Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Free to Praise

 

All around the world, people worship under the cover of darkness and use code names for God to discuss Him in public places. Christians have recently been tortured and even beheaded for refusing to denounce Jesus. But in America, you are free to worship your Creator.

I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise.

Psalm 101:1

While Christianity has certainly come under some fire in this nation, you can hop in your car on any given Sunday and drive to one of many churches open for all. You have freedom to host Bible studies in your home or pray on your back patio. You are even free, as today’s verse suggests, to sing praises to the Lord.

While criticism for this country rolls off the tongues of many, remember you are free to worship God – and that is one of the greatest freedoms of all. Pray for Americans to recognize the gift this country really is and praise God for the freedom you have to worship. Then pray for your national leaders to uphold the laws that grant you that liberty – and to find the only One who can give them pure love and true justice.

Recommended Reading: John 4:19-29

Greg Laurie – Are All Sins the Same?

 

Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin.”

—Exodus 32:30

Are some sins greater, or worse, than others? Our knee-jerk reaction might be that all sin is the same. But actually that is not true. All sin is not the same. According to the Scriptures, some sins are more offensive to God than other sins are.

Now in a broad sense, all sin is wrong, from the smallest infraction to the grossest, outright sin. It all separates us from God. Even one sin can separate us from God. Jesus made this clear in the Sermon on the Mount when He pointed out that lusting is as bad as committing adultery, and hating is as bad as murdering.

In one sense, adultery and lust are the same. But in another sense, they are different. In one sense, murder and hate are the same thing. But in another sense, they are different. Some sins have greater ramifications than others, but all sin separates us from God.

Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11).

I think Jesus was referring here to either Caiaphas or Judas. Caiaphas was the high priest, the man who represented God and was supposed to be close to God. Judas was one of the handpicked disciples of the Lord. So if Jesus was referring to them, it really was, in effect, the same sin they would have committed. And what was this “greater sin”? It was sinning when they knew better.

The worst sin people can commit, the unforgivable sin, is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is the outright rejection of Christ. And as Hebrews 2:3 says, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”

Max Lucado – A Better Option

 

I spent too much of a high school summer working in the oil field. We donned gas masks, waded into ankle deep, contaminated mire. My mom burned my work clothes. The stink stunk! Yours can do the same. Linger too long in the stench of your hurt, and you’ll smell like the toxin you despise. The better option? Join with David as he announces, “The Lord lives. Blessed be my Rock. It is God who avenges me. He delivers me from my enemies. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O God!” (Psalm 18:46-49).

Wander daily through the gallery of God’s goodness. Catalog His kindnesses. Look at what you have. Let Jesus be the friend you need. Talk to Him. Spare no details. Disclose your fear and describe your dread. You just found a friend for life in Jesus Christ. What could be better than that?

From Facing Your Giants

Night Light for Couples – The Family That Prays Together

 

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

The day you were married, you probably knelt together and shared a prayer during your wedding ceremony. In front of family and friends, you helped cement your union through this joint conversation with the Lord. Sadly, many couples never pray together again.

Don’t misunderstand—prayer when you are alone, with a friend, in a Bible study, or in church is extremely important and valued just as much by our heavenly Father. But there is something special about prayer between husband, wife, and God that can’t be found elsewhere. It creates a spiritual connection, accountability, and a holy bond that brings strength and stability to the relationship. It can even allow you to communicate about sensitive issues that might otherwise never come out—issues that can be discussed and prayed over in a spirit of humility and purity of motive.

The old saw “The family that prays together, stays together” still applies today. We encourage you to remember it the next time you kneel in prayer.

Just between us…

  • When was our last meaningful prayer time together?
  • What’s the most common obstacle that keeps us from praying together?
  • How do you feel about praying with me?
  • How could we benefit from praying as a couple?
  • Should we schedule a regular time of prayer together?

Father, You have blessed us with each other as partners in marriage. Show us how to make prayer—together—a regular part of our life. Amen.

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

C.S. Lewis Daily – Today’s Reading

 

Screwtape offers more advice on using daily annoyances to entrap a Patient:

It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure that they are always very ‘spiritual’, that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism. Two advantages will follow. In the first place, his attention will be kept on what he regards as her sins, by which, with a little guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are inconvenient or irritating to himself. Thus you can keep rubbing the wounds of the day a little sorer even while he is on his knees; the operation is not at all difficult and you will find it very entertaining. In the second place, since his ideas about her soul will be very crude and often erroneous, he will, in some degree, be praying for an imaginary person, and it will be your task to make that imaginary person daily less and less like the real mother—the sharp-tongued old lady at the breakfast table. In time, you may get the cleavage so wide that no thought or feeling from his prayers for the imagined mother will ever flow over into his treatment of the real one. I have had patients of my own so well in hand that they could be turned at a moment’s notice from impassioned prayer for a wife’s or son’s ‘soul’ to beating or insulting the real wife or son without a qualm.

From The Screwtape Letters

Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

Charles Stanley – Friendship: A Help to Holiness

 

John 15:12-15

In all of God’s creation, just one thing did not meet with His approval. He beheld Adam, who was the only being of his kind, and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). The Creator designed people for emotional, mental, and physical intimacy so they’d be able to share their innermost selves with one another.

Jesus explained this to His disciples, saying they should love each other as He had loved them. In a God-honoring friendship, two people build each other up and spur one another toward Christlikeness. Many people, however, fall far short of making and maintaining relationships that sharpen their faith (Prov. 27:17). They instead welcome the trivial talk of casual acquaintances: The weather, tough bosses, and world affairs are safe topics. Sadly, believers often shy away from the penetrating conversations about sin, accountability, and biblical living that would serve to enrich their faith.

Strong relationships begin with men and women who decide to risk their pride and comfort in order to love as Jesus does. They recognize that one of the reasons we have friends is so we can motivate one another toward holiness. In a friendship of mutual trust and submission, two people will confess sin, offer gentle reproof, and share burdens.

The walls we build to keep people at a distance are often defenses against God as well: We don’t want Him too close to our most personal business. But as believers learn to share openly and freely with a brother or sister in Christ, they develop the capacity to be more honest with God.

Bible in One Year:Song of Solomon 5-8

Our Daily Bread — Be Near

 

Read: Psalm 34:4-18

Bible in a Year: Psalms 29-30; Acts 23:1-15

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart. —Psalm 34:18

My friend was going through some difficult challenges in her life and family. I didn’t know what to say or do, and I told her so. She looked at me and said, “Just be near.” That’s what I did, and later on we started talking about God’s love.

Many times we don’t know how to respond when others are grieving, and words may do more harm than good. Serving others requires that we understand them and find out what they need. Often we can help by meeting practical needs. But one of the best ways to encourage those who are suffering is to be near—to sit beside them and listen.

God is near to us when we call out to Him. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles,” the psalmist says. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Ps. 34:17-18).

By putting ourselves in the shoes of others and allowing our hearts to feel compassion, we can help those who are hurting. We can be near them as God is with us and sit close to them. At the right time, the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say, if they are needed. —Keila Ochoa

Who needs my help or for me to sit alongside them this week?

The best way to encourage others may be to just be near.

INSIGHT: Notice the exuberance with which David celebrates God in Psalm 34. In verses 1-3, the king declares his commitment to continual praise and invites others to join him in the celebration. At the root of his exaltation are two great expressions of God’s care—His answers to our prayers (vv. 4-6) and His protection and provision (vv. 7-10). These take on such great value to David because he recognizes his own weakness, marked by his fears (v. 4) and his sense of personal emptiness (“this poor man,” v. 6). God’s rescue in the face of such realities is cause for celebration.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Love as the Substance of Everything

 

Oft quoted at weddings, preeminent celebrations of romantic love, a poem is read extolling the virtue of love:

Love is patient and kind

Love is not jealous or boastful…

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never ends.

What many may not realize is that this is a poem from the pen of the apostle Paul. And while this poem is used to paint a picture of young love at weddings, its intent far transcends the romance of the occasion, and a fairly limited understanding of this virtue.

Romantic love was not in the apostle’s mind when he penned this verse. Instead, tremendous conflict in the fledgling Corinthian church caused Paul great grief. There were dissensions and quarrels over all kinds of issues in this community; quarrels over leadership and allegiance, over moral standards, over marriage and singleness, over theology, and quarrels so extreme that lawsuits were being filed!(1)

So after reminding the Corinthian followers of Jesus that they represented his body—a body with many members and unique gifts and functions—Paul lifts up love as the height of what it means to be a mature human being:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing….Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away….but now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (13:1-3, 8, 13).

Often, as I survey various communities in our world today, I see the same kind of division and derision, as was present in the Corinthian community. More often than not, one encounters a war of information, argumentation based on this book or that claim, this person’s authority or that person’s expertise. Quick to criticize and lambaste, noisy gongs and clanging cymbals abound; but the love that never fails is a rare and fleeting occurrence. How does one make sense of all this, particularly in light of Paul’s proclamation that without love we are nothing?

Perhaps part of the reason why there is so little love is that there is a fear that to love is somehow to compromise. Many feel the strong need to disassociate with the way love is commonly defined; as unthinking acceptance, an anything goes, an ‘I’m ok you’re ok’ easy love as bland and undefined as gelatin. Surely, the Apostle Paul’s understanding goes far beyond this flabby view of love. After all, he spends the majority of his first letter to the Corinthians exhorting their bad behavior by virtue of their lack of love.

Yet, I sometimes worry that a reticence to extend love to others without condition belies a forgetfulness about the conditions of our acceptance by God. Paul writes to the Romans, “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). If God loved us while we were yet sinners, why do we find it so hard to love others?;

In a world that largely perceives Christians to be in-fighters, hypocritical, argumentative, and judgmental naysayers, would it not demonstrate maturity to reexamine our fear of what it might look like if we tried to take Paul’s words about love to heart?

Would it, or could it look like creating seminaries in the prisons, as has been done at Louisiana’s maximum security prison at Angola? Would it, or could it look like working with different Christian fellowships towards a vital social goal despite denominational differences or theological disagreements? Would it, or could it look like proactive movement to engage the culture rather than reactive retreat? Would it, or should it look like growing into mature human beings? Paul continues,

When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

In Jesus, the full stature and maturity of humanity is on display. He taught that love was the summary of all that had gone before, and fulfillment of the entire law and the message of the prophets—love God and love your neighbor as yourself. If the greatest of the virtues is love, as affirmed by Jesus and the apostle Paul, can all who seek to follow envision becoming a community that seeks to make love their chief responsibility and goal?(2) Now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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

(1) See 1 Corinthians 1:10-14; 3:1-10; 4:14-21; 5:1-13; 6:1-11; 7; 8:1-4 as examples.

(2) Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34.

Alistair Begg – Away Then, All Fears

 

She wags her head behind you – the daughter of Jerusalem. Isaiah 37:22

Reassured by the Word of the Lord, the poor trembling citizens of Zion grew bold and shook their heads at Sennacherib’s boastful threats. Strong faith enables the servants of God to look with calm contempt upon their most haughty foes. We know that our enemies are attempting impossibilities. They seek to destroy eternal life, which cannot die while Jesus lives-to overthrow the citadel, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. They kick against the goads to their own wounding and defiantly charge against God to their own hurt.

We know their weakness. What are they but men? And what is man but a worm? They roar and swell like waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame. When the Lord arises, they shall fly as chaff before the wind and be consumed as crackling thorns. Their utter powerlessness to do damage to the cause of God and His truth may make the weakest soldiers in Zion’s ranks laugh them to scorn.

Above all, we know that the Most High is with us, and when He clothes Himself in armor, where are His enemies? If He comes forth from His place, the fragments of the earth will not long contend with their Maker. His rod of iron shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel, and their very remembrance shall perish from the earth. Away, then, all fears-the kingdom is safe in the King’s hands. Let us shout for joy, for the Lord reigns, and His foes shall be as straw for compost.

As true as God’s own word is true;

Nor earth, nor hell, with all their crew,

Against us shall prevail.

A jest, and byword, are they grown;

God is with us, we are his own,

Our victory cannot fail.

The Family Bible Reading Plan

  • Judges 4
  • Acts 8

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

Charles Spurgeon – Continental tour H2

 

Suggested Reading: Philippians 2:12-16

At Zurich I saw in the great fair what I also saw at Baden-Baden, a sight which gave me pleasure, namely, the little star of truth shining amid the darkness. Opposite the house at Baden, where Satan was winning souls at the gaming table, there was a little stall at which an agent of the Bible Society was selling Bibles and Testaments. I went up and bought a Testament from him, and felt quite cheered to see the little battery erected right before the fortifications of Satan, for I felt in my soul it was mighty through God to the pulling down of the stronghold. There in the midst of the fair at Zurich where they were selling all manner of things, like John Bunyan’s Vanity Fair, there stood a humble looking man with his stall, upon which there were Bibles, Testaments, and Mr Ryle’s Tracts. It is always a great comfort to me to see my sermons in French and other languages sold at the same shops as those of that excellent man of God. There is the simple gospel in his tracts, and they are to my knowledge singularly owned of God. How sweet it is to see these dear brethren in other churches, loving our Lord, and honoured by him. At Lucerne we stopped and spent our third Sabbath day and of all days in the year, Sabbath days on the Continent are most wretched, so far as the means of grace are concerned. This, however, was spent in quiet worship in our own chamber. Our first Sabbath was a dead waste, for the service at church was lifeless, spiritless, graceless, powerless. Even the grand old prayers were so badly read, that it was impossible to be devout while hearing them, and the sermon upon “The justice of God in destroying the Canaanites,” was as much adapted to convert a sinner, or to edify a saint, as Burke’s Peerage, or Walker’s dictionary.

For meditation: In what ways do you think Spurgeon would have applied the title of the sermon which so disappointed him, so that it could be beneficial to saint and sinner alike?

Part of nos. 331-332

21 July

John MacArthur – Remembering Your Inheritance

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

Victory over present circumstances comes when you focus on your eternal inheritance and praise God for it.

One amazing privilege you have as a Christian is to be the beneficiary of a rich and exciting spiritual inheritance. Jesus gave us a glimpse of its magnitude when He said, “The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'” (Matt. 25:34). The kingdom itself is part of your inheritance!

This inheritance is shared by every child of God. Hebrews 9:15 says that Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that . . . those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Jesus commissioned Paul to preach to the Gentiles “so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Him]” (Acts 26:18).

No one can fully understand “all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Consequently, at times you might forget that you’re a child of the King and begin to act like this world is all you have to live for. God may even have to discipline you from time to time to correct your behavior. But someday you will be all God created you to be and will know the full glory of your inheritance. In the meantime, be diligent to “set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth” (Col. 3:2). Focus on your inheritance and praise God for it. That will help you see beyond your present circumstances to the glory that awaits you when Jesus calls you home.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the rich inheritance that is yours in Christ.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter chapter 1.

  • What spiritual privileges did Peter mention?
  • What commands did he give?
  • Is there any connection between those privileges and commands? Explain.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – His Spirit Tells Us

 

“That is what is meant by the Scriptures which say that no mere man has ever seen, heard or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord. But we know about these things because God has sent His Spirit to tell us, and His Spirit searches out and shows us all of God’s deepest secrets” (1 Corinthians 2:9,10).

For many years, on every populated continent, I have asked millions of Christians this question: “What is the greatest thing that has ever happened to you since you became a Christian?”

The answer invariably has been: “To experience the reality, power, control and fruit of the Holy Spirit.” There is no other truth that so transforms the life of the Christian and enables him to be fruitful for the glory of God.

Two strangers were viewing the Niagara whirlpool rapids one day and one said to the other, “Come and I’ll show you the greatest unused power in the world.”

Taking him to the foot of Niagara Falls, he said, “There is the greatest unused power in the world!”

“Oh, no my friend,” came the reply, “not so. The greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the living God.”

Christ’s strength is given to us through the Holy Spirit to meet our every need. How do we receive that strength, that supernatural power?

As Christians, we have the potential within us, in the person of God’s Holy Spirit, but sin hinders the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

By confessing all our known sin and appropriating that supernatural power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can, by faith, be filled and continue to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, according to God’s Word, the Holy Spirit ministers to our every need.

When we by faith are filled with the Holy Spirit, He guides us, empowers us, makes us holy, bears witness in our lives, comforts us, gives us joy, gives discernment, bears fruit in and through our lives and gives us spiritual gifts for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Bible Reading: I Corinthians 2:11-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will by faith appropriate the greatest unused power in the world today, the supernatural power of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit who enables me to live a supernatural life. I will share with someone today how he, too, can live a supernatural life.