Charles Stanley – Freedom in Christ

 

John 8:36

Throughout this day, Americans everywhere will celebrate freedom, as well they should. It’s one of the defining principles of their nation. Yet one might ask, Of those celebrating freedom, how many are truly experiencing it?

Certainly, many men and women are living what has been called the “American dream”: They enjoy well-paying careers, wonderful homes, and interesting hobbies. But meanwhile, their “pursuit of happiness” has yet to be satisfied. The reason is that lots of people remain prisoners internally, despite their apparent success. They are bound to anxiety and depression, or a fear of losing what they’ve worked hard to possess. However liberating circumstances may seem externally, we eventually learn that freedom must be realized within. But how?

The answer is Jesus Christ. Isaiah 61:1 prophesied a key aspect of Jesus’ ministry, which continues to this day: He has come to heal the brokenhearted and set captives free. When we trust Him as Savior, the chains holding us back from joy are broken. We are liberated from lies that have been programmed in our minds from an early age, and we begin to see things from God’s point of view. Then we discover that our needs, desires, and overall well-being rest securely in the arms of a loving heavenly Father.

Are you feeling the weight of anxiety or anger? Look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith (Heb. 12:2). And remember the promise of 2 Corinthians 6:2: “Now is the day of salvation” (NIV). The day you trust in Christ is the day He delivers you from fear and bondage.

Bible in a Year: Psalms 120-131

Our Daily Bread — The Cyrus Cylinder

 

Read: Ezra 1:1-4

Bible in a Year: Job 28-29; Acts 13:1-25

The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia. —Ezra 1:1

In 1879, archaeologists discovered a remarkable little item in an area now known as Iraq (biblical Babylon). Just 9 inches long, the Cyrus Cylinder records something that King Cyrus of Persia did 2,500 years ago. It says that Cyrus allowed a group of people to return to their homeland and rebuild their “holy cities.”

It’s the same story told in Ezra 1. There we read that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” to make a proclamation (v. 1). And in that proclamation, Cyrus said he was releasing the captives in Babylon to go home to Jerusalem, re-establish their homes, and rebuild their temple (vv. 2-5).

But there’s more to the story. Daniel confessed his sins and his people’s sins and pleaded with God to end the Babylonian captivity (Dan. 9). In response to Daniel’s prayer, God sent an angel to speak to Daniel (v. 21). Later He moved Cyrus to release the Hebrews. (See also Jer. 25:11-12; 39:10.)

Together, the Cyrus Cylinder and God’s Word combine to show us that the king’s heart was changed and he allowed the exiled Hebrews to go home and worship.

This story has great implications for us today. In a world that seems out of control, we can rest assured that God can move the hearts of leaders. We read in Proverbs 21:1 that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.” And Romans 13:1 says that “there is no authority except from God.”

The Lord, who is able to change our own hearts as well as the hearts of our leaders, can be trusted for He is in control. Let’s ask Him to work. —Dave Branon

Dear Father, the world so often seems out of control. We know You are sovereign over everything. We pray that Your will be done in our homeland and in the hearts of our leaders.

Rather than complain, pray.

INSIGHT: Ezra is one of the Old Testament books that deals with the Israelites’ return to the land of promise after their exile in Babylon. Along with the books of Nehemiah and Haggai, it focuses on rebuilding Jerusalem, the once proud capital of the southern kingdom. Ezra’s role as a scribe was to rebuild the religious life of the Israelites through the law of Moses. In Nehemiah, the focus is on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem to once again make it a safe haven for the people. Haggai’s focus some years later was on the importance of rebuilding the temple, the center of the Israelites’ national life.

 

Alistair Begg – The Tool of Sanctification

 

Sanctify them in the truth. John 17:17

Sanctification begins in regeneration. The Spirit of God implants in man that new living principle by which he becomes “a new creation”1 in Christ Jesus. This work, which begins in the new birth, is carried on in two ways-mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued and kept under, and vivification, by which the life that God has put within us is made to be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.

This is carried on every day in what is called perseverance, by which the Christian is preserved and continued in a gracious state and is made to abound in good works unto the praise and glory of God; and it culminates or comes to perfection in glory, when the soul, being thoroughly purged, is caught up to dwell with holy beings at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

But while the Spirit of God is thus the author of sanctification, yet there is a visible agency employed that must not be forgotten. “Sanctify them,” said Jesus, “in the truth; your word is truth.” The passages of Scripture that prove that the instrument of our sanctification is the Word of God are numerous. The Spirit of God brings to our minds the precepts and doctrines of truth and applies them with power. These are heard in the ear, and being received in the heart, they work in us to will and to do God’s good pleasure.

The truth is the sanctifier, and if we do not hear or read the truth, we shall not grow in sanctification. We only progress in sound living as we progress in sound understanding. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”2 Do not say of any error, “It is a mere matter of opinion.” No man indulges an error of judgment without sooner or later tolerating an error in practice. Hold fast the truth, for by doing so you shall be sanctified by the Spirit of God.

1) 2 Corinthians 5:17

2) Psalm 119:105

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

Charles Spurgeon – The sympathy of the two worlds

 

“There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Luke 15:10

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 1:5-23

Our text tells us that the angels of God rejoice over repenting sinners. How is that? They are always as happy as they can be; how can they be any happier? The text does not say that they are any happier; but perhaps that they show their happiness more. A man may have a Sabbath every day, as he ought to if he is a Christian; and yet on the first day of the week he will let his Sabbatarianism come out plainly; for then the world shall see that he rests. “A merry heart hath a continual feast;” but then even the merry heart has some special days on which it feasts well. To the glorified, every day is a Sabbath, but of some it can be said, “and that Sabbath was an high day.” There are days when the angels sing more loudly than usual; they are always harping God’s praise, but sometimes the gathering hosts who have been flitting far through the universe, come home to their centre; and round the throne of God, standing in close ranks, marshalled not for battle but for music, on certain set and appointed days they chant the praises of the Son of God, “who loved us and gave himself for us.” And do you ask me when those days occur? I tell you, the birthday of every Christian is a sonnet day in heaven. There are Christmas days in paradise, where Christ’s high mass is kept, and Christ is glorified not because he was born in a manger, but because he is born in a broken heart. There are days—good days in heaven; days of poetry, red letter days, of overflowing adoration. And these are days when the shepherd brings home the lost sheep upon his shoulder, when the church has swept her house and found the lost piece of money.

For meditation: The Lord Jesus Christ keeps his angels informed about us (Luke 12:8,9). Have they received good news about you?

Sermon no. 203
4 July (1858)

John MacArthur – Christ: The Precious Cornerstone

 

“Coming to [Christ] as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet. 2:4).

God’s view of Christ is the only accurate standard by which to measure Christ’s worth.

I once read about a conversation in the Louvre Museum in Paris. One of the curators of the museum, a man with great appreciation for art, overheard two men discussing a masterpiece. One man said to the other, “I don’t think much of that painting.” The curator, feeling obliged to reply to the man’s statement, said to him, “Dear sir, if I may interrupt, that painting is not on trial; you are. The quality of that painting has already been established. Your disapproval simply demonstrates the frailty of your measuring capability.”

Similarly, Jesus is not on trial before men; men are on trial before Him. He has already been approved by the Father. Those who arrogantly dismiss Him as unworthy of their devotion simply demonstrate their inability to recognize the most precious treasure of all.

Peter said, “This is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed.’ This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,’ and, ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'” (1 Pet. 2:6-8). By God’s standards, Jesus is the perfect cornerstone. But the leaders of Israel had faulty standards of measurement. They inspected Him closely but rejected Him because He didn’t fit their concept of a Savior. Sadly, millions of men and women throughout history have followed their lead.

As you tell others about Christ, many will evaluate Him by the wrong standard and reject Him. Others will evaluate Him according to God’s standard and find Him precious beyond measure. In either case be a faithful witness, knowing that someday His full value will be proclaimed by all (Phil. 2:10-11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Make a list of Christ’s attributes that are especially meaningful to you. Use each attribute as a focal point of prayer and worship.

For Further Study

Read Acts 4:1-13, noting how Peter applied the principles found in 1 Peter 2:4-8 to the Jewish leaders.

Joyce Meyer – Undeveloped fruit

 

I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. – John 15:5

Have you ever responded unbecomingly to a situation (with anger or impatience, for example) and thought, Who is this person? I thought I was nice and sweet!

Sometimes we think we already have the fruit of the Spirit fully developed in us simply because we are Christians (see Galatians 5:22–23). But when we are caught off guard, or our fruit is “squeezed,” we find out just how undeveloped the fruit in us actually is. These incidents are tests that are actually very good for us because they help us know the areas where we are weak and still need to grow.

The more you practice displaying the fruit of self-control in your thoughts, words, and actions, the riper the fruit will become. I encourage you to depend on God’s grace (underserved favor and blessing) to work through you to produce the fruit needed. If we “try” outside of Him, we will fail, but when we partner with Him, we see His will come to pass. Stay attached to the Vine (see John 15), and your fruit will appear at the right time.

Power Thought: I have self-control over my thoughts, words, and actions.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Peace of Heart and Mind

 

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).

A stricken widow stood beside the coffin of her husband. She said to a friend, “There lies my only earthly support, my most faithful human friend, one who has never failed me; but I must not forget there lies also the will of God, and that will is perfect love.”

By faith, she saw good and blessing, remembering the promise of God, “I know the plans that I have for you…plans for good…” (Jeremiah 29:11).

As the Prince of Peace, Jesus gives peace of heart and mind, truly one of the greatest and most remarkable gifts we can receive. In the midst of trial and testing, His perfect peace is a supernatural blessing far exceeding even such coveted gifts as good health, for with His inner peace we have everything we need.

How do we obtain that kind of peace? First, it is the fruit of the Spirit. “Love, joy,peace…” As we are yielding to Him and controlled by the Holy Spirit, the fruit of peace is being cultivated in our lives moment by moment, day by day.

Second, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV); “As he thinketh in his heart so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, KJV). It is a fact of life that we become in our attitudes and actions like that which most dominates our thoughts. That explains the dramatic moral spiritual deterioration resulting from the influence of immoral television programming. When the Lord is given His proper priority in our lives, His perfect peace will reign in our hearts.

While it is true that all such blessings are a gift of God and cannot be earned or merited, it is equally true that we can deliberately choose to cooperate with God’s Holy Spirit by yielding ourselves to Him and thus cultivating the fruit of peace.

Bible Reading: Isaiah 26:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: By faith I shall claim God’s promised peace for today and every day. I shall ask the Holy Spirit to help me concentrate my heart’s gaze on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and I will encourage someone else to do the same.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Protective Dad

 

Watch preschoolers playing in the park. You’ll see a mom or dad nearby ready to rise up against anything that will hurt their children. They are free to play, laugh, and enjoy a sunny day without fear. Parents fiercely love and watch over their children. Likewise, God rises up in protective jealousy for His people (Exodus 34:14).

He rescued me, because he delighted in me.

Psalm 18:19

In today’s verse, David exulted about the Lord delighting in him. God even sings over His people with joy (Zephaniah 3:17). He loved people so much that He sent His only Son to die for them (John 3:16). “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (I John 3:1)

Bring your heavenly Father all your cares, knowing He cares for you (I Peter 5:7) and listens attentively when you pray (I Peter 3:12). Then, on this Independence Day, intercede for the leaders of this nation that there will be peace within America’s borders, and that all evil intentions against the United States will be brought to nothing.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 10:26-33

Greg Laurie – A Blessed Nation

 

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” —Proverbs 14:34

Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political thinker and historian wrote a book entitled Democracy in America. This book was published after his extensive travels in our country when it was still young.

He made the statement about the greatness of America that bears remembering:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests—and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

That’s right, our greatness has come from our goodness—from our belief in God’s Word, which gives us the moral compass we need, so we can know right from wrong and good from evil.

In the classic song, “America the Beautiful,” we sing the words, “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.” And that is so true. God has been gracious to our country, and I pray that we will turn back to Him like never before. I pray it does not take a national crisis to get our attention.

How we need God in America today. And let’s also not forget the Word of God that says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

So today, as you enjoy the fireworks and barbeques, remember the Lord who has blessed this nation in an extraordinary way. And remember to give Him thanks!

Night Light for Couples – Love at First Sight

 

“Love is of God.” 1 John 4:7

Some people believe that true love can occur the moment a man and woman lay eyes on each other. But “love at first sight” is a physical and emotional impossibility because you cannot love someone you don’t even know. You have simply been drawn to the package in which they live.

A lifelong emotional attachment is much more than a romantic feeling. It is more than a sexual attraction or the thrill of the chase or a desire to get married. Such feelings usually indicate infatuation and tend to be temporary and rather selfish in nature. A person may say, “I can’t believe what is happening to me. This is the most fantastic thing I’ve ever experienced! I must be in love.” Notice that those who make these statements are not talking about the other person—they’re excited about their own gratification. Such individuals haven’t fallen in love with someone else; they’ve fallen in love with love.

Genuine love is not something one “falls” into, as though he or she was tumbling into a ditch. One cannot love an unknown object, regardless of how beautiful or handsome it is. Only when a person begins to develop a deep appreciation and admiration for another—an intense awareness of his or her needs, strength, and character—has one begun to experience true love. From there, it should grow for a lifetime.

Just between us…

  • Do you remember thinking that you were in love as a teenager, only to have that feeling fade over time?
  • What did you think and feel when we first met?
  • How did God show you that I should be your marriage partner?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful gift of love. Grant us your blessings, Father—more than we can even imagine right now! Amen.

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

Discovering God’s Design – “Then You Came”

 

“Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:8

The young husband was desperate. His wife had abandoned him and their two children weeks before. Though she still called occasionally, he had no idea where she was. On the phone, he pleaded with her to come home and told her how much he and the children loved her, yet she continually rebuffed him. Was it time to give up and move on?

No. The husband used his meager savings to hire a detective, who found his wife living in a third‐rate hotel across the country. The husband borrowed money for a plane ticket. Soon he was on her doorstep saying, “We love you so much. Won’t you come home?” She fell apart in his arms, and they went home together.

Weeks later he asked why she hadn’t come when he expressed his love repeatedly on the phone. “Because,” she answered, “those were only words before. But then you came.”

True love is more than words. It may involve flying across the country, even when it costs you your last nickel, to bring your spouse home.

Just between us…

  • How have I shown you my love this week?
  • If “actions speak louder than words,” are my deeds shouting or whispering my love for you?
  • What can I do this week to show my love for you?
  • How, specifically, did Jesus show us His love?

Dear Lord Jesus, we want both our words and our actions to say “love” in personal, powerful, and positive ways. Show us new ways to “honor one another above ourselves.” Amen.

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

Streams in the Desert for Kids – A Good Lesson

 

Acts 7:30, 32, 34

Does time seem to pass slower when you’re at school? You’re watching the clock, waiting for recess or the end of the school day, and the hands don’t seem to be moving at all. It can be hard to pay attention in school when you’re focused on getting out of class as quickly as possible. But remember: this is your learning time. Fill it up with everything you can possibly learn. Then you will be ready for whatever God calls you to do.

Jesus was thirty years old before he started his ministry. Before that, he was learning. Before Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, he spent forty years in the desert herding sheep—and learning. Your days may seem hard. Or maybe school seems long and boring. But don’t be fooled—these are important times of learning. God has a plan for you, and you want to be ready. Learn everything you can in school so that you will be prepared to work in God’s kingdom.

Dear Lord, Help me to use well this time while I’m growing up. Help me to get ready for whatever you ask me to do. Amen.