Charles Stanley – When We Get What We Earned

 

Romans 14:7-9

Have you ever been around people who adamantly refuse to accept any help whatsoever? Perhaps you have heard them balk, “I don’t need your charity!” or, “I can do this by myself!” On some level, we respect people like this, because of their commitment to earn their own way in life. However, when this work ethic gets too far out of balance, serious spiritual problems can result.

In his allegorical look at eternity, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis describes a character who wants nothing more than “his rights.” That is, he wants only what he deserves—no more, no less.

On the surface, this appears to be an act of humility. However, such an attitude is often the fruit of false humility and is actually motivated by pride. If we are determined to solve problems on our own, refusing every offer of help, then we will fail miserably when we try to solve the problem of sin.

Sin is everyone’s problem. Scripture makes it clear that there’s no escaping it: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). So, what is the price that is to be paid for sinning? Romans 6:23 reveals that “the wages of sin is death.”

If we, like Lewis’s proud man, accept only “our rights,” then sin and death will reign in our lives. We can overcome the burden of sin only when we relinquish our pride and humbly accept what we did not deserve—the loving sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf. Thank Him today for providing what we could not achieve on our own: our very salvation.

Our Daily Bread — Facing The Impossible

 

 

Read: Joshua 5:13–6:5
Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 12-13; Luke 16

See! I have given Jericho into your hand. —Joshua 6:2

In 2008, house values were tumbling in the United Kingdom. But 2 weeks after my husband and I put our home of 40 years on the market, a buyer offered us a good price and we agreed to a sale. Soon our builders started work on the house I had inherited, which would be our new home. But a few days before the sale of our old home was finalized, our buyer pulled out. We were devastated. Now we owned two properties—one whose value was tumbling rapidly, and the other a virtual ruin that we could neither sell nor move into. Until we found a new buyer, we had no money to pay the builder. It was an impossible situation.

When Joshua faced Jericho, a fortified city in lockdown, he may have felt as if he was facing an impossible situation (Josh. 5:13–6:27). But then a Man with a drawn sword appeared to him. Some theologians think the Man was Jesus Himself. Joshua anxiously asked if He would be backing the Israelites or their enemies in the forthcoming battle. “‘Neither one,’ he replied. ‘I am the commander of the Lord’s army’” (5:14 nlt). Joshua bowed in worship before he took another step. He still didn’t know how Jericho would be delivered into his hand, but he listened to God and worshiped Him. Then he obeyed the Lord’s instructions and the impossible happened. —Marion Stroud

Dear Lord, often when I am faced with an impossible situation I choose worry rather than trust. Help me to trust You and to remember that nothing is too hard for You.

Nothing is impossible for the Lord.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Dynamism of Faith

 

What is the nature of faith? Is faith the sort of thing that is like an impenetrable fortress? Is it a sense of absolute certainty, as is found in mathematical formula, with consistent and guaranteed results? Or is the nature of faith like the feeling one gets when barely hanging on—fingers fatigued, sweaty, and slowly slipping off of whatever prop, cliff, or ledge that holds one from falling into the abyss of disbelief?

I wonder about the nature of faith as I encounter so many different perspectives and experiences. After profound loss, for example, many individuals suffer what is described as a ‘crisis of faith.’ All that seemed a sure foundation before the loss crumbles under the weight of crisis. For others, faith seems a swinging pendulum that vacillates between certainty and doubt. The poet Emily Dickinson wrote that “We both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an Hour.”(1) Still for others faith is a constant assurance, a sense of strength and repose regardless of the assaults to it.

Of course, to ask about the nature of faith is to inquire about the nature of trust and belief. As such, it is not simply a conversation among religious adherents, but a real question over which humans wrestle whether they acknowledge it explicitly or not. We make decisions each and every day about whether or not we will trust the bus driver and the bus to get us to work. We make decisions to trust other drivers on the highway that they will keep their vehicles under control and not careen into our lane of traffic. We make decisions to trust individuals—spouses, children, friends, employers. The exercise of trust is a basic requirement for relationships and for living in this world.

This is why it is so interesting to me that talk of ‘faith’ is often relegated to the margin that is religious discourse. To have ‘faith’ or ‘trust’ or ‘belief’ in scientific studies is simply assumed because science has become the standard by which truth is measured. And yet, even scientists exercise ‘faith’ in relationship to a tradition of knowledge. Assumptions, assured findings from the past, and the methods of science all become a part of the relationship between faith and knowledge. Sometimes, even this relationship comes under testing when what were once considered ‘true’ results are called into question by new assumptions and new data.(2) Relationships are dynamic; going through ebbs and flows, ups and downs, changes and stasis. As such, it seems a complete category mistake to speak of faith and certainty in the same sentence-even in the realm of science. As author Philip Yancey asserts about the necessary uncertainty of faith, “Doubt always coexists with faith, for in the presence of certainty who would need faith at all?”(3)

It is reasonable, then, to wonder aloud about the nature of faith. One ought to be wary of arriving at a simple definition. For C.S. Lewis, one of the great spokesmen on behalf of the Christianity, the nature of faith was complicated and something that was not easily understood. In his heart-wrenching memoir, A Grief Observed, Lewis writes: “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box.”(4) I believe Lewis articulates a profound dynamic of faith—one never really knows what it is until it is tested. Yet, once tested the true nature of one’s faith is revealed-even when it is revealed to be wanting. In these times, we can reflect honestly about that in which we’ve placed our trust and whether the subject or object of trust is warranted.

Yet, even here where one’s faith might be revealed for what it is and what it is not, there is room for growth and for hope. Philip Yancey reflects that,

“What gives me hope, though, is that Jesus worked with whatever grain of faith a person might muster. He did, after all honor the faith of everyone who asked, from the bold centurion to doubting Thomas to the distraught father who cried, ‘I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!’”(5)

The true nature of faith is inextricably bound to relationship. As such, it is subject to all of the intricacies and complexities of relationship. At times unshakable and strong, and at other times revealed to be flabby and weak, the nature of faith is dynamic. But entering into a relationship of trust with the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth assures me that despite the complexities, and despite my often small offering of faith, I am welcomed into a relationship anyway. And as my faith is tested, its true nature is progressively revealed.

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

(1) From a letter to Otis Lord, April 30, 1882; Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Letters of Emily Dickinson (Cambridge: Belknap, 1958), 728.

(2) As is seen in the recent studies that showed a new gauge for cholesterol was flawed. Cardiologists learned that a new online calculator meant to help them determine a patient’s suitability for cholesterol treatment was flawed, doubling the estimated risk of heart attack or stroke for the average patient. See Gina Kolata, “Flawed gauge for cholesterol risk poses new challenge,” NY Times, November 18, 2013.

(3) Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God: What Do We Expect to Find? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 41.

(4) C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: HarperCollins ebooks, 2009), loc 326-329.

(5) Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God: What Do We Expect to Find, 40.

Alistair Begg – I Know

 

I know that my Redeemer lives. Job 19:25

The essence of Job’s comfort lies in the little word “my”–“my Redeemer”–and in the fact that the Redeemer lives. Oh, to get hold of a living Christ. We must get a share in Him before we can enjoy Him. What is gold to me while it is still in the mine? It is gold in my possession that will satisfy my necessities by purchasing the things I need. So a Redeemer who does not redeem me, an avenger who will never stand up for my blood, what benefit is there in that?

Do not rest content until by faith you can say, “Yes, I cast myself upon my living Lord; and He is mine.” You may hold Him with a feeble hand and half think it presumption to say, “He lives as my Redeemer.” But remember, if you have faith even as a grain of mustard seed, that little faith entitles you to say it.

But there is also another word here, which expresses Job’s strong confidence: “I know.” To say, “I hope so, I trust so” is comfortable, and there are thousands in the fold of Jesus who hardly ever get much further. But to reach the essence of consolation you must say, “I know.” Ifs, buts, and maybes are sure destroyers of peace and comfort. Doubts are dreary things in times of sorrow. Like wasps they sting the soul! If I have any suspicion that Christ is not mine, then there is vinegar mingled with the gall of death. But if I know that Jesus lives for me, then darkness is not dark: Even the night is light about me.

Surely if Job, in those ages before the coming of Christ, could say, “I know,” we should not speak less positively. God forbid that our positiveness should be presumption. Let us make sure that our evidences are right, in case we build upon an ungrounded hope; and then let us not be satisfied with the mere foundation, for it is from the upstairs rooms that we get the panoramic views. A living Redeemer, truly mine, is unspeakable joy.

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

Charles Spurgeon – The carnal mind

 

“The carnal mind is enmity against God.” Romans 8:7

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 5:6-11

Let me suppose an impossible case for a moment. Let me imagine a man entering heaven without a change of heart. He comes within the gates. He hears a sonnet. He starts! It is to the praise of his enemy. He sees a throne, and on it sits one who is glorious; but it is his enemy. He walks streets of gold, but those streets belong to his enemy. He sees hosts of angels; but those are the servants of his enemy. He is in an enemy’s house; for he is at enmity with God. He could not join the song, for he would not know the tune. There he would stand; silent, motionless; till Christ should say, with a voice louder than ten thousand thunders, “What doest thou here? Enemies at a marriage banquet? Enemies in the children’s house? Enemies in heaven? Get thee gone! Depart ye cursed, into everlasting fire in hell!” Oh! sirs, if the unregenerate man could enter heaven, I mention once more the oft-repeated saying of Whitefield, he would be so unhappy in heaven, that he would ask God to let him run down into hell for shelter. There must be a change, if you consider the future state; for how can enemies to God ever sit down at the banquet of the Lamb? And to conclude, let me remind you—and it is in the text after all—that this change must be worked by a power beyond your own. An enemy may possibly make himself a friend, but enmity cannot. If it be but an adjunct of his nature to be an enemy he may change himself into a friend; but if it is the very essence of his existence to be enmity, positive enmity, enmity cannot change itself. No, there must be something done more than we can accomplish.

For meditation: The Lord Jesus Christ has done for us much more than he commanded his disciples to do for their enemies (Luke 6:27-28).

Sermon no. 20
21 April (Preached 22 April 1855)

John MacArthur – The Cushion of Peace

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

God’s peace cushions the soul during difficult times.

I remember reading about what is called “the cushion of the sea.” The ocean surface is often greatly agitated, but as you descend, the water becomes increasingly calm. At its greatest depths the ocean is virtually still. Oceanographers dredging ocean bottoms have found animal and plant remains that appear to have been undisturbed for hundreds of years.

Similarly, Christians can experience a cushion of peace in their souls regardless of their troubled surroundings. That’s because they belong to God, who is the source of peace; serve Christ, who is the Prince of Peace; and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is the agent of peace. Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, [and] peace.” When you become a Christian, God grants you the gift of peace.

God is not only the source of perfect peace, but also its purest example. Everything He does is marked by peace. First Corinthians 14:33 says He is not a God of confusion but of peace. In Judges 6:24 He is called Jehovah-shalom, which means, “the Lord is peace.” The Trinity is characterized by a total absence of conflict: perfect oneness, perfect righteousness, and absolute harmony. It is impossible for God to be at odds with Himself!

God wants everyone to know that kind of peace. He created the world with peace and sent His Son to offer peace. Someday Christ will return to establish His kingdom and reign in peace for eternity.

In the meantime turmoil exists for all who don’t know Christ. They have no cushion for their souls. You, however, have peace with God through the death of Christ Jesus, and as you obey Him, His peace will continually reign in your heart. Don’t ever let sin rob you of that blessed cushion. Only as you experience peace within yourself can you share it with others.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the cushion of peace He has provided amid difficult circumstances.
  • Ask God to use you as an instrument of His peace today.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 57:15-21, noting how God encourages the repentant and warns the wicked in relation to peace.

Joyce Meyer – Faith as a Channel, Not a Source

 

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:2

We need to know about faith. Faith is a wonderful thing. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (see Hebrews 11:6 KJV). The reason it is so important and so vital is because it is the means through which we receive from God all the good things He wants to provide us. That is why the Lord trains His people in faith. He wants them to get their eyes on Him and learn to believe Him so He can do for and through them what He wants done in the earth. The same is true of prayer, praise, meditation, Bible study, confession, spiritual warfare, and all the other precepts we have been hearing about and engaging in.

But in all our spiritual activity, we must be careful that we don’t start worshiping—adhering to, trusting in and relying on—these things instead of the Lord Himself. It is possible to worship our prayer time, our Bible study, our confession, our meditation, our praise, our good works. It is possible to develop faith in our faith rather than faith in our God. It is almost frightening because there is such a fine line between the two. But the thing we must remember is that as good as all these things are, they are only channels to receiving from the Lord.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – All Men Know What God Wants Them to Do

 

“But this is the new agreement I will make with the people of Israel, says the Lord: I will write my laws in their minds so that they will know what I want them to do without My even telling them, and these laws will be in their hearts so that they will want to obey them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people” (Hebrews 8:10).

Harry boasted that he was an atheist, that he could not believe in God – that there was no such thing as right and wrong. But as we counseled together, it became apparent that he lived a very immoral life, and the only way he could justify his conduct was to rationalize away the existence of God.

This he was unable to do. As God’s Word reminds us, His law is written in our minds, so that we will know what He wants us to do without His even telling us.

A very honest, frank, straightforward counseling session helped Harry to see that he was living a lie, a life of deceit and shame. All of this resulted in making him a very miserable person until he surrendered his life to Christ and became an honest, authentic, transparent disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible says that the mind of natural man is essentially disgusting (Ezekiel 23:17-22), despiteful (Ezekiel 36:5), depraved (Romans 1:28), hardened (2 Corinthians 3:14), hostile (Colossians 1:21) and defiled (Titus 1:15).

In contrast, the Scriptures show that the mind of the Christian is willing (1 Chronicles 28:9), is at peace (Romans 8:6), is renewed (Romans 12: 2), can know Christ’s mind (I. Corinthians 2:16) and can be obedient (Hebrews 8:10).

Our minds are susceptible to the influence of our old sin- nature and, as such, can pose some dangers to us. As soon as we get out of step spiritually with the Holy Spirit and get our focus off the Lord, our minds begin to give us trouble.

Bible Reading: Hebrews 8:7-13

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Claiming by faith the help of the Holy Spirit, I will discipline my mind to think God’s thoughts as expressed in His holy, inspired Word. In this way, I can be assured of knowing and doing His perfect will.

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Set Free

 

Roman Gutierrez vowed to die of a heroin overdose just like his dad. At age 11, Roman jabbed a needle in his arm. Then his rage continued with an arrest, violence and more suicide attempts. By age 25, Roman was living under a freeway and participating in cage fighting. After another failed attempt to end his life, Roman promised his mother he would go to church.

Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Romans 14:9

When Roman walked into the church, he felt something happen in his heart: “If you will call on His name, you will be free,” the pastor said. Roman prayed, “God, I am sorry for all my sins. I need your forgiveness. I believe Jesus died in my place and shed blood to cleanse me. I believe you rose from the dead and are alive to help me. I give you my life.”

The Lord left His closest friends – and all believers – with these last words of instruction: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) As you pray for the nation, look for opportunities to share the message of eternal freedom with your friends, neighbors and co-workers…so they may be set free!

Recommended Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

Greg Laurie – How to Get a Life

 

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

—Luke 9:23–24

Some may think the Christian life is restrictive, but actually it is the very opposite. Out there in the world where there are no restrictions, people will start reaping the consequences of their foolish actions. But those who are following Christ will find life at its fullest. Yes, there are boundaries and parameters, but they are there for our own protection.

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

Nowadays we don’t fully grasp the idea of taking up a cross. But people living in the first century did. The sight of someone carrying a cross down the street in Jerusalem meant that person was about to die. So when Jesus said, “Let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,” people got it. Jesus was saying that if we want to follow Him, then we must die to our own desires and put God’s will above our own.

Jesus also said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9: 24). We have to lose our lives to find them.

People today like to say, “I need to find myself.” But Jesus said that if you want to find life, purpose, and happiness, then you need to lose yourself. You come to God and say, “Here is my life. Here are my plans. Here are my dreams. Here are my hopes. Here are my aspirations. I present them to You. I want Your will more than my own.”

If you really want to find life, then lose your life. If you want to get a life, then present it to the Lord, and watch what He will do.

Max Lucado – Potential Time with God

 

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Imagine considering every moment as a potential time of communion with God. Try being silent with God.

By the time your life is over, you’ll have spent six months at stoplights, eight months opening junk mail, a year and a half looking for lost stuff (double that in my case), and a whopping five years standing in various lines.

Why don’t you give these moments to God? By giving God your whispering thoughts, the common becomes uncommon. Simple phrases such as “Thank you, Father”…“Be sovereign in this hour, O Lord”… “You are my resting place, Jesus”…can turn a commute into a pilgrimage. You don’t have to leave your office or your kitchen. Just pray where you are. Let the kitchen become a cathedral or the classroom a chapel. Give God your whispering thoughts.

From Just Like Jesus