Charles Stanley – Softening Your Heart

 

Psalm 25

When you are continually on your face before God, seeking Him in His Word, His presence will saturate your heart, making it sensitive and teachable. Just as a marriage relationship can begin to grow cold unless proactive steps are taken daily to keep it warm, your heart can gradually harden when you aren’t seeking intimacy with God. You must also obediently—and promptly—respond to whatever He tells you to do so that your heart will stay soft and receptive. Then it won’t take much for the Lord to get your attention, and when He convicts you of sin, you will want to deal with the problem right away. This is why we must walk in the Spirit moment by moment.

If you believe that God might be leading you in a certain direction, take the time to earnestly seek His mind on the matter, and open your heart to listen to Him. Be careful about getting busy with a substitute for what He originally called you to do.

It would be tragic to work extra hard doing what you and others consider good, only to discover that your effort was expended in accomplishing something that was not God’s intention. Resisting the Lord often amounts to putting your life on the shelf, which leaves you feeling that something is missing. There is no substitute for God’s will, even when His plan might seem difficult or impossible. But when you trust Him with a cooperative heart, there is no limit to what God can do through your life. Step out in obedience today and say, “Lord, I want Your will—no matter what.”

Bible in One Year:Isaiah 1-3

Our Daily Bread — An Exchange

 

Read: Psalm 32

Bible in a Year: Psalms 31-32; Acts 23:16-35

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. —Psalm 32:5

Jen sat on her patio pondering a scary question: Should she write a book? She had enjoyed writing a blog and speaking in public but felt God might want her to do more. “I asked God if He wanted me to do this,” she said. She talked with Him and asked for His leading.

She began to wonder if God wanted her to write about her husband’s pornography addiction and how God was working in his life and their marriage. But then she thought that it might publicly disrespect him. So she prayed, “What if we wrote it together?” and she asked her husband Craig. He agreed.

While he didn’t say what sin he committed, King David engaged in a public conversation about his struggles. He even put them into song. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away,” he wrote (Ps. 32:3 niv). So he said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” (v. 5). Not everyone should go public with their private battles. But when David confessed his sin, he found peace and healing that inspired him to worship God.

Craig and Jen say that the process of writing their deeply personal story has brought them closer than ever. How like God, who loves to exchange our guilt, shame, and isolation for His forgiveness, courage, and community! —Tim Gustafson

Do you need to make an exchange with God of guilt for forgiveness? He is listening.

God forgives those who confess their guilt.

INSIGHT: Like many psalms, Psalm 32 was written after a time of struggle and hardship. That is why it begins with such a wonderful and comforting affirmation: “Blessed is the one . . .” (vv. 1-2 niv). But we must not overlook the path David took to be able to make that statement. David had gone through anxiety and depression while hiding his sin. The blessing came only when he acknowledged and confessed it to the Lord (v. 5).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Scandalous Windows

 

Christian theologians often speak of the “scandal of particularity” that surrounds the gospel. The absurdity of God becoming incarnate in Christ within human history is hard to escape. In other words, it is a scandal to suggest that God somehow stepped into a particular moment in time, the heavens somehow opening like a window. It is scandalous that an unknowable God should somehow become so particularly known.

The prayer of Isaiah conveyed in chapter 64 is one that boldly confronts us with this very scandal. The particularity of the moment in which God, prophet, and the people of Israel are speaking is unmistakable: “Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down! That the mountains would quake at your presence” (64:1). This cry of longing and remembrance is one wrought out of a great and terrible history, the storied and convoluted relationship of a God called Yahweh and his chosen, wandering people. And yet, there are certainly many who, when reading these words, feel as if Isaiah has torn out their own storied and convoluted hearts and placed them upon the page: Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come nearer! Multiplying the scandal of this particular ancient longing is this Father who is as able to speak to a particular post-exilic people as He is to you and me, here and now.

Adding to this picture, Isaiah’s words strike me as those a person in Bethlehem could likely have been uttering on the night Christ was born (or you or me hundreds of years later). In the days of Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the people of Israel were living in a period of silence. It had been over four hundred years since God had spoken of a coming redeemer and his forerunner through the prophet Malachi. Malachi had called the people again to anticipate and to be prepared for the day that was coming. But in the quiet nights of four hundred years, even the faithful stumble and doubt. How long had devoted pilgrims been repeating to themselves: “From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (64:4). Yet on doubt-ridden nights, the waiting was no doubt for them as wearying as it is today, the silence daunting, the longing unsilenceable, convinced it is we who are foul and repelling. “[Y]ou have hidden your face from us, and have melted us into the hand of our iniquity,” laments Isaiah (64:7).

Whether uttered aloud or groaned silently, how often our longings convey something of the same convoluted emotions—trust and fear, hope and dejection, frustration and guilt. Ours, too, are the cries of a desperate people, wrought with a sense of longing, burdened by a sense of shame. Isaiah’s next question—”How then can we be saved?”—is one we, too, might utter, at times cynically, accusingly; while other times whispered as a prayer or burdened confession (64:5).

Regardless, it is precisely here, in the darkness of post-exilic Jerusalem, in the night of God’s silence, or in the cry of one who is all too aware of the rift of sin, that the very particular cry for God to come down is met with the scandalous assurance of radical and particular belonging. Indeed, Isaiah concludes to God, “[E]ven if no one is calling your name, bestirring himself to take hold of you, because you have hidden your face from us, and melted us down by means of our iniquities, now, Yahweh, you are still our father! We are the clay, and you are our potter. All of us are the work of your hand!” (64:7-8). It is reminiscent of Bonhoeffer’s description of a mining accident and the hope of the Incarnation as the distinct sound of knocking to those trapped beneath the weight of the earth. There is someone coming whether we want him or not, and he is calling your name.

The great window of a torn-open heavens and the massive ladder of a God who descends are the expectant images that tell us the hopeful story of a God who is scandalously near—whether we want God to be near or not. Picturing this hope, our imaginations can run wild at the thought of quaking mountains, awesome deeds, and great reversals we did not expect. But so these windows and ladders are the stirring and expectant vessels of smaller and seemingly insignificant glimpses of a God among us. Even in the soul who can only partially admit that he is a wandering child is something of the radical reach of a Father’s love. In the company of a friend through cancer or the sting of death is the image of the one who is nearer than a friend.

In Isaiah’s particular cry is an invitation to pay attention to the unlikely and the unexpected in the great windows of history and the small windows of daily life. Isaiah’s particular cry is an invitation to hear the cries of those before us as well as the cries of our hearts, which may just be answered by the cry of a God who hears particularly. Indeed, how scandalous is the image of the infant Christ looking up at his young mother, his own cries joining humanity’s own? There was a particular moment in history when humanity heard God weep. And there will be a day in history when this same Christ will dry every tear from our eyes.

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

Alistair Begg – Heaven’s Marriage

 

I am your master. Jeremiah 3:14

Christ Jesus is joined unto His people in marriage-union. In love He espoused His Church as a chaste virgin, long before she fell under the yoke of bondage. Full of burning affection He toiled, like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid; and now, having sought her by His Spirit and brought her to know and love Him, He awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.

The glorious Bridegroom has not yet presented His betrothed, perfected and complete, before the Majesty of heaven; she has not yet actually entered upon the enjoyment of her dignities as His wife and queen. She is as still a wanderer in a world of woe, a dweller in the tents of Kedar;1 but she is even now the bride, the spouse of Jesus, dear to His heart, precious in His sight, written on His hands, and united with His person.

On earth He exercises toward her all the affectionate offices of Husband. He makes rich provision for her wants, pays all her debts, allows her to assume His name and to share in all His wealth. Nor will He ever act otherwise to her. The word divorce He will never mention, for He hates it. Death inevitably severs the conjugal tie between the most loving mortals, but it cannot divide the links of this immortal marriage. In heaven they marry not but are as the angels of God; yet there is this one marvelous exception to the rule, for in Heaven Christ and His Church shall celebrate their joyous nuptials.

This affinity, as it is more lasting, so is it more near than earthly marriage. The love of husband, no matter how pure and fervent, is but a faint picture of the flame that burns in the heart of Jesus. Passing all human union is that mystical cleaving unto the Church, for which Christ left His Father and became one flesh with her.

1) Psalm 120:5

The Family Bible Reading Plan

  • Judges 5
  • Acts 9

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

Charles Spurgeon – Continental tour H3

 

Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

I was allowed to stand in the pulpit of John Calvin. I am not superstitious, but the first time I saw this medal bearing the venerated effigy of John Calvin I kissed it, imagining that no one saw the action. I was very greatly surprised when I received this magnificent present, which shall be passed round for your inspection. On the one side is John Calvin with his visage worn by disease and deep thought, and on the other side is a verse fully applicable to that man of God. “He endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” That is the very character of the man. That glorious man, Calvin! I preached in the cathedral. I do not think half the people understood me in the Cathedral of St. Peter’s; but they were very glad to see and join in heart with the worship in which they could not join with understanding. I did not feel very happy when I came out in full clergyman’s dress, but the request was put to me in such a beautiful way that I could have worn the Pope’s tiara, if by so doing I could preach the gospel more freely. They said,—“Our dear brother comes to us from another country. Now, when an ambassador comes from another country, he has a right to wear his own costume at Court; but, as a mark of very great esteem, he sometimes condescends to the manners of the country which he visits, and wears the Court dress.” “Well,” I said—“yes, that I will, certainly, if you do not require it, but merely ask it as a token of my Christian love. I shall feel like running in a sack, but it will be your fault.” But it was John Calvin’s cloak, and that reconciled it to me very much. I do love that man of God, suffering all his life long, enduring not only persecutions from without but a complication of disorders from within; and yet serving his Master with all his heart.

For meditation: The advice “When in Rome do as the Romans do” may lead the believer into unhealthy compromise. When in Geneva Spurgeon willingly became as a Genevan for the sake of the gospel. Does the same thought motivate us to be adaptable, without compromise, in order to win all sorts and conditions of men?

Part of nos. 331-332

22 July

John MacArthur – Praising God for Your Eternal Inheritance

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3).

God has blessed you richly and is worthy of your praise.

The source of your eternal inheritance is God, whom Peter described in several ways. First, He is our blessed God (1 Pet. 1:3). The Greek word translated “blessed” in that verse speaks of that which is worthy of blessing, adoration, praise, or worship. Peter’s praise for God is an example for us to follow. Our God is especially worthy of our praise in light of the glorious inheritance He has granted us in His Son (v. 4).

“Father” to the Jewish people of Peter’s day was one designation for God. The most common Jewish blessings emphasized God as Creator of all things and Redeemer of His people from Egypt, but not as Father (e.g., Gen. 14:20; 24:27; Ex. 18:10). Yet now through Christ, we “have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! [Daddy!] Father!'” (Rom. 8:16).

As wonderful a reality as the fatherhood of God is, Peter’s reference was not primarily to God as our Father, but as Christ’s Father. Their unique relationship affirms Christ’s deity (cf. John 10:30-33). God is the Father of believers in a secondary sense because He has redeemed us through Christ and adopted us into His family (Gal. 4:4-6).

In referring to Christ as “our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3), Peter amplifies His redemptive work. “Lord” speaks of His sovereign rulership; “Jesus” is His name as God in human flesh; and “Christ” identifies Him as the Messiah, the anointed King.

Peter’s final description of God is seen in the pronoun “our.” He is “our Lord Jesus Christ,” a personal Lord and Savior—not some distant, impersonal deity. He created and redeemed you because He loves you and wants to be intimately involved in every aspect of your life.

What a glorious God we serve! Worship Him today as He deserves to be worshiped.

Suggestions for Prayer

Bless God, who is your Father, your Redeemer, your constant companion, and the source of your eternal inheritance.

For Further Study

Read John 4:1-26. What did Jesus say about the fatherhood of God?

Joyce Meyer – You Are Not Alone

 

And even he who is brave, whose heart is as the heart of a lion, will utterly melt. —2 Samuel 17:10

We are all brave in some areas and fearful in others. The pendulum may swing one way or the other, but we all have some of both. For example, a woman we will call Theresa was timid and shy, and yet was very brave when it came to facing pain and tragedy. She had cancer at the age of thirty-two and endured surgery and painful radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Theresa also had three miscarriages before she finally gave birth to a healthy child. She bore these difficulties graciously, bravely, and with little complaint.

Janice, a friend of Theresa’s, was bold and aggressive and appeared to be fearless until she suddenly lost her job of twenty years and her 401(k) retirement program to corporate fraud. She faced tragedy but did not handle it graciously. She displayed fear that amazed those who knew her.

It’s important for us to realize that we are not alone in our battles with fear. The devil wants nothing better than to convince you that there is something really wrong with you and that other normal people don’t have the same kinds of problems. Don’t let him do it; all of us experience fear.

Lord, You know me inside and out. You see my strengths and weaknesses. I trust You to be working and equipping me to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. Help me to be brave, knowing that You are with me. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Glorious Future

 

“As for the one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; he will be secure, and will go out no more; and I will write my God’s Name on him, and he will be a citizen in the city of my God – the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from my God; and he will have my new Name inscribed upon him” (Revelation 3:12).

You and I shall some day be in that beautiful temple in Jerusalem – to rule and reign with the King of kings and Lord of lords forever and forever.

Can you see it now? While we do not know – and need not know – all the incidental details and circumstances, we know enough from God’s holy Word to know that some day we shall be with Him, never to be separated. That is the cause for shouting and rejoicing.

And we need not be terrified by the condition that we must be conquerors before we qualify for any of these promised blessings. Has He not told us that we are already “more than conquerors?”

Here again we have that promise of the new name, thought by some to be the very name of Christ Himself – certainly worthy of attainment, whatever its true meaning.

To be “heirs with God and joint-heirs with Christ” holds all the wonderful promise that the human mind can imagine. Just to be with Him is enough; to know that He adds blessing upon blessing as we rule and reign with Him – that is unparalleled joy indeed.

Bible Reading: Revelation 3:7-13

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With a quick look at the future, I’ll do my best to make this day all that God intends for me, especially in my outreach to others.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Outstanding Combination

 

Have you noticed how the keepers of justice in America are losing favor with the public? Whether local magistrates, regional courts or even members of the nation’s highest, the Supreme Court, you mostly hear of derision…and not much in the way of praise. Even so, this nation’s system of justice is still considered the most equitable in the world.

Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!

Psalm 106:3

An outstanding combination of observing justice and doing righteousness simultaneously came from the relatives of the Christians massacred at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston last month. At the arraignment of the young perpetrator, they all expressed thankfulness in advance for knowing the justice he will receive at the hands of the state; but at the same time, they offered their forgiveness to him. Whether they can maintain that through their grief, only God knows. There is no doubt, though, that He will strengthen the victim’s families in the days to come.

Today, intercede for those whose lives are forever changed by one heinous act. Pray for the judges and justices who will eventually deal with the young perpetrator – and ask God to give wisdom to your members of Congress as they consider legislation that could grow out of that event.

Recommended Reading: Micah 6:1-8

Greg Laurie – Deal Quickly with Sin

 

A little leaven leavens the whole lump. —Galatians 5:9

Israel committed a great sin. They knew better. They were God’s chosen, covenant people. They had seen his power demonstrated time and time again. They saw the Red Sea parted as they passed through, and they saw it close on the pursuing Egyptian army. They saw manna provided every morning. They saw God’s fire by night and His cloud by day. They saw miracle after miracle. They made a promise to obey God on three separate occasions. Much had been given to Israel, and much was expected from Israel.

So when they worshiped the golden calf that Aaron formed from the jewelry they willingly gave him, it was a radical sin. And it would be dealt with harshly. When Moses arrived, he threw down the commandments, took their golden calf, ground it into powder, put it into water, and then made them drink it. Then he gave the command for a number of them to be put to death for their sin.

It almost seems unfair that God would deal so harshly with these people. But frankly, God doesn’t owe us the time of day, much less an explanation of why He does or does not do certain things. He just does what He is going to do.

Basically God was saying, “I hate sin. It will not be tolerated. It must be dealt with swiftly, lest it spreads and do even more harm.”

The Bible compares sin to leaven, which is yeast that is put into bread to cause it to rise before baking. It is always a picture of evil in the Bible. We could say that sin is like cancer. It needs to be cut out before it metastasizes, before it spreads through someone’s system. That is why the Lord tells us to deal quickly with sin.

Max Lucado – Make God Your Refuge

Refuge is a favorite word of David’s. You will count as many as forty-plus appearances in some Bible versions. But never did David use the word more poignantly than in Psalm 57. The introduction to the passage explains its background: “A song of David when he fled from Saul into the cave.” Lost in shadows and thought, he has nowhere to turn. Go home, he endangers his family; to the tabernacle, he imperils the priests. Saul will kill him. Here he sits. All alone. But then he remembers he’s not. And from the recesses of the cave a sweet voice floats:

“Be merciful to me, O God!

For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I make my refuge.” (Psalm 57:1)

Make God your refuge. Let Him be the foundation on which you stand!

From Facing Your Giants

Night Light for Couples – Manipulating Our Maker?

 

“If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

It’s tempting for some of us to view our Lord as a heavenly “Mr. Fix‐It”—a supernatural problem solver who can be manipulated according to our whims. We might make a little wager on our favorite football team and then pray for God to intervene so our team will win. Or on the day of the church picnic, we might pray for a rainstorm so we don’t have to fix that potato salad we promised to bring.

Others see prayer as a negotiating tool. They want to make a deal with God: “Lord, if You give me this promotion at work… or allow me to get pregnant this month…or let that car at the dealership still be on sale… then I promise I’ll do [fill in the blank] for You.”

Of course these are foolish bargains that reveal a misunderstanding of the majesty of God. He is Lord of lords, King of kings, and Creator of all heaven and earth. He is not a deal maker who allows Himself to be manipulated. Instead, He wants us to carefully consider His will for our lives before we pray. Prayer is a privilege—a direct line to the Lord’s eternal wisdom and love. Let’s not forget what a blessing it is just to come into His presence.

Just between us…

  • Have you ever tried to manipulate God through prayer?
  • How can we be sure our prayer petitions are within God’s will?
  • Do our prayers include adoration, devotion, and intercession, or do they represent merely a daily “wish list”?
  • How might our relationship change if we focused on prayer from

God’s perspective?

Heavenly Father, thank You for the privilege of bringing our requests to You. Give us a deep desire for Your will—not ours—for our marriage, and help us to shape our prayers and our priorities accordingly. Amen.

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