Charles Stanley – God’s Promises to the Generous

 

2 Corinthians 9:6-11

The principle of sowing and reaping is a universal truth ordained by God; it applies not only in agriculture, but also in the area of giving. Despite the fact that the Lord promises an abundant harvest for those who give generously, many Christians still struggle with releasing their grip on money.

Some fear that they won’t have enough if they give. Others, pulled by greed, are unwilling to sacrifice pleasures and comforts. Those who succumb to their fears or stinginess will miss out on the great harvest God wants to give them.

In the midst of a chaotic economy and uncertain times, we can find our security in the Lord. His ways are often the opposite of our natural tendencies. The world says that to have enough, we must acquire more. Today’s passage says that in giving generously, we will have an abundance of both provision for our needs (bread) and resources to continue our generosity (seed).

Beyond this, the Lord also promises that the harvest of our righteousness will increase, and we will be “enriched in everything for all liberality” (v. 11). God’s riches encompass so much more than earthly wealth. Generosity produces godly character, which is valuable now and in eternity.

Although we have been given the promise of a bountiful harvest, it will be realized only by those who sow abundantly. In following God’s plan for giving, you can be free of worry because the One who guarantees you a harvest is also the omnipotent Lord who is able to produce it.

Our Daily Bread — Image Consultants

 

Read: Colossians 3:1-11
Bible in a Year: 1 Kings 8-9; Luke 21:1-19

[You] have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. —Colossians 3:10

In our media-saturated age, image consultants have become indispensable. Entertainers, athletes, politicians, and business leaders seem desperate to manage the way they are perceived in the eyes of the world. These high-priced consultants work to shape how their clients are viewed—even if sometimes there is a stark contrast between the public image and the real person inside.

In reality, what people need—what all of us need—is not an external makeover but an inner transformation. Our deepest flaws cannot be corrected cosmetically. They are directly related to who we are in heart and mind, and they reveal how far we have fallen from the image of God in which we were created. But such transformation is beyond any human ability to accomplish.

Only Christ offers us true transformation—not just a facelift or an outward adjustment. Paul said that those who have been raised to eternal life in Christ “have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:10).

New! What a tremendous word full of hope! Christ transforms us into new people in Him—people with a new heart, not just fixed up to look good on the outside. —Bill Crowder

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17

The Spirit develops in us the clear image of Christ.

INSIGHT: The letter to the Colossians is one of four epistles referred to as Paul’s “prison letters.” Written during his first imprisonment (or house arrest) in Rome, these letters also include Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. All of the letters were written to churches except for the one written to Philemon, who was apparently a dear friend of Paul (Philem. 1:1,7). Paul founded the Ephesian and Philippian churches, but there is no record in the New Testament that Paul was ever in Colosse.

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Through Glass, Darkly

 

There’s a scene a few chapters into the comedy science-fiction novel, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed former president of the galaxy, is in a spot of trouble. A few moments earlier, he had been standing on the bridge of a starship, now he suddenly found himself mysteriously teleported to a café on the strange, alien planet of Ursa Minor Beta. Puzzled at what has just happened, Zaphod instinctively reached into his pocket for his sunglasses:

“[He] felt much more comfortable with them on. They were a double pair of Joo Janta Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses, which had been specially designed to help people develop a relaxed attitude to danger. At the first hint of trouble they turn totally black and thus prevent you from seeing anything that might alarm you.”(1)

What was science-fiction in 1980 when Douglas Adams wrote this passage has become reality in the twenty-first century: augmented reality, to be precise, the new buzzword in computing. Augmented reality is a technology that allows computer-driven data to overlay your view of the real world. Originally developed for military applications (for example, projecting flight information onto the visor of a fighter jet pilot), augmented reality is now breaking in to the world of consumer gadgetry.

One example is Google Glass, recently launched (to a select few, willing to pay $1,500 to get their heads on a beta version of the product) by the California-based Internet search company.(2) At first glance, Glass appears fairly innocuous, looking like a pair of designer spectacles, albeit fashioned by a designer whose aesthetic was more “geek” than “chic.” Pop on Glass, however, and a small computer display just above one lens beams a constant stream of information into your field of view. Now you need never be without the weather, news, travel information, the web, your latest email or tweets, all overlaying your view of the outside world.

Particular controversy has been caused because Google Glass comes equipped with a camera and that raises all manner of privacy issues. The US Congress actually sent a list of questions to Google, one of which was “Will it ship with facial recognition software?” Although Google replied “No,” other software developers have stepped into the gap. One such developer is Stephen Balaban, whose company has launched facial recognition software for Google Glass. In an interview with technology website Ars Technica, the 23 year-old programmer explained his excitement at what a Google Glass headset equipped with his software could do. Balaban waxed lyrical about the wonder of having a conversation with a stranger, all the while your Glass headset looking them up and feeding you information about them:

“I think that would be a fantastic experience to not only understand who you’re talking to but to bring context to a conversation. I would love to live in a world where the things that you have in common with somebody and the shared experiences are available on the fly. I think that makes conversation far more efficient. I think that makes interactions with conversations better. You can relate to them in ways that you couldn’t otherwise.”(3)

Those words haunted me for days afterward: “makes conversation more efficient.” The subtext, the assumption, the worldview reflected here is one that Neil Postman famously called “technopoly,” the idea that technology is king, that there is no human problem that technology cannot solve.(4) Balaban’s statement assumes that what we lack, what we need is more information. I think he’s dead wrong. What most people are crying out for is not more information but deeper relationships.

Yet despite our relational need, we are drawn to technology like moths to a flame. In her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, sociologist Sherry Turkle describes the increasing trend we have to outsource relationships to technology, to computers and robots. In one chapter, she recounts the story of Callie, an eleven year-old girl who as part of a research project got to take home two robotic toys. Turkle describes what happened at the end of the three week study when it was time to return the robots:

“Callie is very sad when her three weeks with My Real Baby and AIBO come to an end…Before leaving My Real Baby, Callie opens its box and gives the robot a final, emotional good-bye. She reassures My Real Baby that it will be missed and that ‘the researchers will take good care of you.’ Callie has tried to work through a desire to feel loved by becoming indispensable to her robots. She fears that her parents forget her during their time away (they travel a lot for work); now, Callie’s concern is that My Real Baby and AIBO will forget her… Disappointed by people, she feels safest in the sanctuary of an as-if world.”(5)

As human beings we are designed for relationship and any attempt to outsource this to or augment this basic need with technology is doomed to failure because what we yearn for is not robots but relationship, not programs but persons, not computers but communion. The Christian worldview explains where this desire for relationship, for intimacy comes from: because we are created in the image of a God who, as the doctrine of the Trinity makes clear, is himself persons-in-relation. Theologian Colin Gunton writes:

“To be made in the image of God is to be endowed with a particular kind of personal reality. To be a person is to be made in the image of God: that is the heart of the matter. If God is a communion of persons inseparably related, then… it is in our relatedness to others that our being human consists.”(6)

The God of the Bible is the God who is relational: walking and talking in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, appearing to Abraham, speaking to Moses “as a man talks to his friend” and, ultimately, stepping into history in the incarnation. In many other religions, such as Islam, you achieve salvation, wisdom, nirvana—whatever it is you are seeking—through knowing the right things, through information. In Christianity, by contrast, the question is not what you know but whom you know—Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that God did not send mere information, did not simply augment reality with some new set of moral commandments, but instead God gave himself. And, says the Bible, this theme continues right through into the New Creation, where God will once again walk and talk with us. One day, we shall no longer see as in a glass darkly, but we shall see face to face. For relationship we were made and for relationship, with and through Christ, we are destined.

Andy Bannister is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Toronto, Canada.

(1) Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (London: Pan Books, 1980), 33.

(2) Jason Koebler, “Google Opens ‘Glass’ Project to ‘Explorers’ Willing to Pay $1,500,” US News, 20 Feb 2013 (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/02/20/google-opens-glass-project-to-explorers-willing-to-pay-1500/, accessed 25 June 2013).

(3) Cyrus Farivar, “Google may not like it, but facial recognition is coming soon to Glass,” Ars Technica, 8 June 2013 (online at http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/06/google-may-not-like-it-but-facial-recognition-is-coming-soon-to-glass/, accessed 24 June 2013).

(4) Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Bloomsbury, 2007).

(5) Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 78-79.

(6) Colin E. Gunton, The Promise of Trinitarian Theology, 2d Ed. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1997), 113.

Alistair Begg – Are You a Grumbler?

 

And all the people of Israel grumbled.Numbers 14:2

There are grumblers among Christians now, just as there were in the camp of Israel of old. There are those who, when punished, cry out against the affliction. They ask, “Why am I afflicted? What have I done to be chastened in this manner?”

A word with you, grumbler! Why should you grumble against the dealings of your heavenly Father? Can He treat you more severely than you deserve? Consider what a rebel you once were, but He has pardoned you! Surely, if He in His wisdom considers it necessary to chasten you, you should not complain. After all, are you punished as severely as your sins deserve? Consider the corruption that is in your heart, and then will you wonder that so much of the rod is necessary to root it out? Weigh yourself, and discern how much dross is mingled with your gold; and do you think the fire is too hot to purge away the amount of dross you have? Doesn’t your proud rebellious spirit prove that your heart is not thoroughly sanctified? Aren’t those grumbling words contrary to the holy, submissive nature of God’s children? Isn’t the correction necessary?

But if you will grumble against the chastening, pay attention, for it will go hard with grumblers. God always chastises His children twice if they do not respond properly the first time. But know this–“He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”1 All His corrections are sent in love, to purify you and to draw you nearer to Himself. Surely it must help you to bear the chastening with submission if you are able to recognize your Father’s hand. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”2 “. . . nor grumble the way some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”3

1) Lamentations 3:33    2) Hebrews 12:6     3) 1 Corinthians 10:10

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

Charles Spurgeon – The beginning, increase, and end of the divine life

 

“Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.” Job 8:7

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:5-9

If thou art saved—though the date be erased—yet do thou rejoice and triumph evermore in the Lord thy God. True, there are some of us who can remember the precise spot where we first found the Saviour. The day will never be forgotten when these eyes looked to the cross of Christ and found their tears all wiped away. But thousands in the fold of Jesus know not when they were brought in; be it enough for them to know they are there. Let them feed upon the pasture, let them lie down beside the still waters, for whether they came by night or by day they did not come at a forbidden hour. Whether they came in youth or in old age, it matters not; all times are acceptable with God, “and whosoever cometh,” come he when he may, “he will in no wise cast out.” Does it not strike you as being very foolish reasoning if you should say in your heart, “I am not converted because I do not know when?” Nay, with such reasoning as that, I could prove that old Rome was never built, because the precise date of her building is unknown; nay, we might declare that the world was never made, for its exact age even the geologist cannot tell us. We might prove that Jesus Christ himself never died, for the precise date on which he expired on the tree is lost beyond recovery; nor doth it signify much to us. We know the world was made, we know that Christ did die, and so you—if you are now reconciled to God, if now your trembling arms are cast around that cross, you too are saved—though the beginning was so small that you cannot tell when it was. Indeed, in living things, it is hard to put the finger upon the beginning.

For meditation: An ongoing Christ-experience in the present without a crisis experience in the past is far more valid than an isolated crisis experience in the past without the evidence of an ongoing Christ-experience in the present.

Sermon no. 311
30 April (Preached 29 April 1860)

John MacArthur – Realizing Your Reward

 

“Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

The sacrifices you make for Christ’s sake in this life will be abundantly compensated for in Heaven.

God’s promise for those who are persecuted for His sake is that their reward in heaven will be great (Matt. 5:11). Jesus said, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).

Focusing on that promise instead of your present circumstances is how you can experience happiness amid suffering. That was Paul’s great confidence even as he faced certain death. In 2 Timothy 4:8 he declares, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Another source of joy in trials is knowing that you share the fate of the prophets themselves (Matt. 5:12). Those godly men suffered untold hardships for proclaiming God’s message. That’s a noble group to be identified with!

One final word of encouragement from Matthew 5:11: persecution will not be incessant! Jesus said, “Blessed are you when. . . .” The Greek word translated “when” means “whenever.” You won’t always be persecuted, but whenever you are, you will be blessed. In addition, God will govern its intensity so you will be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13). He knows your human weaknesses and will supply the necessary grace and peace to get you through. That’s why you can rejoice when otherwise you might be devastated and filled with grief.

If you are willing to make sacrifices now, you will receive incomparable rewards in the future. How shortsighted are those who protect themselves now by denying Christ or compromising His truth rather than sacrificing the present for the sake of eternal blessing and glory!

Suggestions for Prayer; Thank God for the example of the prophets and others who have suffered for Him.

For Further Study; Read Matthew 21:33-39 and Hebrews 11:32-38.

  • How did Jesus illustrate the persecution of God’s prophets?
  • What is Scripture’s commendation to those who suffered.

Joyce Meyer – Living in God’s Grace

 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

The truth that God wants you to enjoy your life is a blessing that every believer can be thankful for. But one of the main things that will keep you from enjoying your life is works of the flesh. A work of the flesh is our energy, our efforts trying to do what only God can do.

Trying to do God’s job always leads to frustration. Trusting God to do what only He can do always leads to joy because “what is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

The Bible says that God’s grace is sufficient for us. Grace is God’s undeserved favor and the power of God to meet our needs and solve our problems. We become frustrated when we try to achieve by works a life that God designed us to receive by grace.

So rest in His grace today and be thankful for the joy that grace promises to bring.

Prayer of Thanks I am grateful, Father, for Your grace in my life. Help me to always receive grace through faith in You and trust You to do what only You can do.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Self-Control Is Better

 

“It is better to be slow-tempered than famous; it is better to have self-control than to control an army” (Proverbs 16:32).

You and I know from experience that it is not easy to discipline our emotions, our passions or our self-will. In fact, apart from God’s help, it is an impossibility.

  • A lustful person who does not control his thoughts quenches and grieves the Spirit.
  • An overweight person, because he cannot control his appetite, quenches and grieves the Spirit.
  • A Christian who places undue emphasis on material possessions quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit.
  • A gossip who cannot control his tongue quenches and grieves the Spirit.
  • A husband, wife, or child who fails to live according to the commands of Ephesians chapter 5 quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit.
  • A student who fails to study adequately because of poor discipline quenches and grieves the Spirit.

Many pages would be required to list all the ways in which lack of self-control quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit.

The spirit, mind and body are the three aspects of our being over which we are told to practice self-control.

What is man’s spirit?

It is his immaterial being – man without his body, if you will. The Bible gives many characteristics of the spirit of man. It is that which communicates with the Spirit of God.

Man’s spirit is the center of emotions (1 Kings 21:5), the source of passions (Ezekiel 3:14) and the seat of volition or exercise of the will (Proverbs 16:32). Our spirit is subject to divine influence while housed in our mortal body (Deuteronomy 2:30and Isaiah 19:14), and leaves the body at the time of physical death (Ecclesiastics 12:7 and James 2:26).

Bible Reading: Proverbs 15:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Drawing upon this enabling power of the Holy Spirit, I will practice the vital discipline of self-control.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Sonlight

 

A scientific website says, “The sun is as bright as four trillion 100-watt light bulbs.” But the sun has nothing on the Son of God. How beautiful that eternal city will be, with the glory of God lighting up the place!

The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light.

Revelation 21:23

Revelation 21 describes wonderful things about the New Jerusalem: made of pure gold with walls of precious jewels, no night, nothing unclean. But the most marvelous thing of all is the very presence of God. “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

No one likes to think of the fate of the unsaved (Revelation 21:8), but they need prayer. Intercede for all those who have yet to yield to Jesus as Lord – the true light of this world and the one to come.

Recommended Reading: I Peter 5:1-11

Greg Laurie – Distorting God’s Word

 

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” —Genesis 3:1

A story is told of the comedian W. C. Fields and how, shortly before he died, he was flipping through the pages of a Bible. When asked what he was doing, Fields replied, “Looking for loopholes.”

In the same way, I think the Devil has been reading the Bible for a long time, looking for loopholes. In the Garden of Eden, he twisted the Scriptures. He took God’s words to Adam, which invited him to eat from every tree in the Garden (with one exception), and he twisted them into a prohibition designed to cast doubt on God’s goodness.

He said to Eve, in effect, “If God really loved you, He would let you eat from any tree you want. But because He is saying that you can’t eat from that tree, He clearly doesn’t love you.”

The Devil’s first words to Eve ended in a question mark, designed to cast doubt on God’s love: Has God indeed said . . . ? He was quoting God, yet he completely twisted what God said.

The same was true of Satan’s temptation of Jesus, where he said, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down [from the temple]. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone’ ” (Matthew 4:6). How interesting. The Devil was quoting the Scriptures, though he left out part of the original text.

Notice that with Eve, he questioned God’s Word. He didn’t deny that God had spoken; he simply questioned whether God had really said what Eve thought He had said. That is what the Devil will do with God’s Word. He will misquote it. He will mischaracterize it. And he will distort it.

Max Lucado – A Trashy World

 

 

We live in a trashy world. Unwanted garbage comes our way on a regular basis. Haven’t you been handed a trash sack of mishaps and heartaches? Surely you have. What are you going to do with it?

You have several options. You could take the trash bag and cram it under your coat and pretend it isn’t there. But you and I know you won’t fool anyone. Besides, sooner or later it’ll start to stink. Or you could disguise it. Paint it green, put it on the front lawn and tell everyone it’s a tree. Again, no one will be fooled. So what will you do?

If you follow the example of Christ, you’ll learn to see tough times differently. God loves you the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to have a hope-filled heart—just like Jesus!

From Just Like Jesus

C.S. Lewis Daily – On kindness

 

Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. For about a hundred years we have so concentrated on one of the virtues—“kindness” or mercy—that most of us do not feel anything except kindness to be really good or anything but cruelty to be really bad. Such lopsided ethical developments are not uncommon, and other ages too have had their pet virtues and curious insensibilities. And if one virtue must be cultivated at the expense of all the rest, none has a higher claim than mercy. . . . The real trouble is that “kindness” is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that “his heart’s in the right place” and “he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature. We think we are kind when we are only happy: it is not so easy, on the same grounds, to imagine oneself temperate, chaste, or humble. You cannot be kind unless you have all the other virtues. If, being cowardly, conceited and slothful, you have never yet done a fellow creature great mischief, that is only because your neighbour’s welfare has not yet happened to conflict with your safety, self-approval, or ease. Every vice leads to cruelty.

From The Problem of Pain

Compiled in Words to Live By

Night Light for Couples – Black Sunday

 

“If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:4

Every family has moments they’d rather forget—moments that later call for understanding and forgiveness. When our children lived at home, we found that Sunday was often the most frustrating day of the week, especially during the “get ’em ready for church” routine. But Black Sunday was uniquely chaotic!

Jim and I began the day by getting up late, which meant that everyone had to rush to prepare for church. Then there was the matter of spilled milk at breakfast and the black shoe polish on the floor. Finally, Ryan, who was dressed first, managed to slip out the back door and get himself dirty from head to toe. As these irritations mounted, the criticism and accusations flew back and forth. At least one spanking was delivered and another three or four were promised.

After the Sunday evening service we called the family together. We described the day we’d had and asked each person to forgive us for our part in it. We also gave each member of the family a chance to express his or her feelings. Ryan was given his first shot, and he fired it at me. “You’ve been a real grouch today, Mom!” he said with feeling. “You’ve blamed me for everything all day long.” Danae then poured out her hostilities and frustrations. Finally, Jim and I had an opportunity to explain the tensions that had caused our overreaction. It was a valuable time of ventilation and honesty that drew us together once more. We then had prayer as a family and asked the Lord to help us live and work together in love and harmony.

No matter how hard we try, we will experience times when we fail to live up to our Christian principles. When those times arrive, discussion and forgiveness are the best methods for soothing wounded relationships. I urge you at those moments to actively seek forgiveness from each other and from God and freely offer forgiveness in return.

While you’re at it, forgive yourself. If God can post a “No Fishing” sign by the sea where your sins are thrown, then so can you and I. –  Shirley M Dobson

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