Charles Stanley – Jesus, Our Rock

 

Malachi 3:6

People will sometimes say, “The only constant is change.” Fortunately, this is not true. There is One who never changes: Jesus Christ always remains the same. What a comforting truth! But it’s hard to find refuge in someone we don’t know well. So let’s explore the Lord’s actions to learn more about His nature.

  • Jesus forgave others. He showed mercy, not judgment, to those who recognized their sin. For example, Jesus had compassion on the woman caught in adultery and stopped her death penalty with a few wise words. Then, instead of pronouncing condemnation, He said that her sins were forgiven (John 8:1-11).
  • Jesus comforted the hurting. He visited Mary and Martha, who were mourning the loss of their brother Lazarus (John 11:1-45).
  • Jesus provided for needs. After spending three days healing all kinds of disabilities, He was concerned that the large crowd hadn’t eaten. He could have sent all 4,000 away to find their own food, but He provided more than enough to satisfy their hunger (Mark 8:1-9).
  • Jesus interceded for His disciples. Just before He was crucified, He asked the Father to protect and sanctify His followers, which includes you and me (John 17:15, 17, 19-20).
  • Jesus strengthened believers and gave them power to do God’s work. In Acts 1:8, the Lord sent His disciples out to share the gospel, assuring them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

Jesus still forgives, still comforts, still provides, still intercedes, and still empowers. What a blessing that we can find refuge in our amazing Lord!

Bible in One Year: Proverbs 22-25

 

Our Daily Bread — The Likes of Us

 

Read: Matthew 9:35-38

Bible in a Year: Psalms 10-12; Acts 19:1-20

Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. —Matthew 9:38

In the late 19th century, William Carey felt a call to travel to India as a missionary to share the good news of Jesus. Pastors around him scoffed: “Young man, if God wants to save [anyone] in India, He will do it without your help or mine!” They missed the point of partnership. God does very little on earth without the likes of us.

As partners in God’s work on earth, we insist that God’s will be done while at the same time committing ourselves to whatever that may require of us. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done,” Jesus taught us to pray (Matt. 6:10). These words are not calm requests but holy demands. Give us justice! Set the world aright!

We have different roles to play, we and God. It is our role to follow in Jesus’ steps by doing the work of the kingdom both by our deeds and by our prayers.

We are Christ’s body on earth, to borrow Paul’s metaphor in Colossians 1:24. Those we serve, Christ serves. When we extend mercy to the broken, we reach out with the hands of Christ Himself. —Philip Yancey

Lord, You have called us Your friends. In some small way, help us to show Your love to this hurting world so they will know You.

Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God. William Carey

INSIGHT: Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus to the Jewish people as their long-promised Messiah. Matthew primarily uses two methods to make this powerful assertion, both of which were intended to resonate deeply with his audience. First, he repeatedly uses Old Testament Scriptures that describe Christ and are fulfilled in Jesus. Second, a critical part of Matthew’s argument for Jesus as the King of the Jews was Jesus’ compassionate power on display. This is seen in Matthew 9 where Jesus rescues the broken, the hurting, the marginalized, and the hated.

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Gaps

 

Cognitive dissonance, the study of psychology tells us, is the internal tension that results when our experience doesn’t match our professed beliefs and values. It is that sense of unease when we encounter something that contradicts what we have held to be true. We often experience this tension in the course of academic training as we learn new ideas. Or we can be jolted as we meet new people with vastly different backgrounds and cultures from our own.

But perhaps dissonance is felt most acutely when it occurs in the realm of faith commitments and expectations. Why is it that even when the right thing is done, the good action taken, nothing appears to change in my life or circumstances? If suffering is merely an illusion, why do so many people experience so much pain? How is it that marriage can be so difficult and yet God’s ideal for relationships? How is it that prayer seemingly goes unanswered even in the face of faithful and persistent prayers? How do I reconcile personal and global suffering with a view of a good and benevolent Divinity governing the world?

Some, to be sure, might claim to have never experienced (or noticed) cognitive dissonance as a reality in their own lives. There are always quick explanations offered for those who don’t find it quite as easy to reconcile the gaps between beliefs and experience: We have drifted away from our moral center. We have not studied enough, or prayed enough. We have not understood right teaching. Perhaps there are times when all of these explanations may be true.

But is it always so easy to explain dissonance away? I asked this question anew when I looked at the questions raised by John the Baptist as presented in the New Testament. John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus of Nazareth. Like Jesus, he had an extraordinary beginning, having been born to parents beyond child-bearing years. The last of the great, Hebraic prophets, the gospels portray John with all the intensity and moral outrage of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Malachi. John was fearless in his proclamation issuing the call of repentance to sinners and the religious leaders alike. He even baptized Jesus in preparation for his own itinerant ministry. He was resolute in his stand against immorality and hypocrisy. He understood his unique and limited role in preparation for the Messiah. Even as his own disciples came undone and complained that the crowds who once clamored to see him were now flocking to Jesus, John stood clear in his calling: “You yourselves bear me witness, that I have said, ‘I am not the Messiah,’ but ‘I have been sent before him’” (John 3:26-28).

Yet knowing all of this background creates a dramatic contrast when we hear John speak after he is imprisoned by Herod. His resolve was shaken. Both Matthew and Luke’s gospels record his own experience with dissonance: “Now when John in prison heard of the works of Jesus, he sent word by his disciples, and said to him, ‘Are you the expected one, or shall we look for someone else?’”(2) His question belies the ‘gap’ between the reality he envisioned and his current reality in a cold prison cell. If Jesus is the Messiah, John must have wondered, why am I sitting in this jail? The Messiah John proclaimed would “thoroughly clear his threshing floor” and “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12). The Messiah was coming to rid Israel—and indeed the world—of evil. Yet in John’s day to day existence in his lonely prison cell, evil had won the day. “Are you the expected one, or shall we look for someone else?”

John’s dissonance is not unlike the gaps between belief and experience. Yet perhaps, according to author Scott Cairns, “[These also] can become illuminating moments in which we see our lives in the context of a terrifying, abysmal emptiness, moments when all of our comfortable assumptions are shown to be false, or misleading, or at least incomplete.”(1) Surely, John thought, the Messiah would free him from prison, bring justice, and bind up all the wicked like chaff to be burned. Yet, what was expected was not experienced. John experienced the terrifying and abysmal emptiness that came in a Jesus who was free from his expectations and of his own assumptions.

Jesus acknowledged that his ministry would be disruptive, and even be misunderstood. In responding to John’s doubts, Jesus said, “Blessed is the one who keeps from stumbling over me” (Matthew 11:6). Like John before us, those who seek to follow Jesus often stumble over him. The gaps between what we believe and what we experience create fissures in faith into which many fall. Yet, as Cairns suggests, might mining those gaps uncover the treasure of encountering Jesus in new ways? Might mining the gaps we experience hold the treasure of new insight and the beauty of a more faithful devotion if we are willing to let go of “comfortable assumptions” and cherished expectations? If so, then might all the faithful dig deep and find that what is precious and most valuable is often found in the fissures of dissonance.

 

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

 

(1) Scott Cairns, The End of Suffering (Brewster MA: Paraclete Press, 2009), 8.

(2) Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:20.

 

Alistair Begg – Don’t Defile True Doctrine

 

If you wield your tool on it you profane it.

Exodus 20:25

God’s altar was to be built of unhewn stones, that no trace of human skill or labor might be seen upon it. Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial to the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the Gospel carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel and not the truth of God at all.

All alterations and amendments of the Lord’s own Word are defilements and pollutions. The proud heart of man is very anxious to have a hand in the justification of the soul before God; preparations for Christ are dreamed of, humblings and repentings are trusted in, good works are put forth, natural ability is much vaunted, and by all means the attempt is made to lift up human tools upon the divine altar.

It would be best if sinners would remember that so far from perfecting the Savior’s work, their carnal confidences only pollute and dishonor it. The Lord alone must be exalted in the work of atonement, and not a single mark of man’s chisel or hammer will be endured. There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction. Trembling sinner, away with your tools, and fall upon your knees in humble supplication; accept the Lord Jesus to be the altar of your atonement, and rest in Him alone.

Many professors may take warning from this morning’s text as to the doctrines that they believe. There is among Christians far too much inclination to square and reconcile the truths of revelation. This is a form of irreverence and unbelief; let us strive against it and receive truth as we find it, rejoicing that the doctrines of the Word are unhewn stones, and so are all the more fit to build an altar for the Lord.

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

Charles Spurgeon – An exposition of 1 Corinthians 15

 

“And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; … After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:4-8

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 28:11-15

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is one of the best attested facts on record. There were so many witnesses to behold it, that if we do in the least degree receive the credibility of men’s testimonies, we cannot and we dare not doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. It is all very easy for infidels to say that these persons were deceived, but it is equally foolish, for these persons could not every one of them have been so positively deceived as to say that they had seen this man, whom they knew to have been dead, afterwards alive; they could not all, surely, have agreed together to help on this imposture; if they did, it is the most marvellous thing we have on record, that not one of them ever broke faith with the others, but that the whole mass of them remained firm. We believe it to be quite impossible that so many rogues should have agreed for ever. They were men who had nothing to gain by it; they subjected themselves to persecution by affirming this very fact; they were ready to die for it, and did die for it. Five hundred or a thousand persons who had seen him at different times, declared that they did see him, and that he rose from the dead; the fact of his death having been attested beforehand. How, then, dare any man say that the Christian religion is not true, when we know for a certainty that Christ died and rose again from the dead? And knowing that, who shall deny the divinity of the Saviour? Who shall say that he is not mighty to save? Our faith has a solid basis, for it has all these witnesses on which to rest, and the more sure witness of the Holy Spirit witnessing in our hearts.

For meditation: The task of inventing myths in connection with the resurrection has always been left to the enemies of Christ. His followers had the more straightforward role of simply passing on what they had seen and heard (Acts 4:20).

Part of nos. 66-67
14 July (Given on 17 February 1856)

John MacArthur – Elect in Christ

 

“You are a chosen race” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Election is the spiritual privilege from which all others flow.

Unlike those who are destined to destruction because of their rejection of Christ (1 Pet. 2:8), Christians are an elect race of people, bound together by God’s redeeming grace. That’s cause for great celebration!

First Peter 2:9 is an allusion to Deuteronomy 7:6-9, which says, “You are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God.”

Like Israel, the church is the redeemed community of God, “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:1- 2). Before the foundation of the world, God placed His love on you, then brought you into His kingdom by granting you saving grace. That’s the doctrine of election.

Many people misunderstand election, but it’s a wonderful doctrine that brings marvelous benefits. It exalts God by demonstrating His love and grace toward miserable sinners. It eliminates pride by affirming that you are totally dependent on God’s grace. It should promote such gratitude in your heart that you long to live in holiness and serve Him at any price. It should also give you joy and strength, knowing that God will never let you go and His purposes will be accomplished in you. You can face any challenge with utmost confidence in His provisions.

Rejoice in your election. Worship God and yield to His Spirit’s leading so His choice of you will be evident to all who know you.

Suggestions for Prayer

What has the spiritual privilege of being chosen by God meant in your life? Express your answer to God in prayer, thanking Him for His wondrous grace.

For Further Study

Read Romans 5. What benefits of election does Paul mention?

Joyce Meyer – Believe in Prayer

 

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. —Philippians 4:6 NLT

How many problems have you solved by worrying? How much time have you spent worrying about things that didn’t end up happening? Has anything ever gotten better as a result of your worrying about it? Of course not!

The instant you begin to worry or feel anxious, give your concern to God in prayer. Release the weight of it and totally trust Him to either show you what to do or take care of it Himself.

Prayer is the blueprint for a successful life. During His time on Earth, Jesus prayed. He entrusted everything to God—even His reputation and life. We can do the same. Don’t complicate your communication with God. Believe in Him and ask Him for what you need through simple, confident prayers.

Power Thought: Worry accomplishes nothing. I trust in the Lord.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Awards for Faithfulness

 

“Stop being afraid of what you are about to suffer – for the devil will soon throw some of you into prison to test you. You will be persecuted for ‘ten days.’ Remain faithful even when facing death and I will give you the crown of life – an unending, glorious future” (Revelation 2:10).

I find this a very timely word of caution, for we live in a day when it appears that the enemy is making his last fling. I would not attempt to set dates, for it may be years, decades or even centuries before the culmination of all things.

But the fact remains that committed believers are facing persecution and testing as perhaps seldom before. You and I may be called upon to suffer for the cause of Christ. By faith, we are not to fear, knowing that an “unending, glorious future” awaits us.

This promise might apply equally to the physical suffering we encounter from time to time as a part of the natural order of things. If we can accept such suffering as part of God’s plan for us – one of the “all things” of Romans 8:28 that is working together for our good – we will be among those victors who are able to “count it all joy.”

As we consider these possibilities, we may be optimistic, even cheerful, knowing that we are already on the winning side – more than conquerors. And we need not be afraid, for “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Bible Reading: Revelation 2:8-11

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will count on God’s promise of Romans 8:28 to do only that which is good for me, regardless of the circumstances. He will enable me to live supernaturally.

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – From Slavery to Freedom

 

Zanzibar, Africa was home to Stone Town, the last legally operating slave market in the world. In the 1800’s, David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary, made a plea to abolish slavery and the inhumane trafficking of humans in that very location. In 1873, the edict was signed making slave trade illegal, and the market in Zanzibar was eventually replaced on that site by the Anglican cathedral Christ Church. Today, an altar stands where the whipping post was once positioned.

God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity.

Psalm 68:6

Today’s verse reminds you that God brings freedom and provision. Many people are suffering in spiritual slavery, trapped in mental and emotional prisons, often of their own making. Yet God changes places of slavery to places of freedom. He hears the cries of the oppressed and breaks their chains of bondage.

What is holding you captive today? Know God can break you free. Ask Him to go to the very place of slavery in your life and transforms it into a place of worship. Then ask Him to lead the nation’s leaders to His truth so they, too, can know the release of His freedom in their hearts.

Recommended Reading: John 8:31-38

Greg Laurie – The Green-Eyed Monster

 

Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

—Genesis 4:4–5

If you want to be a miserable person, then be an envious person. It is not necessarily a bad thing to admire something that someone else has. When we say, “I envy you. You are going on vacation,” we aren’t necessarily using envy in the worst sense of the word.

To envy is to be angry when someone else has something that you don’t have. A literal definition of the word envy is “a malignant or hostile feeling.” So it is not a matter of saying, “You have a lot. Wow, that is really great! I wish I had that!”

Rather, it’s an attitude that says, I am actually angry with you that you have those things and I don’t have them.

Envy has been described as a small-town sin; it breeds on proximity. We don’t tend to envy someone who is famous and successful. Instead, we envy our neighbors, a relative, or a coworker. We are fine as long as we are all equal, as long as we are all on the same playing field. But if one begins to succeed, if one gets an opportunity we think we should have had, if one has something wonderful happen, we become envious.

We don’t know exactly what caused Cain to murder his brother Abel, but I think it is safe to say that envy and jealousy played a part. Abel’s sacrifice was accepted, and Cain’s was not. Envy unchecked can become a major problem, and Cain’s envy led to murder. Cain was not mastered by God, so he became enslaved by the Devil.

Shakespeare called envy the green-eyed monster, and it’s a green-eyed monster that can strangle you. Be a jealous person, and you will give the Devil a foothold just as Cain did—and you will face the repercussions.

Max Lucado – Evil. God. Good

 

Life turns every person upside down. No one escapes unscathed. Not the woman who discovers her husband is having an affair. Not the businessman whose investments are embezzled by a crooked colleague. Not the pastor who feels his faith shaken by questions of suffering and fear. We would be foolish to think we’re invulnerable.

But we would be just as foolish to think that evil wins the day. The Bible vibrates with the steady drumbeat of faith. God recycles evil into righteousness. Joseph, saddled with family rejection, slavery, and imprisonment emerged triumphant— a hero of his generation. Among his final words to his brothers are these: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). It is the repeated pattern in Scripture. Evil–God–Good. Trust God. No…really trust Him! God will make good out of this mess.

From You’ll Get Through This

Night Light for Couples – What a Man Needs

 

“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

Wife, do you understand the needs of your husband? Let’s face it, a man’s career is usually extremely important to his self‐esteem. He is made that way. Many women complain about their husbands’ “workaholism,” which may be valid, and yet husbands deserve thanks for the effort they invest. Compared to the man who sits around the house doing little or nothing, the hard worker is an honorable man. God has assigned two key tasks to men: to provide for and to protect their families. If your husband meets those two requirements, you need to let him know that you appreciate how hard he works.

Several years ago a survey was taken to determine what men wanted in their homes. The result was surprising: It was tranquility. Is your home a peaceful haven for your husband and your family—a place where he can “recharge his batteries” and enjoy the company of his family?

Whatever his specific needs and wants, your husband—and your marriage—will benefit immeasurably when you make him a priority in your life. Scripture says that a woman was designed to be a “helper” for her husband (who, in turn, is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the church). And after all, there’s no one better for the job than you.

Just between us…

  • (wife) Do you feel that I appreciate how hard you work?
  • (wife) What do I do for you that you most appreciate?
  • (wife) What things could I do to show my love for you this week?

(wife) Heavenly Father, thank You for my husband. I want to understand and serve him in ways that refresh and encourage him. Show me how to bless him with beautiful gifts like appreciation, support, and tranquility. Amen.

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

C.S. Lewis Daily – Today’s Reading

 

The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism—for that is what the words ‘one flesh’ would be in modern English. And the Christians believe that when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment but stating a fact—just as one is stating a fact when one says that a lock and its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instrument. The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.

From Mere Christianity

Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis