Charles Stanley – Blessed Assurance

 

1 John 5:10-13

In terms of salvation, all of us fall into one of four categories: We are saved and we know it; we think we’re saved, but we’re not; we don’t claim to be saved; or we’re not saved but would like to be. In which category do you find yourself?

Salvation is God’s deliverance of the believer—through Jesus Christ—from all the effects of sin. It is God’s work in the human heart and is accompanied by all the benefits He bestows on us now and forever.

We need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt where we are going to spend eternity. And God has made sure that through His word, such certainty is available to every one of us (1 John 5:13). Do you have that kind of assurance? If you are not confident that you have eternal salvation, I urge you to settle this most important decision of your life right now.

First, realize that God desires to save everyone (1 Timothy 2:4). Not only that, but He also provided the way to salvation through His Son (John 3:16)—He has told us we must believe in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31) and confess Him before men. As Scripture explains, it is “with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:10).

Our heavenly Father is faithful to keep every one of His promises. If you trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, God will save you from your sin and welcome you into His family (John 1:12)—without regard to merit or worth on your part. Eternal life will be yours. And He offers this gift freely to all who believe in His Son. Will you receive it?

Our Daily Bread — The Great Healer

 

Read: Genesis 2:7-15

Bible in a Year: 1 Chronicles 7-9; John 6:22-44

I am the LORD, who heals you. —Exodus 15:26

The doctors I know are smart, hard-working, and compassionate. They have relieved my suffering on many occasions, and I am grateful for their expertise in diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medication, setting broken bones, and stitching up wounds. But this does not mean that I place my faith in physicians rather than in God.

For reasons known only to God, He appointed humans to be His partners in the work of caring for creation (Gen. 2:15), and doctors are among them. Doctors study medical science and learn how God designed the body. They use this knowledge to help restore us to a healthy condition. But the only reason doctors can do anything to make us better is that God created us with the ability to heal. Surgeons would be useless if incisions didn’t heal.

Scientists can learn how God created our bodies to function, and they devise therapies to help restore or cure us, but they are not healers; God is (Ex. 15:26). Doctors simply cooperate with God’s original intent and design.

So I am grateful for science and doctors, but my praise and thanksgiving go to God, who designed an orderly universe and who created us with minds that can discover how it works. I believe, therefore, that all healing is divine because no healing takes place apart from God. —Julie Ackerman Link

Father God, You are the Great Physician, and I ask for healing, whether mind, body, spirit, or in all of these. I believe You will give what is best. Thank You for Your goodness, kindness, and love in all things.

When you think of all that’s good, give thanks to God.

INSIGHT: Genesis 2:7-15 gives us a glimpse into the perfect living environment of Adam and Eve before the fall. God provided everything necessary for their sustenance and enjoyment—food (v. 9), water (v. 10), and other natural resources (vv. 10-12)—and gave man the responsibility to manage these resources (v. 15). God had originally intended for humanity to live forever, but after the fall Adam and Eve were prevented from eating from the Tree of Life so that they would not live forever in their sinful condition (3:22-24).

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Out of Exile

 

The Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study, an American survey of more than 35,000 people from all 50 states, first undertaken in 2007, introduced those interested in demographic trends to a group of individuals known as “the nones.” In its follow-up study completed in 2014, ‘the nones’ are increasing. Almost a quarter of the U.S. population is unaffiliated with any religious group. More than any other demographic group, those aged 18-22 years old make up more than one-third of these ‘nones.’ They are as religiously unaffiliated as the older generations were affiliated.(1)

Of course, many theories are offered to explain this phenomenon. One theory suggests that younger adults grew disillusioned with organized religion when religion began to be associated with more conservative politics. Another theory offers that the shift reflects a broader trend away from social and community involvement. The most prominent theory suggests that this is simply one more sign of the growing secularization seen in most developed countries. Meanwhile, atheists, whose numbers are on the rise, interpret the decrease in faith as a triumph of reason.

While these studies are fascinating and important, and the theories as to the reasons for the decline in Protestant and Evangelical Protestant affiliation are worthy of serious thought, I don’t believe that the only conclusion we might draw from this report is one of triumph for skeptics or discouragement for Christians.

An ancient story perhaps suggests another perception. Thousands of years ago, a prophet heard a word from the Lord. The people would be exiled, the faithful forgotten, the land destroyed by gnawing locusts, and the armies of the nations would trample down those who remained. This vision came to the prophet Joel for the people of Judah. He saw the signs all around him and interpreted their warning. Exile was at hand.

Yet despite these harrowing warnings, the prophet also spoke of blessing, abundance after want, and the abiding presence of the God who cared for his people despite the ways things looked:

“Do not fear, o land, rejoice and be glad, for the Lord has done great things….I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust, my great army which I sent among you….Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is no other; and my people will never be put to shame. And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all people; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. And even on the male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:21-29).

Here, in the valley of want, the prophet Joel calls to the people to “return to the Lord with all your heart with fasting, weeping and mourning; rend your heart and not your garments….For the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, and relenting of evil.” God’s grace and compassion will be demonstrated in the gift of the Spirit poured out lavishly on a most stubborn and willful people.

Hundreds of years later, there were another people who looked back at this ancient text from the prophet Joel and saw themselves as the recipients of this divine outpouring. They were the recipients of multiplied years. On these simple, peasant Galileans, small in number and in power, the Holy Spirit fell with tongues of fire and rushing wind. They proclaimed in native languages—not their own—the mighty deeds of God.(2) “And it shall be in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth my Spirit upon all people; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy” (Joel 2:28-29). The promise of God’s Spirit, outpoured and empowering the people fell on the feast of Pentecost, when harvest and in-gathering took place. To this relatively small gathering of individuals in Jerusalem: “…about three thousand were added to their numbers that day” (Acts 2:41). The Spirit falls and gathers home those who had been dispersed.

Of course, those initial followers, much like Joel before them, couldn’t see the ultimate horizon of the Church that was birthed that Pentecost. But these followers, small in number, were the first fruits of the outpoured Spirit, which would go forth into the uttermost parts of the earth. By the power of the Spirit, those first fruits would multiply into the Church, and the Church, the body of Christ, was unleashed into the world. The in-gathering of the nations, shown in nascent form at Pentecost, is fulfilled by the gospel going forth into the whole world through the presence and witness of the Church.

Pentecost asks those who despair or take triumph in changing demographics to consider that harvest and in-gathering are ever-present possibilities. Numbers may rise or fall, but influence does not have to wane. The earliest followers of Jesus were unleashed into the exile that was the Roman Empire. The smallness of their numbers didn’t thwart them from receiving the Spirit of the least and the last, so much so that their numbers and influence grew. Today, those who embrace the Son are the recipients of the power of the same Spirit. As we live into the kingdom by the power of this Spirit, the body of Christ can multiply with abundant fruit and harvest.

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

(1) The 2014 Religious Landscape Study, Pew Forum, conducted June 4-September 30, 2014.

(2) See Acts 2:1-13.

Alistair Begg – Upstarts and the Truly Great

 

I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves. Ecclesiastes 10:7

Upstarts frequently steal the highest places, while the truly great struggle in obscurity. This is a riddle in providence whose solution will one day gladden the hearts of the upright; but it is so common a fact that none of us should complain if we face the experience. When our Lord was on earth, although He is the Prince of the kings of the earth, yet He walked the footpath of weariness and service as the Servant of servants.

It should then be no surprise if His followers, who are princes in His line, should also be looked down upon as inferior and contemptible persons. The world is upside-down, and therefore the first are last and the last first. Consider how the servile sons of Satan lord it in the earth! What a high horse they ride! How they exalt themselves. David wanders on the mountains, while Saul reigns in state; Elijah is complaining in the cave, while Jezebel is boasting in the palace. Yet who would wish to take the places of the proud rebels? And who, on the other hand, might not envy the despised saints? When the wheel turns, those who are lowest rise, and the highest sink. Patience, then, believer, eternity will right the wrongs of time.

Let us not fall into the error of letting our passions and sinful appetites ride in triumph, while our nobler powers walk in the dust. Grace must reign as a prince and make the members of our bodies instruments of righteousness. The Holy Spirit loves order, and He therefore sets our powers and faculties in proper rank and place, giving the highest room to those spiritual faculties that link us with the great King; let us not disturb the divine arrangement but ask for grace to keep our body under control and bring it into subjection. We were not made new to allow our passions to rule over us, but in order that, as kings, we may reign in Christ Jesus over the triple kingdom of spirit, soul, and body, to the glory of God the Father.

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

Charles Spurgeon – Forgiveness

“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Isaiah 43:25

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 8:26-40

There are some passages of scripture which have been more abundantly blessed to the conversion of souls than others. They may be called salvation texts. We may not be able to discover how it is, or why it is, but certainly it is the fact, that some chosen verses have been more used of God to bring men to the cross of Christ than any others in his Word. Certainly they are not more inspired, but I suppose they are more noticeable from their position, from their peculiar phraseology more adapted to catch the eye of the reader, and more suitable to a prevailing spiritual condition. All the stars in the heavens shine very brightly, but only a few attract the eye of the mariner, and direct his course; the reason is this, that those few stars from their peculiar grouping are more readily distinguished, and the eye easily fixes upon them. So I suppose it is with those passages of God’s Word which especially attract attention, and direct the sinner to the cross of Christ. It so happens that this text is one of the chief of them. I have found it, in my experience, to be a most useful one; for out of the hundreds of persons who have come to me to narrate their conversion and experience, I have found a very large proportion who have traced the divine change which has been wrought in their hearts to the hearing of this precious declaration of sovereign mercy read, and the application of it with power to their souls: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”

For meditation: The texts often quoted by Spurgeon towards the end of his sermons—Mark 16:16; 1 Timothy 1:15. Has God used a particular text to bring you to himself?

Sermon no. 24
19 May (Preached 20 May 1855)

John MacArthur – Searching for Truth (Bartholomew)

 

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

God knows your heart and will honor your search for truth.

Despite Nathanael’s prejudice, Jesus knew he was an honest, sincere, Jewish believer in whom there was no religious hypocrisy or deceit (John 1:47). He truly sought after God and looked forward to the Messiah’s coming.

Most of the Jewish people of Jesus’ day believed that every circumcised descendent of Abraham was a true Jew and a beneficiary of the Abrahamic covenant. But in Romans 2:28–29 Paul explains that salvation is an issue of the heart, not of national origin: “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart.” Nathanael was such a man.

He was shocked when Jesus described him as “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile” (John 1:47) because they had never met before. He was equally shocked when Jesus said He saw him under a fig tree because Jesus was nowhere near that tree. Nathanael immediately realized that Jesus was omniscient—He knew everything! That’s why he exclaimed, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel” (v. 49). He had found the Messiah for whom he had searched so long!

The Lord’s mention of the fig tree is significant. In that region, fig trees were commonly used as a source of shade and outdoor shelter. Many of the houses in Palestine had only one room, so fig trees became a place to be alone for prayer and meditation on the Scriptures. Quite possibly Nathanael was under the fig tree searching the Scriptures and communing with God when Jesus saw his open heart and his desire to find the Messiah. Jesus personally answered Nathanael’s prayer.

When Jesus looks into your heart, does He see a true believer in whom there is no hypocrisy? Nathanael wasn’t perfect, but he loved God and was a diligent student of the Word. The Lord did great things through him. I pray that is true of you as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Spirit to reveal and deal with any hypocrisy you might be harboring.
  • Ask God to increase your desire and capacity to know and love Him.

For Further Study

Memorize Romans 12:1–2 as a defense against hypocrisy.

Joyce Meyer – Known by Our Fruit

 

[Jesus said] Either make the tree sound (healthy and good), and its fruit sound (healthy and good), or make the tree rotten (diseased and bad), and its fruit rotten (diseased and bad);for the tree is known and recognized and judged by its fruit. You offspring of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil (wicked)? For out of the fullness (the overflow, the superabundance) of the hearing the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:33-34

A woman I’ll call Dorothy knew more about the church and every member and visitor than anyone else did. She was fairly well known as the church gossip. “One thing about her,” a friend said, “she’s not prejudiced; ¬she talks about everyone,” and he laughed. He also added, “She’ll probably get into heaven, but God may have to cut off her tongue first.”

One day as I stood near the front door, I heard Dorothy telling several people about one of the deacons, “But it isn’t up to me to judge him,” she said. The venom poured from her mouth, and she went on to mention several others. Of course, she was critical of each one.

I listened to her and realized something. She was only speaking from what was already inside her heart. That’s obvious, but I grasped something else. Dorothy was so critical of herself, so filled with disgust for herself, how could she speak well of others?

Too often people make promises that they’ll speak better of others and gossip less. They really try, but nothing ever changes. This is because they are trying to change their words without changing their thoughts. That’s a bad solution, because they start at the wrong end. What they need to do is look inward, asking, What is going on inside of me?

“For out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks,” Jesus said. As I considered those words, I felt a deep compassion for Dorothy. She had allowed Satan to fill her mind with critical, harsh thoughts. She didn’t speak much about herself, but I’m sure she was totally critical of herself as well as other people, and when she spoke, the evil words came out of her mouth.

Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit. The same is true of our lives. Everything begins with a thought. If we allow negative and unkind thoughts to fill our minds, they bear fruit. If we dwell on the bad, we produce bad fruit.

As we observe people, it’s easy to see the fruit of their lives. They show either good fruit or bad. It’s that simple. But the fruit is the result of what’s going on inside. We can learn a lot about a person’s character simply by listening to their conversation. The more loving our words and actions are toward others, the more loving and kind our thoughts will be.

If I believe God truly loves me, and if I enjoy fellowship with Him every day, I’m planting good seeds in my own heart. The more good seeds I plant, the more good fruit I produce. The more I think kind and loving thoughts, the more I see others as kind and loving.

“Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Kind or judgmental words don’t just come to us they come out of our mouths because we have nurtured them in our minds. The more we open ourselves to the Spirit’s positive and loving thoughts, the more we pray, and the more we read God’s Word, the more good fruit we produce on the inside and that good fruit shows itself by the way we behave toward others.

Dear loving and forgiving God, I ask You to forgive me for all the harsh things I’ve said about other people. Also, please forgive me for allowing harsh thoughts to fill my mind about myself or about others. I know I can’t make myself more loving, but You can. Please, help me focus on healthy, positive thoughts, for I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Overflowing Blessings

 

“Lord, I am overflowing with Your blessings, just as You promised” (Psalm 119:65).

As the father of Dr. Harry Ironside, famous Christian leader, pastor and author, lay dying, he seemed to have a recurring view of the descending sheet which Peter saw in a vision.

“A great sheet and wild beasts,” he mumbled, over and over, and…and…and.”

The next words would not come, so he would start over again.

“John,” a friend whispered to him, “it says, ‘creeping things.'”

“Oh, yes,” the dying man said, “that’s how I got in – just a poor, good-for-nothing creeping thing. But I got in, saved by grace.”

And considering the fact that each one of us, in ourselves, outside the Lord Jesus Christ, is but a poor creeping thing saved by grace, we must marvel anew as we overflow with His blessings.

What an exalted place we can have Children of God, heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, indwelt by His Holy Spirit, we are recipients of eternal life, given supernatural, abundant life as we yield ourselves to Him.

God has dealt well with each one of His children. He has given us work to do – to serve Him is to reign. He has given us provision. He has given us encouragement. He has given us many tokens of the pay we shall receive at the end of life’s journey. He has dealt with us according to His Word.

Even the testings and trials are for a divine purpose: to conform us to His image; to make us more Christlike. Truly, we are on the winning side; how important it is that we tell men and women, boys and girls, around us each day, that they too can be on the winning side.

Bible Reading: Psalm 119:66-72

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will make a special effort to count my blessings today, and in deep gratitude share the good news of the gospel with others.

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Fizzle

 

Today’s verse shows Reuben, first born in his family, at his very best. In an act of significant courage, he stood up to his powerful brothers…saving a life. Does this sound like the start to a heroic tale? Unfortunately, Reuben’s story takes a sharp turn.

But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.”

Genesis 37:21

Reuben’s problem was pride: he listened to no one and demanded his own way. In one infamous act of disrespect, Reuben slept with his father’s wife in full view of the entire tribe. Like many in the public eye today, Reuben’s reckless actions seemed to go generally unchecked. However, for Reuben we have the rest of the story. At the time of his father’s death, it was not Reuben who became leader and heir to the kingdom, but his brother Judah. Over time, Reuben’s tribe became small and of little influence, fizzling away. To this day, no judges, rulers, or princes of Reuben’s linage have been named to lead Israel.

Don’t be discouraged when you see those of questionable character seeking power in America. Remember Reuben: not every leader with a seemingly shining moment will successfully build a lasting legacy. Do your part to faithfully pray – and God will hear your intercessions.

Recommended Reading: Proverbs 16:18-25

Greg Laurie – Restoration, Not Condemnation

 

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. —Galatians 6:1

The way some people behave, you would think that the Bible says, “If another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should first gloat about it and make sure that you condemn him or her for it. Then proceed to tell as many people as possible.”

The Bible doesn’t say that, of course. Here is what it does say: “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1).

The idea is to lift up those who are overtaken by sin, not condemn them. The idea is to restore—not destroy—them. Notice this verse says, “You who are godly.” A truly godly man or woman will seek to restore such a person. James 5:19–20 tells us, “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”

One day, God forbid, it could be you. We should never lower our guard or rest on our laurels spiritually. No matter how long you have known the Lord, don’t think that you are above falling, because you could fall. Any believer could. That is why we want to always be moving forward, walking with God and progressing spiritually. We never want to coast along in neutral.

And if you know someone who has fallen into sin, then your goal should be to restore, not to destroy. Your goal should be to help him or her, because the next time it could be you.

Max Lucado – Life’s a Jungle

 

For many people, life is—well, life is a jungle. Not a jungle of beasts and trees. Would that it were so simple. Our jungles are thickets of failing health, broken hearts, and empty wallets. Our forests are framed with hospital walls and divorce courts. It is a jungle out there. And for many, hope is in short supply.

Let’s see if we can brighten up the picture. The first answer would be a person. Someone to look you in the face and say, Don’t give up. There’s a better place and I’ll lead you there. David says in Psalm 23, “He restores my soul.” God is our good Shepherd and He majors in restoring hope to the soul. When God comes, your loneliness diminishes, your despair decreases, and your confusion begins to lift.  You haven’t left the jungle, but you have hope because you have someone who can lead you out.

From Traveling Light

Night Light for Couples – No Junk Allowed

 

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Seven‐year‐old Chris Krebs was born with cerebral palsy and was profoundly retarded. One day he and his father, Greg, sat in a hospital lounge waiting for Mrs. Krebs, who worked at the hospital. Another man, shabbily dressed and emanating a peculiar aroma, was also waiting there. He looked like a bum or derelict. Greg went to the nurses’ station and asked how much longer his wife would be. When he returned, he saw Chris sitting by the man. The man was sobbing, and Greg wondered what Chris had done to disturb him.

“I’m sorry if my son offended you,” Greg said.

The man replied, “Offended me? Your son is the only person who has hugged me in the last twenty years!” Greg later said, “I realized at that moment Chris had a more Christ-like love for this man than I did.”

Although disrespect for the disabled or less fortunate is characteristic of our culture, we know there is no “junk” in God’s value system. He loves every one of us the same. He sees our potential, and He uses each person to accomplish some part of His purpose. As His children, we’re called to look at everyone through the lens of His perfect love.

When we show compassion and respect to the people who cross our paths from day to day, we are also likely to treat our spouse the same way. It all begins with a spirit of loving‐kindness.

Just between us…

  • Has anyone ever unexpectedly modeled Christ’s love to you?
  • How can we encourage each other to see value and potential in everyone we meet?

Father, may we always be sensitive to the needs and value of other people. Help us to share Your love to them, no matter who they are. Amen.

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