Charles Stanley – The Weight of Guilt

 

John 3:16-17

False guilt can be an intolerable weight for the believer to bear. The nagging sense of shame can lead us to doubt the Lord’s love and goodness; we might even start to wonder if our salvation is real. Thankfully, though, we can have relief.

First of all, it’s helpful to identify the root cause of our guilt. (Check yesterday’s devotion for a description of several potential causes.) Next, we must affirm three truths:

I am special. Any reason we give to “prove” otherwise is a lie from Satan. We are each a one-of-a-kind creation. The Lord chose to create us and endow us with specific talents and abilities meant to be used for His glory (Eph. 2:10).

I am loved. The heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins so we could live with Him eternally. We don’t have to do anything to earn His love; it is already ours for the receiving. All we must do is believe that He died in our place, was buried, and rose again.

I am forgiven. If we confess our sins, the Lord forgives. The Bible promises the process is as simple as that (1 John 1:9).

Since it’s Satan who stimulates false guilt, the final step is to renounce his lies. Make a declaration to this effect: “In the name of Jesus Christ, I reject these feelings of guilt, because they have absolutely no scriptural basis. They are false, and I refuse to acknowledge them.” The result will be that the heavy weight of guilt lifts from the heart.

Bible in One Year:Isaiah 23-27

Our Daily Bread — Pencil Battle

 

Read: Judges 2:11-22

Bible in a Year: Psalms 46-48; Acts 28

They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way. —Judges 2:19

As I learned to write my letters, my first-grade teacher insisted that I hold my pencil in a specific way. As she watched me, I held it the way she wanted me to. But when she turned away, I obstinately reverted the pencil to the way I found more comfortable.

I thought I was the secret winner in that battle of the wills, and I still hold my pencil in my own peculiar way. Decades later, however, I realize that my wise teacher knew that my stubborn habit would grow into a bad writing practice that would result in my hand tiring more quickly.

Children rarely understand what is good for them. They operate almost entirely on what they want at the moment. Perhaps the “children of Israel” were aptly named as generation after generation stubbornly insisted on worshiping the gods of the nations around them rather than the one true God. Their actions greatly angered the Lord because He knew what was best, and He removed His blessing from them (Judg. 2:20-22).

Pastor Rick Warren says, “Obedience and stubbornness are two sides of the same coin. Obedience brings joy, but our stubbornness makes us miserable.”

If a rebellious spirit is keeping us from obeying God, it’s time for a change of heart. Return to the Lord; He is gracious and merciful. —Cindy Hess Kasper

Heavenly Father, You are loving and gracious, and eager to forgive when we return to You. May we pursue you with our whole heart and not cling to our stubborn tendency to want things our way.

First we make our habits; then our habits make us.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  A Peaceable Kingdom

 

Where I live, I often see banners, signs in windows, and bumper stickers on cars with the message: “War is not the answer.” While I more or less agree that armed conflict rarely solves the problem of human violence, I am also very aware that a propensity towards violence and aggression are often responses that seem normal for most people. Perhaps this explains why in 2010 over thirty-five major conflicts were happening around the world, some of which have been going on since 1950. The United Nations defines “major wars” as military conflicts inflicting a thousand battlefield deaths or more per year.(1) Looking at these numbers of wars around the world would indicate that violent conflict seems an inevitable aspect of being human.

Of course, one doesn’t need to look much further than one’s own backyard to know that conflicts large and small are a daily struggle. Within local communities, within families, and within ourselves, we are often at war. Our wars may not be fought with sword or gun, but we often pursue a violent agenda with lawsuits and slander, our words and our actions. Simple misunderstandings turn into aggressive power struggles, and we find lethal weapons to cut down or wound our perceived antagonists. War may not be the answer, but solutions to the reality of violence in our hearts and in our world are not easily forthcoming.

Given this propensity towards conflict, I can be tempted to believe it was simply wishful thinking for Jesus to speak of peacemakers at all in his famous Sermon on the Mount. I am tempted to hear his pronouncement of blessing for these peacemakers as an impossible ideal for one such as myself so easily offended and so quick to defend. But Jesus was surely aware of the violent predilections of human beings when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). After all, once his cousin John the Baptist was put into prison, Jesus was the one who said, “[F]rom the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). Indeed, like his cousin, he too would suffer violence against himself, being falsely accused, tortured by Roman soldiers, and then crucified with two criminals.

So what did Jesus have in mind when he pronounced blessing on the peacemakers? From within his own Jewish context, peace, or shalom, was far more than the absence of conflict, although it would surely include that. Shalom implies a holistic sense of well-being for an individual or a nation. It means harmony in relationships, between individuals or nations, and it is understood to be God’s good gift for God’s people. It also carries the meaning of salvation, wholeness, and healing—both for the people of Israel, and for those who would be blessed by Israel through her witness and proclamation. Peace is the well-being and prosperity of life that results from fully reconciled, healed, and harmonious relationships with God, others, and all of creation.

Jesus pronounces blessing on all those who advance peace because in being peacemakers, they are engaging in the very deepest activity of God. They are behaving as God’s children. Thus, Jesus identifies them as “the children of God” because they are imitating God’s divine work in the world as they live shalom and invite others to experience it. Peacemakers are those who receive God’s saving work into their lives, as ones who have found peace with God, and then make peace in the lives of others. The apostle Paul echoes this call to be peacemakers in his letter to the Roman believers in Jesus: “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

This is exactly what Tom and Libby Little were doing in Afghanistan for over thirty years, until Tom was murdered, along with nine others from his team, on Thursday, August 5, 2010.(2) As medical workers and eye-doctors, the team went to the remotest and often conflict-ridden parts of Afghanistan to bring shalom through medical mission. In an article written just prior to receiving the news that her husband had been murdered, Libby Little spoke of their years as peacemakers, suffering as God’s servants in a war-torn world: “God blessed those occasions and visited us with his power. His amateur followers, stricken with stage fright, forgetting their lines, were acting out in miniature something of his own Grand Narrative—Immanuel, God with us.”(3)

The blessing of Jesus on peacemakers occurs in a world where violence indeed continues. This reality, at the very least, is implicitly acknowledged as Jesus extends blessing on those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. As in the case of the Little’s, and in our own daily conflicts and warfare, peacemaking often involves the hard work of enduring, and sometimes suffering violence, without giving in to the human desire to take retaliatory violence into our hearts and hands. Those who pursue peace are blessed as God’s children, imitating the action of the Father to bring the children peace.

 

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

(1) “The World at War,” http://GlobalSecurity.org, November 11, 2010.

(2) “The Death of 10 Members of the Nuristan Eye Care Team,” International Assistance Mission, http://iam-afghanistan.org/, November 13, 2010.

(3) Libby Little, “A Small Version of the Grand Narrative,” Christianity Today, August 2010.

Alistair Begg – Guilty of Brutishness

 

I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Psalm 73:22

Remember, this is the confession of the man of God; and in telling us his inner life, he writes, “I was brutish and ignorant.” The word “brutish” conveys the extent of his wayward folly. In an earlier verse of the Psalm, the psalmist writes, “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked,” which shows that his ignorant reaction was sinful. He puts himself down as being “brutish,” and in doing so conveys the intensity of his feelings. His attitude and reaction was sinful. He could not excuse it but deserved to be condemned because of its perverseness and willful ignorance. He had been envious of the immediate prosperity of the ungodly, forgetting the ultimate, dreadful end that they faced.

Are we any better than him that we should call ourselves wise? Do we profess that we have attained perfection or have been so disciplined that our stubbornness has been removed? This would be pride indeed! If the psalmist was foolish, how foolish are we when we fail to see ourselves!

Look back, believer: Think of when you doubted God when He was so faithful to you; think of your foolish outcry of “Not so, my Father” when He crossed His hands in affliction to give you the greater blessing; think of the many times when you have read His providences in the dark, misinterpreted His dealings, and groaned, “All these things are against me” when they are in fact working together for your good! Think how often you have chosen sin because of its pleasure, when indeed that pleasure was a root of bitterness to you!

Surely if we know our own heart we must plead guilty to the indictment of a sinful folly; and conscious of this “brutishness,” we must learn to say with the psalmist, “You guide me with Your counsel.”

The Family Bible Reading Plan

  • Judges 11:12-40
  • Acts 15

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

Charles Spurgeon – The faultless assembly

 

“They are without fault before the throne of God.” Revelation 14:5

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

We need not go far without seeing that there is, among Christians, a want of love to one another. There is not too much love in our churches; certainly, we have none to give away. We have heard that:

“Whatever brawls disturb the street,

There should be peace at home.”

But it is not always as it should be. We have known churches where the members can scarcely sit down at the Lord’s table without some disagreement. There are people who are always finding fault with the minister, and there are ministers finding fault with the people; there is among them “a spirit that lusteth to envy,” and “where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” We have met with people among whom it would be misery to place ourselves, because we do not love war; we love peace and charity. Alas! How continually do we hear accounts of disputings and variance in churches! O beloved, there is too little love in the churches! If Jesus were to come amongst us, might He not say to us, “This is My commandment, that ye love one another; but how have you kept it when you have been always finding fault with one another? And how ready you have been to turn your sword against your brother!” But, beloved, “they are without fault before the throne of God.” Those who on earth could not agree, are sure to agree when they get to heaven. There are some who have crossed swords on earth, but who have held the faith, and have been numbered amongst the saints in glory everlasting. There is no fighting amongst them now; “they are without fault before the throne of God.”

For meditation: The very best of Christians may have fallen out with one another (Acts 15:39), but the Bible entreats disputants to agree in the Lord (Philippians 4:2). It is beautiful when brothers dwell in unity (Psalm 133:1), but perplexing when they wrong each other (Acts 7:26). May God help us to do “on earth as it is in Heaven.”

2nd sermon at New Park St.

28 July (Preached 18 December 1853)

John MacArthur – The Joy of Anticipated Reward

 

“That the proof of your faith . . . may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7).

Your future reward is directly related to your present service.

The joy you experience after your faith has been tested and proven genuine is largely due to your present blessings and assurance of salvation. But there’s a future aspect as well: the joy of anticipating the reward you’ll receive from Jesus when you see Him face to face and hear “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21, NIV). Peter described it as the “praise and glory and honor [you’ll receive] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7).

“Praise” in that text speaks of verbal commendation. To receive “glory” is to be made like Christ. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s glory (John 1:14) and “we know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Paul spoke of those who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” (Rom. 2:7). As a result they will receive what they seek (v. 10).

Peter probably used “honor” as a synonym for rewards, which God will grant to all who faithfully serve Him. I believe those rewards are various capacities for heavenly service and are directly related to the believer’s service in this life. Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12, emphasis added). Paul said, “He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor. 3:8, emphasis added).

God alone is worthy of praise, glory, and honor, but He will give you all three because you’ll be in the image of Jesus Christ—sinless and fully glorified (1 John 3:2). Until that time, “watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for the joy of anticipating your future reward.

For Further Study

Peter spoke of a time when Jesus will reward believers. What do these verses teach about that time: Romans 8:18, 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, and 1 Peter 4:10-13?

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Will He Be Ashamed?

 

“And anyone who is ashamed of Me and My message in these days of unbelief and sin, I, the Messiah, will be ashamed of him when I return in the glory of My Father, with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

Dr. Charles Malik, once president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and I – along with others – were invited to a very prestigious meeting in Washington, D.C. Present were some of the most distinguished leaders in our nation and from other countries.

In the course of his remarks, Dr. Malik emphasized his conviction that there were no human solutions to the problems that face mankind. Only Jesus Christ could help us as individuals and as nations.

As a young businessman, I was tremendously impressed to think that one of the world’s leading scholars and statesmen would speak so boldly and courageously of his faith in Christ. Following the meeting, I introduced myself to him and expressed to him my appreciation for his courage in speaking out so boldly for Christ.

I had heard others – politicians, statesmen, scholars – speak of faith in God and the Bible and the church in general terms. But few, in those days, ever spoke of their faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I shall never forget his response.

“I am sobered by the words of my Lord,” he said, quoting today’s verse, Mark 8:38.

Perhaps you are one who loudly acclaims, “No, I could never be ashamed of my wonderful Lord.” But the familiar axiom is true: actions speak louder than words. If we are truly unashamed of our Savior, we will look for every opportunity to share the good news of His great love.

Bible Reading: Psalm 31:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will not be ashamed of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but will trust the indwelling Holy Spirit to witness through me.

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Then and Now

 

The song Forever, written by Chris Tomlin, has been a favorite of worship leaders since its release in 2001. It’s been listed in the top 25 praise songs as reported by Christian Copyright Licensing International since 2003. The lyrics are based on Psalm 136. The Psalm is meant to be sung and praises God for all He has done.

And brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:11

There are countless examples in the Old and New Testament of people singing and of God’s command to do so. Today’s verse focuses on when God brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Being set free was certainly something to sing about then and still is today – which is probably why Chris Tomlin has had so much success with the same words so many years after they were originally written.

God’s Word says He doesn’t change. He set His people free in Egypt over 2,000 years ago and He can set you free today. During this month of celebrating America’s freedom, set aside some time to celebrate your freedom in God and the life in the Spirit that He provides. As you do, pray for those who do not know Christ to find Him and be set free, too.

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:1-11

Greg Laurie –A Part of Everything

 

At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.—John 6:66

When Jesus laid out for His disciples what it really meant to follow Him, many of His so-called disciples left. Then Jesus turned to Peter and the others and said, “Are you also going to leave?” (John 6:67).

Peter said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (verse 68). I love that. Peter was saying, “Lord, we don’t know everything about You. We don’t get You at times. But this much we know: We are sticking with You. We have made a commitment to You, and we want to be close to You.

Are you willing to say that to Jesus? Are you ready to say, “Lord, I want You to go with me wherever I go”? Sure, we will say it to Him when we get on a plane. Lord, bless the pilots. Help the plane operate properly. Lord, get me to my destination safely. There is nothing wrong with praying a prayer like that. Nor is there anything wrong with praying as you are going into the operating room, Lord, be with me now. Guide the hands of the surgeons. Let the operation be successful.

We are enthusiastic about praying when we are headed into an uncertain situation or into rough waters. But are we also ready to say, “Lord, go with us on our vacation,” “Lord, go with us as we go out tonight,” “Lord, go with us as we go to that party,” or “Lord, be with us as we go to this movie”?

Remember, Jesus has His eyes on you. He is looking at you. And we should be able to invite Jesus everywhere—into rough waters and times of crisis as well as into leisure time. We should invite Jesus to be a part of everything we do.

Max Lucado – Forgiveness is Not Excusing

 

It’s one thing to give grace to friends, but to give grace to those who give us grief? Most of us find it hard to forgive. Leave your enemies in God’s hands. You are not endorsing their misbehavior when you do. You can hate what someone did without letting hatred consume you. Forgiveness is not excusing. Give grace, but if need be, keep your distance. You can forgive the abusive husband without living with him. Be quick to give mercy to the immoral pastor, but be slow to give him a pulpit.

Society can dispense grace and prison terms at the same time. To forgive is to move on, not to think about the offense anymore. You don’t excuse him, endorse her, or embrace them. You just route your thoughts about them through heaven. In Romans 12:19 God says, “I will take care of it!” Let Him!

From Facing Your Giants

Our Wedding Night Changed Our Marriage

 

KIM KIMBERLING, PH.D.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 (NIV)

When I tell people that my wife Nancy and I have been married 45 years, I almost always hear “Wow!” and “That’s great.” I appreciate those comments, but where we are today has been a journey. We didn’t have an awesome marriage for a very long time.

In fact, starting out as barely 20-year-olds, we really had no idea what marriage was all about. Our fights almost did our marriage in before it began. After six years of marriage, the future was dark, we had a new baby and we needed a miracle.

Of all the things we did wrong, there is one thing we did right. I wish I could say I brought it to the marriage, but I didn’t. Nancy did.

Let me paint a picture for you.

On our wedding night after we left the reception and finally made it to our hotel room, Nancy made a request of me that God has used in our marriage since that day.

As we got ready for bed, Nancy went into the bathroom to change. I changed in about 30 seconds and waited for her sitting on the side of the bed. An eternity later, she emerged from the bathroom looking like an angel. She walked over to me, took my hand, sat beside me on the bed, looked into my eyes and said, “We need to pray.”

In case you were wondering, that was the last thing I thought my new bride would say to me in that moment. But the real surprise was that I looked her back in the eyes and said, “OK.”

We knelt by the bed in our hotel room, held hands and prayed a prayer we both knew and were comfortable praying together: The Lord’s Prayer.

Since that first night many years ago, we have prayed together almost every day. Through all the ups and downs of life and marriage, praying together daily is the glue God has used over and over to keep us close to Him.

During the darkest times in our marriage, as we continued to pray together, we saw God show up over and over to keep us together.

First, God used an older lady in our church to minister to Nancy. As Nancy shared our story, this wise woman lovingly encouraged Nancy to stay in the marriage and that God would make something beautiful out of it.

Second, as we continued to talk about our marriage and our struggles, it became obvious that neither one of us really wanted a divorce.

Finally, we made a vow never to bring up divorce again and to let God build our marriage His way.

As we purposely put God first each day, our marriage began to change. It was not overnight; in fact, it was a process that continues to this day. But God taught us how to fight for our marriage instead of fighting each other. It was marriage-changing.

We learned to stand side by side with God and take on anything and everything that the world threw at us. We learned firsthand that if God is for us no one can ever stand against us (Romans 8:31b). It is a truth that I pray every married couple can embrace because it is a truth that will close the gap between where your marriage is and where God wants it to be.

Father, You truly are the Great Healer. I pray that I may see Your plan for my marriage. Make the changes You want to make in me. In us. I pray to be so connected to You and my spouse that we may stand together against all that would come against our marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 17:15, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Today, where is God in your marriage?

If God is not the center of your marriage, what needs to be your next step? It may be praying together on a regular basis, or talking to a trusted mentor. If you and your spouse need further help, it may be time to talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor.

Whatever your next step is, do it today! It will make a difference in your marriage tomorrow.

Night Light for Couples –Frustrating Foibles

 

“Be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

The great tragedies of life can undermine committed love, but so can minor frustrations. These daily irritants, when accumulated over time, may be even more threatening to a marriage than the catastrophic events that crash into our lives. And yes, there are times in every marriage when a husband and wife don’t like each other very much. There may be occasions when anger or disappointment takes the fun out of a relationship temporarily. Emotions are like that. They occasionally flatten out like an automobile tire with a nail in it. Riding on the rim is a pretty bumpy experience for everyone on board.

The next time you’re tempted to trade in your spouse, remember that divorce must never be considered an option for those who are committed to each other for life. Instead, determine to work on your points of friction and to accept the human frailties and faults in your spouse. He or she must accept an equal number of flaws in you as well. A covenant of commitment and acceptance is a powerful secret to lifelong love.

Just between us…

  • What “daily irritant” between us is most frustrating to you?
  • Have we gotten better or worse at handling everyday aggravations?
  • How can we reduce frustrations in our marriage?

Dear God, You know how little irritations often cause pain in our marriage. As we humbly release these irritations to You, please heal us. Forgive us our pride. Anoint us with grace. Grow in us a love that’s stronger than any fault or foible. Amen.

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