Charles Stanley – How to Increase Your Faith

 

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

What are some practical steps you can take to increase your level of faith today?

  1. READ THE BIBLE. Romans 10:17 explains, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” That is, you must feed your faith a steady diet of God’s Word.
  2. EXERCISE YOUR FAITH. A bodybuilder doesn’t begin by lifting 500 pounds the first day. Rather, he exercises daily, gradually increasing his strength. Regularly exercising faith can bring about similar growth spiritually.
  3. EMBRACE TRIALS. First Peter 1:3-9 reveals the difficult truth that adversity, when addressed in God’s power, creates greater faith. Just as a fire purifies precious metals, hardship strips away all but the pure core of faith.
  4. EXAMINE THE TESTIMONIES OF OTHERS. A testimony is an individual’s own account of the Lord’s activity in his life. No one can ever deny, refute, or downplay someone else’s testimony. When you hear of God’s mighty deeds in another person’s life, your own faith grows.
  5. PRAY. You get to know someone by talking to him. That’s what prayer is: your personal communication with God. But don’t just talk; be sure to spend time listening. God wants to speak to you.
  6. PRACTICE OBEDIENCE. You will never grow in your faith if you consistently disobey what God tells you to do. Perfect faith is a by-product of obedience. Put yourself in a position to see God’s best for your life, and your faith will soar.

Faith does not increase by accident. Growth takes time, dedication, and intentionality. Ask the Lord to help you exercise your faith today.

Our Daily Bread — One Step Closer

 

Read: Romans 13:10-14

Bible in a Year: 1 Chronicles 4-6; John 6:1-21

Now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. —Romans 13:11

Some years ago a friend and I set out to climb Mount Whitney. At 14,505 feet, it is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. We arrived at Whitney Portal late one evening, rolled out our sleeping bags at base camp, and tried to get some sleep before we began our ascent at first light. Whitney is not a technical climb but rather a long, exhausting walk—11 miles of relentless ascent.

The climb, though hard-going, was exhilarating, with stunning vistas, beautiful blue lakes, and lush meadows along the way. But the trail grew long and exhausting, a test for legs and lungs. I thought of turning back as the day wore on and the trail seemed to stretch endlessly before us.

Occasionally, however, I caught a glimpse of the summit and realized that each step was bringing me one step closer. If I just kept walking, I would get there. That was the thought that kept me going.

Paul assures us, “Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11). Every day brings us one day closer to that great day when we shall “summit” and see our Savior’s face. That’s the thought that can keep us going. —David Roper

Dear Lord, may I, for the joy set before me, endure with patience the hardship of the trail. When my journey is over, I will see You face to face and live with You forever.

Now we see Jesus in the Bible, but someday we’ll see Him face to face.

INSIGHT: Paul often discusses the need to walk (live) properly. He writes to the church in Ephesus to remind them to walk in the light of good deeds because they have been saved by God’s grace (Eph. 2:1-10). To the church in Rome, he prescribes a different motivation for living according to the Lord Jesus Christ—because “salvation is nearer” (Rom. 13:11). Because the time of the Lord’s return is approaching, we are to leave behind the deeds of darkness.

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  Carried Beyond

 

A great newspaper headline can tell as much as the article itself. A caption once confessing “India Embraces Superlatives” promptly won my attention. The article summarized the growing obsession in India with holding Guinness World Records. “How do you stand out in a land with a billion people?” the article inquired. The answers were as extreme as the superlatives themselves: longest backwards run, fastest drinker of a bottle of ketchup, smallest writing on a mustard seed, longest ear hair ever grown. “We are desperate to be acknowledged by the world as being worthy,” said a columnist for the Times of India. “We hunt for any signs that the external world recognizes us, and then we celebrate them.” To distinguish oneself in one of the biggest crowds in the world, embracing superlatives is imperative.

Ironically, there could not be a more common human behavior. Though India might be embracing a unique path to superlatives, the road to noteworthy is one of the oldest, most well-traveled paths in the world. We are constantly about the work of distinguishing ourselves from whatever crowd we find ourselves standing in. From increased interests in book-writing and extreme sports, to becoming one of reality television’s idols, aspirations to be the fastest or the richest or the greatest are nothing new.

But the ever-spinning world of the best and the brightest reaches well beyond personal aspirations. Thus, the best bottled water can no longer be simply from a source in Texas; it must be from the coldest waters of the highest springs of the Swiss Alps. Grocers now have upwards of 12 kinds of bottled water on their shelves, each promising a better superlative. Of course, by nature, superlatives only exist because there are less extreme talents, stars, and water by comparison. The word is derived from the Latin superlatus, which means “carried beyond.” Though it is not always clear what standard we are using for comparison, it is arguable that we are now about the business of carrying absolutely everything “beyond.” A recent report on NPR showed that the number of choices in a grocery store in 1969 was somewhere around seven thousand. Walking into the average grocery store today we are confronted with seventy thousand choices. Sometimes it seems we are intent on the endless pursuit of out-doing our own superlatives.

It is in the midst of this wearying competition with ourselves and every crowd that the Christian imagination stands tall to do what it does best: not finger-wagging, not nay-saying, but extending a resonant, viable, and hopeful alternative. When Jesus proclaimed “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” he was stating something essential for the one desperate to be acknowledged as worthy. What if knowing who we are without our records and superlatives, knowing that all our efforts cannot give us what we ultimately need, knowing that worth is something quite different than standing out in a crowd, is the starting point for finding life as it exists most abundantly?

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

 

Alistair Begg – All are Yours

 

In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him.Colossians 2:9-10

All the attributes of Christ, as God and man, are at our disposal. All the fullness of the Godhead, whatever that marvelous term may encompass, is ours to make us complete. He cannot endow us with the attributes of Deity; but He has done all that can be done, for He has made even His divine power and Godhead subservient to our salvation. His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability and infallibility are all combined for our defense.

Stand up, believer, and witness the Lord Jesus hitching the whole of His divine Godhead to the chariot of salvation! How vast His grace, how firm His faithfulness, how unswerving His immutability, how infinite His power, how limitless His knowledge! The Lord Jesus made all these pillars of the temple of salvation; and all, without any lessening of their infinity, are covenanted to us as our perpetual inheritance. The fathomless love of the Savior’s heart is ours in every drop; every sinew in the arm of strength, every jewel in the crown of majesty, the immensity of divine knowledge, and the sternness of divine justice–all are ours and shall be employed for us.

The whole of Christ, in His adorable character as the Son of God, is by Himself made ours to most richly enjoy. His wisdom is our direction, His knowledge our instruction, His power our protection, His justice our guarantee, His love our comfort, His mercy our solace, and His immutability our trust. He holds nothing back but opens the recesses of the Mount of God and bids us dig in its mines for the hidden treasures. “All, all, all are yours,” He says, “sated with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord.” How wonderful to see Jesus in this way, and to call upon Him with the certain confidence that in seeking the intervention of His love or power, we are simply asking for what He has already faithfully promised.

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

Charles Spurgeon – God alone the salvation of His people

 

“He only is my rock and my salvation.” Psalm 62:2

Suggested Further Reading: Mark 9:1-8

If God alone is our rock, and we know it, are we not bound to put all our trust in God, to give all our love to God, to set all our hope upon God, to spend all our life for God, and to devote our whole being to God? If God be all I have, sure, all I have shall be God’s. If God alone is my hope, sure, I will put all my hope upon God; if the love of God is alone that which saves, sure, he shall have my love alone. Come, let me talk to thee, Christian, for a little while, I want to warn thee not to have two Gods, two Christs, two friends, two husbands, two great Fathers; not to have two fountains, two rivers, two suns, or two heavens, but to have only one. I want to bid thee now, as God hath put all salvation in himself, to bring all thyself unto God. Come, let me talk to thee! In the first place, Christian, never join anything with Christ. Wouldest thou stitch thy old rags into the new garment he giveth? Wouldest thou put new wine into old bottles? Wouldst thou put Christ and self together? Thou mightest as well yoke an elephant and an ant; they could never plough together. What! Wouldest thou put an archangel in the same harness with a worm, and hope that they would drag thee through the sky! How inconsistent! How foolish! What! Thyself and Christ? Sure, Christ would smile; nay, Christ would weep, to think of such a thing! Christ and man together? Christ and Co? No, it never shall be; he will have nothing of the sort; he must be all. Note how inconsistent it would be to put anything else with him.

For meditation: What candidates for an equal share of the devotion due only to the Triune God do you face? Give them the same answer as Jesus gave Satan (Matthew 4:10).

Sermon no. 80
18 May (1856)

John MacArthur – Avoiding Prejudice (Bartholomew)

 

The twelve apostles included “Bartholomew [Nathanael]” (Matt. 10:3).

Prejudice can destroy relationships and prevent people from coming to Christ.

Prejudice is an uncalled-for generalization based on feelings of superiority. It is an ugly sin that has fueled hatred and conflicts for centuries, dividing entire nations and bringing untold misery. But prejudice is most damning when it blinds people to God’s Word. The prophet Jonah was so prejudiced against the Assyrians, he refused to go to Nineveh to preach to them. Even after God convinced him to obey, he wanted to die because the people of Nineveh had repented and God had spared them.

Prejudice also reared its ugly head in Nathanael, whose last name was Bartholomew (meaning “son of Tolmai”). John 1:45-46 says, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?'” Nathanael was a student of the Word and was looking for the Messiah, but he couldn’t understand how Messiah could come from Nazareth.

Nazareth lay on the fringes of the Jewish world—the last stop before Gentile territory. Perhaps the people of Cana, Nathanael’s hometown, were more refined and educated than the people of Nazareth. Whatever the cause, Nathanael’s perspective seemed to be that nothing but trouble could come out of Nazareth.

Prejudice has blinded many people to the gospel. The Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus because He didn’t fit their idea of a Messiah, wasn’t from Jerusalem, and wasn’t trained in their synagogues. Fortunately Nathanael’s desire for truth overpowered his prejudice and he came to Jesus.

Perhaps you have family or friends who are resisting the gospel because of prejudice. If so, don’t be discouraged and don’t give up! Jesus broke through Nathanael’s prejudice and redeemed him, and He has done the same for millions of others.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those you know who are blinded by prejudice, asking God to open their spiritual eyes to His truth.
  • Confess any prejudice you might have in your own heart.

For Further Study

Practicing unity and humility is the best way to overcome prejudice within the Body of Christ. Read Ephesians 4:1-6 and Philippians 2:1-8.

  • What attitudes did Paul encourage? Discourage?
  • Who is the example we’re to follow of humble service on behalf of others?

Joyce Meyer – Pursue and Seek Love

 

Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]. 1 Corinthians 14:1

Developing a love walk like the one displayed in the life of Jesus is like digging for gold. True Christ-like love is not found on the surface of life. It cannot just be seen and picked up. The Bible says you must eagerly pursue and seek it. This means you must go after love with all your might, as if you cannot live without it.

You must learn all you can about love and familiarize yourself with everything Jesus and the apostles said about it. However, not only are you to learn about love, you are also to seek, pursue, and acquire it.

Tonight, ask God to help you seek and acquire His kind of love—the love that can make a meaningful difference in your life . . . and in the lives of those around you.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Best Counsel

 

“The godly man is a good counselor because he is just and fair and knows right from wrong” (Psalm 37:30,31).

Mary had gone to several psychologists and psychiatrists, and even religious leaders, seeking help, but no one had been able to help her. Consequently, she had been committed to a mental institution. Now, in desperation her family had come to seek help.

It did not take long to discover the root of her problem – she was plagued with a deep sense of guilt. Mary had been sexually promiscuous as a teenager, and prior to that she had been violated by her step-father who had taken advantage of her when she was a very young girl.

All of this tormented her greatly, but no one had taken her to the Word of God to help her understand that she did not have to carry the burden of her own sin. There is forgiveness. Scripture teaches that if we confess our sins, God is waiting to forgive and cleanse us.

There are three things we need to know about confession. First, the word “confess” means, in the original Greek language, “to agree with.” If I agree with God concerning my immorality, stealing, dishonesty, whatever it may be, I am saying, “Lord, I know it is sin.” Second, we know from Scripture that Christ has paid the penalty for our sins by shedding His blood on the cross. And third, we must repent, which means we change our attitude toward that sin. This results in a change of action. When we do this, we have the promise that what we confess, God forgives, and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

When Mary understood the truth of God’s promise, she and I knelt together and by faith she surrendered all of her guilt and frustration to Christ, who died for her, and she claimed God’s forgiveness.

Only God could liberate her from the darkness and gloom of Satan’s kingdom and bring her into kingdom of light – the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mary sensed God’s immediate liberation and began to rejoice in the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life with Christ. She became a radiant, joyful and victorious witness for our Savior.

Bible Reading: Psalm 37:22-40

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Not only will I seek the counsel of godly men and women, but I will, with God’s help, become a godly person myself. I will saturate my mind with the truth of His holy Scripture, so that I will know what is right and wrong according to the Word of God, and I will then be able to give wise counsel to others.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Mysterious and Miraculous

 

By all indications, it would be their last night on Earth. John G. Paton and his wife, both legendary nineteenth-century missionaries to the New Hebrides Islands, were surrounded by hostile natives who were about to burn them out of their mission compound and kill them. All night long, Paton and his wife prayed. The attack, mysteriously, never came.

A terror from God fell upon the cities…so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

Genesis 35:5

It was a year later when the chief of the hostile tribe was converted to Jesus Christ. Remembering the terror of that night, Paton asked the chief why they had not attacked. “Who were all those men you had with you there?” he asked. The chief reported that he and his tribe had seen hundreds of men standing guard, wearing shining garments and wielding swords. Paton realized he and his wife had been protected, miraculously, by angels.

A similar account is found in Genesis 35 when a “terror from God” fell upon men seeking to harm God’s people. Are you living in fear today? God will hear your prayers – for your own protection and for the future of America – when you trust Him for the mysterious and the miraculous!

Recommended Reading: Isaiah 41:1-13

Greg Laurie – When You’re the Most Vulnerable

 

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

—Proverbs 16:18

Sometimes those who have known the Lord for a while are more vulnerable to falling into sin than those who are brand-new believers. When you’re a brand-new believer, you tend to realize that you are weak and vulnerable. New believers think, I need help. I need prayer. I need to be around other Christians. I need to be in church.

But when you have known the Lord for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years or longer, you might think, I am so strong now. I would never fall to that. How could anyone fall to a sin like that? But suddenly your unguarded strength becomes a double weakness.

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus told the disciples, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’ ” (Matthew 26:31).

But Peter protested, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you” (verse 33).

Jesus told him, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me” (verse 34).

But Peter said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” (verse 35). Peter was essentially saying, “Lord, you’ve got it wrong. You are talking to Peter here. I would never fall.”

The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Don’t say that you would never fall. And don’t ever say, “I could fall in some areas, but I would never fall in this area.” You could fall in that area too. Any of us could fall into sin at any time. That is why we can never rest on our laurels or think that we are somehow above it all.

Max Lucado – Whaddif’s

 

 

Worry is the burlap bag of burdens—overflowing with whaddifs! Whaddif it rains at my wedding? Whaddif after all my dieting, they discover lettuce is fattening and chocolate isn’t? The burlap bag of worry!

No one wants your worries. Truth be told, you don’t want them either. No one has to remind you the high cost of anxiety, but I will anyway. Worry isn’t a disease, but it causes diseases—high blood pressure, heart trouble, migraines, and a host of stomach disorders. Jesus said in Matthew 6:27, “You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it.” Worrying is one job you can’t farm out, but you can overcome it. David declares in Psalm 23:2, “He leads me beside the still waters.” He leads me. He is ahead of me. He is in front. God leads us! And what a difference that makes!

From Traveling Light

 

 

Night Light for Couples – Wandering Sheep

 

“If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine… and go to look for the one that wandered off?” Matthew 18:12

I f you are parents of small children, you know exactly how the shepherds mentioned in the Bible felt as they watched over their flocks. Even for a mother with “eyes in the back of her head,” keeping one active child from wandering off can seem as big a challenge as corralling a hundred sheep!

Jesus is called a shepherd, too, but His flock is all of humanity and He watches over us day and night. That’s why He called Himself the Good Shepherd. He came to earth to die so that not one soul would have to be lost. During His earthly ministry, He was always on the lookout for lost souls. He stayed up late to talk to Nicodemus (John 3:2). He wouldn’t let Zacchaeus hide unnoticed in a tree (Luke 19:5). And when the Pharisees were about to stone a despised adulteress, Jesus intervened with a message of forgiveness and direction—“Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Every day, we have divine appointments to lead others into God’s flock—not just our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, but also people we’ve never met before and may never see again. God’s wisdom and power are at our disposal. We just have to keep our eyes open.

Just between us…

  • Do you see Jesus as your Good Shepherd? Why or why not?
  • As a couple, are we watching for “lost sheep”?
  • How can we be more watchful for opportunities to reach unbelievers? Is there anyone “lost” with whom we can talk this week?

Lord Jesus, show us how to demonstrate Your great love and compassion to those around us. We, too, want to be shepherds of lost souls. Amen.

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