Charles Stanley – Sovereign Over Sin

Isaiah 14:24-27
God is sovereign. This means that He is the supreme authority over everything, including sin and its consequences. Yet He doesn’t cause anyone to sin—to do so would violate His righteous and holy nature. The Lord does, however, allow temptation to enter our lives. And since we have free will and the Holy Spirit, we can decide how to respond and are fully equipped to resist. Thankfully, He retains ultimate control and weaves the consequences of our actions in accordance with His purposes.
Sometimes God permits our sin to run its full course. For instance, when the Israelites refused to turn away from their disobedience, He “gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices” (Psalms 81:12). Without divine protection, the nation succumbed to corrupt influences and ultimately was overrun. The Lord could have sheltered them, but the consequences drove the Israelites into repentance, which was His original plan.
Conversely, God will sometimes put an immediate halt to sin. Such was the case when King Abimelech took Abraham’s wife to himself. The king had been misled by the couple and was not aware that he was about to commit a sin. But the Lord knew of the deception, and He intervened (Genesis 20:1-6).
Of course, the wisest plan is to obey fully so God never has to use either of these tactics. Temptation is inevitable, but sin is not. The Lord’s sovereignty over our life means that any temptation must first pass through His permissive will. In this way, He makes sure His children are never tempted beyond what they can resist (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 31-32

Our Daily Bread – Under Siege

Read: Philippians 2:1-11
Bible in a Year: Psalms 100-102; 1 Corinthians 1
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. —Philippians 2:4
During the Bosnian War (1992-1996), more than 10,000 people—civilians and soldiers—were killed in the city of Sarajevo as gunfire and mortar rounds rained down from the surrounding hills. Steven Galloway’s gripping novel The Cellist of Sarajevo unfolds there, during the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. The book follows three fictional characters who must decide if they will become completely self-absorbed in their struggle to survive, or will somehow rise above their numbing circumstances to consider others during a time of great adversity.
From a prison in Rome, Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, saying: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). Paul cited Jesus as the great example of a selfless focus on others: “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, . . . made Himself of no reputation . . . humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (vv. 5-8). Rather than seeking sympathy from others, Jesus gave all He had to rescue us from the tyranny of sin.
Our continuing challenge as followers of Jesus is to see through His eyes and respond to the needs of others in His strength, even in our own difficult times. —David C. McCasland
Are you going through something hard right now? What can you still do for another?
Embracing God’s love for us is the key to loving others.
INSIGHT: The words that Paul penned to the Philippian church while he was under house arrest are some of the most challenging. There is so much in this short letter that goes against our natural inclinations. From prison, Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to “make his joy complete” (2:2 niv). Paul is joyful while in prison because of his faith in Christ, and he encouraged the believers to add to his joy by looking out for one another and counting others as more important than themselves. Paul then uses Jesus as the example of this kind of selflessness. In taking on humanity, Jesus gave up everything that was rightfully His to come to our rescue. J.R. Hudberg

Ravi Zachrious – Unfolding Narrative

Most of us, if we’re honest, live by the clock. The alarm sounds and we are off, watching the minutes slip by. Time-sensitive deadlines drive our days. We have appointments and meetings, we eat at a certain time, and the day ends by a certain time. Bound to our timepieces, it often seems our every moment is synchronized and controlled.
In contrast to the “objective” measures of time marking seconds, minutes, and hours, there is also a “subjective” experience of time being “fast or slow.” Those of us who are growing older describe our experience of time as passing by more and more quickly. We feel our vacation time as ephemeral, while our work week plods slowly by—and yet both are marked by the same objective measurements of time. How is it that our subjective experience of time is so different from what our watches and clocks objectively mark out for us, second by second, hour by hour?
This question of our subjective experience of time is one that the ancient philosophers and early Christian leaders pondered. Their philosophical and theological musings bequeathed to us many perplexities regarding the human experience of time. Saint Augustine, for example, wrestled with the fleeting character of our human temporal experience. No sooner do we apprehend the present than it has receded into the past. He wrote, “We cannot rightly say what time is, except by reason of its impending state of not-being.”(1)
Regardless of our perceptual and philosophical difficulties with understanding the nature of time, what seems most crucial for our lives is the significance of events that happen in time, moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day. Seeking to reclaim this emphasis, theologians have tried to understand the nature of time by what takes place in time—a narrative of unfolding events.(2) These theological discussions involve God’s engagement with time. Is God a wholly atemporal being, outside of time and history? Or is God genuinely engaged with time and revealed through an unfolding story of historical disclosure?
The biblical writers give witness to a God who progressively unfolds saving acts within history. The divine plan of salvation that Christians believe culminates in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is called salvation history. God did not, for example, reveal every aspect of salvation to Abraham or to Moses. Instead, the biblical writers give witness to the God who works within and through the temporal events of history to reveal the plan of redemption. We see this unfolding in God’s commissioning of Moses prior to the Exodus: “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai) but by my name ‘the Lord (Yahweh)’ I did not make myself known.”(2) Within the long ministry of the prophets, a God is revealed who gradually discloses what will take place. Isaiah presents the God who “proclaims to you new things from this time; even hidden things which you have not known. They are created now, and not long ago: and before today you have not heard them” (Isaiah 48:6-7).
For Christians, God’s decisive revelatory action in time is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While there are many glimpses, sign-markers, and hints pointing towards a messianic redeemer in the Old Testament, ultimately God chose to enter a particular time as a human being to live life among the time-bound.
The significance of those time-bound events continues into our time, and indeed into eternity. And through the unfolding of time, humans can grow in their understanding of who God is and what God has done through Jesus, the Messiah. Indeed, as Jesus spoke with his disciples, he suggests that there would be more to learn and more to reveal through the work of the Holy Spirit: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever he hears he will speak; and he will disclose to you what is to come” (italics mine; John 16:12-13).
The witness of Scripture suggests that the events of our lives reveal this ongoing work of the Spirit. Sometimes, we apprehend the significance of those events in the present time. Other times, it is only through the lens of hindsight as events recede into times past that we understand God’s action. While time might move slowly for some or quickly for others, while minutes and seconds and hours are filled with appointments, meetings, and all the events that make up our time-bound existence, we would do well to look around to see how the Spirit of God is working through what might appear to be ordinary events in the march of time. Indeed, those who follow Jesus ought never to forget that God entered time to enact the new creation in Christ’s resurrection. As we grow in our understanding of that timeless act, the events of our temporal lives act as sign-markers for eternity. And while we often see the significance of our time-bound events “through a mirror darkly,” the day will come when “all things are subjected to Him…that God may be all in all.”(4)
Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.
(1) Augustine, Confessions, XI, 14.
(2) Colin Gunton, cited in John Polkinghorne, Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 120.
(3) Exodus 6:2-3, Italics mine.
(4) 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Alistair Begg – Foreigners in The Lord’s House

Foreigners have come into the holy places of the Lord’s house. Jeremiah 51:51
In this account the faces of the Lord’s people were covered with shame, for it was a terrible thing for men to intrude upon the Holy Place that was reserved exclusively for the priests. Everywhere around us we see similar cause for sorrow. How many ungodly men are now studying with a view to entering the ministry! What a crying sin is that solemn lie by which our whole population is nominally part of a National Church! How fearful it is that ordinances should be pressed upon the unconverted, and that among the more enlightened churches of our land there should be such laxity of discipline. If the thousands who will read this portion will take this matter before the Lord Jesus today, He will interfere and avert the evil that otherwise will come upon His Church. To adulterate the church is to pollute a well, to pour water upon fire, to sow a fertile field with stones. May we all have grace to maintain in our own proper way the purity of the Church as being an assembly of believers and not a nation, an unsaved community of unconverted men.
Our zeal must, however, begin at home. Let us examine ourselves as to our right to eat at the Lord’s Table. Let us see to it that we are wearing our wedding garment, lest we ourselves should be regarded as foreigners in the Lord’s holy place. Many are called, but few are chosen; the way is narrow, and the gate is strait. O for grace to come to Jesus aright, with the faith of God’s elect. He who smote Uzzah for touching the ark is very jealous of His two ordinances. As a true believer I may approach them freely; as a foreigner I must not touch them in case I die. Heart-searching is the duty of all who are baptized or come to the Lord’s Table. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!”1
1) Psalm 139:23
The Family Bible Reading Plan
1 Samuel 10
Romans 8
Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Making light of Christ

“But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.” Matthew 22:5
Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 13:9-17
It is making light of the gospel and of the whole of God’s glorious things, when men go to hear and yet do not pay attention. How many who frequent churches and chapels to indulge in a comfortable nap! Think what a fearful insult that is to the King of heaven. Would they enter into Her Majesty’s palace, ask an audience, and then go to sleep before her face? And yet the sin of sleeping in Her Majesty’s presence, would not be so great, even though against her laws, as the sin of wilfully slumbering in God’s sanctuary. How many go to our houses of worship who do not sleep, but who sit with vacant stare, listening as they would to a man who could not play a lively tune upon a good instrument. What goes in at one ear goes out at the other. Whatever enters the brain goes out without affecting the heart. Ah, my hearers, you are guilty of making light of God’s gospel, when you sit under a sermon without paying attention to it! Oh! What would lost souls give to hear another sermon! What would yonder dying wretch who is just now nearing the grave, give for another Sabbath! And what will you give, one of these days, when you shall be close to Jordan’s brink, that you might have one more warning, and listen once more to the wooing voice of God’s minister! We make light of the gospel when we hear it, without solemn and awful attention to it.
For meditation: Hear—listen—remember—obey (James 1:25). A sleeping congregation is no more use than a sleeping preacher.
Sermon no. 98
18 August (Preached 17 August 1856)

John MacArthur – Treating Others with Consideration

“[Love] does not act unbecomingly” (1 Cor. 13:5).
Considerate behavior demonstrates godly love and adds credibility to your witness.
When I was a young child, I loved to slurp my soup. I didn’t see any harm in it even though my parents constantly objected. Then one evening I ate with someone who slurped his soup. He was having a great time but I didn’t enjoy my meal very much. Then I realized that proper table manners are one way of showing consideration for others. It says, “I care about you and don’t want to do anything that might disrupt your enjoyment of this meal.”
On a more serious note, I know a couple who got an annulment on the grounds that the husband was rude to his wife. She claimed that his incessant burping proved that he didn’t really love her. The judge ruled in her favor, stating that if the husband truly loved her, he would have been more considerate. That’s a strange story but true, and it illustrates the point that love is not rude.
“Unbecomingly” in 1 Corinthians 13:5 includes any behavior that violates acceptable biblical or social standards. We could paraphrase it, “Love is considerate of others.” That would have been in stark contrast to the inconsiderate behavior of the Corinthians—many of whom were overindulging at their love feasts and getting drunk on the Communion wine (1 Cor. 11:20-22). Some women were overstepping bounds by removing their veils and usurping the role of men in the church (1 Cor. 11:3-16; 14:34-35). Both men and women were corrupting the worship services by trying to outdo one another’s spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:26).
Undoubtedly the Corinthians justified their rude behavior—just as we often justify ours. But rudeness betrays a lack of love and is always detrimental to effective ministry. For example, I’ve seen Christians behave so rudely toward non-Christians who smoke that they destroyed any opportunity to tell them about Christ.
Be aware of how you treat others—whether believers or unbelievers. Even the smallest of courtesies can make a profound impression.
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask the Holy Spirit to monitor your behavior and convict you of any loveless actions. As He does, be sure to confess and forsake them.
For Further Study
Read Luke 7:36-50. How did Jesus protect the repentant woman from the Pharisee’s rudeness?

Joyce Meyer – How to Experience Real Change

Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16
Change does not come through struggle, human effort without God, frustration, self-hatred, self-rejection, guilt, or works of the flesh. Change in our lives comes as a result of having our minds renewed by the Word of God and by trusting God to work in us according to His will. God, Who began a good work in you, will complete it (see Philippians 1:6).
As we agree with God and really believe that what He says is true, it gradually begins to manifest in us. We begin to think differently, then we begin to talk differently, and finally we begin to act differently. This is a process that develops in stages, and we must always remember that while it is taking place, we can be thankful and have an attitude that says, God is changing me little by little, and I can enjoy myself while He is working.
Prayer of Thanks
Father, thank You for changing me and making me what You want me to be. Thank You for completing the good work You have begun.

Campus Crusade- Subduing the Enemy

“At that time Samuel said to [the Israelites], ‘If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your Ashtaroth idols. Determine to obey only the Lord; then He will rescue you from the Philistines'” (1 Samuel 7:3).
As I was reading and meditating upon the Word of God this morning, the thought struck me forcefully that this passage relates to multitudes of defeated, frustrated Christians today who feel that they have lost contact with God. They are puzzled as to why He has withdrawn His blessing from them, but the reason, in most cases, is very simple.
Throughout the history of Israel, the people alternately obeyed God and disobeyed Him. When they obeyed, He blessed, and when they disobeyed, He disciplined. At this particular time the Lord seemingly had abandoned them. It was because, as Samuel explained, they were worshiping foreign gods and idols. “If you will only obey God,” he counseled, “He will rescue you from the Philistines.”
So they destroyed their idols and worshiped the Lord, and then a miracle happened. Samuel invited all of Israel to come to Mispah and said, “I will pray to the Lord for you.” As they gathered there, the Philistine leaders heard about it and mobilized their army to attack. Of course, the Israelites were terribly frightened, but God spoke with a mighty thunder from heaven, and the Philistines were thrown into terrible confusion. Israel surrounded them, and subdued them, and the Philistines did not invade Israel again for the remainder of Samuel’s life.
Enemies can take many forms, but their intent is always to destroy. What are the Philistines in your life? Lust, pride, jealousy, materialism, financial indebtedness, physical illness, resentments, antagonism, criticism, discrimination? Do you feel that God has forsaken you?
Why not look into the mirror of God’s Word? Ask the Lord to reveal the idols of your life, then turn away from them. Confess your sins and claim God’s victory over those areas of life that are destroying you.
Bible Reading: I Samuel 7:1-12
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will carefully examine my life to see if I am harboring any idols that would cause the Spirit of God to be grieved and quenched. I will destroy any that I find, and will confess my sins and appropriate God’s fullness to live a supernatural life for His glory.

Presidential Paryer Team – C.P. True Friends

C.S. Lewis once said true friends face in the same direction, toward common projects, interests and goals. Paul’s letters show that he considered Timothy his son in the Lord (Philippians 2:22). They lived C. S. Lewis’s definition of true friends as they spread the gospel.
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
I Timothy 1:5
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul established their goal as partners as being a display of love from a pure heart that desires the best for the person to whom they were ministering. Loving with a good conscience meant serving with integrity as a person that could be relied upon to do the right thing. Loving from a sincere faith meant being committed to trusting Jesus and doing God’s will.
Who are the people you serve in your life? Is your aim to love from a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith? Be a true friend. Next, pray about what’s best for the nation, with a right attitude, while trusting God. Then intercede for the nation’s leaders to be more concerned about the welfare of the citizens of the nation rather than their own selfish ambitions.
Recommended Reading: Hebrews 10:19-25

Greg Laurie – The Problem with Self-Confidence

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. —Proverbs 16:18
Self-confidence is at the foundation of many sins people commit. But pride goes before a fall. We say, “I can handle this. This isn’t even a problem. I’ll know when to stop.” But it doesn’t work out that way.
That was the problem with the Israelites at Ai (see Joshua 7). They had self-confidence. They said, in effect, “We can handle Ai. It isn’t a problem.”
This is often what will lead to a fall. You think it isn’t going to happen to you. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”
If you know someone who has fallen into sin, don’t be arrogant, because you could have done the same thing. In fact, the Bible tells us, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1).
Imagine being out with a friend who suddenly tripped, fell, and was injured. Would you kick him while he was down? “Idiot! Why didn’t you look?” Or, would you jerk him to his feet and throw him up against a wall? I hope not. No, you would reach down and gently get him back up on his feet again, dusting him off. “Are you okay? Hang on to my shoulder. I’ll help you walk. Do you need to see a doctor? Are you going to be all right?”
You show a little compassion, knowing it could have happened to you. We need to remember that as we’re reaching out to others.
The first thing that led to the Israelites’ defeat at Ai was self-confidence. And the first thing that usually leads to our spiritual defeat is self-confidence.

Max Lucado – Twice Imprisoned

My friend, Anibal was guilty. Period. I met him in Brazil. I also met my friend Daniel who had given Anibal a Bible. And he took me with him to tell Anibal about Jesus. We centered on the cross. We talked about guilt, and forgiveness. His heart was touched as we discussed heaven, a hope no executioner could take from him. But as we discussed conversion, Anibal’s face hardened. He had never backed down before any man, and he wasn’t about to do it now.
“Don’t you want to go to heaven?” I asked. “Sure,” he grunted. But the eyes that met mine weren’t tear-filled— they were the eyes of an angry prisoner. Twice imprisoned. Once because of murder, and once because of stubbornness. Jesus said, Blessed are those who know they’re in trouble and have enough sense to admit it (Matthew 5:5). Anibal didn’t want to…but my prayer is that we will.
From The Applause of Heaven

Night Light for Couples – Noble Character

“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.” Proverbs 12:4
A girl named Lucy gained something of a reputation for her deceitful nature. Countless times she persuaded a boy named Charlie Brown to try to kick the football she was holding, and each time she snatched it away just before he could boot it.
In the comic strips or in real life, a deceitful woman is best avoided. Solomon described such a wife as “decay in his bones.” The king must have known many a troublesome woman, for he also declared, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9). The Bible lists many other examples of women who showed disgraceful behavior, including Eve and Lot’s wife (disobedient), Michal (critical), Jezebel (unscrupulous and violent), Job’s wife (foolish),
Herodias (cruel), and Sapphira (greedy).
Temptation will come to even the most spiritual among us, but the wife who holds fast to her noble character will bring glory to God and blessings to her husband and herself.
Just between us…
(wife) If you were asked to describe my character, would the word noble come to mind? Why or why not?
What is noble character, and how can it bring glory to God? (You might consider some examples of noble women in the Bible—Ruth, Abigail, Mary of Bethany, and Mary, the mother of Jesus.)
How can you and I teach noble character to the next generation?
(wife) Dear Father, help me to receive the teaching of Your Word: It’s noble character—not youth, beauty, charm, or wealth—that will make me a priceless crown to my husband. Help me to be that kind of wife in word and deed. Amen.
From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson