Charles Stanley – The Need for Friendship


2 Timothy 4:9-22

Independence is a prized attribute in our culture, but biblically, it isn’t a worthy aspiration. Nowhere in Scripture will you find the erroneous quote, “God helps those who help themselves.” The very fact that the Lord formed the church—a community of believers—should tell us that He did not create people for self-sufficiency or isolation.

When we place faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells us so we can have a fulfilling relationship with the Lord and satisfying friendships with one another. In God’s design, a close, committed biblical friendship between two believers serves to build both toward Christlikeness. Over and over in Scripture, we find evidence of God’s followers relying upon a close friend or confidante for support. Paul, in particular, spoke freely and often of his dependence upon dear companions and encouraged others to form intimate partnerships as well (2 Tim. 2:22).

It’s interesting to me that our modern culture seems to be headed in the opposite direction. The farther we drift from God, the more pervasive our self-sufficient attitude becomes. Neighbors treat each other with suspicion instead of congeniality, and that mindset has even invaded the church. We’re hesitant to give to others, which in turn makes us reluctant to receive.

Scripture tells us to love one another, bear our brothers’ burdens, and confess our sins to fellow believers (John 13:34; Gal. 6:2; James 5:16). In other words, we’re to give ourselves away to others and receive from them in return. That’s how church members can encourage one another to Christlikeness.

Bible in One Year:Song of Solomon 1-4

Our Daily Bread — Our Daily Bread — Faithful Service


Read: 2 Timothy 2:1-10

Bible in a Year: Psalms 26-28; Acts 22

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. —2 Timothy 2:3

Having served in World War I, C. S. Lewis was no stranger to the stresses of military service. In a public address during the Second World War, he eloquently described the hardships a soldier has to face: “All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity . . . is collected together in the life of the soldier on active service. Like sickness, it threatens pain and death. Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst, and hunger. Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule. Like exile, it separates you from all you love.”

The apostle Paul used the analogy of a soldier suffering hardship to describe the trials a believer may experience in service to Christ. Paul—now at the end of his life—had faithfully endured suffering for the sake of the gospel. He encourages Timothy to do the same: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).

Serving Christ requires perseverance. We may encounter obstacles of poor health, troubled relationships, or difficult circumstances. But as a good soldier we press on—with God’s strength—because we serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who sacrificed Himself for us! —Dennis Fisher

Dear Father, help me to be faithful in my service to You. Thank You for the strength You provide to help me persevere through suffering.

God’s love does not keep us from trials, but sees us through them.

INSIGHT: Paul often uses colorful metaphors to describe the Christian. Sheep (John 10:27), salt and light (Matt. 5:13-14), and ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) are well-known examples. In today’s reading Paul uses three common professions to describe the motivation and challenges of the Christian life. He speaks of the perseverance and allegiance of the soldier (vv. 3-4), the dedication and discipline of the athlete (v. 5), and the diligence and patience of the farmer (v. 6). Paul also uses these metaphors again in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:7,27).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Kind, Beautiful, and Foolish


In his book The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky sets forth the bold assertion that “beauty will save the world.” The sheer number of ways in which this quote has been applied attests to the risk inherent in the idea, and perhaps inherent in beauty itself. Certainly the church during the Reformation recognized the risks involved in imaging God, using beauty to communicate an incommunicable mystery, the impersonal to describe a Person. For good reason, many are cautious when we hear a statement such as the one in this novel.

But Dostoevsky did not pronounce the idea with the naïveté with which it is often quoted. He did not have in mind the kind of beauty we worship in the fashion or beauty industries nor did he have in mind an impersonal object or a purely abstract notion, a distinct but distant ideal. On the contrary, Dostoevsky entertains the idea in a person, in Myshkin, who lives the quality of beauty as if an inescapable quality of his inmost being. For Myshkin’s inclination is to help rather than to harm, to give mercy rather than malice, forgiving again and again, though surrounded by people who do not. In fact, it is this group who tirelessly labels Myshkin the “idiot” because he refuses to participate in the disparaging and destructive ugliness of their own ways but instead takes what is cruel and repulsive in them and their culture and dispels it. They hate him for it; they believe him a fool. But it is a kind and beautiful foolishness.

I sometimes wonder if we have so stripped away the possibility of actual beauty in our encounters with the divine that we not only miss something real of God and others to behold in the world, but we miss opportunities to show the world the beauty of God—in hands and faces, in people who bestow crowns of beauty instead of ashes, in communities that repair ruined cities instead of causing further devastation.(1) Theologian William Dyrness laments the modern mentality that has somehow lost the sense of the “wholeness that beauty reflects.”(2) We are so mindful of beauty’s limitations; but isn’t it we who are the limited as the depicters of God’s beauty? “[When I look at] the moon and the stars that you have established,” sang David, “what are human beings that you are mindful of them?” (Psalm 8:3). Describing the very wholeness that beauty reflects, Dyrness continues, “Based on God’s continuing presence in the Spirit of Christ, God is somehow present in all beauty.”(3)

That is to say, the divine presence can be seen in the beauty of bringing the cup of cold water, in the stained glass mural of the great cathedral, or in the life that sits in broken shards before the potter and in the lives who sit with her. Moreover, if beauty is revelation, if creativeness is more than an object but an action of both play and work in God’s kingdom, if the Incarnation is a call to participate in the glory of God as persons who imbibe that glory, then there is most certainty in beauty the potential to save, for God is both the Source and Subject.

In his 1970 Nobel Laureate lecture in literature, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn made the bold suggestion: “Perhaps that ancient trinity of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty is not simply an empty, faded formula as we thought in the days of our self-confident, materialistic youth. If the tops of these three trees converge, as the scholars maintained, but the too blatant, too direct stems of Truth and Goodness are crushed, cut down, or not allowed through—then perhaps the fantastic, unpredictable, unexpected stems of Beauty will push through and soar to that very place, and in so doing fulfill the work of all three?”(4) In other words, perhaps we cannot afford to omit the possibility of God reaching out to the world in beauty, in mystery, and transcendence.

Of course, this is not to say that beauty is not a risk for the community of God. We are sinful and limited creatures in our ability to appreciate true beauty, and it is often an elusive concept to understand practically. We are artistically formed at the hands of a God who is far beyond us. We must indeed remember with David that it is we who fall short, we who must maintain the perspective of humility and keep before us a sense of mystery. But like Myshkin who attempted to rise above the ugliness of his world, we must also have the courage to risk beauty, living as those who recognize the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and so choose to boldly proclaim and reflect this beauty in a world that would have otherwise.

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

(1) See Isaiah 61.

(2) William Dyrness, Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2001), 90.

(3) Ibid., 90.

(4) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Lecture in Literature, 1970, from Nobel Lectures, Literature 1968-1980, Ed. Tore Frängsmyr (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co., 1993).

Alistair Begg – Anticipate Heaven for a Few Years


The guarantee of our inheritance.

Ephesians 1:14

Oh, what enlightenment, what joys, what consolation, what delight of heart is experienced by that man who has learned to feed on Jesus, and on Jesus alone. Yet the realization that we have of Christ’s preciousness is, in this life, imperfect at best. As an old writer says, “‘Tis but a taste!”

We have tasted “that the LORD is good,”1 but we do not yet know how good and gracious He is, although what we know of His sweetness makes us long for more. We have enjoyed the firstfruits of the Spirit, and they have set us hungering and thirsting for the fullness of the heavenly vintage. We groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption. Here we are like Israel in the wilderness, who had but one cluster from the vine; there we shall be in the vineyard. Here we see the manna falling small, like coriander seed; but there shall we eat the bread of heaven and the old corn of the kingdom. We are but beginners now in spiritual education, for although we have learned the first letters of the alphabet, we cannot read words yet, much less can we put sentences together.

But as one says, “He that has been in heaven but five minutes knows more than the general assembly of divines on earth.” We have many unfulfilled desires at present, but soon every wish shall be satisfied, and all our powers shall find the sweetest employment in that eternal world of joy.

O Christian, anticipate heaven for a few years. Within a very little time you will be rid of all your trials and your troubles. Your eyes now suffused with tears shall weep no longer. You will gaze in ineffable rapture upon the splendor of Him who sits upon the throne. Better still, you shall sit upon His throne. The triumph of His glory shall be shared by you; His crown, His joy, His paradise-these will be yours, and you will be co-heir with Him who is the heir of all things.

1) Psalm 34:8

The family reading plan for July 20, 2015

  • Judges 3
  • Acts 7

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


Charles Spurgeon – Continental tour H1


Suggested Reading: Mark 9:38-41

In Brussels I heard a good sermon in a Romish church. The church was crowded with people, many of them standing, though you might have a seat for a halfpenny or a farthing. But I stood too. And that good man—for I believe he is a good man—preached the Lord Jesus with all his might. He spoke of the love of Christ, so that I, a very poor hand at the French language, could fully understand him, and my heart kept beating within me as he spoke of the beauties of Christ and the preciousness of his blood, and of his power to save the chief of sinners. He did not say justification by faith, but he did say, “Efficacy of the blood,” which comes to very much the same thing. He did not tell us we were saved by grace and not by our works, but he did say that all the works of men were less than nothing when they were brought into competition with the blood of Christ, and that that blood was in itself enough. True there were objectionable sentences, as naturally there must be, but I could have gone to that man and could have said, “Brother, you have spoken the truth;” and if I had been handling the text myself, I must have done it in the same way, if I could have done it as well. I was pleased to find my own opinion verified in that case, that there are some, even in the apostate church, who cleave unto the Lord; some sparks of heavenly fire that tremble amidst the rubbish of old superstition, some lights that are not blown out, even by the strong wind of popery, but still cast a feeble gleam across the waters sufficient to guide the soul to the rock Christ Jesus.

For meditation: We may find it impossible to understand or agree with their position, but the true believing saints of God can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places (1 Kings 18:3-4; Philippians 4:22. NB: The Caesar in question was Nero!)

Part of nos. 331-332

20 July ( From A Lecture on August 21 1860 )

John MacArthur – Proclaiming the Excellencies of God


“That you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

You are an ambassador of the living God.

The privilege of proclaiming the excellencies of God takes us back to 1 Peter 2:9, but we consider it here because it summarizes the purpose of all our Christian privileges.

The Greek word translated “proclaim” is an unusual word used only here in the New Testament. It means “to advertise” or “publish,” and refers to making something known that would otherwise be unknown. “Excellencies” speak of powerful and heroic deeds. You are an ambassador of Christ, having the great privilege of proclaiming what God has done for His people.

That was an intrinsic part of Hebrew worship. For example, Psalm 103 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit; who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord performs righteous deeds, and judgments for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (vv. 2-8).

It would be an honor to be an ambassador of the United States, representing this country’s power and capabilities to other countries. But you have an even greater honor: to represent the power and capabilities of the living God. When you have an opportunity to speak for Him, you can rightly say, “I have the privilege of announcing the mighty and heroic deeds of the living God, who has called me into His service.”

Because you are in Christ, you have glorious privileges that include union with God, access to the Father, spiritual sacrifices, security, affection, dominion, possession, holiness, illumination, and compassion. What greater honor can there be than to proclaim the excellencies of the One who has granted you such marvelous privileges?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for calling you as His ambassador.
  • Ask Him for the courage and integrity to represent Him well always.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 147, noting all the mighty deeds of God there proclaimed.

Joyce Meyer – Whom God Loves, He Chastens


For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. – Hebrews 12:6

When we need correction—and there are times when we all need it—I believe it is the Lord’s first desire to correct us Himself. Whom the Lord loves, He chastens. God’s correction or chastisement is not a bad thing; it is always and ultimately only for our good.

The fact that it works toward our good does not mean it always feels good or that it is something we enjoy immediately: For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a 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)

Correction is probably one of the most difficult things for most of us to receive, especially when it comes through another person. Even if we have problems, we don’t want others to know we have them. I believe God prefers to correct us privately; but if we won’t accept His correction or if we don’t know how to allow Him to correct us privately, He will correct us publicly, using whatever source He needs to use. We may not always like the source God chooses to use, but it is wisdom to accept correction in order to avoid “going around the mountain one more time” (see Deuteronomy 2:3).

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – In the Book of Life


“Everyone who conquers will be clothed in white, and I will not erase his name from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and His angels that he is Mine” (Revelation 3:5).

Perhaps you have rejoiced – as I have – at the reminder that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, God’s heavenly record of the redeemed.

Here are two more promises to the conqueror, the overcomer, the victorious Christian – one having to do with future reign, the other with our security in Him.

Not only to the believers in Sardis who should be victorious, but also to those in every age and every land, lies the hope – indeed the promise – of appearing with Christ in white robes expressing holiness and joy in that future day when He shall rule and reign on this earth.

If you are a believer in Christ, your name is in the that book which contains the names of those who are to live with Him throughout eternity. Not to have our names erased, of course, means that the names will be found there on the great day of final account, and forever and ever.

What better way could we use our time today – and tomorrow – and the next day – than to add names to the Book of Life, by faithfully witnessing to others about the good news of the gospel? Our privilege and responsibility is to share; God’s Holy Spirit does the work of convicting and saving.

Bible Reading: Revelation 3:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: “Dear Lord, help me to add names to Your Book of Life by sharing my faith in You at every possible opportunity.”

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Free to Forgive


Dylann Roof recently opened fire and killed nine people while they studied the Bible at a historic South Carolina church. Roof, who was captured after 14 hours on the run, walked into the courtroom dressed in a black-and-white prison uniform and flanked by two guards in body armor. Family members of the victims filed in, appearing composed as they stared at the defendant. However, they offered tearful words of forgiveness to the 21-year-old man charged with murdering their loved ones. “May God have mercy on your soul,” said Felicia Sanders, whose 26-year-old son Tywanza was the youngest person to die in the tragedy.

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Psalm 97:12

People have a self-centered nature. Yet only Jesus Christ can free you to please the Lord instead of yourself. He fills you with His powerful love which does not demand its own way. As a result, you can forgive others even when they have wronged you.

Intercede for Roof and the victims’ families. Thank God for the incredible power of the Holy Spirit to change hearts and lives. Pray that the people and leaders of this nation truly experience the freedom that is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 16:21-28

Greg Laurie – What Coveting Is—and Isn’t


“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” —Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet” is probably one of the most misunderstood of the Ten Commandments. Coveting isn’t simply desiring something. Nor is it simply admiring something that we don’t have. To covet is to become devoured by desire for something. And many times, it’s something that isn’t yours to have.

The word for covet is also translated “to pant after.” Think of a wolf that has gotten a taste for blood and is out there pursuing his prey, panting after it. That wolf will not rest until he catches his prey, kills it, and eats it.

That is what coveting is. How does it work? You become obsessed with something. First the eyes look at the object, the mind admires it, and the will goes over to it. Lastly, the body moves in to possess it. One thing leads to another.

Judas Iscariot effectively threw his life away for thirty pieces of silver when he betrayed the Lord. We are told in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” That verse is often quoted as “Money is the root of all evil,” but the Bible says no such thing. The love of money is the root of all kinds evil. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad to want some money. But it becomes a problem when we covet, or pant after, it.

Some people covet throughout their lives. They become obsessed with certain things and will make any sacrifice to get what they want. It may be a person. It may be an object. It may be a position. Whatever it takes, they are determined to get it. And it can destroy them.

Max Lucado – Words for Misfits


1 Samuel 16:7 says, “. . .man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Those words were written for misfits and outcasts. God uses them all. Moses ran from justice, but God used him. Jonah ran from God, but God used him. Rahab ran a brothel; Sarah ran out of hope; Lot ran with the wrong crowd; but God used them all. And David?  Human eyes saw a gangly teenager, smelling like sheep. Yet the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is the one!” (1 Samuel 16:12).

God saw what no one else saw—  a God-seeking heart. David took after God’s heart, because he stayed after God’s heart. In the end, that is all God wants or needs. Others measure your waist size or wallet. Not God. He examines hearts. When he finds one set on Him, He calls it and claims it.

From Facing Your Giants