Charles Stanley – A Lifestyle of Forgiveness

 

Ephesians 4:29-32

Showing mercy to those who hurt us does not come naturally— it’s easier to get angry at them and remain that way. We justify our lack of forgiveness by pointing to the injustice that took place or harm that was done. But God commands us to be merciful (Luke 6:36). We who have been shown divine mercy are to practice a lifestyle of forgiveness.

So why don’t we obey? Sometimes our pride gets in the way. We are angered when treated with disrespect, passed over for a job opportunity, or ignored despite our accomplishments. At other times we get focused on other people’s refusal to change, so we withhold mercy until they improve their behavior. And some of us have been badly hurt or treated unjustly. Our minds are filled with such pain that we become stuck in the past and cannot see how we’ll ever be able to forgive.

An unforgiving attitude can have all sorts of unwanted consequences, including broken relationships, emotional bondage, and indifference toward the Lord. The longer we hold on to our anger, the more it will affect our fellowship, not only with other people but also with our heavenly Father. Over time, we may become bitter and hostile, which certainly doesn’t fit with our identity in Christ.

It is hard for us to pardon those who tell lies about us, treat us badly, or cause harm to our loved ones. And yet their behavior toward us is not a reason to withhold mercy. God calls us to forgive as He forgave us—and with His help, we can do just that.

Bible in One Year: Lamentations 1-2

Our Daily Bread — When Things Don’t Go Well

 

Read: Romans 8:28-30

Bible in a Year: Psalm 119:1-88; 1 Corinthians 7:20-40

We know that all things work together for good to those who love God. —Romans 8:28

The first words that many people like to quote when misfortune hits are: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). But that’s hard to believe in hard times. I once sat with a man who had lost his third son in a row, and I listened as he lamented, “How can this tragedy work for my good?” I had no answer but to sit silently and mourn with him. Several months later, he was thankful as he said, “My sorrow is drawing me closer to God.”

Tough as Romans 8:28 may be to understand, countless testimonies give credence to the truth of it. The story of hymn writer Fanny Crosby is a classic example. The world is the beneficiary of her memorable hymns, yet what worked together for good was born out of her personal tragedy, for she became blind at the age of 5. At only age 8, she began to write poetry and hymns. Writing over 8,000 sacred songs and hymns, she blessed the world with such popular songs as “Blessed Assurance,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” and “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.” God used her difficulty to bring good for her and us and glory for Him.

When tragedy befalls us, it’s hard to understand how anything good can come from it, and we won’t always see it in this life. But God has good purposes and always remains with us. —Lawrence Darmani

What trial in your life have you found to be for your good? What good things have come from it? What are you now suffering that you pray will bring something good?

God always has good purposes for our trials.

INSIGHT: Romans 8:28 is often given as a promise to comfort and encourage those who are going through difficult and painful times. This promise is all-encompassing, for “all things” must include the good and the bad circumstances of life. It assures us that God is not absent and is sovereignly working in all things for our good. Although He may seem silent or even out of sight, nothing is ever wasted in the hands of God. The Old Testament equivalent of Romans 8:28 is Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good” (nlt). Romans 8:28 is a promise with a redemptive purpose, for God wants us “to become like his Son” (v. 29 nlt). Sim Kay Tee

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Latent Christianity

 

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Greece and Turkey. While there, I marveled at the ancient ruins of the Greek temples, and wondered at the beautiful mosaics of Christ covering the ceilings of every church—from a tiny chapel in the countryside to the great cathedral of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. During the tour, we often saw the ruins of the temples standing side by side with ancient Christian churches. Other times, our guide informed us that the Christian church was built upon the now decimated ruins of an ancient temple.

I remember feeling a bit disturbed over the loss of these ancient ruins which would never be seen again, now built over by largely abandoned Christian chapels. And yet I understood the sweeping movement of Christianity—overturning the pagan environment of Greece and Rome and building churches and chapels as signposts of that victory.

This scene replicated across the landscapes of Greece and Turkey served metaphorically as a picture of the uneasy tension between Christianity and its surrounding culture. On the one hand, church and pagan temple stood side by side, a living picture of the parable Jesus once told about allowing wheat and tares to grow up together until the judgment. On the other hand, churches built on the ruins of pagan temples presented the image of Christianity conquering the pagan religions of the day, standing in triumph and uprooting the tares in victory.

Christianity wrestles with this same tension today, vacillating between constructive engagement in culture on the one hand, and eschewing the culture on the other. The art world is often an arena for this battle. Should Christians engage in the arts? If so, how should we engage in the arts? Should we have Christian music, art, and literature? Or should we be Christians who make music, produce art, and write literature? In other words, do we build next to the pagan temple, or do we replace the pagan temple with a church?

While the answers to these questions can often be complex, perhaps there are some insights from another picture of early Christian interaction using art from the prevailing culture. The catacombs under the streets of Rome are filled with art produced by the early Christians. Interestingly enough, however, the Christian scenes normally used non-Christian forms. Some of the portrayals of Jesus as the Good Shepherd are clearly modeled after pagan pictures in which Orpheus was the central figure.(1) It is not an accident that the early Christians chose to model their art after the pagan depictions of Orpheus. In Greek mythology, Orpheus was such a brilliant musician that “he moved everything animate and inanimate; his music enchanted the trees and rocks and tamed wild beasts, and even the rivers turned in their course to follow him.”(2) Clearly, the early Christians used this artistic rendering for apologetic reasons; like the myth of Orpheus, they believed Jesus had a cataclysmic influence on all of creation.

In every generation, art has been used as a means to communicate the Christian faith, even as an uneasy tension exists with artistic engagement. Yet, without thoughtful engagement a vacuum is left, unfilled. Without a new Orpheus, all that is left to do is bemoan the binding of the arts to darker forces. And while Christians often raise the complaint, we are too often blinded to the very ways in which we are inextricably bound to culture.

C.S. Lewis once wrote about the value of Christian involvement in popular scholarship. When understood broadly, Lewis’s words are instructive for Christian engagement in the arts or in any other discipline. “I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any directly apologetic work….What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent.”(3) Perhaps building such subtle cathedrals on the landscape of culture is indeed more winsome than making ruins.

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

 

(1) Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity: Beginnings to 1500, vol. 1 (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1975), 251.

(2) Encarta, Orpheus.

(3) Cited in John Stackhouse, Humble Apologetics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 215.

Alistair Begg – Faith in Every Sense

 

His fruit was sweet to my taste. Song of Songs 2:3

Faith is described in a variety of ways in the Bible. It is sight: “Turn to me and be saved.”1 It is hearing: “Hear, that your soul shall live.”2 Faith is smelling: “Your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia”;3 “your name is oil poured out.”4 Faith is spiritual touch. By this faith the woman came behind and touched the hem of Christ’s garment, and by this we handle the things of the good word of life. Faith is equally the spirit’s taste. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”5 “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”6

One of the first performances of faith is hearing. We hear the voice of God not only with the physical ear, but with the spiritual ear; we hear it as God’s Word, and we believe it as such; that is the hearing of faith. Then our mind looks upon the truth as it is presented to us; that is to say, we understand it, we perceive its meaning; that is the seeing of faith. Next we discover its preciousness; we begin to admire it and find how fragrant it is; that is faith in its smell. Then we appropriate the mercies that are prepared for us in Christ; that is faith in its touch. Then follow the enjoyments, peace, delight, communion, which are faith in its taste. Any one of these acts of faith is saving. To hear Christ’s voice as the sure voice of God in the soul will save us; but that which gives true enjoyment is the aspect of faith whereby we taste and see that the Lord is good. In this way we receive Christ, and He becomes, by inward and spiritual apprehension, to be the precious food for our souls. Here we learn to sit under His shadow “with great delight”7 and find His fruit sweet to our taste.

1) Isaiah 45:22

2) Isaiah 55:3

3) Psalm 45:8

4) Song of Solomon 1:3

5) Psalm 119:103

6) John 6:54

7) Song of Solomon 2:3

The Family Bible Reading Plan

  • 1 Samuel 17
  • Romans 15

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

Charles Spurgeon – Tomorrow

 

“Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1

Suggested Further Reading: Proverbs 31:10-25

On one occasion I pleaded for a friendly society, and not knowing a more appropriate text, I selected this, “Take no thought for the morrow, for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” Some of my hearers, when I announced my text, feared the principle of it was altogether hostile to anything like an insurance, or providing for the future, but I just showed them that it was not, as I looked upon it. It is a positive command that we are to take no anxious thought concerning tomorrow. Now, how can I do that? How can I put myself into such a position that I can carry out this commandment of taking no thought for the morrow? If I were a man struggling in life, and had it in my power to insure for something which would take care of wife and family in after days, if I did not do it, you might preach to me for all eternity about not taking thought for the morrow; but I could not help doing it, when I saw those I loved around me unprovided for. Let it be in God’s word, I could not practise it; I should still be at some time or other taking thought for the morrow. But let me go to one of the many excellent institutions which exist, and let me see that all is provided for, I come home and say, “Now, I know how to practise Christ’s command of taking no thought for the morrow; I pay the policy-money once a year, and I take no further thought about it, for I have no occasion to do so now, and have obeyed the very spirit and letter of Christ’s command.” Our Lord meant that we were to get rid of cares.

For meditation: Are you playing your part to provide practically for the members of your family? (1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12; 5:4,16). If not, perhaps you should start getting anxious (1 Timothy 5:8).

Sermon no. 94

25 August (1856)

John MacArthur – Expecting the Best

 

“[Love] believes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

Love always expects the best of others.

In Luke 15 Jesus tells a parable about a father who had two sons. The younger son asked for his share of the family inheritance, then left home and squandered it on sinful pursuits. When he realized his folly, he decided to return home and ask his father’s forgiveness. So “he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry'” (vv. 20-23).

That’s a beautiful illustration of love’s eagerness to forgive, but it also implies another characteristic of love. While the son was still far away, the father saw him coming. How could that be? Because he was watching for his son— anticipating and longing for his return. Love forgives when wrongs are committed against it, but it also expects the best of others. That’s what it means to believe all things (1 Cor. 13:7). That son had hurt his father deeply, but his father never lost hope that his son would return.

I know a Christian woman who has been married to an unbelieving husband for thirty years. Yet she continues to say, “He will come to Christ someday.” She isn’t blind to the situation, but her love for her husband has transformed her earnest desire into an expectation. She believes he will turn to Christ because love always expects the best.

Perhaps you have a spouse or child who is an unbeliever or has drifted away from the Lord. Don’t lose heart! Expect the best and let that expectation motivate you to pray more fervently and set a godly example for your loved ones to follow.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to guard your heart from cynical and suspicious attitudes toward others.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 9:1-13, noting the attitudes of the Jewish scribes and Pharisees toward Jesus.

Joyce Meyer – You Are Secure

 

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. – Proverbs 3:5–6

Following God is not a part-time lifestyle. The Bible clearly teaches that we are to be cautious at all times because the devil looks for opportunities to devour us (see 1 Peter 5:8).

But God gives us grace to withstand the devil and to be firm in faith against his onset. You can be rooted, established strong, immovable, and deter¬mined, knowing that whatever you face today is identical to what Christians throughout the world are facing. And God Himself will complete you and make you what you ought to be. He will establish you and ground you securely, strengthen and settle you today (see vv. 9–10).

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Free Gift

 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

One night I was speaking to several hundred men gathered in a skid row mission for an evangelistic meeting. I had been invited to bring the address and as always my heart was deeply stirred when I realized that these men needed the Lord so very much. In the spiritual sense, though, their lot was no worse than the leaders of the city, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death whether one is rich or poor, old or young, sick or well. It makes no difference. The wages of sin is death.

In an effort to communicate to these men the love of God and His free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, I pulled a ten-dollar bill from my pocket and said, “The first person who comes to take this from my hand, can have it as a free gift.” This was my way of illustrating God’s gift of grace. Out of the hundreds of people seated before me, not a single person moved as I extended the bill, repeating several times, “The first one who will come and take this bill from my hand can have it.”

Finally, a middle-aged man, shabbily dressed like the rest, stood timidly to his feet and with an inquiring expression said, “Do you really mean it?” I said, “Sure, come and get it; it is yours.” He almost ran to grasp it and he thanked me. The rest of the crowd began mumbling, as if to say, “Why didn’t I have the faith to go and accept the gift?”

This gave me a marvelous opportunity to emphasize that we do not earn God’s love. He loves us unconditionally – not because of who we are, but because of who He is. God proved His love for us in that while we were all wretched sinners, He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us and give to all men who will receive Him the gift of eternal life. Oh, what an attractive gift. Who could refuse to accept such a wonderful gift?

Bible Reading: Romans 6:17-22

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will trust the Lord to help me make His offer of this marvelous free gift, the gift of His only begotten Son who is eternal life, so attractive that no one can refuse to accept it.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – A Man to Be Like

 

Most people have heard of the apostle Paul, but a lesser-known name is Barnabas. His name was actually Joseph, but the disciples called him Barnabas or “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). The first mention of Barnabas is when he sold a field and brought the money to the apostles (Acts 4:37).

For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

Acts 11:24

When Paul was converted from persecutor to preacher, it was Barnabas who presented him to Christians who were understandably afraid of Paul (Acts 9:26). Barnabas traveled to Tarsus to find Paul and take him to Antioch, where they both preached for a year (Acts 11:25). It was Barnabas who assisted Paul through most of his missionary journeys (Acts 13-14), and though John Mark had abandoned them earlier, it was Barnabas who opposed Paul to give Mark a second chance (Acts 15:39-40).

Most people will never be like Paul, but most can be like Barnabas – one who gives, encourages, assists and gives second chances. You can be also be like Barnabas by praying and being filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. Intercede for this nation and ask God for opportunities to help spread the gospel to those who have yet to hear it.

Recommended Reading: I Corinthians 12:12-26

Greg Laurie – A Walk of Faith

 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.—Romans 5:1

The Bible tells the story of a man who had everything this world says one should have to feel happy and fulfilled: power, wealth, influence, and fame. But along with that came an emptiness that sent him on a search for God. As secretary of the treasury for a powerful nation, he was second only to the queen. But there was a hole in his heart, so it led him on a search to the spiritual capital of the world, Jerusalem. He did not find what he was looking for, but as he was returning home, he unexpectedly found the answer to his questions. He had an appointment with God that resulted in his conversion and complete transformation.

His story shows what happens when a person becomes a Christian. When someone truly believes in Jesus Christ, his or her life changes dramatically. This man went from emptiness and misery to overflowing joy. His story ends with the statement, “He went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). It is no exaggeration when the Bible says that we pass from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God, when we believe in Jesus Christ. It is describing what takes place in our lives.

But we also need to recognize that not every case is identical. There are different types of people who come to faith in different ways. Some have a tremendous emotional response, while others have no emotional experience at all.

An emotional experience has little to do with the reality of a person’s conversion. When I prayed and asked Christ to come into my life, I felt nothing. And because of this, I falsely concluded that God had rejected me. Thankfully, I discovered later that Christianity is a walk of faith and not of feeling.

Max Lucado – God Dancing Amidst the Common

 

There’s one word that describes the night Jesus came—ordinary. A beautiful night but nothing to keep a person awake. The sheep were ordinary. No fleece made of gold. No history makers. And the shepherds…peasants they were, probably wearing all the clothes they owned. You won’t find their staffs in a museum or their writings in a library. They were nameless and simple. And were it not for a God who loves to hook an “extra” on the front of ordinary, the night might have gone unnoticed.

But God dances amidst the common. And that night He did a waltz. The black sky exploded with brightness The night was ordinary no more. The angel came in the night because that’s when lights are best seen and most needed. God comes into the common for the same reason. His most powerful tools are the simplest.

From The Applause of Heaven

Night Light for Couples – The Marriage Triangle

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:7

God promises to bless those who trust in Him. The Psalms state that joy, deliverance, triumph, mercy, provision, blessedness, safety, and usefulness will come to those who put their confidence in the Lord. We need to rely on those blessings in our marriages—otherwise the stresses of life will pull us apart. And those stresses will come! When the house burns down… when a child becomes ill… when a job and steady paycheck are lost, it’s all too easy to let fear and frustration drive a wedge between partners. Even minor problems, such as a nagging cold or a sleepless night, can disrupt the quality of our marriage.

The good news is that we weren’t meant to succeed by depending only on each other. Marriage is a triangle—with husband and wife at the bottom corners and the Lord at the top. The book of Ecclesiastes conveys a similar truth when Solomon talks about the strength of a three‐stranded cord (4:12). If we invite the Lord into our marriage and trust in His strength, we can experience strength and peace in our marriage regardless of the circumstances.

Just between us…

  • When, before our marriage, did God prove strong for you in a time of crisis? What specific blessing did He provide?
  • How has He blessed us during hard times in our marriage?
  • What are some of the little stresses that tend to drive us apart?
  • In light of what we’ve read this week, how can we encourage each other to trust God more?

Dear Lord, we praise You that You—the God of love, power, and goodness— want to be a powerful presence in our relationship. When tests come, bind us together with love. When we are weak, be strong for us. Amen.

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