Charles Stanley – Why Believers Pray

 

Psalms 103: 19-22

Recognizing that god is sovereign prompts some questions about the nature of prayer. Specifically, many people have asked me, “If the Lord is in control, why does He expect us to pray?”

Prayer brings us into cooperation with what God has purposed to accomplish. He desires to involve believers in the work He is doing both in the world and in their lives. But the word “work” is a tricky one when it comes to our faith. Unlike the striving we see in the world, what God desires is for us to trust Him (John 6:29), surrender our burdens to Him, grow in relationship with Him, and allow Him to work through us. Prayer is a tool we can use to do all those things.

Jesus asked the Father to protect the disciples by the power of His name (John 17:11 NIV). Did He think they might lose their salvation or drift from their commitment? Absolutely not. Jesus was God in human flesh. He knew exactly what was going to happen—how these men would spread the gospel and remain faithful even unto death. Jesus was taking part in the Father’s plan for His followers by interceding for them.

God certainly can build His kingdom without believers’ input or help. But a relationship develops depth and intimacy when the Lover and His beloved share an interest. Praying and working alongside our Lord strengthens our faith in His power.

The Lord created you to love Him and be loved by Him. Prayer nurtures and develops our connection with Him. Our Father calls us to communicate with Him so He can draw us close and involve us in building His kingdom.

Our Daily Bread — Correct Gently

 

 

Read: Colossians 3:12-17
Bible in a Year: 1 Kings 10-11; Luke 21:20-38

Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another. —Colossians 3:12-13

At the end of a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, our group traveled from the conference center to a guesthouse to prepare to fly back home the next morning. When we arrived, one person in our group reported that she had forgotten her luggage back at the conference center. After she left to retrieve it, our group leader (always meticulous on detail) criticized her sharply to us in her absence.

The next morning when we arrived at the airport, the leader discovered to his dismay that he too had left his luggage behind. It and his passport were back at the guesthouse. It was now going to cost us even more to go for his baggage. Later, he apologized and said to all of us, “I’ll never criticize so harshly again!”

Because we all have faults and weaknesses, we should bear with one another and forgive each other when things go wrong (Col. 3:13). We need to be constructive in our criticism and “clothe [our]selves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (v.12 niv).

When correction is necessary, it should be done with kindness and love. In that way we become imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ. —Lawrence Darmani

Dear God, You know that there are times when I just don’t feel patient and humble and gentle. Those days in my life, the fruit of Your Spirit seems in short supply. Please enable me to love others today.

The keys to effective relationships are gentleness and humility.

INSIGHT: Paul’s admonition in verse 16—that we are to allow “the word of Christ [to] dwell in [us] richly in all wisdom”—parallels Ephesians 5:18-19, where we are challenged to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. This results in worship, thanksgiving, and maintaining appropriate relationships with others.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –   Another Transaction

 

There are a great many companies that think very highly of you and all that you deserve. You deserve the best. You have earned a vacation. You deserve to splurge on this because you’re worth it. Whether in plenty or times of economic downturn, flattery actually remains one of the most effective psychological drivers that compounds debt. In a HSBC Direct survey during one such downturn, forty-two percent of the consumers interviewed said they had splurged on themselves in the past month despite hardship. Twenty-eight percent cited their reason for the splurge as simply “because I deserve it.”(1)

Of course, each of us who has ever bought into the idea that L’Oreal thinks I am worth it or BMW believes I deserve the ultimate driving experience probably realizes that we have done exactly that: we have bought the idea, paid for both the product and the flattering suggestion. No one is giving away these things because they think we are worth it; their flattery is quite literally calculated. In effect, it’s not that they think so highly of us, so much as that they want us to think highly of ourselves. Whether we see through this empty sycophancy or not, Geoff Mulgan believes it is working: “‘[B]ecause you’re worth it’ has come to epitomise banal narcissism of early 21st century capitalism; easy indulgence and effortless self-love all available at a flick of the credit card.”(2) The enticing words are an invitation to reward ourselves, and it just so happens we agree that we’re worth it—and they are glad.

There is of course much that can be drawn from reflecting on the intemperate desires of a consumer culture and the imagination fostered within its confines. A consumerist view of the world holds a very particular view of humanity and its worth. Beside this prominent vision, the drama of the Christian story fosters another imagination, along with the space and invitation to try on its counterintuitive system of worth. The invitation of a creator who so values creation that he steps into it is one that presents every opportunity to question the psychological drivers of empty flattery and consumer seduction. The Father gives us in Christ a mediator, an advocate, a vicarious redeemer of human identity in human form. While the imagination of a consumer promises flattery, the free invitation of Christ gives a startling commentary on a similar kind of compliment, within a very different transaction. Choosing to become human, Christ has indeed proclaimed our worth. But there is nothing required to accept this unfathomable gesture of a God who takes on flesh.

Accepting the accolade proclaimed in Christ does, however, confront the very banal narcissism that epitomizes our numbed consumer hearts and imaginations. In the words of one observer: “When I look at narcissism I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”(3) Given the highly countercultural alternative of discovering worth in the son of an ordinary peasant woman, we may find that we in fact prefer the consumer transaction that tells us that being human is about what we can buy. We may find that there is something comforting and familiar in paying for our sense of worth and value. We might find it baffling to accept the idea that something deemed a gift could come to us fragile and broken. Or maybe it is the personal nature of his humanness that we find altogether unnerving—namely, Jesus was not simply born a child in first century Bethlehem; he was born a child in first century Bethlehem for you. It is perhaps far easier to accept an empty compliment.

Yet in this drama of God in flesh, we are given nothing less than one to walk beside us on the harder road–one with the worth of the world in mind. Born of a peasant girl in a poor manger, Jesus became a human child, who would become a man, who would be put to death. It is strange to imagine a God who would concede to such a plan. God could have instead come down in glory and power for all to see, silencing crowds, forcing them to look. It would have proved that he was no mere human to look us eye to eye. And it would have made him a God to whom we could not say no, even if it was only to say yes out of fear or force. No instead, he was mindful of us; he became one of us. When we turn to him with nothing to give but love, we know why.

Christ’s is a declaration of human worth that makes every other seem empty, narcissistic, or fleeting at best. And it is worth expending everything to consider what his humanity has to say of our own. What are mere mortals that you should think of them, human beings that you should care for them?

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

(1) “Making Peace with Your Plastic,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept 8, 2008.

(2) Geoff Mulgan, “Because You’re Worth It,” guardian.co.uk, June 12 2006, accessed March 1, 2009.

(3) Brene Brown, Men, Women, and Worthiness (Sounds True, November 15, 2012).

Alistair Begg – It’s Spring

 

His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs.Song of Songs 5:13

Here we are in the month when flowers come! March winds and April showers have done their work, and the earth is all dressed with beauty. Come, my soul, put on your springtime clothes and gather garlands of heavenly thoughts. You know where to go, for the “beds of spices” are well known, and you have so often smelled the perfume of “sweet-smelling herbs” that you will go at once to Him who is altogether lovely and find all loveliness and all joy in Him.

His cheek, which once was so rudely smitten with a rod, often covered with tears of sympathy and defiled by man–that cheek smiles with mercy and is a fragrant aroma to my heart. You did not hide Your face from shame and spitting, O Lord Jesus, and therefore I will find my dearest delight in praising You. Your face was furrowed by the plow of grief, and blood flowed freely from Your thorn-crowned brow; such marks of unbounded love fill my soul far more than words can tell. If I may not see the whole of His face, I would behold His cheeks, for the least glimpse of Him is exceedingly refreshing to my spiritual sense and yields a variety of delights.

In Jesus I find not only fragrance but a bed of spices; not one herb, but all kinds of sweet herbs. He is to me parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. When He is with me, it is May all year round, and my soul goes forth to wash its happy face in the morning-dew of His grace and to solace herself with the singing of the birds of His promises. Precious Lord Jesus, let me in very deed know the blessedness that dwells in abiding, unbroken fellowship with You. I am a poor, worthless one whose cheek You have deigned to kiss! O let me kiss You in return with the kisses of my lips.

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

Charles Spurgeon – War! War! War!

“Fight the Lord’s battles.” 1 Samuel 18:17

Suggested Further Reading: James 3:13-18

It is the Christian’s duty always to have war with war. To have bitterness in our hearts against any man that lives is to serve Satan. We must speak very strongly and sternly against error, and against sin; but against men we have not a word to say, though it were the Pope himself. I have no enmity in my heart against him as a man, but as anti-Christ. With men the Christian is one. Are we not every man’s brother? “God hath made of one flesh all people that dwell upon the face of the earth.” The cause of Christ is the cause of humanity. We are friends to all, and are enemies to none. We do not speak evil, even of the false prophet himself, as a man; but, as a false prophet, we are his sworn opponents. Now, Christians, you have a difficult battle to fight, because you fight with all evil and hostility between man and man: you are to be peacemakers. Go wherever you may, if you see a quarrel you are to abate it. You are to pluck firebrands out of the fire, and strive to quench them in the waters of lovingkindness. It is your mission to bring the nations together, and weld them into one. It is yours to make man love man, to make him no more the devourer of his kind. This you can only do by being the friends of purity. Smite error, smite sin, and you have done your best to promote happiness and union among mankind. Oh, go, Christian, in the Spirit’s strength, and smite your own anger—put that to the death; smite your own pride—level that; and then smite every other man’s anger. Make peace wherever you can, scatter peace with both your hands.

For meditation: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9) Men need to hear of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) who alone can give them peace with God and, as a result, peace with man (Ephesians 2:14-17).

Sermon no. 250
1 May (1859)

John MacArthur – The Master’s Men

 

“The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:2-4).

God uses unqualified people to accomplish His purposes.

We live in a qualification-conscious society. Almost everything you do requires you to meet someone else’s standards. You must qualify to purchase a home, buy a car, get a credit card, or attend college. In the job market, the most difficult jobs require people with the highest possible qualifications.

Ironically, God uses unqualified people to accomplish the world’s most important task: advancing the kingdom of God. It has always been that way: Adam and Eve plunged the human race into sin. Lot got drunk and committed incest with his own daughters. Abraham doubted God and committed adultery. Jacob deceived his father. Moses was a murderer. David was too, as well as an adulterer. Jonah got upset when God showed mercy to Nineveh. Elijah withstood 850 false priests and prophets, yet fled in terror from one woman—Jezebel. Paul murdered Christians. And the list goes on and on.

The fact is, no one is fully qualified to do God’s work. That’s why He uses unqualified people. Perhaps that truth is most clearly illustrated in the twelve disciples, who had numerous human frailties, different temperaments, different skills, and diverse backgrounds, yet Christ used them to change the world.

This month you will meet the disciples one by one. As you do, I want you to see that they were common men with a very uncommon calling. I also want you to observe the training process Jesus put them through, because it serves as a pattern for our discipleship as well.

I pray you will be challenged by their strengths and encouraged by the way God used them despite their weaknesses and failures. He will use you too as you continue yielding your life to Him.

Suggestions for Prayer; Memorize Luke 6:40. Ask God to make you more like Christ.

For Further Study; Read 2 Timothy 1:3-5, noting the weaknesses Timothy may have struggled with, and how Paul encouraged him. How might Paul’s words apply to you?

Joyce Meyer – God’s Good Plan for Your Life

 

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. Ephesians 2:10

Since before we were born, God has had a unique plan for each of us. It is not a plan of failure, misery, poverty, sickness, and disease. God’s plan is a good plan, a plan for life and health, happiness, and fulfillment. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.

It would benefit every one of us if we would say to ourselves several times a day, God has a good plan for my life. Each of us needs to be firmly convinced of that truth to keep us from being affected by our changing circumstances and emotions. You may be asking, “If God has such a wonderful plan for my life, why am I not living in it?” I understand why you would ask that question. It does seem strange that if God loves us so much and has such good plans for us, we should have to suffer and go through pain.

What you must remember is that we have an enemy who is out to destroy God’s wonderful plan. Although God had a good plan for my life, I ended up in an abusive environment because the devil came and disrupted that good plan. But there is something else, something really awesome about God, we need to understand. God doesn’t like it when someone hurts us and tries to undermine His plan for us. While He is making us lie down in green pastures to restore our soul (see Psalm 23:2-3), He is getting up to do something about our situation!

It should be a great comfort to us to know that what we cannot do for ourselves, the Lord will do for us—if we will trust ourselves to Him.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Lord Forgave You

 

“Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of His deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others. Don’t worry about making a good impression on them but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently. Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:12,13).

  1. C. Penney, a devout Christian whom I knew personally, built one of America’s leading businesses on the principle of the Golden Rule, taught by our Lord:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

He and other gentle men have developed tenderness and sensitivity to others through their years of maturing, often through many difficult and trying experiences. So should we as Christians seek to develop gentle spirits through the trials and tribulations that God permits us to go through.

Do you lack gentleness in your life?

Do you have a tendency to be arrogant, proud, boastful?

Are you overbearing or even coarse and rude with others?

By faith you can become a gentle person. By faith you can confess your sins and know that they have been forgiven. By faith you can appropriate the filling of the Spirit of Christ. By faith you can practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others.

The Lord has commanded us to be gentle people, so by faith we can ask for that portion of the fruit of the Spirit, gentleness and love, and know that He is changing us for the better.

As I have cautioned with regard to other Christlike traits, this is one which usually develops over an extended period of time, usually through the maturing process that comes only with time and trials and sometimes tribulation. Pray that God will give you patience with yourself as you mature into the gentle and humble person He wants you to be.

Bible Reading: Colossians 3:14-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  God’s promise to me is that He forgives; with His help I will forgive and practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others, with the prayer that I may be more and more conformed to the image of my Lord.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Loneliness Cure

 

Mother Theresa said, “Loneliness is the leprosy of modern society. And no one wants anybody to know they’re a leper.” God understands loneliness. He created Heaven and Earth, beasts, birds, and fish, and said everything was good. Then He made man, looked at him and said, “It is not good that man should be alone.”

It is not good that the man should be alone.

Genesis 2:18

While yours may not be the loneliness of an Adam waiting for an Eve, you may still feel the emptiness caused by the lack of close communion with others. Jesus, in His commandment, offered a solution: “Love one another.” To do that requires you to extend yourself, a difficult thing for a lonely person to do. But someone has to be first! Be sympathetic, tender, and zealous to do good for others. If you are among those blessed with many friends, you can still lovingly befriend someone you know who may be lonely.

God, who created people to need one another, hears the cries of even the ones who are lonely in a crowd. Pray about the scourge of loneliness in America, even as you pray for the nation’s leaders who often find it is lonely at the top.

Recommended Reading: I Peter 3:8-16

Greg Laurie – Opened to Earth, Closed to Heaven

 

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

—Genesis 3:8

If you happen to hear a dirty joke and don’t get it, way to go. All too often, we know more about this wicked world than we need to know. And we know far too less about God’s Word, which we need to grow. Writing to the believers in Rome, the apostle Paul said, “I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19).

When Adam and Eve sinned, their eyes were opened to Earth and closed to Heaven. Then God showed up. It appears from the way it is stated in the text that this was a daily occurrence. And normally it would have been a welcomed visit. But this time Adam wasn’t waiting for the Lord’s arrival. Rather, he was hiding.

It’s interesting to note when God came to Adam. It wasn’t in the heat of the day, lest Adam would think God was coming to him in the heat of His passion. Nor did God come to Adam in the early morning, lest Adam would think God couldn’t wait to punish him for his sin. No, God came to Adam in the cool of the day, loving and patient, yet hurt and demanding confession.

Sometimes when we sin, we will find a way to rationalize it. We might even assume that maybe God is okay with it because the consequences aren’t yet evident. But God is never okay with sin. And know this: The Bible says, “Your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). If you were to translate that from the original language, it ultimately would read like this: Your sin will find you out. It will come out—maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe a month from now, or maybe ten years from now. But it will find you out.

Max Lucado – Letting God’s Spirit Lead

 

In Acts 8:26-27, an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go to that chariot of the Ethiopian and stay near it. So Philip ran toward the chariot.” The two have a Bible study in the chariot. It’s so convincing that the Ethiopian is baptized that day. Philip teaches, the Ethiopian obeys, and the gospel is sent to Africa.

Romans 8:14 says, “the true children of God are those who let God’s Spirit lead them.” You invite a couple over for coffee. Nothing heroic. Just a nice evening with friends. But from the moment they enter, you feel led to inquire, you feel a concern that won’t be silent. So you ask. You catch a glimpse of what it means to be led by the Spirit. Has it occurred to you? You have the same Spirit working within you that Philip did! Think about that.

From When God Whispers Your Name