them down when the animals couldn’t run any farther. The exhausted cheetahs were safely captured and turned over to the Kenyan wildlife service for relocation.

Can we see ourselves in the cheetah? Our strengths might seem impressive, but they are short-lived. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, we are like wildflowers that soon wither under the heat of the sun (40:6-8).

Yet it is at the end of ourselves that our God offers us comfort. A surprise rises up to meet those who wait on the Lord. In His time and ways, He can renew our strength. By His Spirit He can enable us to rise up on “wings like eagles” or to “run and not be weary, [to] walk and not faint” (v.31). —Mart DeHaan

Lord, forgive us for the many times that we rely on our short-lived strength. Help us see that all good gifts come from You, and that You are the never-failing source of our strength, hope, and joy.

When we draw near to God, our minds are refreshed and our strength is renewed.

INSIGHT: The prophets often carry a message of doom. Today’s passage, however, is one of encouragement. Isaiah tells God’s people to have hope because the God whose power created the ends of the earth is the God who lifts them up when they are weary.

Alistair Begg – Follow Rahab’s Example

 

She tied the scarlet cord in the window. Joshua 2:21

Rahab depended for her preservation upon the promise of the spies, whom she regarded as the representatives of the God of Israel. Her faith was simple and firm, but it was very obedient. To tie the scarlet cord in the window was a very trivial act in itself, but she dared not run the risk of omitting it.

Come, my soul, is there not here a lesson for you? Have you been attentive to all your Lord’s will, even though some of His commands should seem nonessential? Have you observed in His own way the two ordinances of believers’ baptism and the Lord’s Supper? To neglect these is to display the unloving disobedience in your heart. From now on be blameless in everything, even the tying of a thread, if that is what’s commanded.

This act of Rahab provides an even more solemn lesson. Have I implicitly trusted in the precious blood of Jesus? Have I tied the scarlet cord, with an intricate knot in my window, so that my trust can never be removed? Or can I look out toward the Dead Sea of my sins or the Jerusalem of my hopes without seeing the blood and seeing all things in connection with its blessed power?

The passer-by can see a cord of such a conspicuous color if it hangs from the window: It will be good for me if my life makes the efficacy of the atonement conspicuous to all onlookers. What is there to be ashamed of? Let men or devils gaze if they want, the blood is my boast and my song.

My soul, there is One who will see that scarlet cord, even when because your faith is weak you cannot see it yourself; Jehovah, the Avenger, will see it and pass over you. Jericho’s walls fell flat: Rahab’s house was on the wall, and yet it stood undisturbed. My nature is built into the wall of humanity, and yet when destruction smites the race, I will be secure. My soul, tie the scarlet cord in the window again, and rest in peace.

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

Charles Spurgeon – The Redeemer’s prayer

 

“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24

Suggested Further Reading: Song of Solomon 5:1-8

When we get a glimpse of Christ, many step in to interfere. We have our hours of contemplation, when we draw near to Jesus, but alas! how the world steps in and interrupts even our most quiet moments—the shop, the field, the child, the wife, the head, perhaps the very heart, all these are interlopers between ourselves and Jesus. Christ loves quiet; he will not talk to our souls in the busy market place, but he says, “Come, my love, into the vineyard, get thee away into the villages, there will I show thee my love.” But when we go to the villages, behold the Philistine is there, the Canaanite has invaded the land. When we would be free from all thought except thought of Jesus, the wandering band of Bedouin thoughts come upon us, and they take away our treasures, and spoil our tents. We are like Abraham with his sacrifice; we lay out the pieces ready for the burning, but foul birds come to feast on the sacrifice which we desire to keep for our God and for him alone. We have to do as Abraham did; “When the birds came down upon the sacrifice, Abraham drove them away.” But in heaven there shall be no interruption, no weeping eyes shall make us for a moment pause in our vision; no earthly joys, no sensual delights, shall create a discord in our melody; there shall we have no fields to till, no garment to spin, no wearied limb, no dark distress, no burning thirst, no pangs of hunger, no weepings of bereavement; we shall have nothing to do or think upon, but for ever to gaze upon that Sun of righteousness, with eyes that cannot be blinded, and with a heart that can never be weary.

For meditation: We are never going to be free from outside distractions and wandering thoughts in this life, but we do need to seek to have some time each day when we can shut them out as far as possible and spend time alone with our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:6).

Sermon no. 188
18 April (1858)

John MacArthur – Entering the Kingdom

 

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

There are basically only two kinds of religion in the world: those based on human achievement and those based on divine accomplishment.

Religion comes in many forms. Almost every conceivable belief or behavior has been incorporated into some religious system at some point in time. But really there are only two kinds of religion: one says you can earn your way to heaven; the other says you must trust in Jesus Christ alone. One is the religion of human achievement; the other is the religion of divine accomplishment.

Those who rely on their achievements tend to compare themselves to others. But that’s a relative, self- justifying standard because you can always find someone worse than yourself to base the comparison on.

Jesus eliminated all human standards when He said, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Even the Jewish religious leaders, who were generally thought to be the epitome of righteousness, didn’t qualify according to that standard. In fact, Jesus told the people that their righteousness had to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees if they wanted to enter heaven (Matt. 5:20). That must have shocked them, but Jesus wasn’t speaking of conformity to external religious ceremonies. He was calling for pure hearts.

God doesn’t compare you to liars, thieves, cheaters, child abusers, or murderers. He compares you to Himself. His absolute holy character is the standard by which He measures your suitability for heaven. Apart from Christ, everyone fails that standard because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But the glorious truth of salvation is that Jesus Christ came to earth to purify our hearts. He took our sin upon Himself, paid its penalty, then bestowed His own righteousness upon us (Rom. 4:24). He keeps us pure by continually cleansing our sin and empowering us to do His will.

Your faith in Christ—not your personal achievements—is what makes you pure. Let that truth bring joy to your heart and praise to your lips!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for accomplishing salvation on your behalf and for granting you saving faith.
  • Pray that your thoughts and actions today will evidence a pure heart.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 24:1-5 and Ezekiel 36:25-29.

  • Who is acceptable to God?
  • How does God purify the hearts of His people?

Joyce Meyer – The Lie of Self

 

For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances. Philippians 3:3

Self-confidence is the buzzword of today’s culture. Society proclaims a basic need to believe in oneself and that you need to feel good if you are ever going to accomplish anything in life. Too many believe the lie.

Many people spend their lives climbing the ladder of success only to reach the top and discover their ladder was propped against the wrong building. Others strive to perform perfectly, only to endure repeated failures. The result is always the same—emptiness and misery.

You don’t need to believe in yourself—you need to believe in Jesus in you. You don’t dare feel good about yourself apart from Him. You do not need self-confidence. You need God-confidence!

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Source of Joy 

 

“So you became our followers and the Lord’s; for you received our message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the trials and sorrows it brought you” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

Mary was so radiant it was as though she had swallowed a light bulb. Wherever she went, there was the radiance of the Lord’s presence about her. She literally bubbled over with joy, and whenever she talked about the Lord her words came so quickly they practically tumbled over each other. She was an exciting, contagious person to be around, and many nonbelievers inquired of her, “Why are you so happy? What makes you so different?”

To which, of course, she would always respond by telling them about our wonderful Lord and how He had filled her heart with His joy.

The verse for today clearly indicates that joy comes from the Holy Spirit, who came into this world to glorify Christ. We are told in Galatians also that the fruit of the Spirit is joy, among other things.

When we are filled with the Spirit and thus growing in the fruit of the Spirit – which includes joy – then we will express that joy by singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. A happy heart inevitably will be reflected in a joyful countenance.

“I presume everybody has known someone whose life was just radiant,” R. A. Torrey said. “Joy beamed out of their eyes; joy bubbled over their lips; joy seemed to fairly run from their fingertips. The gladdest thing on earth is to have a realGod.”

In the words of an unknown poet:

“If you live close to God and His infinite grace,
You don’t have to tell; it shows on your face.”

Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8:9-12

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will not expect to find joy in things, or even in other people primarily, but rather in the source of all joy – God’s Holy Spirit. With His help, I will share His supernatural joy wherever I go.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – In Come Free

 

Do you remember playing hide and seek as a child? “It” stayed at home base while the rest of the players hid. As soon as “It” was done counting, he yelled, “Here I come, ready or not!” When players couldn’t be found, he shouted, “Ollie, Ollie, in come free!”…and they’d come in free and clear.

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

Luke 24:5-6

In today’s verse, the angel who waited at the tomb had a slightly humorous question for the women who brought the burial spices. Jesus was not with the dead, but the living…and that’s where He is now. When you received Christ, you became spiritually alive. You were reborn with the Holy Spirit living inside you. You are equipped for the new life, and when your body dies, you will live with Him forever in Heaven.

Thank God for eternal salvation. Pray for those who still are looking for their hope among the dead, that they will seek out the living Lord and receive His eternal life. Pray for the people of the United States to hear the call to freedom.

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 10:19-25

 

 

Greg Laurie – Who’s Your Daddy?

 

“Having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.”—Revelation 14:1

My mom was married and divorced seven times.

Thus, there were quite a few last names I could have chosen to take. But there was only one of those men who treated me as a father should treat a son: Oscar Felix Laurie. So I chose that name. When looking at the other options, it was the “name above all other names.” Though he was not my biological father, he was in every other way my dad.

You’ve heard the expression “Who’s your daddy?” Well, the Bible says you have a choice of who your father will be. You can either be “of your father the devil” (John 8:44) or you can choose the Heavenly Father.

If we are wise, we will choose the “name above all names,” Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:19 tells us, “The Lord knows those who are His.” God sees what others may not. He knows those who bear His mark. It’s like those TSA Agents who use that little light on your driver’s license at the airport. It’s a black light that picks up a hologram on your license to help them authenticate it.

When we trust in Christ, He gives us His seal—His ID tag. Why? Because we belong to Him! We read in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, “You are not your own. For you were bought at a price.”

In old days, if something belonged to a king, it carried his seal. In the same way, we carry God’s seal: the Holy Spirit. “He has identified us as His own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything He has promised us” (2 Corinthians 1:22 NLT).

I read a story about an old gentleman who was known for his godly life. Someone asked him one day, “What do you do when you are tempted, Old Man?” He replied, “I just look up to heaven and say, ‘Lord, Your property is in danger.'”

If you are a Christian, then you are His. You bear His seal, His mark, and His name.

Streams in the Desert for Kids – Believe!

 

Mark 11:24

A young boy who lived far away from his grandmother loved video games. His grandmother knew he loved to collect the different games and told him she would send him a special new game for his birthday. When his birthday came, there was no video game in the pile of gifts and no note from his grandmother saying she had changed her mind. When his friends asked him what he got for his birthday, he listed all the gifts he had opened and then he added, “And my grandma’s going to send me a new video game.”

His mother overheard him and asked him about it later, “The game from Grandma didn’t come,” she said. “Why did you tell your friends it was going to be here?”

“If Grandma said she would get it, she will. So it’s just the same as if I had it now.”

Days later when there still was no video game, he asked his mother, “Do you think it would do any good for me to email Grandma and ask her if it’s still coming?” His mother encouraged him to give it a try.

Grandma wrote back the same day she got her grandson’s message and said, “I haven’t forgotten your game. I have been looking everywhere trying to get exactly the one you wanted, but have not been able to find it. I’m sending you some money so you can buy it in Chicago. Would that be all right?”

This boy believed in his gift when he could not see it. He knew his grandmother would not let him down. She would keep her promise. That is what faith in God is all about. We know him and we know he will not fail us. We know he will keep his promises, and we live waiting for him to give us what we need.

Dear Lord, Help me to believe that you are at work even when I can’t see anything happening. I know you hear me when I pray. Thank you for listening. Amen.

Discovering God’s Design – The Making of Wise Stewards

 

Proverbs 4:5–9

Wise people devote themselves heart and soul to seeking more and more wisdom. Wisdom helps us know the truth and love the lovely. In New Testament terminology, we come to recognize Christ as the wisdom of God (see 1Co 1:24,30; Col 2:2–3), a treasure of supreme worth we are to seek (with mind, heart and soul) at the cost of all else (see Lk 14:33).

Best-selling author Philip Yancey reflects on the position of the believer in relation to Jesus’ supreme sacrifice:

The author and preacher Tony Campolo delivers a stirring sermon adapted from an elderly black pastor at his church in Philadelphia. “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’” is the title of the sermon, and once you know the title you know the whole sermon. In a cadence that increases in tempo and in volume, Campolo contrasts how the world looked on Friday—when the forces of evil won over the forces of good, when every friend and disciple fled in fear, when the Son of God died on a cross—with how it looked on Easter Sunday. The disciples who lived through both days, Friday and Sunday, never doubted God again. They had learned that when God seems most absent he may be closest of all, when God looks most powerless he may be most powerful, when God looks most dead he may be coming back to life. They had learned not to count God out.

Campolo skipped one day in his sermon, though. The other two days have earned names on the church calendar: Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Yet in a real sense we live on Saturday, the day with no name. What the disciples experienced in small scale—three days, in grief over one man who had died on a cross—we now live through on cosmic scale. Human history grinds on, between the time of promise and fulfillment. Can we trust that God can make something holy and beautiful and good out of a world that includes Bosnia and Rwanda, and inner-city ghettoes and jammed prisons in the richest nation on earth? It’s Saturday on planet earth; will Sunday ever come?

That dark, Golgothan Friday can only be called Good because of what happened on Easter Sunday, a day which gives a tantalizing clue to the riddle of the universe. Easter opened up a crack in a universe winding down toward entropy and decay, sealing the promise that someday God will enlarge the miracle of Easter to cosmic scale.

Proverbs 23:23 calls us to “Buy the truth and do not sell it.” We have been handpicked by God as trustees of the wisdom of the cross. Whatever else we do, we owe it to our Creator, Savior and Lord not to sell out.

Think About It

  • What can you do to “get wisdom”?
  • In what way is Jesus the “wisdom of God”?
  • In what ways do you feel we live on Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday?

Pray About It

Lord, sometimes it’s so hard to live here on earth. I long for your redemption. In the meantime, I will wait and seek to live wisely.

Night Light for Couples – Differing Assumptions

 

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:5

As in last night’s story, “The Argument,” a difficult day can quickly lead to an unnecessarily heated exchange between spouses. Fatigue, problems with the kids or job, illness, or financial worries can make anyone more susceptible to a fight. So can the condition I (jcd) call “differing assumptions.” For example, after a particularly grueling series of speaking appear‐

ances some years ago, I came dragging home on Friday night feeling I’d earned a day off. I planned to watch a USC‐Alabama football game on TV the next day. That seemed like a reasonable plan for a guy who had been out earning a living day and night. Shirley, on the other hand, had been running our home and watching the kids for six weeks and felt it was time I pitched in on a few chores. It was entirely reasonable for Shirley to think that she deserved some help at home after doing “domestic duty” for six weeks. Our assumptions collided about ten o’clock Saturday morning. Harsh words froze our relationship for three days. It was a stupid fight, but understandable in light of factors like overwork, fatigue, selfishness, and very different views of what the other was thinking.

When we’re making our own plans we need to remember to consider our partner’s mental and physical state. During stressful circumstances, we should take extra care to communicate our expectations ahead of time.

Just between us…

  • Have differing assumptions caused us to argue recently?
  • How can I do a better job of being aware of your mood?
  • Do we communicate our expectations ahead of time?

Lord, by Your Spirit, help us to be aware of each other’s needs and to take care in our communication. Draw us together in unity and in love of You. Amen.

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