Charles Stanley – Two Types of Listeners

 

Acts 17:10-12

In order for the Holy Spirit to be unimpeded in His work, we must make an effort to hear God when He speaks. It is possible, for example, to “listen” to every word of a sermon, while actually not hearing a word of it. Sadly, there are some vacant attendees like this in churches every week! Their bodies may be in the pew, but their minds are obviously somewhere else. In fact, there are two types of listeners in practically every church in the world: passive and aggressive.

A passive listener is one who’s present at services—maybe even every week—but just sits in the pew and lets his mind wander. He watches people, notices how they dress and act, socializes with friends, and makes lunch plans. He doesn’t go to church to hear from the Lord. He shows up out of habit, or because the simple act of going makes him feel better about himself.

An aggressive listener, on the other hand, walks into the sanctuary excited about what the Lord is going to say. This Christian has a Bible, notebook, and pen in hand, ready to capture the meat of the message. He scribbles down as much as he can, trying not to miss a single point of the sermon. Throughout the message, he asks himself, How does this apply to my life?

The Lord communicates in many different ways, and when He speaks, we should always listen actively. If you find your mind wandering during worship, perhaps you’re approaching God passively. Ask Him to refocus your thoughts, and decide to be an aggressive listener from now on.

Bible in One Year: Proverbs 13-15

Our Daily Bread — Desert Places

 

Read: Isaiah 48:16-22

Bible in a Year: Psalms 1-3; Acts 17:1-15

They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts. —Isaiah 48:21

Dry. Dusty. Dangerous. A desert. A place where there is little water, a place hostile to life. It’s not surprising, then, that the word deserted describes a place that is uninhabited. Life there is hard. Few people choose it. But sometimes we can’t avoid it.

In Scripture, God’s people were familiar with desert life. Much of the Middle East, including Israel, is desert. But there are lush exceptions, like the Jordan Valley and areas surrounding the Sea of Galilee. God chose to “raise His family” in a place surrounded by wilderness, a place where He could make His goodness known to His children as they trusted Him for protection and daily provision (Isa. 48:17-19).

Today, most of us don’t live in literal deserts, but we often go through desert-like places. Sometimes we go as an act of obedience. Other times we find ourselves there through no conscious choice or action. When someone abandons us, or disease invades our bodies, we end up in desert-like circumstances where resources are scarce and life is hard to sustain.

But the point of going through a desert, whether literally or figuratively, is to remind us that we are dependent on God to sustain us—a lesson we need to remember even when we’re living in a place of plenty. —Julie Ackerman Link

Are you living in a place of plenty or of need? In what ways is God sustaining you?

In every desert, God has an oasis of grace.

INSIGHT: Easton’s Bible Dictionary says of the prophet Isaiah: “He exercised the functions of his office during the reigns of Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Uzziah reigned fifty-two years (810-759 bc) and Isaiah must have begun his career a few years before Uzziah’s death. . . . He lived till the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, and in all likelihood outlived that monarch (who died [in] 698 bc) . . . . His first call to the prophetical office is not recorded. A second call came to him ‘in the year that King Uzziah died’ (Isa. 67:1). He exercised his ministry in a spirit of uncompromising firmness and boldness.”

 

Alistair Begg – Established Through Suffering

 

After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace … will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  1 Peter 5:10

You have seen the arch of heaven as it spans the plain: Glorious are its colors, and rare its hues. It is beautiful, but, sadly, it passes away, and the rainbow is no more. The fair colors give way to the fleecy clouds, and the sky is no longer brilliant with the tints of heaven. It is not established. How can it be? A glorious show made up of transitory sunbeams and passing raindrops-how can it remain?

The graces of the Christian character must not resemble the rainbow in its transitory beauty but, on the contrary, must be established, settled, abiding. Seek, O believer, that every good thing you have may be an abiding thing. May your character not be a writing upon the sand, but an inscription upon the rock! May your faith be no “baseless fabric of a vision,” but may it be built of material able to endure that awful fire that shall consume the wood, hay, and stubble of the hypocrite. May you be rooted and grounded in love. May your convictions be deep, your love real, your desires sincere. May your whole life be so settled and established that all the blasts of hell and all the storms of earth will never be able to remove you.

But notice how this blessing of being established in the faith is gained. The apostle’s words point us to suffering as the means employed-“After you have suffered a little while.” It is of no use to hope that we shall be well rooted if no rough winds pass over us. Those old gnarlings on the root of the oak tree and those strange twistings of the branches all tell of the many storms that have swept over it, and they are also indicators of the depth into which the roots have forced their way. So the Christian is made strong and firmly rooted by all the trials and storms of life. Do not shrink then from the tempestuous winds of trial, but take comfort, believing that by their rough discipline God is fulfilling this benediction to you.

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

Charles Spurgeon – The mission of the Son of man

 

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 15:1-7

It is strange what unusual places Christ finds some of his people in! I knew one of Christ’s sheep who was found out by his Master while committing robbery. I knew another who was found out by Christ, while he was spiting his old mother by reading the Sunday newspaper and making fun of her. Many have been found by Jesus Christ, even in the midst of sin and vanity. I knew a preacher of the gospel who was converted in a theatre. He was listening to a play, an old-fashioned piece, that ended with a sailor drinking a glass of gin before he was hung, and he said, “Here’s to the prosperity of the British nation, and the salvation of my immortal soul;” and down went the curtain; and down went my friend too, for he ran home with all his might. Those words, “The salvation of my immortal soul,” had struck him to the quick; and he sought the Lord Jesus in his chamber. Many a day he sought him, and at last he found him to his joy and confidence. But for the most part Christ finds his people in his own house; but he finds them often in the worst of tempers, in the most hardened conditions; and he softens their hearts, awakens their consciences, subdues their pride, and takes them to himself; but they would never come to him unless he came to them. Sheep go astray, but they do not come back again by themselves. Ask the shepherd whether his sheep come back, and he will tell you, “No, sir; they will wander, but they never return.” When you find a sheep that ever came back by himself, then you may hope to find a sinner that will come to Christ by himself. No; it must be sovereign grace that must seek the sinner and bring him home.

For meditation: We all like sheep have gone astray; we have all gone our own way (Isaiah 53:6); we have all ended up like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). The Lord Jesus Christ is the great shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), the good shepherd (John 10:11,14) and the giving shepherd who gave his life for his sheep (John 10:11) and who gives eternal life to his sheep (John 10:28). Have you been found by him and returned to him (1 Peter 2:25)?

Sermon no. 204
11 July (1858)

John MacArthur – Security in Christ

 

“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'” (1 Pet. 2:6).

Christ is the fulfillment of all Messianic promises, and in Him you are eternally secure.

First Peter 2:6 is a paraphrase of Isaiah 28:16, which says, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.'” Isaiah was speaking of the Messiah—the coming Christ of God. Peter, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, applied Isaiah’s prophecy to Jesus.

In Isaiah’s prophecy, “Zion” refers to Jerusalem, which stands atop Mount Zion. Mount Zion is sometimes used figuratively in Scripture to refer to the New Covenant of grace, whereas Mount Sinai represents the Old Covenant of law. Isaiah was saying that God would establish the Messiah as the cornerstone of His New Covenant Temple, the church.

The analogy of believers as stones and Christ as the cornerstone would have great meaning for the Jewish people. When the Temple in Jerusalem was built, the stones used in its construction were selected, cut, and shaped in the stone quarry according to precise plans (1 Kings 6:7). Only then were they taken to the building site and set into place. The most important stone was the cornerstone, to which the various angles of the building had to conform.

God used a similar process to build His New Covenant Temple. Its stones (individual believers) are elect and shaped by the Holy Spirit to fit into God’s master plan for the church. Jesus Himself is the precious cornerstone, specially chosen and prepared by the Father to be the standard to which all others conform. He is the fulfillment of all Messianic promises, and the One in whom you can trust without fear of disappointment. That means you are secure in Him!

Live today in the confidence that Christ cannot fail. He will always accomplish His purposes.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for keeping His promises and for giving you security in Christ.

For Further Study

Read Galatians 4:21-31.

  • Who was the bondwoman and what did she represent?
  • To whom did Paul liken believers?

Joyce Meyer – “In” But Not “Of”

 

I have given and delivered to them Your word (message) and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world [do not world], just as I am not of the world.- John 17:14

The verse for today teaches us that as believers we are in the world but not of the world, which means that we cannot take a worldly view of things. Not becoming like the world in our ways and attitudes requires constant vigilance. Watching too much graphic violence in the form of entertainment, as happens in the world, can sear or harden our consciences and reduce our sensitivity to God’s voice. Many people in the world today are desensitized to the agonies real people suffer because they see tragedies portrayed so often on television.

The news media frequently delivers negative reports or tragic stories in unemotional, matter-of-fact ways and we often see and hear these things without feeling. We hear of so many terrible things that we no longer respond to it with the appropriate emotions of compassion or outrage we should display.

I believe these things are part of Satan’s overall plan for the world. He wants us to become hard-hearted and unengaged emotionally when we become aware of horrible events that take place around us. He does not want us to care about those affected by such things. But, as Christians, we should care, we should feel, and we should pray. Whenever we hear about what is happening in the world, we should ask God for His perspective and inquire as to how He wants us to respond. We then need to listen for His response and act accordingly. This is one way we can be in the world but not of the world.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Strength out of Weakness

 

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, KJV).

On thousands of occasions, under all kinds of circumstances, I have found God’s promise to be true in my own experiences and in the lives of multitudes of others.

Charles Spurgeon rode home one evening after a heavy day’s work. Feeling very wearied and depressed, he suddenly recalled the Scripture, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

Immediately he compared himself to a tiny fish in the Thames river, apprehensive lest its drinking so many pints of water in the river each day might drink the Thames dry. Then he could hear Father Thames say, “Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee.”

Then he pictured a little mouse in Joseph’s granaries in Egypt, afraid lest its consumption of the corn it needed might exhaust the supplies and it would starve to death. Then Joseph would come along and sense its fear, saying “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.”

He thought of himself as a mountain climber reaching the lofty summit and dreading lest he might exhaust all the oxygen in the atmosphere. Then he would hear the Creator Himself say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill thy lungs ever. My atmosphere is sufficient for thee.”

“Then,” Spurgeon told his congregation, “for the first time in my life I experienced what Abraham must have felt when he fell upon his face and laughed.”

What kinds of needs do you have today? Are they needs for which our heavenly Father is not sufficient? Can you trust Him? Is there anyone who has proven himself to be more trustworthy?

Bible Reading: II Corinthains 12:1-10

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: In every type of need, burden and problem I face today – whether my own or that of someone else – I will count on the sufficiency of Christ to handle it, and to enable me to live supernaturally.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Never Alone

 

What do you think of when you read the word “helper?” You might think of elves, Santa’s little helpers. You may imagine superhero sidekicks such as Batman’s helper Robin. An army of volunteers for organizations such as the Red Cross may cross your mind. A helper is usually a secondary position. But amazingly, today’s verse says that God is your helper.

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.

Psalm 54:4

God helping people did not end in the Old Testament. The Spirit helps you pray when you don’t know how you should pray (Romans 8:26). Because Jesus suffered temptations, He will help you when you are tempted (Hebrews 2:18). Put your confidence in the Lord’s help so you can say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

Because of Jesus, you can draw near to God’s throne to receive mercy and help (Hebrews 4:16). Remember to take advantage of the grace He offers you in time of need. You do not have to go through hard times alone. In addition, use your freedom to pray and seek God’s help for the nation’s great needs.

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:26-39

Greg Laurie – Is There Someone You Need to Forgive?

 

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another . . .” —Colossians 3:12–13

The film Les Misérables, adapted from Victor Hugo’s book by the same name, is the story of Jean Valjean, who was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family.

Upon his release, Valjean goes to a monastery, where he is shown kindness by the bishop. But at night, he runs off with the bishop’s silver and is captured by the police. While being questioned, the bishop tells the police that he gave the silver to Valjean. Once the police leave, the bishop gives Valjean two silver candlesticks and tells him that he has been spared by God and that he must make an honest man of himself.

The bishop says, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you and I give it to God.” Valjean, wanting to start a new life, under a new identity, breaks his parole conditions and is then pursued by an officer known as Javert.

Javert hunts Valjean, but Valjean just wants to live in peace. Later in the story, Valjean has an opportunity to kill Javert, but instead sets him free. Valjean also showed many acts of kindness, including adopting Cosette, the daughter of a prostitute named Fantine—a forgiven man, becomes a forgiving man.

We all love stories like that. But what about when we have someone to forgive?

Paul reminds us in the Book of Ephesians, “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you!” (Ephesians 4:30–32 NLT, emphasis added). Is there someone that you need to forgive?

When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free: yourself!

Night Light for Couples – Doing What Comes Naturally

 

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5

Humanistic and Christian psychologists differ significantly in how they view human nature. Secular psychologists see children as born “good,” or at least “morally neutral.” They believe children learn to do wrong from parental mistakes and a corrupt society.

As Christians, however, we know otherwise. Deep within our character is a self‐will that is inborn, part of our genetic nature. We desire to control people, our circumstances, our environment—we want what we want, and we want it now. Adam and Eve demonstrated this when they ate the forbidden fruit. Toddlers stamp their little feet and throw temper tantrums. Husbands and wives illustrate the same willfulness when they argue about how to spend money—or about whether the toilet paper should roll from the front or the back. King David referred to this basic human nature when he wrote, “In sin did my mother conceive me.”

Only Jesus Christ can help us deal with the depravity that leads us to be selfish, arrogant, and disobedient. He has promised to do for us what we are powerless to accomplish on our own. Let’s talk about that.

Just between us…

  • Do you agree that humans are born with a bent toward sin? Why or why not?
  • Is there an area of your life that used to be a struggle, but that you’ve given over to God with positive results?
  • Do you think selfishness is a problem in our marriage?
  • How can we encourage each other in this area?

Father, we admit our sinful and selfish ways. We look to You for forgiveness and healing. Thank You for Your mercies. We need Your power to change— and we reach for it together. Amen.

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

Streams in the Desert for Kids – How to Please God

 

Hebrews 11:6

When we are facing a tough, extreme, or tragic situation, our faith is either strengthened or destroyed. Consider the intensity of a fire. Most things can’t withstand its heat, as it can consume entire forests and neighborhoods in a matter of days. But the same fire doesn’t burn up gold. Instead, it purifies it.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced the furnace, they confirmed they would praise only the living God. It was a death sentence. They could have decided to save themselves by doing what the king wanted, but their faith would have been unreliable—burned up in the midst of danger. Instead they went against the king by keeping their loyalty to the Lord. Their faith was purified. Whether God saved them or decided not to, their faith didn’t waver because the holy object of their faith never wavers. (And God did save them in the most dramatic way: after they were thrown into the fire, they walked out unharmed!)

In an impossible situation, faith recognizes that the only hope is in God. If you are facing a desperate time, remember that your faith is being purified. If you don’t know all the answers, your faith is being developed. You may be overwhelmed by uncertainty and doubt, but your faith is being strengthened.

Dear Lord, Because you are trustworthy, I have faith in you. When I am desperate, I will turn to you. Amen.