Charles Stanley – Waiting for God to Answer

 

Psalm 17:1-6

Yesterday we learned several reasons why a prayer may seem to go unanswered. Let’s consider more possibilities.

One is unconfessed sin. God promises to forgive us once we admit our action is wrong and turn away from it (1 John 1:9). But if our confession is mere lip service or we persist in ungodly ways, petitions won’t be granted. An unrepentant heart always hinders our prayer life.

What about those times when our heart is right and what we ask is in line with God’s will, but He remains silent? Sometimes He waits because our longing for Him is in danger of being replaced by our desire for something else. Certain petitions—such as a request for a spouse, a baby, or a loved one’s healing—generate strong emotions in us. Unless we are careful, these desires could divert our attention from God. He will not share first place with anyone or anything. So sometimes He patiently waits for our focus to return to Him before He answers.

At other times, God uses delays to prepare us for future service or greater blessing. He could be protecting us from consequences we fail to see, or He may want to strengthen our trust. Strong faith means believing Him even in trials, persevering while awaiting an answer, and being confident that He always keeps His promises.

Prayer is the communication link between us and our loving Father. Instead of letting “static” block His message to us, we must confess and turn from all known sin. Then we’ll be able to hear God’s voice and obediently carry out whatever He asks.

Bible in One Year: Isaiah 8-10

Our Daily Bread — Our Daily Bread — Speak Up

 

Read: Luke 22:54-65

Bible in a Year: Psalms 35-36; Acts 25

Having arrested [Jesus], they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance. —Luke 22:54

When I hear stories about young people who have been bullied, I notice there are always at least two levels of hurt. The first and most obvious comes from the mean-spirited nature of those actually doing the bullying. That’s terrible on its own. But there’s another, deeper hurt that may end up being even more damaging than the first: The silence of everyone else.

It hurts the one being bullied because they’re stunned that no one will help. That often makes bullies more brazen, leading them to intensify their meanness. Worse, it heightens the embarrassment, false shame, and loneliness of the victim. So it is imperative to speak up for others and speak out against the behavior (see Prov. 31:8a).

Jesus knows precisely what it feels like to be bullied and to be left to suffer completely alone. Without cause, He was arrested, beaten, and mocked (Luke 22:63-65). Matthew 26:56 says that “all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Peter, one of His closest friends, even denied three times that he knew Him (Luke 22:61). While others may not understand fully, Jesus does.

When we see others being hurt, we can ask Him for the courage to speak up. —Randy Kilgore

Make us brave, Lord, for those who need our courage. Help us to speak for others and show them that You know their hurt and loneliness.

The voice of a courageous Christian is an echo of the voice of God.

INSIGHT: Luke’s inspired account of the life of Jesus reflects Luke’s profession as a physician. He alone is the only gospel writer who records that while Jesus was praying on the night before He was arrested “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (v. 44 niv). This unusual detail underscores the amazing demonstration of love seen in Christ’s suffering for us. Additionally, only Luke records that Jesus healed the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest who had been attacked by Peter (vv. 50-51). Both of these details reflect the knowledge of a medical person.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A World Invisible

 

Aristotle once said that the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor, an eye for resemblances.(1) The prophet Isaiah had an eye for a God so near to his people that he saw the heavens being torn open and God stepping down to be among us. “O that you would rend the heavens and come down! That the mountains would quake at your presence.”(2) This commanding metaphor gave Isaiah an eye for the resemblances of God all around him, and sparked every word of the prophet who spoke so that the world too would see more.

I have a friend who refers to people like Isaiah, those with a vision for God and God’s resemblances throughout the world, as “eyes of the kingdom.” There are times when these visionaries surprise us as much as the resemblances of the God they call us to see. A homeless man in nineteenth century London was one such visionary, lamenting the ease with which we often miss the very thing in front of us:

The angels keep their ancient places—

Turn but a stone and start a wing!

‘Tis ye, ’tis your estranged faces,

That miss the many-splendored thing.(3)

The poem is titled “In No Strange Land” and was written by a man whose life oscillated between brilliant writer and homeless addict. Francis Thompson lived on the streets of England, slaking his opium addiction in London’s Charing Cross and sleeping on the banks of the River Thames. But he continued to scribble poetry on whatever paper he could find, often mailing his work to the local newspaper. “In No Strange Land” is one of the poems Thompson mailed from the streets of homelessness.

The tone of the poem is not unlike the prayer of Isaiah 64. Thompson begins with the great reality and oft unrecognized hope that is before us:

O world invisible, we view thee,

Intangible, we touch thee,

Unknowable, we know thee,

Inapprehensible, we clutch thee.

His words are reminiscent of the gift Isaiah reminds us is ours: that we are able to recount the gracious deeds of God, to see the hand of the Potter in dark times of history, to call him Father even now in the midst of blindness from sin or sadness, disappointment or distraction. The rhetorical question that follows Thompson’s praise of the unnoticed inquires of our often short-sighted vision and demanding questions to God:

Does the fish soar to find the ocean?

The eagle plunge to find the air—

That we ask of the stars in motion

If they have rumor of thee there?

Thompson wonders why we insist upon interrogating a distant God, when God may just be standing beside us. The poem brings to mind the crux of Isaiah’s vision and metaphor—namely, that there is a God whose throne is before us, though our tendency is to miss it all together. As commentator John Watts notes,

“[Our] failure…to see God’s vision, to hear God’s voice, and to rise above human goals of pride, striving, and independence adds a tragic dimension to the vision [of Isaiah]. To the bitter end a large proportion of the people cling to their version of the past as the only acceptable pattern for their present and their future. They demand that God conform to their concept of what his plans ought to be and thus preclude themselves from participation in God’s new creation.”(4)

Both Thompson and Isaiah use the power of image and metaphor to bid us to look again and again, and learn to live as eyes of the kingdom. While it is true that God sometimes comes down and unmistakably transforms time and place, other times we fail to see the sacred in our midst simply because we do not want to see anything subtle. We pass over what God has extended, whether a sign of grace, a moment of transcendence, or a richer lifetime of seeing his presence. And we ironically miss the images of God all around us within a world that is made in God’s image. As the unlikely poet laments:

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)

Cry—and upon thy so sore loss

Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder

Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,

Cry—clinging to Heaven by the hems;

And lo, Christ walking on the water,

Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

Thompson invites us to see the scandal of the particular in the story of God and the stories of our own lives. There is indeed a certain traffic about Jacob’s ancient ladder, but it may well be pitched between Heaven and Charing Cross, New York City, or Hong Kong. Christ may well come walking on the water, though perhaps not from the direction of Gennesareth, but Thames.

Like the vision of the prophet Isaiah, life itself can remind us of the coming of a deliverer, the drawing near of God to humankind, the arrival of the human Son of God, our rescuer, into our very midst. A voice is indeed crying out of the wilderness: Who will have ears to hear it, eyes to see it? Francis Thompson’s “In No Strange Land” is a call to see the strange particulars of Christ’s story, but to also see him in the faces and stories before us, perhaps even in the unlikely story of a homeless man sleeping on the banks of the river Thames.

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

(1) Quoted in Leland Ryken, Ed., The Christian Imagination(Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2002), 403.

(2) Isaiah 64:1.

(3) Francis Thompson, “In No Strange Land,” The Hound of Heaven and Other Poems (Wellesley, MA: Branden Books, 2000), 78.

(4) Watts, John D. W.: Word Biblical Commentary: Isaiah 1-33. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 24), xxix.

Alistair Begg – Constrained on All Sides

 

Stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord. Exodus 14:13

These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is reduced to great straits and brought into extraordinary difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master’s word to him is, “Stand firm.” It will be well for him if at such times he listens only to his Master’s word, for other and evil advisers come with their suggestions.

Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.” But God would have us put on a cheerful courage and even in our worst times rejoice in His love and faithfulness. Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action; you cannot play the Christian’s part-it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.” But however much Satan may urge this course upon you, you cannot follow it if you are a child of God. His divine decree has bid you go from strength to strength, and so you shall, and neither death nor hell shall turn you from your course. Even if you are called to stand firm for a while, this is in order to renew your strength for some greater advance in due time.

Precipitancy cries, “Do something. Stir yourself; to stand still and wait is sheer idleness.” We must be doing something at once-we must do it, so we think-instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something but will do everything. Presumption boasts, “If the sea is before you, march into it and expect a miracle.”

But faith listens neither to presumption, nor to despair, nor to cowardice, nor to precipitancy, but it hears God say, “Stand firm,” and immovable as a rock it stands. “Stand firm”-keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long before God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, “Go forward.”

The Family Bible Reading Plan

  • Judges 7
  • Acts 11

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

 

Charles Spurgeon – How saints may help the devil

 

“That thou mayest bear thine own shame, and mayest be confounded in all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them.” Ezekiel 16:54

Suggested Further Reading: Nehemiah 5:1-9

The church of Christ appears to be as worldly as the world itself, and professors of religion have become as sharp in trade and as ungenerous in their dealing as those that have never professed to serve him. And now what does the world say? It throws this in our teeth. If it is accused of loving the things of time and sense, it answers, “And so do you.” If we tell the world that it has set its hopes upon a shadow, it replies, “But we have set our hope upon the selfsame thing in which you are trusting; you are as worldly, as grasping, as covetous as we are; your protest has lost its force; you are no longer witnesses against us—we are accusers of you.” Another point in which the sinner often excuses himself is the manifest worldliness of many Christians. You will see Christian men and women as fond of dress, and as pleased with the frivolities of the age, as any other persons possible could be; just as anxious to adorn their outward person, so as to be seen of men; just as ambitious to win the praise which fools accord to fine dressing, as the most silly fop or the most gaudy among worldly women. What saith the world, when we turn round to it, and accuse it of being a mere butterfly, and finding all its pleasures in gaudy toys? “Oh! Yes,” it says, “we know your cant, but it is just the same with you. Do you not stand up and sing,

‘Jewels to thee are gaudy toys,

And gold is sordid dust’

And yet you are just as fond of glittering as we are; your doctors of divinity pride themselves just as much in their D.D. as any of us in other titles.”

For meditation: Do your deeds give the world reasons to glorify God (Matthew 5:16) or excuses to blaspheme God (Romans 2:24)?

Sermon no. 264

24 July (1859)

John MacArthur – Inheriting Heaven or Hell

 

“[God] caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).

Everyone receives an eternal inheritance—either Heaven or Hell.

We have seen several aspects of the believer’s inheritance, and will see more in future days. But realize that unbelievers also will receive an inheritance, for Jesus will say to them, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:41, 46).

Only Christians have eternal life and a royal inheritance. When you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you became a new creation in Christ and your life began to center on Him rather than yourself. The Holy Spirit indwelt you and began to transform your attitudes and actions. That’s the new birth! It’s like starting all over again, only this time you’re pursuing God’s glory rather than worldly pleasures or goals.

Also, when you were saved you became an heir of God and a fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). So the new birth was the means of your salvation and your eternal inheritance.

Having said that, I must admonish you, just as Paul admonished the Corinthians, to “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). You never want to be deluded about your relationship with Christ. When you trust in the living Lord, you have a living hope and a glorious eternal inheritance. Anything less results in an inheritance of eternal damnation.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25). Be sure your faith is firmly fixed on Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for family and friends who don’t know Christ. Ask the Lord to redeem them so He will be glorified, and they will become joint heirs with Christ.

For Further Study

What do these verses teach about the new birth: John 1:12-13, John 3:3, and 1 Peter 1:23?

 

Joyce Meyer – Content and Stable in All Circumstances

 

I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am. – Philippians 4:11

Stability and contentment enable us to enjoy our lives. I have discovered I like myself better when I am stable and content, and I think other people like me better this way too. I believe the same is true for you. Becoming emotionally stable and content is very important to a powerful life, and as you grow in these qualities, you’ll find yourself strengthened as never before.

Paul said he learned how to be content in all circumstances. Likewise, you will have to learn in this area and begin believing you can be content and stable before you actually see the fruit of it in your life. God’s Word states that we can and should speak of nonexistent things as if they already existed (see Romans 4:17). Begin to think and say you are content and emotionally stable, and it will help you become that way.

Power Thought: I am content and stable in all circumstances.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Can’t Keep on Sinning

 

“The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning, because now God’s life is in him; so he can’t keep on sinning, for this new life has been born into him and controls him – he has been born again” (1 John 3:9).

I am sobered by the very thought that, having served the Lord for more than 30 exciting, wonderful, fruitful years, I might yet dishonor His name and bring disgrace to His cause. I know what has happened to other brothers and sisters in Christ – some of whom had apparently at one time been Spirit- filled Christian leaders, and I know that I too could fail the Lord if I do not continue to trust and obey Him. Even the apostle Paul lived in reverential fear that he might dishonor the name and cause of our Lord.

“So be careful. If you are thinking, ‘Oh, I would never behave like that,’ let this be a warning to you. For you too may fall into sin. But remember this: The wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible.

“You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it, for He has promised this and will do what He says. He will show you how to escape temptation’s power so that you can bear up patiently against it” (1 Corinthians 10:12,13).

For many years it has been my prayer, as I pray on the offensive, “Oh, God, if there is a possibility that I may dishonor or disgrace Your name by becoming involved in a moral, financial or any other kind of scandal that you would discredit my ministry and nullify my love and witness for You, I would rather You take my life first before such a thing could happen.”

The Scripture warns all believers that any one of them, too, could fall. No one reaches the place of spiritual maturity or perfection where he can say, “I don’t need the Lord’s help anymore.” The only one who can enable us to live victorious lives is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Bible Reading: I John 2:21-29

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: At the very first sign of yielding to Satan in any way, large or small, I will remind the Lord of my utter dependence on Him and I will claim by faith His power to live a supernatural life.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – Unshakable

 

Psalm 117 is the shortest in the book with only two verses, but it packs a spiritual message equally as well as the lengthy Psalm 119. It invites people everywhere to turn to God and join believers in praising Him, extolling His greatness and giving thanks for what He has done.

Great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Psalm 117:2

Israel was a worshipping people, not necessarily a missionary nation, but many foreigners came to know Israel’s God by the wonders He performed for them (Joshua 2:8-11). You, as a believer, have been designated to carry the light of the gospel to the whole world (Acts 13:46-47). If you hesitate, be reminded of the Lord’s mercies – He saved you by grace, not by any of your works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

God is faithful. His character cannot change, His promises never fail, and His Word is always true. Though your faith may be shaken by feelings within or circumstances without, your Father’s faithfulness to you is unshakable. He is reliable always and loving and faithful forever. In these unsettled times in America, know the freedom you have in God to be a light in an era of darkness. Pray that you may be faithful.

Recommended Reading: Romans 15:2-13

Greg Laurie – Pleading with God

 

So the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.—Exodus 32:14

I find it amazing that Moses negotiated with God and got away with it. But he wasn’t the only one. Another man who negotiated with God was Abraham, and he was called the friend of God.

When God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham started praying. He said, “Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? . . . Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:24–25). He was actually telling God about His own nature.

God said, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city” (verse 26).

Then Abraham said, “Even though I am but dust and ashes. Suppose there are only forty-five righteous people rather than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” (verses 27–28).

Next Abraham threw out the prospect of forty people, then twenty people, and finally ten. Even then, God said He wouldn’t destroy the city if He could find only ten righteous people. But God couldn’t find ten people, and ultimately He judged Sodom.

Abraham could talk to God that way because he was His friend. It might seem irreverent, but it speaks of the closeness of his friendship with God.

In the same way, Moses negotiated with God to spare the Israelites after they worshiped the golden calf, and God spared them. Moses had changed from an impulsive prince of Egypt into a seasoned man of God who put it all on the line for his people.

Does this mean that we should argue with God? Not really. But it does mean that we should plead with God. We should intercede for people whom we care about.

Max Lucado – God Will Judge

 

 

God occupies the only seat on the supreme court of heaven. He wears the robe and refuses to share the gavel. Paul wrote in Romans 12:19, “Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’”

Vigilantes displace and replace God. I’m not sure you can handle this one, Lord. You may punish too little or too slowly. I’ll take this into my hands, thank you. Is this what you want to say? Jesus didn’t. No one had a clearer sense of right and wrong than the perfect Son of God. In 1 Peter 2:23 we’re reminded, “When He suffered, He didn’t make any threats but left everything to the one who judges fairly.” Only God assesses accurate judgments. Perfect justice. Vengeance is His job. Leave your enemies in God’s hands!

From Facing Your Giants

Night Light for Couples – Do You Want Me?

 

by Park York

I rise early on this Friday, as I do every day, to prepare coffee and mix a protein shake. The television news plays quietly in the corner. Flossie, my wife, is still asleep.

Sometime after eight, she begins floating out of slumber. I bring the shake to her bedside, put the straw in her mouth, and give her cheek a little pat as she begins to drink. Slowly the liquid recedes.

I sit there holding the glass, thinking about the past eight years. At first, she asked only an occasional incoherent or irrelevant question; otherwise she was normal. I tried for two years to find out what was wrong. She grew agitated, restless, defensive; she was constantly tired and unable to hold a conversation.

At last, a neurologist diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease. He said he wasn’t sure—a firm diagnosis could come only from examining brain tissue after death. There is no known cause for this malady. And no known cure.

I enrolled Flossie in a day care center for adults. But she kept wandering off the property. We medicated her to keep her calm. Perhaps from receiving too much of one drug, she suffered a violent seizure that left her immeasurably worse: lethargic, incontinent, and unable to speak clearly or care for herself. My anguish gradually became resignation. I gave up all plans of retirement travel, recreation, visits to see grandchildren—the golden era older people dream about.

The years have passed, and my days have become routine, demanding, lonely, seemingly without accomplishment to measure. Flossie has gradually dropped in strength and weight, from 125 pounds to 86. I take some time to work with a support group and to attend church, but the daily needs keep me feeding, bathing, diapering, changing beds, cleaning house, fixing meals, dressing and undressing her, and doing whatever else a nurse and homemaker does, morning to night.

Occasionally, a word bubbles up from the muddled processes of Flossie’s diseased brain. Sometimes relevant, sometimes the name of a family member, or the name of an object. Just a single word.

On this Friday morning, after she finishes her shake, I give her some apple juice, then massage her arms and caress her forehead and cheeks. Most of the time her eyes are closed, but today she looks up at me, and suddenly her mouth forms four words in a row.

“Do you want me?” Perfect enunciation, softly spoken. I want to jump for joy. “Of course I want you, Flossie!” I say, hugging and kissing her. And so, after months of total silence, she has put together the most sincere question a human being can ask. She speaks, in a way, for people everywhere: those shackled by sin, addiction, hunger, thirst, mental illness, physical pain—frightened, enervated people afraid of the answer, but desperate enough to frame the question anyway.

And, Flossie, I can answer you even more specifically. It may be difficult for you to understand what’s happening. That’s why I’m here, to minister God’s love to you, to bring you wholeness, comfort, and release. Mine are the hands God uses to do His work, just as He uses others’ hands in other places. In spite of our shortcomings, we strive to make people free, well, and happy, blessing them with hope for the future while bringing protein shakes every morning.

Looking ahead…

Unlike so many people today, this gentleman who so gently cared for his wife clearly understood the meaning of commitment. As her mind and body deteriorated with no hope for a cure, he willingly abandoned the hopes and dreams he had worked to achieve. She needed him desperately, and he would be there for her, even though she could give nothing back—not even a rational “thank you.” This, in all its magnificence— and sorrow—is the meaning of love.

No doubt you have dreams of your own for the rest of your married life. Just remember that God may have other plans that depend on your unswerving commitment to each other—no matter what.

– James C Dobson

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

C.S. Lewis Daily – Today’s Reading

 

On the lord’s prayer

We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer; it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive, you will not be forgiven. No part of His teaching is clearer, and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t, we shall be forgiven none of our own.

From The Weight of Glory

Compiled in Words to Live By C.S. Lewis