Charles Stanley – God’s Throne of Grace

Hebrews 4:13-16

When sadness, depression, or loneliness assails us, we may feel as if there’s nowhere to turn. But God clearly tells us what to do when we’re in need: We are to go straight to His throne of grace.

The prophet Isaiah’s vision of this setting is so overwhelming that he cries out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isa. 6:5 NIV). This throne room is filled with God’s glory, power, and radiant majesty—it is a holy place from which He rules over the entire universe.

We, like Isaiah, may feel unworthy, but God extends His great mercy and love to us from His throne, taking away our sin. We can approach God there once we have given our lives to Him through Christ. As we cry out to Jesus to save us because we know we can’t save ourselves, the door of heaven swings wide open, and we are ushered into the throne room. We are welcome because Jesus is our intercessor—He gives us access to the God of all creation. Because He walked where we walk, and He sympathizes with our weaknesses.

Jesus was tempted just as we are but never sinned and always remained one with the Father. He invites us to follow in His steps. His death and resurrection make it possible for us to receive mercy and grace at all times. So, instead of sitting alone in our pain, outside this wonderful place where we’re always accepted, we should run through the open doors, straight into the presence of our Father.

Our Daily Bread — A Father Who Runs

 

 

Read: Luke 15:11-24
Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 9-11; Luke 15:11-32

The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. —Luke 19:10

Every day a father craned his neck to look toward the distant road, waiting for his son’s return. And every night he went to bed disappointed. But one day, a speck appeared. A lonesome silhouette stood against the crimson sky. Could that be my son? the father wondered. Then he caught sight of the familiar saunter. Yes, that has to be my son!

And so while the son was “still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). It is remarkable that the family patriarch did something that was considered undignified in Middle Eastern culture—he ran to meet his son. The father was full of unbridled joy at his son’s return.

The son didn’t deserve such a reception. When he had asked his father for his share of the inheritance and left home, it was as if he had wished his father dead. But despite all that the son had done to his father, he was still his son (v.24).

This parable reminds me that I’m accepted by God because of His grace, not because of my merits. It assures me that I’ll never sink so deep that God’s grace can’t reach me. Our heavenly Father is waiting to run to us with open arms. —Poh Fang Chia

Father, I’m so grateful for all Your Son did for me at the cross. I’m thankful for grace. I offer You a heart that desires to be like Jesus—merciful and gracious.

We deserve punishment and get forgiveness; we deserve God’s wrath and get God’s love. —Philip Yancey

INSIGHT: The parables of Luke 15 deal with recovering what was lost. In verses 3-7 the search is for a lost sheep; in verses 8-10, a lost coin; in verses 11-24, a lost son. Each time the emphasis is on the sense of urgency of the one who is searching.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Beauty in the Subway

 

Dale Henderson gives cello concerts in New York City subway stations because he fears the day when classical music will be no more. He plays for free, focusing primarily on Bach Solo Cello Suites because their “power and beauty unfailingly inspire great appreciation, joy and deep emotion in those who hear them.”(1) Some commuters stop and stare, curious or captivated, many having never heard a cello or Bach concerto before. For Henderson, the music is an offering of something meaningful, seeds for future generations of classical music admirers who would not otherwise know it, beauty well worth lugging his heavy cello down into the subways to protect.

It is not always easy to talk about beauty without a minefield of objections or at best complicating list of qualifiers. Its modern place in the “eye of the beholder” gives it a tenuous feel at best. It’s ancient place as a perfect and ancient ideal is equally abstract. While Henderson describes a world without classical music as soul-less, others may not miss it so much. And the contrast of beauty in a broken and breaking world makes its distinctive encounters increasingly stand out.

One author describes the common, but individual, effect of our varied encounters of the beautiful this way: “‘Beauty’ seems suited to those experiences that stop us in our tracks. Whether it’s a painting called Broadway Boogie-Woogie or a scherzo by Paganini, the beautiful is conducive to stillness. It doesn’t excite us, or necessarily instill in us the desire to replicate it; it simply makes us exist as though we’re existing for that very experience.”(2) His words are rife with the power of beauty to create longing, a desire to somehow participate. Beauty indeed leaves us with the ache of longing for another taste, another glimpse. And for each of us, this longing can come at unique or unsuspecting times—at the spectacular sight of the giant sequoias or a tiny praying mantis, at a concert or watching a First Nation powwow and taking in the colors, the drums, the survival of a betrayed people.

But to suggest that beauty is simply a spectator’s preference, an individual’s pursuit of an abstracted and timeless ideal, is to miss something significant. What of those moments when beauty is neither pleasant nor pretty, but haunting? What of the communal ache of beauty? The well-known scene in Elie Wiesel’s account of the Holocaust when describes a young man named Juliek, an incredibly gifted violinist from Warsaw. Wiesel describes the night when Juliek, on the brink of death, played a Beethoven concerto in the dark for that group of dying, starving men. Wiesel remembers the intensely beautiful, sad and haunting music, noting that it was as if Juliek was playing his very life upon that violin, offering a lament for each of them. Their encounter with the beauty of the composition was humanizing, made all the more jarring in such a dark and dehumanizing setting. In the morning they woke to find Juliek dead, his violin crushed on the floor beside him.

The sometimes haunting interplay between the presence of beauty and its absence, the space between beauty and brokenness only contributes to beauty’s power to stop and still us. But how do we account for it? The severe absence of beauty can stir a common ache within us, a longing that is inexplicable if beauty is merely accidental or an abstraction divorced from reality. Musician and professor Jeremy Begbie suggests another way, “Beauty… has all too often been abstracted from time and temporal movement, and been turned into a static, timeless quality. Suppose, however, we refuse to divorce it from the transformation of the disorder of creation in the history of Jesus Christ. Suppose we begin there? Does this not open up a more dynamic paradigm of beauty?”(3)

The Christian imagination indeed presents a God who not only created and noticed beauty, whose own glory offers present encounters in the world, but the God who is not unfamiliar with the world’s brokenness, transforming a disordered creation by stepping closer into it in Jesus Christ. This is a God who takes all the glimpses and introduces the whole—not as an escape from reality but a deepening of it, one that can hold life as well as death.

I remember vividly one summer when I was working with a group of kids in an afterschool program and a young girl was stung by a bee. She had a severe reaction and the paramedics were unable to revive her. Sitting with one of her young friends at the funeral, somewhere in the middle of it she turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, “The cut on her face will never heal.” The young girl had a little cut on her forehead from some previous playground encounter, and her friend made this observation in the midst of her own shock and grief. I remember thinking how incredibly insightful her words really were. She was noticing something very simple, but there was something quite profound in her thought. She seemed to be saying instinctively that this wasn’t right, that wounds are meant to heal, that the broken parts of life are not okay: indeed, that wholeness is both our stubborn longing and a most profound calling.

Remarkably, in this little girl’s comment is something that every prophet in the Bible has said—the ones who were trying desperately to open the people’s eyes to the glory of God around them and the ones who were pointing out the absence of glory. Each of them looked around the world, and seeing its broken cuts and ugly blemishes, cried out instinctively, “This is not the way it’s supposed to be!” We were made for wholeness.

Perhaps beauty has an effect on us because it hints at this beauty of God, manifestations that come not intangibly but, like Jesus Christ, within time and community, and thus a beauty that transforms. For God’s beauty is a beauty that is able to embrace life as well as death, a beauty somehow both heart-breakingly entwined with brokenness and offering of something transformingly whole.

Whether a fleeting glimpse in the subway or a quiet act of kindness, whether something that stirred a community or stood up to a culture, each of these dim glimpses suggests not an escape from reality but a calling further into it, such that when we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it.

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

(1) Pia Catton, “A Musician for the Masses Improves His Station,” Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2010.

(2) Arthur Krystal, “Hello, Beautiful: What We Talk About When We Talk About Beauty,” Harpers, September 10th, 2010.

(3) Jeremy Begbie, Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts (New York: T&T Clark, 2006), 224.

Alistair Begg – Not Far From Home

 

…that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death. Hebrews 2:14

Child of God, death has lost its sting, because the devil’s power over it is destroyed. Stop fearing death! Ask God the Holy Spirit to grant you an intimate knowledge and a firm belief in your Redeemer’s death, so that you may be strengthened for that journey. Living near the cross of Calvary, you may learn to think of death with pleasure and welcome it when it comes with intense delight. It is blessed to die in the Lord: It is a covenant blessing to sleep in Jesus. Death is no longer banishment; it is a return from exile, a going home to the many mansions where the loved ones are already living. The distance between glorified spirits in heaven and militant saints on earth seems great; but it is not.

We are not far from home–a moment will bring us there. The sail is spread; the soul is launched upon the deep. How long will its voyage be? How many weary winds must beat upon the sail before it shall be berthed in the port of peace? How long shall that soul be buffeted on the waves before it comes to that sea that knows no storm? Listen to the answer: “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”1 The ship has just departed, but it is already at its destination. It simply spread its sail, and it was there. Like that ship of old upon the Lake of Galilee, a storm had tossed it, but Jesus said, “Peace, be still,” and immediately it came to land. Do not think that a long period intervenes between the instant of death and the eternity of glory. When the eyes close on earth, they open in heaven. The chariots of fire are not an instant on the road.

So child of God, what is there for you to fear in death, seeing that through the death of your Lord Jesus its curse and sting are destroyed? And now it is like a Jacob’s ladder with its base in a dark grave, but with its top reaching to everlasting glory.

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:8

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

Charles Spurgeon – Final perseverance

 

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Hebrews 6:4-6

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 10:26-39

God preserves his children from falling away; but he keeps them by the use of means; and one of these is, the terrors of the law, showing them what would happen if they were to fall away. There is a deep precipice: what is the best way to keep any one from going down there? Why, to tell him that if he did he would inevitably be dashed to pieces. In some old castle there is a deep cellar where there is a vast amount of stale air and gas which would kill anybody who went down. What does the guide say? “If you go down you will never come up alive.” Who thinks of going down? The very fact of the guide telling us what the consequences would be, keeps us from it. Our friend puts away from us a cup of arsenic; he does not want us to drink it, but he says, “If you drink it, it will kill you.” Does he suppose for a moment that we should drink it? No; he tells us the consequence, and he is sure we will not do it. So God says, “My child, if you fall over this precipice you will be dashed to pieces.” What does the child do? He says, “Father, keep me; hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” It leads the believer to greater dependence on God, to a holy fear and caution, because he knows that if he were to fall away he could not be renewed, and he stands far away from that great gulf, because he knows that if he were to fall into it there would be no salvation for him. It is calculated to excite fear; and this holy fear keeps the Christian from falling.

For meditation: God is the One who keeps us from falling (Jude 24), but he still tells us that we have some responsibility to keep ourselves in his love (Jude 21).

Sermon no. 75
20 April (1856)

John MacArthur – Becoming Pure in Heart

 

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

You have a part to play in becoming pure in heart.

Purifying a heart is the gracious and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, but there are some things we must do in response to His prompting. First, we must admit we can’t purify our own hearts. Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?'” The implied answer: no one!

Next, we must put our faith in Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the cross is the basis for our cleansing. Acts 15:9 says that God cleanses hearts on the basis of faith. Of course our faith must be placed in the right object. First John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Finally, we must study the Bible and pray. The psalmist said we keep our way pure by keeping it according to God’s Word, which we must treasure in our hearts (Ps. 119:9, 11). As we pray and submit to the Word, the Spirit purifies our lives.

That’s how you acquire and maintain a pure heart. As a result you “shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). That doesn’t mean you’ll see Him with physical eyes, but with spiritual ones. You begin to live in His presence and become increasingly aware of His working in your life. You recognize His power and handiwork in the beauty and intricacy of creation (Ps. 19). You discern His grace and purposes amid trials and learn to praise Him in all things. You sense His ministry through other Christians and see His sovereignty in every event of your life. Life takes on a profound and eternal meaning as you share Christ with unbelievers and see Him transform lives.

There’s no greater joy than knowing you are pure before God and that your life is honoring to Him. May that joy be yours today and may God use you in a powerful way for His glory!

Suggestions for Prayer; Ask the Lord for continued grace to live a pure life so others will see Christ in you.

For Further Study; Read Isaiah 6:1-8.

  • Describe Isaiah’s vision of God.
  • How did Isaiah respond to God’s presence?

 

 

Joyce Meyer – Set a Goal to Enjoy Every Part of Your Day

 

Therefore my heart is glad and my glory [my inner self] rejoices; my body too shall rest and confidently dwell in safety. Psalm 16:9

There are dozens of things that happen during ordinary, everyday life, and we can enjoy them all if we just make a decision to do it.

Things like getting dressed, driving to work, going to the grocery store, running errands, keeping things organized, sending e‑mails, taking the kids to practice, and hundreds of other things.

After all, they are the things that life is made up of. Begin doing them with an attitude of gratitude and realize that, through the Holy Spirit, you can enjoy absolutely everything you do every day of your life.

Joy doesn’t come merely from being entertained, but from a decision to appreciate each moment that you are given as a rare and precious gift from God.

Prayer of Thanks Father, thank You for the gift of life, and thank You for every activity that comes with that gift. I pray that You will help me find joy in each part of my day as I live for You. I thank You that I can choose to enjoy even the average, routine parts of my day.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Place of Privilege

 

“For because of our faith, He has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be” (Romans 5:2).

Interesting, is it not, that because of our faith, which is really His faith imparted to us, He has brought us, you and me, to a place of highest privilege.

What are some of the benefits that constitute this highest privilege?

First, we are justified – considered righteous in God’s sight.

Second, we are admitted into His favor and we abide there.

Third, we have the hope and prospect of even higher and richer blessings, in the fullness of His glory, when we are admitted into heaven.

Strange, then, that you and I often chafe at the bit when things become a little rough. At such time as that, I need to remind myself that I do not deserve any better. All the mercies and blessings of God are undeserved – gifts of God’s grace (“God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense,” as the apt acrostic expresses it).

What, really, is the “bottom line” of everything that happens to the believer – to you and me? After confessing that we are receiving our just deserts, we must always go back to the all-inclusive promise: “All things are working together for our good.” They may not feel good, they may not seem good, they may not even be good, but they are accomplishing good in us.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 3:8-12

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will meditate on the rare and high privilege that is mine as a child of God and look forward to becoming all that God wants me to be.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Glorious Sequel

 

When movies are box office hits, audiences crave a sequel. When the President of the United States has a great four-year term, you can most assuredly expect him to run for a second. When dinner is delicious, you may ask for another helping. When people experience things they love, they always want a continuation of a good thing.

Some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”

Acts 17:32

Some of Paul’s listeners in today’s key verse felt the same way when they heard the incredible story of Jesus and about His resurrection from the dead. This has always been the case when the gospel is presented – some mock and others want more. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)

Many Americans disregard the name of Christ, but don’t let that dissuade you from sharing about His resurrection and love. Ask God to open the hearts of your fellow Americans and its leaders to the good news of Jesus…and get excited! Christ’s return – His glorious sequel – is coming!

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 9:19-28

Greg Laurie – Make a Stand

 

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”

—Luke 14:26

When I became a Christian, all of my friends were no longer my friends. They quickly turned on me, mocked me, and made a joke out of what I had just done.

Sometimes relationships hold people back from following Christ. They think, If I become a Christian, what will my boyfriend say? Or, What will my girlfriend say? If you have a boyfriend who would not want you to become a Christian, then you need a new boyfriend. And guys, the same is true of a girlfriend. If you have friends who would oppose your being a follower of Jesus Christ, then you need some new friends. You need to make a stand.

In Luke 9 we find the story of a man whom Jesus called to follow Him. But the man said to Jesus, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (verse 59).

Jesus responded by saying, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” (verse 60). We may read that and think, Wow. Jesus was a little heartless, wasn’t He? But the man was using an expression of the time that meant “wait until my father and mother die.” It didn’t mean that his father was dead. The man was effectively saying, “Give me a little time. Later, when my parents pass away, then I will follow You.”

But Jesus was saying, “No, do it right now. I called you. If you want to do it, then do it. Or don’t do it. It is your choice. But do it now.”

The disciple must love Jesus more than anyone or anything else. Or to put it another way, your love for God should be so strong, so intense, that all other loves would be like hatred in comparison.

Max Lucado – God’s Translator

 

When he walked this earth, Jesus was so in sync with the Father that he could say in John 14:11, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” It was if he heard a voice that was missing.

Remember when everyone was distraught about Lazarus’s illness? Jesus wasn’t. Rather than hurry to his friend’s bedside, he said, “This sickness will not end in death. It is for the glory of God.” Jesus had unbroken communion with his Father. It was as if Jesus could hear what no one else could. How could a relationship be more intimate?

Do you suppose the Father desires the same for us? Absolutely! God desires the same abiding intimacy with you that he had with his Son. Paul says in Romans 8:29 that we have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

From Just Like Jesus