Charles Stanley – The Source of Our Adversity

 

Isaiah 45:5-10

When experiencing hardship, we usually wonder why God allows painful situations to come our way. In our minds, this just doesn’t fit with His role as our loving heavenly Father. We also struggle to reconcile our suffering with the realization that an omnipotent God could have prevented it. To understand what’s going on, we must consider the possible sources of adversity.

  • A Fallen World. When sin entered the world, suffering came with it. God could have protected us from these harmful effects by making us like puppets who couldn’t choose sin, but that would mean we’d also be unable to choose to love Him, since love, by its very nature, is voluntary.
  • Our Own Doing. Sometimes we get ourselves into trouble with foolish or sinful choices. If the Lord stepped in and rescued us from every negative consequence, we’d never grow into mature believers.
  • Satanic Attack. The devil is our enemy. To hinder anything God wants to do in and through believers, Satan will never cease to harass us. His goal is to destroy our lives and our testimonies, thereby making us weak and useless for the Lord’s purposes.
  • God’s Sovereignty. Ultimately, the Lord is in charge of all adversity that comes our way. To deny His involvement contradicts His power and sovereignty over creation.

For us to accept that God allows—or even sends—affliction, we must see adversity from His perspective. Is your focus on the pain of your experience or on God and His faithfulness? As believers, we’re assured that no adversity comes our way unless He can use it for our benefit and His good purposes.

Bible in One Year: Proverbs 26-28

Our Daily Bread — Transformed Hearts

 

Read: Ezekiel 36:22-31

Bible in a Year: Psalms 13-15; Acts 19:21-41

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. —Proverbs 4:23

During the early 1970s in Ghana, a poster titled “The Heart of Man” appeared on walls and public notice boards. In one picture, all kinds of reptiles—symbols of the vile and despicable—filled the heart-shaped painting with the head of a very unhappy man on top of it. In another image, the heart-shape was clean and serene with the head of a contented man. The caption beneath the images read: “What is the condition of your heart?”

In Matthew 15:18-19, Jesus explained what pollutes a person. “The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (niv). That is the condition of a heart separated from God—the situation ancient Israelites found themselves in when their sins forced them into exile (Ezek. 36:23).

God’s promise in Ezekiel 36:26 is beautiful: “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (nlt; see also 11:19). God will take away our stubborn hearts that have been corrupted by all kinds of evil and give to us a clean heart that is responsive to Him. Praise God for such a wonderful gift. —Lawrence Darmani

Father in heaven, thank You that when we confess our sin to You, You give us a new heart and a new life. I pray that the life I live reflects the goodness of Your gift and that others may see the difference a new heart has made in me.

For a new start, ask God for a new heart.

INSIGHT: Today’s text gives two reasons why God is going to rescue and redeem the people of Israel. He will do it for the sake of His holy name (v. 22) and so the nations will know He is the Lord (v. 23).

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – On Earth as It Is in Heaven

 

I don’t know what it is as children that makes us readily picture God as seated high above us. From childhood, we seem to nurture pictures of heaven and all its wonderment as that which spatially exists “above,” while we and all of our worries exist on earth “below.” While this may simply illustrate our need for metaphors as we learn to relate to the world around us, there is also biblical imagery that seems to attest the portrayal. Depicting the God who exists beyond all we know, the Scripture writers describe the divine throne as “high and lofty,” the name of the LORD as existing above all names.

Yet even metaphors can be misleading when they cease to point beyond themselves. Though the Scriptures use the language and imagery of loftiness, they also attest that God’s existence is far more than something “above” us. Author Steven Chase notes the danger in seeing God primarily above and our pilgrimage simply in terms of ascent. He writes, “[T]o construe the spiritual journey exclusively as a path from “below” to “above” tends to create chasms—often unbridgeable—between body and soul, the beginner and the adept, the active and the contemplative life, and the powerless and the powerful.”(1)

In the minds of many Christians, a chasm likewise exists between the kingdom of heaven and the world in which we now live. The kingdom of heaven is seen as the place we are journeying toward, the better country the writer of Hebrews describes. In contrast, our place on earth is seen as temporary; like Abraham, we are merely passing through. As a result, chasms stand between kingdom and earth, today and tomorrow, the physical and the spiritual. Whether intentionally or otherwise, the earth becomes something fleeting and irrelevant—one more commodity here for our use, like shampoo bottles in hotel bathrooms—while Christ is away preparing our permanent rooms. When the Christian pilgrimage is seen an ascent to another world, whether articulated or subconscious, this world soon becomes superfluous and God a distant caretaker.

This chasm not only belies a posture irresponsible for those called to love their neighbors and cultivate their surroundings, it betrays the identity and decree of a good creator, and negates the words of our most sacred prayer. What does it mean that we pray God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven? What does it mean that Christ repeatedly declared the kingdom of God is here and now among us? What does it mean that for lack of human praise the very rocks will cry out at the glory of their creator and the trees will clap their hands?

Wendell Barry attempts to answer these questions with applications for the Christian pilgrim. “All creatures live by God’s spirit, portioned out to them, and breathe his breath. To ‘lay up…treasures in heaven,’ then, cannot mean to be spiritual at the earth’s expense, or to despise or condemn the earth for the sake of heaven. It means exactly the opposite: do not desecrate or depreciate these gifts, which take part with us in the being of God, by turning them into worldly ‘treasure.’”(2) Far from being a non-spiritual, kingdom-irrelevant commodity, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. Far from a God concerned merely with the heavens, surely the Lord is in this place whether we are aware of it or not.

The Spirit of God is active not only among the church, or believers across the world—or even merely people throughout the earth. God is moving over the earth and all its life, creating and sustaining the natural world.(3) While we are indeed strangers looking to a heavenly kingdom, this does not mean we are estranged to the earth around us. While we long with the faithful for a better country, we are called to care and cultivate on earth the things we look toward in heaven. We are given eyes to see God’s kingdom all around us, even as we pray to see it more fully on earth as it is in heaven.

Moreover, that we are going to a better country does not necessarily mean we are going to an entirely different country. In the words of one author who bids us to see the cure of Christ as reaching tangibly here and now, as far as the curse is found, “To suggest that the sin of man so corrupted his creation that God cannot fix it but can only junk it in favor of some other world is to say that ultimately the kingdom of evil is more powerful than the kingdom of God. It makes sin more powerful than redemption, and Satan the victor over God. Reducing the gospel to a strictly spiritual dimension of human existence concedes everything outside of that dimension to the enemy.”(4) Like our lives, which show shadows of the fall even as we behold the light of redemption, all of creation groans along with us for that which we now see in part but will one day see in full. The Christian message testifies to the presence of the kingdom of God among the world. Thus the Christian life is one that does not turn its back on the world here and now, but tends to life as visionaries of God’s grace, cultivators of healing, and catalysts for transformation throughout all the earth. Indeed, a follower of Christ is one who testifies to the radical work of the Cross and the uniqueness of Christ Jesus who, unlike any other, came to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.

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

(1) Steven Chase, The Tree of Life: Models of Christian Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 145.

(2) Wendell Barry, “God and Country,” Eds. Wayne G. Boulton, Thomas D. Kennedy, Allen Verhey, From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1994), 526.

(3) See Psalm 104, Psalm 148, Isaiah 55:9-13, Romans 8:19-22.

(4) Michael D. Williams, Far as the Curse is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2005), 21.

Alistair Begg – Private Worship

 

Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out. Leviticus 6:13

Keep the altar of private prayer burning. This is the very life of all piety. The sanctuary and family altars borrow their fires here; therefore let this burn well. Secret devotion is the very essence, evidence, and barometer of vital and experimental [experiential] religion.

Burn here the fat of your sacrifices. Let your closet seasons be, if possible, regular, frequent, and undisturbed. Effectual prayer avails much. Have you nothing to pray for? Let us suggest the church, the ministry, your own soul, your children, your relations, your neighbors, your country, and the cause of God and truth throughout the world.

Let us examine ourselves on this important matter. Do we engage with lukewarmness in private devotion? Is the fire of devotion burning dimly in our hearts? Do the chariot wheels drag heavily? If so, let us be alarmed at this sign of decay. Let us go with weeping, and ask for the Spirit of grace and of supplications. Let us set apart special seasons for extraordinary prayer. For if this fire should be smothered beneath the ashes of a worldly conformity, it will dim the fire on the family altar and lessen our influence both in the church and in the world.

The text will also apply to the altar of the heart. This is a golden altar indeed. God loves to see the hearts of His people glowing toward Himself. Let us give to God our hearts, all blazing with love, and seek His grace, that the fire may never be quenched, for it will not burn if the Lord does not keep it burning. Many foes will attempt to extinguish it; but if the unseen hand behind the wall pours on the sacred oil, it will blaze higher and higher. Let us use texts of Scripture as fuel for our heart’s fire; they are live coals. Let us attend to sermons, but above all, let us be much alone with Jesus.

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

Charles Spurgeon – The New Park Street tracts, 1856

 

Suggested Reading: Acts 9:17-22

The Infidel’s Sermon to the Pirates

(Arranger’s summary of tract—A rich unbeliever sailed in ignorance with pirates, who spared his life after mistaking him for a priest. Later when pressed to preach to them, he was given words which melted their hearts and converted him.)

How marvellous the providence of God, and the sovereignty of his grace! Who is he that has stepped beyond the range of Almighty love? Or has sinned too much to be forgiven? Reader! Are you an infidel? What would you do in a similar situation? What other doctrine than that of Scripture would benefit pirates? Certainly not your own. What would you like to teach your own children? Certainly not your own sentiments. You feel that you would not wish your own offspring blaspheming God. Moreover, forgive us, if we declare our opinion that you know that there is a God, though with your lips you deny him. Think, we implore you, of your Maker, and of his Son, the Saviour; and may eternal love bring even you to the Redeemer.

The Actress

(Arranger’s summary of tract: A converted actress renounced her profession. Persuaded to give one final performance, she was unable to sing her entrance song and could only substitute the hymn that had first proclaimed God’s mercy to her. The audience ridiculed her, but some considered their ways. She later married a gospel minister.)

Perhaps, dear reader, you are a great transgressor, then you fear there is no forgiveness for you; let this remove your fears. You may be the vilest creature out of hell, and yet grace can make you as pure as the angels in heaven. God would be just should he damn you, but he can be just and yet save you. Do you feel that the Lord has a right over you to do as he pleases? Do you feel that you have no claim upon him? Then, rejoice, for Jesus Christ has borne your guilt, and carried your sorrows, and you shall assuredly be saved. You are a sinner in the true sense of that word, then remember Jesus came to save sinners, and you among the rest, if you know yourself to be a sinner.

For meditation: God often saves the very people we would write off!

Part of nos. 81-82

John MacArthur – Sharing Christ’s Dominion

 

“You are . . . a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Christians serve the King and will someday reign with Him in His Kingdom.

In Exodus 19:5-6 God says to Israel, “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples . . . and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” They were to be both priests and royalty, but they violated the covenant and forfeited those privileges. Now, according to Peter, Christians are the royal priesthood of God.

The Greek word translated “royal” in 1 Peter 2:9 was used of a royal palace, sovereignty, crown, or monarchy. In this context it refers to royalty in general. We speak of the royal house of England or France, meaning not a building but a sphere of dominion. So it is with God’s spiritual house (v. 5). Believers serve the King and will also reign with Him in His sphere of dominion.

That is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture. In the book of Revelation we read, “Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:10); and, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him” (Rev. 20:6).

Your royal position has some practical implications for the way you live each day. For example, when dealing with the problem of litigation among Christians, Paul said: “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life?” (1 Cor. 6:1-3).

Never forget who you are in Christ, and don’t let sin or the world distract you from your priestly role.

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize 1 Timothy 4:12. Ask God to make you a better example of one who represents His royal priesthood.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 14:18-20 and Hebrews 7:1-17. Who was Melchizedek and what was unique about his priesthood?

Joyce Meyer – Look to the Future for Your Reward

 

For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God]. – Hebrews 12:11

We should look to the future, determine what we want to see happen, and then discipline ourselves in order that we may have it. We must not buy into the lie that we should only live for the moment or that the present is all we have. We also have a future to consider, and we need to begin to live with an eye toward “after ward,” toward the “later on” times. We have to begin to care just as much or more about later on than we care about right now.

If you want to be thinner when the time comes to wear your swimsuit in June, you need to start eating healthily and exercising before summer arrives. If you want to be able to afford a new car next year, you need to work toward getting out of debt right now. If you dream of living in a nice, clean, orderly home, you have to clear out the clutter and clean it up!

Discipline may not be pleasant for your flesh while you’re doing it, but it will give you a tremendous sense of satisfaction in your soul—the satisfaction that comes from knowing you are making good choices. If you will pay the price to be disciplined now, you will enjoy rewards later. If you don’t pay the price now to do what is right, then you’ll suffer the consequences of an undisciplined life later. You can pay now or you can pay later, but at some point, we all reap the harvest of the choices we’ve made. We can’t simply wish our lives were different; we have to press through laziness, fleshly desires, and bad attitudes and refuse to give up on the discipline that will yield good fruit later on. If there is something you want to see happen in your future, start disciplining yourself toward it now, and later on you will enjoy the fruit of it.

Trust in HimGod’s Word in Hebrews 12:11 says “no discipline brings joy . . . but afterwards . . .” If you discipline yourself now, you can trust that He’ll bring you great reward afterward.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Lord Will Pay

 

“Remember, the Lord will pay you for each good thing you do, whether you are slave or free” (Ephesians 6:8).

When I proposed to Vonette I told her that I loved her dearly, and I wanted her to be my wife. I promised to do everything I could to make her happy and that she would always be the most important person in my life. But I further explained that my first allegiance was to the Lord, for I had already made that commitment to Him and could not and would not violate that promise to follow Him whatever the cost. She agreed, and we were married on those conditions.

My love for Vonette is far greater today because Jesus Christ is first in my life, and her love for me is far greater because He is first in her life. Our relationship is infinitely richer and more meaningful than it would have been had she been master of her life, and I the lord of my life, or if we had made each other first in our lives and the Lord Jesus Christ second.

The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is affirming the promise of our Lord recorded in Matthew 6:32-33, “Your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well what you need and He will give it to you if you give Him first place in your life and live as He wants you to.”

In the context of this verse in Ephesians, Paul is dealing with family relationships – authority within the family. If we can grasp the concept of God as our paymaster, it will make a vast difference in the way we respond to the authority of men.

Christ knows everything you endure. He gives you your full portion of all that He owns. He is really the one for whom you are working. Wherever you are working, you may have assignments and responsibilities which you do not enjoy. But if Christ is truly the one for whom you work, then you will undertake His assignments cheerfully.

If we choose to be rebellious, we face the danger of a reward from our paymaster that might not be at all to our liking. Let us be about our Father’s business – willingly, joyfully, enthusiastically.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:1-7

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Though I may have a boss or leader who tells me what to do, and when to do it, I will always remember that my first allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ, and by putting Him first, even above my loved ones who surround me, I can serve others with greater joy, confidence and enthusiasm

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – What’s In a Name?

 

Few American parents give thought to the meanings of names when deciding on monikers for their newborns. Trendiness, how it sounds, or paying tribute to a loved one is usually primary considerations. Biblical names, though, portray character traits or chart in advance the life of the child.

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.

Psalm 75:1

God’s Hebrew names portray His character. Elohim (Creator), Adonai (Lord), Jehovah Jireh (Provider), Jehovah Shalom (Peace), Yahweh (Covenant Keeper), El Shaddai (Almighty), Jehovah Shammah (God Who is There), Jehovah Rapha (Healer), Jehovah Sabaoth (Provider) and Jehovah Nissi (My Banner). Jesus said God’s name is holy…hallowed…and today’s verse reminds you that His very name is near to you.

A good way to pray is to call God by one of His names, consistent with the focus of your prayer. Do you want Him to keep His promises? Call Him Yahweh. Or if you ask Him to show Himself to America’s s leaders, you may want to address Him as Adonai. Call on the name of the Lord, find power in His name, and proclaim His name – for ultimately those who call on the name of the Lord will find salvation.

Recommended Reading: John 17:1-11

Greg Laurie – The Way of Cain

 

Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. —Jude 1:11

Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. (Jude 1:11)

The Bible warns us about “the way of Cain” (see Jude 1:11). What is the way of Cain? For one thing, it is to worship God with impure motives. Cain brought his offering to the Lord, but he didn’t bring it in faith. No matter how great your gift may be, if your heart is wrong, then it will mean nothing.

The way of Cain is also to have a heart and life that are filled with jealousy, envy, and hatred. There always will be people who will do better than you. There always will be someone who is better looking, more successful or more intelligent than you. So will you go through life frustrated and filled with jealousy and envy? Or, are you going to say, “God, everything I have is a gift from You anyway, and I am going to thank You for it. I don’t want to destroy my life through envy and jealousy”?

Lastly, the way of Cain is to lie to God about what you have done. There is only one way to deal with sin, and that is to tell the truth because God knows anyway. God knew what Cain was about to do, and He warned him. But Cain did what he thought he should do, and sin pounced on him, consumed him, and mastered him just as God said it would.

It is the same for those of us today as well. Don’t walk in the way of Cain. Instead, walk in the way of Abel. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that “by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” The way of Abel leads to blessing.

Max Lucado – Our Redeemer

 

See the cross on the hill? Can you hear the soldiers pound the nails? Jesus’ enemies smirk. “This time,” Satan whispers. “This time I will win.” For a sad Friday and a silent Saturday it appeared he had.

What Satan intended as the ultimate evil, God used for the ultimate good. God rolled the rock away and Jesus walked out on Sunday morning. And if you look closely, you can see Satan scampering from the cemetery with his forked tail between his legs. “Will I ever win?” he grumbles. No…he won’t.

Do you believe no evil is beyond God’s reach?  That He can redeem every pit, including the one in which you find yourself?  Trust God. He will get you through this. Will it be easy or quick? I hope so, but it seldom is. Yet, God will make good out of this mess. That’s His job.

From You’ll Get Through This

Night Light for Couples – Deny Yourself

 

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Television advertisers are experts at “rattling the cages” of viewers. They understand the philosophy of today’s audience: Look out for number one. That’s why we’re bombarded with slogans such as “Have it your way”; “You deserve a break today”; and “Because I’m worth it.” Their goal is to appeal to our self‐centered nature and manipulate us into buying a product. Frequently, they succeed.

The “I’m Third” approach to life is in direct contradiction to the message of these ads. And well it should be! Jesus tells us that our first obligation in following Him must be to deny ourselves—to let go of the steering wheel, so to speak, and let the Lord drive. Secondly, we are to love and care for others. Try implementing these priorities. They will lead to a better marriage in this life and eternal rewards in the next.

God first, others second, myself third. A simple phrase, but it contains far more wisdom for living life to the fullest than anything you’ll see or hear on a television ad.

Just between us…

  • Do we have an “I’m Third” kind of marriage?
  • Do we know a couple who model this philosophy?
  • How do you feel about putting my desires ahead of your own?
  • What, if anything, do we need to change to create an “I’m Third” marriage?
  • How can we specifically ask God to help us make this happen?

Dear Jesus, we hear Your invitation to follow You in a life of self-denial. Tonight we make You Lord of our marriage. Help us to live every day by Your example— in obedience to the Father and in loving service to each other. Amen.

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

C.S. Lewis Daily – Today’s Reading

 

On masculine and feminine

For a good wife contains so many persons in herself. What was H. not to me? She was my daughter and my mother, my pupil and my teacher, my subject and my sovereign; and always, holding all these in solution, my trusty comrade, friend, shipmate, fellow-soldier. My mistress; but at the same time all that any man friend (and I have good ones) has ever been to me. Perhaps more. If we had never fallen in love we should have none the less been always together, and created a scandal. That’s what I meant when I once praised her for her “masculine virtues.” But she soon put a stop to that by asking how I’d like to be praised for my feminine ones. It was a good riposte, dear. Yet there was something of the Amazon, something of Penthesileia and Camilla. And you, as well as I, were glad it should be there. You were glad I should recognize it.

Solomon calls his bride Sister. Could a woman be a complete wife unless, for a moment, in one particular mood, a man felt almost inclined to call her Brother? . . .

There is, hidden or flaunted, a sword between the sexes till an entire marriage reconciles them. It is arrogance in us to call frankness, fairness, and chivalry “masculine” when we see them in a woman; it is arrogance in them to describe a man’s sensitiveness or tact or tenderness as “feminine.” But also what poor, warped fragments of humanity most mere men and mere women must be to make the implications of that arrogance plausible. Marriage heals this. Jointly the two become fully human. “In the image of God created He them.” Thus, by a paradox, this carnival of sexuality leads us out beyond our sexes.

From A Grief Observed

Compiled in Words to Live By