Charles Stanley – Adjusting to the Lord’s Plan

 

Matthew 4:18-22

I have been a Christian for many years, and not once has God asked me, “Charles, what do you want to do?” The Lord doesn’t change His plans to suit my purposes or yours. Instead, He asks us to adjust our lives to align with His will.

One change He often requires has to do with lifestyle. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen before they became Jesus’ disciples. Their lives revolved around the details of their occupation—equipment repair, weather conditions, catching fish, and turning a profit. But when Jesus called them to become fishers of men, they willingly and suddenly made a dramatic change.

In contrast, the rich young ruler walked away sad when he realized what he’d have to give up to follow Christ (Matthew 19:21-22). An invitation from the Lord usually means modifying our way of living. Whether this involves switching jobs or altering habits, God expects us to adapt to His plan.

At times the Lord may call for a shift in our relationships. Before being invited to travel in Jesus’ company, James and John worked in the family business with their father. Saying yes to God meant seeing friends and relatives less frequently. Pursuing His plan may mean the same thing for us. But Christ promises a great return on any sacrifice we make (v. 29).

Our heavenly Father’s plans are based upon His goodness, justice, and mercy. Because of His perfect character, we can trust the direction He gives us. Adjusting to God’s design—accepting His will and making the needed changes in our circumstances and relationships—is always the wisest action we can take (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Our Daily Bread — A Survivor’s Thoughts

 

Read: Romans 9:1-5

Bible in a Year: 2 Kings 22-23; John 4:31-54

I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren. —Romans 9:3

After a 71-year-old South Korean woman was rescued during the tragic sinking of a ferry boat, she struggled with survivor’s guilt. From her hospital bed she said she couldn’t understand how it could be right for her to have lived through an accident that had taken the lives of many who were so much younger. She also regretted not knowing the name of the young man who had pulled her out of the water after she had given up hope. Then she added, “I want to buy him a meal at least, or hold his hand, or give him a hug.”

This woman’s heart for others reminds me of the apostle Paul. He was so concerned about his neighbors and countrymen that he said he wished he could trade his own relationship with Christ for their rescue: “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren” (Rom. 9:2-3).

Paul also expressed a deep sense of personal gratitude. He knew he didn’t understand the ways and judgments of God (see vv.14-24). So while doing everything he could to proclaim the gospel to all, he found peace and joy in trusting the heart of a God who loves the whole world so much more than we ever could. —Mart DeHaan

Lord God, Your ways are so far beyond our comprehension, yet we know without doubt that You love us. Help us trust Your loving heart with the things we don’t understand.

Gratitude to God leads to growth in godliness.

INSIGHT: Even though Paul was “an apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13; Gal. 2:8), his heart’s desire was to see his own people—the Jews—come to faith in Jesus (Rom. 9:2-3). In Romans 9–11 Paul discussed the continuing unbelief of the Jews, but he assured them that they had not been rejected. He reminded them of their privileged status (v. 4), and the climax of these privileges is that the Messiah—the Savior—is Himself a Jew (v. 5).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Bread in Hand

 

At the death of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, the world of economics lost one of its most influential thinkers. He is perhaps best known for popularizing the saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” which is now a common English dictum.

Though consumer-trained eyes, we understand this phrase as Friedman intended: Anything billed “free of charge” still has a bill attached. It is both economic theory and lay opinion. Whatever goods and services are provided, someone must pay the cost. Thus, economically, we see that the world of business is first and foremost about profit and market share. And cynically, we suspect that every kind gesture or free gift has a hidden motive, cost, or expectation attached.

It was strange, then, to find myself thinking of “free lunches” as I was approaching the meal Christians call communion, the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, which comes from the Greek eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving. I approached the altar, hands outstretched to receive a broken piece of unleavened bread. Could my consumer mindset apply to this table as well? How much might this ‘free’ meal cost? Certainly the compulsion many feel to drudge up a sense of guilt at this table could be one sign of its costliness. But is this cost the host’s or a fee self-imposed? Inherent in his invitation to the table is the very freedom the Son came to offer: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.”(1)

Jesus spoke readily of the cost of the cross, but his is not a description of the kind of transaction consumer-hungry minds are quick to expect. The cost is his, even as he peculiarly invites the world to share in it. As the disciples gathered together in the upper room where they would participate in the last supper and the first communion, Jesus told them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”(2) He is both the Bread of life at the table and the one who paid the cost that it might nourish his table of guests. Our consumption at the table holds a great deal in which to participate.

Unfortunately, we are at times like the poet Alison Luterman who admits it is quite possible not to participate, not to see or consume or desire this gift of the connection between what feeds us and the hands who made it possible. She writes eloquently,

“Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones even bruise at too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten—every piece of fruit—had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before?”(3)

Holding the bread of Christ in our hands, we are indeed faced with a costly meal. As Luke imparts, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’”(4)

Stories of hunger and consumption pervade the world around us. The same theme pervades the gospel story, but in a manner that counters and transforms both our hunger and our ideas of what it means to consume. The consumer of Christ is not stockpiling one more product for personal use and fulfillment. Nor does he or she partake of a free service that requires a minimum purchase or a small commitment. The invitation to consume is neither selfish nor small: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Those who come to this table cannot consume with the same disconnectedness with which we consume countless meals and materials. We are ushered into a community, an interconnected life, the Body of Christ himself, and it leaves an entirely different imagination of the world in our grasp. The Christian makes the very countercultural claim that one can desire what one already has in hand. Desire does not have to assume an incessant longing for what we lack. Every broken piece of bread represents nothing less than all that we hold in Christ: One who gives himself freely, who gives everything away to present the hungry with an invitation to join him, to taste and see that God is good.

This free meal that Jesus presents overturns our lives as consumers, turning our hunger and desire inside-out. As Augustine imagines the voice on high saying: “I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me. And you will not change me into you, like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me.”(5) Christ is unlike anything else we can consume or desire in this world. For all who are hungry, the Bread of Life, the gift of God, is in hand.

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

(1) John 6:37.

(2) Luke 22:15.

(3) Alison Luterman, “Every Piece of Fruit,” Ed. Alice Peck, Bread, Body, and Spirit: Finding the Sacred in Food (Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Path Publishing, 2008), 15.

(4) Luke 22:19.

(5) Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 124 [Book VII, 16].

Alistair Begg – Today!

 

Everyone who believes is freed from everything [justified, KJV]. Acts 13:39

The believer in Christ receives a present justification. Faith does not produce this fruit later on, but now. So far as justification is the result of faith, it is given to the soul in the moment when it closes with Christ and accepts Him as its all in all. Are those who stand before the throne of God justified now? So are we as certainly and as clearly justified as those who have entered into the portals of heaven. The thief upon the cross was justified the moment that he turned the eye of faith to Jesus; and Paul, at the end of his life, after years of service, was not more justified than the thief who had no service at all.

We are today accepted in the Beloved, today absolved from sin, today acquitted at the bar of God’s judgment. What a soul-stirring thought! There are some benefits that we will not be able to enjoy until we enter heaven; but this is our immediate possession. This is not like the corn of the land, which we can never eat until we cross the Jordan; but this is part of the manna in the wilderness, a portion of our daily nutriment with which God supplies us in all our comings and goings.

We are now–even now–pardoned; even now are our sins put away; even now we stand in the sight of God accepted, as though we had never been guilty. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”1 There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now, against one of His people. Who dares to lay anything to their charge? There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle, nor anything remaining upon any one believer in this matter of being justified in the sight of the Judge of all the earth. Let our present privileges awaken us to present duty, and now, while life lasts, let us spend and be spent for our sweet Lord Jesus.

1) Romans 8:1

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

Charles Spurgeon – Holy violence

 

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of God suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Matthew 11:12

Suggested Further Reading: Genesis 32:22-32

Frequently complaints are made and surprise expressed by individuals who have never found a blessing rest upon anything they have attempted to do in the service of God. “I have been a Sunday-school teacher for years,” says one, “and I have never seen any of my girls or boys converted.” No, and the reason most likely is, you have never been violent about it; you have never been compelled by the divine Spirit to make up your mind that converted they should be, and no stone shall be left unturned until they were. You have never been brought by the Spirit to such a passion, that you have said, “I cannot live unless God bless me; I cannot exist unless I see some of these children saved.” Then, falling on your knees in agony of prayer, and putting forth afterwards your trust with the same intensity towards heaven, you would never have been disappointed, “for the violent take it by force.” And you too, my brother in the gospel, you have marvelled and wondered why you have not seen souls regenerated. Did you ever expect it? Why, you preach like one who does not believe what he is saying. Those who believe in Christ, may say of you with kind partiality, “Our minister is a dear good man;” but the careless young men that attend your ministry say, “Does that man expect to make me believe that which he only utters as a dry story, and to convince me when I see him go through the service with all the dullness and monotony of dead routine?” Oh, my brethren, what we want today in the churches is violence; not violence against each other, but violence against death, and hell, against the hardness of other men’s hearts, and against the sleepiness of our own.

For meditation: Do you mean business with God or do you just go through the motions? It can make all the difference (2 Kings 4:31-35; Mark 9:28,29).

Sermon no. 252
15 May (1859)

John MacArthur – Speaking the Truth in Love (John)

 

The twelve apostles included “John” (Matt. 10:2).

Seek to maintain a proper balance between truth and love.

Some people picture John as overly sentimental and egotistical, lying with his head on Jesus’ shoulder and constantly referring to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. But that’s not an accurate characterization of one of the “Son of thunder”! He loved Jesus deeply and was amazed that Jesus loved him—especially after he wanted to burn up the Samaritans and then secure a prominent place for himself in Christ’s kingdom. Calling himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (e.g., John 21:20) was simply his way of marvelling over God’s grace in his life.

As much as he loved Jesus, John never allowed his love to deteriorate into mere sentimentalism. In fact, the proper balance between truth and love is the hallmark of his ministry. In his writings we find the word love more than eighty times and witness nearly seventy times. His profound love for Christ compelled him to be a teacher of love and a witness to the truth. To him, obedience to the truth was the highest expression of love. As 1 John 2:5 says, “Whoever keeps [God’s] word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.”

John’s greatest joy was to know that his spiritual children were walking in the truth (3 John 4). He firmly denounced anyone who attempted to divert them from that goal by denying or distorting God’s Word.

Today, media talk shows and other influences have blurred the lines between opinion and truth. One man’s opinion is purported to be as good as the next, and there’s little talk about what’s right or wrong.

Truth suffers even within the church because many Christians are willing to compromise it to avoid upsetting people. They forget that true love flourishes only in the atmosphere of biblical truth (Phil. 1:9).

Amid such confusion, God calls you to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). The world doesn’t need another opinion—it needs God’s absolute and authoritative Word!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the gift of His love and the power of His truth. Ask Him to make you a person of ever-increasing biblical integrity.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 2:1-7.

  • What strengths did the church at Ephesus have?
  • What did it lack?
  • What did Jesus require of it?

Joyce Meyer – A Humble Mind

 

For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him. Romans 12:3

It is easy to get mixed up about humility. Some people think humility means to have a low opinion of ourselves. Paul says not to have an exaggerated opinion of your own importance, but he doesn’t say to have a low opinion. Some people, in an effort to be humble, don’t know how to receive compliments graciously. We all need encouragement, compliments, and appreciation.

A good way to handle appreciation without getting into pride is to receive it when it is given, then, at the end of the day, take the compliments you receive to Jesus and say to Him, “I know whatever I do that is good or right is the result of Your working in me, so I offer You all the praise I was given today and I thank You for the encouragement.”

Power Thought: Every compliment I have ever received is because of Jesus.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Godly Shall Flourish

 

“But the godly shall flourish like palm trees, and grow tall as the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted into the Lord’s own garden, and are under His personal care. Even in old age they will still produce fruit and be vital and green” (Psalm 92:12-14).

John Vredenburgh preached in a Somerville, New York church for many years, often feeling that his ministry was a great failure even though he preached the gospel faithfully. His death came amidst discouragements, and even some of his members wondered about his success and effectiveness as a minister.

Not long after his death, however, spiritual revival came to Somerville. On one Sunday alone, 200 people came to Christ – most of whom dated their spiritual stirrings from the ministry of John Vredenburgh.

Faithfulness and persistence are great virtues in the service of Jesus Christ. “Pay Day, Some Day” was a significant theme and message of that great Southern Baptist pastor, R. G. Lee – and since God’s timing is always perfect, it surely will come in good time.

“Even in old age they will still produce fruit.” Though the outward man may be pershing, the inward man is renewed day by day. When the outward ear grows deaf, the inward man hears the voice of God. When the eye grows dim, the mind is enlightened with God’s Word.

When the flesh becomes weak, we are “strengthened with might in the inner man.” Older Christians look toward heaven, where they again shall see family and friends; meanwhile, the share their maturity and good judgment with others, knowing that God still rewards the faithful. Until that dying breath, the supernatural life on earth can continue.

Bible Reading: Psalm 92:7-11

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that even in old(er) age my life can produce fruit, I will persevere and remain faithful to our Lord and His commands.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Topsy-turvy Tensions

 

Dysfunctional families – do you know any? You don’t have to look far to find homes in turmoil: divorces, absentee parents, sins of all kinds. American homes are in a mess, and that mess carries into communities, municipalities, and states. Even the current Congress has been called one of the most dysfunctional in history. Their relationship with the president is no better. High levels of tension result.

Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her.

Genesis 30:22

The patriarch Jacob’s home shows that dysfunction was present even (and often) among biblical heroes. His original sister-wives were envious of one another, each considering that Jacob cared more for her, and each wondering if God cared…or if He even listened to their prayers. Tension reigned supreme. Someone has said that God’s delay is not God’s denial. You see from today’s verse that God did hear; moreover, He acted.

When you come before the Lord today, pray for the families you know where lives are topsy-turvy to the point of dysfunction. Intercede as well for local and state governments where tensions permeate. Then call upon God on behalf of the United States Congress and for President Obama, knowing that God listens, cares, and acts in His perfect timing.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 102:1-12

Greg Laurie – Remember God

 

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. —Genesis 8:20

How often we call upon the Lord in our hour of need. But then when He answers our prayer, we all too often forget about Him.

When Noah and his family finally stepped onto terra firma once again, Noah did not forget about the Lord. The first thing he did was to build an altar to the Lord and offer sacrifices. It reminds me of the ten men with leprosy who came to Jesus, asking to be healed. Jesus healed them, but only one came back to say thank you. Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17).

We are often like those nine. We are quick to ask God for help, but what about when He answers? Do we give Him glory? Do we say, “Lord, thank You for the answer?” Or, do we thank our lucky stars or say it was good luck?

Noah remembered God. He called on the Lord and brought a sacrifice before Him. And we can do the same. One way is by reading the Bible before we go to sleep at night. And when we get up in the morning, we can make time for the Word of God.

Another way is by giving thanks to God before a meal. We call it saying grace. I think it’s a really great thing to see a family bowing their heads in prayer in a restaurant. What a testimony that is.

We can also remember the Lord with faithful giving. Proverbs 3:9–10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

Noah made time in life for the things that matter. We should do the same.

 

Max Lucado – Eternal Creatures

 

We are eternal creatures. We ask eternal questions. Where did I come from? Where am I going? Is there life after death? These are the primal questions of the soul. And if left unanswered, such questions steal our rest.

Only one other living creature has as much trouble resting as we do. Not dogs…they doze. Cats invented the catnap. Most animals know how to rest—with one exception. These creatures are woolly, simpleminded, and slow. Sheep! Sheep can’t sleep. For them to do so everything must be just right. No tension in the flock…no hunger in the belly…everything has to be just so. Unfortunately sheep cannot find safe pasture or find food. They need help. They need a shepherd to lead them, and help them to lie down in green pastures. Without a shepherd they can’t rest. Without a Shepherd, neither can we!

From Traveling Light

Night Light for Couples – Hi There!

Hi There!

by Nancy Dahlberg

One year our family spent the holidays in San Francisco with my husband’s parents. Christmas was on a Sunday that year, and in order for us to be back at work on Monday, we had to drive the four hundred miles back home to Los Angeles on Christmas Day.

When we stopped for lunch in King City, the restaurant was nearly empty. We were the only family, and ours were the only children. I heard Erik, our one‐year‐old, squeal with glee: “Hi there. Hi there.” He pounded his fat baby hands—whack, whack—on the metal tray of the high chair. His face was alive with excitement, eyes wide, gums bared in a toothless grin. He wriggled, chirped, and giggled. Then I saw the source of his merriment—and my eyes could not take it all in at once. It was a man wearing a tattered rag of a coat, obviously bought eons ago, and dirty, greasy, worn pants. His toes poked out of used‐to‐be shoes, and his shirt had ring‐around‐the‐collar all over. He had a face like none other—with gums as bare as Erik’s. “Hi there, baby,” the disheveled man said.

“Hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster.” My husband and I exchanged a look that was a cross between “What do we do?” and “Poor devil.” Our meal came, and the cacophony continued. Now the old bum was shouting from across the room: “Do you know patty‐cake? Atta boy—do ya know peek‐a‐boo? Hey, look—he knows peek‐a‐boo!”

Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hi there.” Every call was echoed. Nobody thought it was cute. The guy was a drunk and a disturbance. I was embarrassed. My husband, Dennis, was humiliated. Even our six‐year‐old said, “Why is that old man talking so loud?”

As Dennis went to pay the check, he whispered for me to get Erik and meet him in the parking lot. Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik, I prayed as I bolted for the door.

It was soon obvious that both the Lord and Erik had other plans. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back, trying to sidestep him—and any air he might be exhaling. As I did, Erik, with his eyes riveted on his new friend, leaned far over my arm and reached out with both hands in a baby’s “pick me up” position.

In the split second of balancing my baby and turning to counter his weight, I came eye‐to‐eye with the old man. Erik was lunging for him, arms spread wide.

The bum’s eyes both asked and implored, “Would you let me hold your baby?”

There was no need for me to answer because Erik propelled himself from my arms into the man’s. Suddenly a very old man and very young baby clutched each other in a loving embrace. Erik laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands—roughened by grime and pain and hard labor—gently, so gently, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back.

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment, and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm, commanding voice, “You take care of this baby.”

Somehow I managed to squeeze the words “I will” from a throat that seemed to have a stone lodged in it.

He pried Erik from his chest—unwillingly, longingly—as though he were in pain.

I held my arms open to receive my baby, and again the gentleman addressed me.

“God bless you, ma’am. You’ve given me my Christmas gift.” I could only mutter, “Thanks.” With Erik back in my arms, I hurried toward the car. Dennis wondered why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly and saying, “My God, my God, forgive me.”

Looking ahead…

Imagine for a moment viewing the world from a baby’s perspective. Everything would fascinate you: the bright colors, the strange noises, and most certainly, the people. You’d want to touch, taste, and explore each one. Would you avert your eyes at the sight of a friendly bum? Of course not—even if he was toothless. Curious and trusting, you would return the bum’s smile, then hold out your hands to give him a hug.

Babies see the world in a different light, don’t they? They don’t worry about what others think, and they don’t prejudge others on the basis of appearance. Unfortunately, as adults we tend to go “blind”—to each other and to those around us—to what God is doing in our world. This week we’ll talk about how we can learn to see in a fresh way— through God’s loving eyes.

– James C Dobson

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