Tag Archives: christian faith

Ravi Zacharias Ministry

I am often asked in conversations with people outside of Christian faith why I am a Christian. Sometimes, before I am finished with an explanation, a litany of offenses associated with Christianity pours out as evidence against believing: all the bloodshed and religious wars, the Inquisition, anti-Semitism, etc. I actually don’t mind these kinds of critiques or questions. They are very important, and it would be foolish of me to pretend that the record of Christendom in the world was spotless. Much has been done in the name of Jesus by those who claim to be Christians, for which there should be collective shame.

Sometimes my honest acknowledgement of historic faults isn’t enough for my skeptical friends. Next, they scrutinize the Bible. Who wrote it? Can we trust it? How do we know it is God’s word? When it comes to the Bible, I also understand why these kinds of questions are raised. There are some fairly difficult passages, culturally specific events and contexts that can make the work of translation and understanding in this contemporary time—let alone for those who are completely unfamiliar with it—complicated at best. Again, it would be untruthful if those who studied the Bible pretended to understand everything within its narrative perfectly or completely.

One thing that is not difficult to see or understand, however, is all the humanity on display throughout the biblical narrative. Even the most ‘heroic’ or ‘epic’ of biblical characters are shown with their flaws and their weaknesses on display as much as their strengths. For example, Israel’s great deliverer Moses is called long past his prime and after having been exiled from the royal life in Egypt. We find him tending sheep in the middle of the wilderness. By his own admission, he is not a great public speaker, likely suffering from a speech impediment, and he struggles with his temper; he had killed an Egyptian and struck a rock with such force and violence that he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. King David, the great king of Israel, was actually the youngest of his family when he is anointed as king. He is tasked to keep the flocks. The first born son was the normal and rightful heir to inheritance and leadership. He committed murder and adultery, conducted a census against God’s specific prohibition, yet he is the one described as a ‘man after God’s heart.’

David likely penned most of Israel’s psalter—a psalter still used in both Jewish and Christian worship today. In this psalter, the record of human emotions, human experience, and human questioning is on display. These are the psalms of sacred worship even as they are the deepest cries of the human heart.

There are the twelve disciples; humble fishermen without much education who lived and learned from Jesus, himself. Despite their proximity to Jesus for three years, one would betray him, another would deny having even known him, and all of them would flee from him in his greatest hour of need. Even while having access to this great teacher, they often failed to understand his teaching. The apostle Paul, who penned most of the New Testament letters, was formerly a murderer of Christians and a legalist of legalists. Even though he is the first apostle of the early Christian movement, he couldn’t prevent a disagreement between himself and his fellow worker, Barnabus over John Mark from separating them.

In dealing with skeptics, there might be the temptation to overlook the humanity in the Bible. Perhaps it causes embarrassment, or creates fear that Christianity somehow doesn’t ‘work’ in transforming lives. I don’t see it that way at all. In fact, time and again when I have struggled with doubts in my faith, I am reminded of all the human individuals used by God as witnesses to the greatness of God’s love and redemption. It is one of the first things I point out in proclaiming the trustworthiness and faithfulness of the Biblical record, and indeed of Christian faith. For, unlike any other sacred text, as lofty and as grand as their epics might be, or as poetic and beautiful as their text reads, they do not show the full portrait of humanity on display as the Bible does; their heroes are not broken, but elevated humans and demi-gods.

So it seems worth asking: What kind of God, indeed what kind of religion, takes fallen and broken human beings and includes them in the plan of salvation? As the apostle Paul proclaimed of his own ministry; “for God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, made the light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:6-7).

Skeptics and critics of Christianity might still have well-reasoned arguments, and legitimate issues to raise with the faith (and with the faithful), but one thing that cannot be denied is that the God on display in the Bible is not afraid of our humanity, nor does that God shy away from using those who many might consider undesirable. It is this common humanity—on display in my own life so frequently—recorded in the narrative of Scripture that keeps me believing in its truth and relevance.

And if that weren’t all enough, Christianity proclaims a God who valued humanity so much that in Jesus God took on flesh, becoming human. He took on his own jar of clay and in so doing gifted all of humanity with immeasurable treasure.

 

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

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  One Real Thing

 

A story is told about a man who made an impression on his dinner guests in such a way that the memory stayed with them for decades. The man was known to many as one of the foremost Christian ministers of the twentieth century. His dinner guests, who were of a different persuasion, did not recall striking attempts to convert them or winsome arguments for the Christian faith. They remembered this: “He carved the meat with such dignity.”(1)

Much could be said of this observation. Much could be said of the kind of theology that shapes dinner parties, consumption, even the way one carves meat. And this is particularly true, I believe, in a world where the disconnect between farm and freezer is often so great that the origins, let alone the dignity, of our food is entirely unknown. A former professor tells a story about serving a roasted chicken for Sunday dinner as a special treat. His young son, far more accustomed to seeing chicken in less-identifiable “nuggets” or packaging, stared with fixation at the chicken on the table, slowly coming to recognize its form—body, wing, legs—when suddenly he yelped a cry of utter disgust. “It’s a bird!” He screamed. “Gross!”

My own disconnect with food and faith is not always so far off. In one of the more memorable scenes of the classic work Supper of the Lamb, priest and gastronome Robert Farrar Capon, noting such a disconnect, instructs the reader to take a moment to connect with an onion. Seated before your onion (resisting the temptation to feel silly), you will note to begin with, he writes, “that the onion is a thing, a being, just as you are… Together with knife, board, table, and chair, you are the constituents of a place in the highest sense of the word. This is a Session, a meeting, a society of things.”(2) Step by step Capon then leads the reader through the process of examining this confrontation, examining self and onion as fellow living things. At one point, reducing a piece of the onion to cell and skin by simply pressing the water out of it, he reflects on this “aqueous house of cards” with storied depth. “You have just now reduced it to its parts, shivered it into echoes, and pressed it to a memory, but you have also caught the hint that a thing is more than the sum of all the insubstantialities that comprise it. Hopefully, you will never again argue that the solidities of the world are mere matters of accident, creatures of air and darkness, temporary and meaningless shapes out of nothing.”(3)

There is indeed something dignified about this world of living things, about all the solidities around us, about eating and dining and breaking bread with others who share our mean estate. For the Christian, all of this dignity is understood as rising from the graciousness of God as creator and provider, and thus accordingly, the goodness of every living thing and creature God has made. This, I would argue, is the very worldview that was reflected in the way the thankful theologian served dinner all those years ago. In fact, fifteen years after dining with his guests, the man had occasion to hear about the mark he had made. His response to his impression of dignified meat carving was not one of surprise, but doxology. “Well, the animal gave its life for me!”

Like the remembrance of Christ in the breaking of bread, his carving was noteworthy to his guests not because it was a covert attempt at Christian symbolism, a religious act meant to persuade in abstraction. It was noteworthy because it was as real as the meal before them. And this is precisely the sort of kingdom into which Jesus invites the world: a kingdom of solidities, a kingdom of dignity and sacrifice, a kingdom ready to house God’s creatures even now. As Capon concludes of thing and creature, “One real thing is closer to God than all the diagrams in the world.” Thus, the dignity of God can indeed be found in meat-carving. The love of the Trinity in a gathering of friends. A taste of the creator in broken bread. The kingdom of God is not in words, Jesus said, but in power. In this world of living and dying things, his table and the invitation to join him is a real meal, an impressive offering.

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

(1) Story told by Mark Greene of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

(2) Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection (New York: Macmillan, 1989), 11.

(3) Ibid., 17.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Christ Our Attorney

 

“If anyone publicly acknowledges Me as his friend, I will openly acknowledge him as My friend before My Father in heaven. But if anyone publicly denies Me, I will openly deny him before My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32,33).

Some time ago, I challenged a famous and successful statesman to share his Christian faith.

“I believe that religion is personal and private, not something to wear on your sleeve,” he replied. “I am a Christian, but I don’t want to talk about it.”

I reminded him that Jesus loved him enough to die for him. His disciples were so convinced of the urgency of passing on to others the message of God’s love and forgiveness through Christ that they, and many thousands like them – though they died as martyrs – did not give up their efforts to get the message to us.

Further, I reminded him of the words of Jesus, “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30, KJV) and the passage above from Matthew 10.

He was very sobered by my remarks. After a few minutes, he said, “I agree with you. I realize how wrong I have been. I had never realized how far off course I had gotten. I need to rethink all of my priorities and give Christ His rightful place in my life.”

“My challenge to laymen,” R. G. Le Tourneau, one of America’s leading industrialists and Christian statesmen, once said, “is that when Christ said, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel,’ He did not mean only preachers but everyone who believed in Him as the Lord of glory…….My challenge to you is for a return to this first-century conception of Christianity where every believer is a witness to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bible Reading: Psalm 119:41-48

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will publicly acknowledge my love for Christ, and through the enabling of the Holy Spirit I will live today so that others will want what I have, and I will speak so that they will know what I have.

John MacArthur – Praying for Believers

 

“For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16).

Your love for other Christians is as much a mark of true faith as your love for God.

The Ephesian Christians demonstrated two important characteristics of genuine Christian faith: faith in the Lord Jesus and love for fellow believers.

“Faith in the Lord Jesus” implies both an affirmation of Christ’s deity and submission to His sovereignty. Because He is God, He is the Sovereign Lord, so we must obey what He commands (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).

Your “love for all the saints” is as much a mark of true faith as your love for God. John said, “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now” (1 John 2:9). In that passage “light” is a metaphor for righteousness and truth, and “darkness” is a metaphor for sin and error. It is sinful and erroneous to claim you love God if you have no love for other believers. Those who love God will love fellow believers as well.

If you love others, you will pray for them and praise God for their spiritual progress—as Paul did for the Ephesians—and they will do the same for you. That’s a wonderful dynamic within the Body of Christ, and one that you must diligently pursue.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • If you haven’t done so already, start a prayer list of individuals for whom you will pray each day. List their names and some specific requests. Record answers to your prayers as you see God moving in their lives.
  • Remember to thank God for their spiritual progress as well as praying for their needs. Let them know you are praying for them. That could be a source of great encouragement for them.
  • If you are at odds with another believer, seek to reconcile immediately (Matt. 5:23-24) so your witness will be strong and the Lord’s name won’t suffer reproach.

For Further Study; Read Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-14.

  • What requests and concerns did Paul express in his prayers?
  • Do your prayers reflect Paul’s priorities? If not, what adjustments must you make to have a more biblical pattern of prayer?

 

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Shining Light

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The late President Ronald Reagan once said, “The source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual.” It was evident that Reagan was a political leader whose Christian faith helped shaped his presidency – and changed the world. He also is remembered for a presidency that restored optimism to America. During his funeral service, former U.S. Senator John Danforth referred to verses from the book of Matthew in his message.

The glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Revelation 21:23

“You are the light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hid,” said Danforth, quoting the first verse in the passage. “It was [Reagan’s] favorite theme from his first inaugural address to his final address from the oval office. For him, America was the shining city on a hill.”

Give thanks for those leaders in America who love the Lord and who publicly proclaim their faith. Ask God to give them courage to shine His light everywhere they go and in all the decisions they make. Then consider how you can be more available to God to declare the light of His love to your neighbors and coworkers to His glory!

Recommended Reading: I John 5:1-12

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Faithful Servants

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Gilbert Breedlove regards his work as an act of worship to God. In fact, this North Carolina county judge recently resigned because he did not want to violate his Christian faith and perform same-sex marriages, now permitted under the state’s law. However, Breedlove is not worried about his financial future because his faith is in the Lord.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

Colossians 3:23

“I was Christian when I started,” Breedlove said. “Then, the law didn’t require me to perform something that was against my religious belief. Now that law has changed its requirements.”

Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints.” The desire of every follower of Jesus Christ is to one day hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Strive to please God in all you do, and remember to thank the Lord each day for America’s leaders who faithfully serve Him. Intercede for God’s protection and provision whenever they choose to follow their Christian faith instead of taking the politically popular path.

Recommended Reading: I Thessalonians 1:2-10

John MacArthur – The Heroes of Faith

John MacArthur

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval” (Heb. 11:1-2).

Christian faith produces righteous deeds.

Hebrews 11 has been called “The Heroes of Faith,” “The Faith Chapter,” “The Saints’ Hall of Fame,” “The Honor Roll of the Old Testament Saints,” and “The Westminster Abbey of Scripture.” Those are appropriate titles because this chapter highlights the virtues of faith as demonstrated in the lives of great Old Testament saints. It also reminds us that without faith, it is impossible to please God.

Such a reminder was necessary for the first-century Hebrew people because Judaism had abandoned true faith in God for a legalistic system of works righteousness. Its message is valid today since our devotion to Christ can easily degenerate into a religion of rules and regulations.

While affirming the primacy of faith, the writer of Hebrews doesn’t undermine the importance of righteous works. Quite the contrary. He exhorts us “to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (10:24) and to pursue holiness so others will see Christ in us and be drawn to Him (12:14).

Yet righteous works are the by-product of true salvation, not its means. As the apostle Paul wrote, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Apart from faith, all attempts to please God through good works alone are as useless and offensive to Him as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). That’s why Paul gladly set all his Jewish legalistic practices aside, counting them as rubbish. He wanted only “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9).

This month we’ll study the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11. As we do, remember they weren’t perfect people. But their faith was exemplary and by it they gained God’s approval. I pray that’s true of you as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the gift of faith.
  • Undoubtedly you know people who are trying to please God by their own efforts. Pray for them and take every opportunity to tell them of true salvation through faith in Christ

For Further Study

Select one of the individuals mentioned in Hebrews 11 and read the Old Testament account of his or her life.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Can Be Sure

dr_bright

“And how can we be sure that we belong to Him? By looking within ourselves: are we really trying to do what He wants us to? Someone may say, ‘I am a Christian; I am on my way to heaven; I belong to Christ.’ But if he doesn’t do what Christ tells him to do, he is a liar. But those who do what Christ tells them to will learn to love God more and more. That is the way to know whether or not you are a Christian. Anyone who says He is a Christian should live as Christ did” (1 John 2:3-6).

I frequently counsel with people who assure me that they are Christians, but their life-styles betray their profession. In fact, Jesus refers to this kind of person in His parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30).

“I never knew you; depart from me,” He will say to people whose profession of Christian faith is insincere (Matthew 7:23, NAS). According to the Word of God, these people are confused, and we do them a great injustice if we do not hold before them the mirror of God’s Word. Our Scripture portion today is one of the most effective passages to help open their eyes.

If there has not been a difference in your life-style since you professed faith in Christ; if, even in your failure and sin – and we all fail and sin at times – you do not have a desire to obey God and live a life pleasing to Him, it is quite possible that the new birth has not taken place in your life. Test yourself if you are not sure; if you have not done so, you can experience the new birth simply by receiving Christ into your heart today. This applies more directly to carnal Christians.

Bible Reading: I John 3:18-24

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: To be absolutely certain of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I will take spiritual inventory of my life and seek to ascertain whether my life-style is consistent with that of the true believer and follower of Christ.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – From Pain to Glory

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People are shocked by such cases as Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who has been suffering in an Iranian prison for 20 months, and Miriam Ibrahim, a young mother and wife of an American who is sentenced to death in Sudan for her Christian faith. Her small son and infant girl suffer imprisonment with her. It’s undeniably tragic, but today’s verse assures God’s glory will someday be revealed in them.

Share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

I Peter 4:13

In Acts 12, Peter was in a similar situation – in jail condemned to die. But believers gathered together, prayed and fasted for him. An angel miraculously released him. But about 33 years later, Peter was martyred. Peter encouraged, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (I Peter 4:19)

You’re likely not being persecuted for your faith, but you can share in Christ’s suffering by fasting and praying for Miriam and Saeed and others who are. You can also give to organizations that fight for their release. Finally, you can pray that God would move on national leaders to stand against religious persecution.

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:18-25

Charles Stanley – Our Risen Savior

Charles Stanley

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection form a solid foundation for our Christian faith. Scripture tells us that Jesus lived a perfect life—one without any sin. As the spotless Lamb of God, He willingly went to the cross and sacrificed Himself for us (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Christ bore our sins and endured our punishment so we might be reconciled to God.

The Savior’s death was accepted by the Father as full payment for our sins, and it made a way for us to be at peace with Him (Rom. 5:1). Three days after the crucifixion, Jesus was raised from death to life. He had overcome the grave. In victory, He ascended into heaven and now sits at the Father’s right hand.

Christ’s death and resurrection are a picture of what happened at our salvation. Recognizing ourselves as sinners who could not pay for our own misdeeds, we expressed faith in our Savior. Then, “our old self was crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6), and we were reborn spiritually. Because of His sacrifice, we were forgiven, reconciled to God, and adopted into His family. Heaven will be our eternal home.

Paul emphasized the importance of the resurrection to the Christian life. He explained that if it were not true, our faith would be in vain.

The risen Christ appeared to many people. He let Thomas touch Him to know that He was alive. After the Lord ascended into heaven, the Father sent His Holy Spirit to indwell believers and bear witness to the truth of the resurrection. Our faith is based on the secure foundation of a risen Savior.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – One Real Thing

Ravi Z

A story is told about a man who made an impression on his dinner guests in such a way that the memory stayed with them for decades. The man was known to many as one of the foremost Christian ministers of the twentieth century. His dinner guests, who were of a different persuasion, did not recall striking attempts to convert them or winsome arguments for the Christian faith. They remembered this: “He carved the meat with such dignity.”(1)

Much could be said of this observation. Much could be said of a theology that can shape dinner parties, consumption, even the way one carves meat. This is perhaps particularly true for a world where the disconnect between farm and freezer is often so great that the origins, let alone the dignity, of our food is entirely unknown. I recall a former professor telling the story of serving a roasted chicken for Sunday dinner as a special treat. His young son, far more accustomed to seeing chicken in less-identifiable “nuggets” or packaging, stared with fixation at the chicken on the table, slowly coming to recognize its form—body, wing, legs—when suddenly he yelped a cry of utter disgust. “It’s a bird!” He screamed. “Gross!”

My own disconnect with food and faith is not always so far off. In one of the more memorable scenes of the classic work Supper of the Lamb, priest and gastronome Robert Farar Capon, noting such a disconnect, instructs the reader to take a moment to connect with an onion. “Seated before your onion (resisting the temptation to feel silly), you will note to begin with,” he writes, “that the onion is a thing, a being, just as you are… Together with knife, board, table, and chair, you are the constituents of a place in the highest sense of the word. This is a Session, a meeting, a society of things.”(2) Step by step Capon then leads the reader through the process of examining this confrontation, examining self and onion as fellow living things. At one point, reducing a piece of the onion to cell and skin by simply pressing the water out of it, he reflects on this “aqueous house of cards” with storied depth. “You have just now reduced it to its parts, shivered it into echoes, and pressed it to a memory, but you have also caught the hint that a thing is more than the sum of all the insubstantialities that comprise it. Hopefully, you will never again argue that the solidities of the world are mere matters of accident, creatures of air and darkness, temporary and meaningless shapes out of nothing.”(3)

There is indeed something dignified about this world of living things, about all the solidities around us, about eating and dining and breaking bread with others who share our mean estate. For the Christian, all of this dignity is understood as rising from the graciousness of God as creator and provider, and thus accordingly, the goodness of every living thing and creature God has made. This, I would argue, is the very worldview that was reflected in the way the thankful theologian served dinner all those years ago. In fact, fifteen years after dining with his guests, the man had occasion to hear about the mark he had made. His response to his impression of dignified meat carving was not one of surprise, but doxology. “Well, the animal gave its life for me!”

Nonetheless, his carving, like the remembrance of Christ in the breaking of bread, was noteworthy to his guests not because it was a covert attempt at Christian symbolism, a religious act meant to persuade in abstraction. It was noteworthy because it was as real as the meal before them. And this is precisely the sort of kingdom into which Jesus invites: a kingdom of solidities, a kingdom of dignity and sacrifice, a kingdom ready to house God’s creatures even now. As Capon concludes of thing and creature, “One real thing is closer to God than all the diagrams in the world.” Thus the dignity of God can indeed be found in meat-carving. The love of the Trinity in a gathering of friends. A taste of the creator in broken bread. The kingdom of God is not in words, Jesus said, but in power. In this world of living and dying things, his table and the invitation to join him is a real meal, a solid offering of promise.

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

(1) Story told by Mark Greene of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

(2) Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection (New York: Macmillan, 1989), 11.

(3) Ibid., 17.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Christ Our Attorney

dr_bright

“If anyone publicly acknowledges Me as his friend, I will openly acknowledge him as My friend before My Father in heaven. But if anyone publicly denies Me, I will openly deny him before My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32,33).

Some time ago, I challenged a famous and successful statesman to share his Christian faith.

“I believe that religion is personal and private, not something to wear on your sleeve,” he replied. “I am a Christian, but I don’t want to talk about it.”

I reminded him that Jesus loved him enough to die for him. His disciples were so convinced of the urgency of passing on to others the message of God’s love and forgiveness through Christ that they, and many thousands like them – though they died as martyrs – did not give up their efforts to get the message to us.

Further, I reminded him of the words of Jesus, “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30, KJV) and the passage above from Matthew 10.

He was very sobered by my remarks. After a few minutes, he said, “I agree with you. I realize how wrong I have been. I had never realized how far off course I had gotten. I need to rethink all of my priorities and give Christ His rightful place in my life.”

“My challenge to laymen,” R. G. Le Tourneau, one of America’s leading industrialists and Christian statesmen, once said, “is that when Christ said, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel,’ He did not mean only preachers but everyone who believed in Him as the Lord of glory…….My challenge to you is for a return to this first-century conception of Christianity where every believer is a witness to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bible Reading: Psalm 119:41-48

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will publicly acknowledge my love for Christ, and through the enabling of the Holy Spirit I will live today so that others will want what I have, and I will speak so that they will know what I have.

 

John MacArthur – Praying for Believers

John MacArthur

“For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16).

The Ephesian Christians demonstrated two important characteristics of genuine Christian faith: faith in the Lord Jesus and love for fellow believers.

“Faith in the Lord Jesus” implies both an affirmation of Christ’s deity and submission to His sovereignty. Because He is God, He is the Sovereign Lord, so we must obey what He commands (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).

Your “love for all the saints” is as much a mark of true faith as your love for God. John said, “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now” (1 John 2:9). In that passage “light” is a metaphor for righteousness and truth, and “darkness” is a metaphor for sin and error. It is sinful and erroneous to claim you love God if you have no love for other believers. Those who love God will love fellow believers as well.

If you love others, you will pray for them and praise God for their spiritual progress–as Paul did for the Ephesians–and they will do the same for you. That’s a wonderful dynamic within the Body of Christ, and one that you must diligently pursue.

Suggestions for Prayer:

If you haven’t done so already, start a prayer list of individuals for whom you will pray each day. List their names and some specific requests. Record answers to your prayers as you see God moving in their lives.

Remember to thank God for their spiritual progress as well as praying for their needs. Let them know you are praying for them. That could be a source of great encouragement for them.

If you are at odds with another believer, seek to reconcile immediately (Matt. 5:23-24) so your witness will be strong and the Lord’s name won’t suffer reproach.

For Further Study:

Read Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-14

What requests and concerns did Paul express in his prayers?

Do your prayers reflect Paul’s priorities? If not, what adjustments must you make to have a more biblical pattern of prayer?

Alistair Begg – The Call of Christian Faith

Alistair Begg

Come to me.

Matthew 11:28

The call of the Christian faith is the gentle word, “Come.” The Jewish law spoke harshly: “Go, pay attention to your steps as to the path in which you will walk. Break the commandments, and you will perish; keep them, and you will live.” The law was a dispensation of terror that drove men before it as with a scourge; the Gospel draws with cords of love. Jesus is the Good Shepherd going before His sheep, bidding them follow Him, and leading them forward with the sweet word, “Come.” The law repels; the Gospel attracts. The law shows the distance that exists between God and man; the Gospel bridges that awful chasm and brings the sinner across it.

From the first moment of your spiritual life until you are welcomed into heaven, the language of Christ to you will be, “Come to me.” As a mother extends her hand to her tiny child and woos it to walk by saying, “Come,” even so does Jesus. He will always be ahead of you, bidding you follow Him as the soldier follows his captain. He will always go before you to pave your way and clear your path, and you will hear His life-giving voice calling you to follow Him all through your life; in the solemn hour of death, His sweet words with which He will usher you into the heavenly world will be, “Come, you who are blessed of my Father.”1

This is not only Christ’s call to you, but if you are a believer, this is your call to Christ-“Come! Come!” You will be longing for His return; you will be saying, “Come quickly; even so come, Lord Jesus.” You will desire nearer and closer fellowship with Him. As His voice to you is “Come,” your response to Him will be, “Come, Lord, and stay with me. Come and occupy the throne of my heart; reign there without a rival, and consecrate me entirely to Your service.”

1 Matthew 25:34

 

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Hope For Skeptics

Our Daily Bread

Isaiah 55:6-13

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please. —Isaiah 55:11

As a workplace chaplain, I’m privileged to be in conversation with many different people. Some are skeptics of the Christian faith. I’ve discovered three major hurdles that keep them from trusting in Christ for salvation.

The first barrier, surprisingly, isn’t an unwillingness to believe that God exists; instead some doubt that they’re important enough for God’s attention. Second, some believe they are unworthy of His forgiveness. People are often their own harshest judges. The third hurdle? They wonder why God is not communicating with them if He is out there.

Let’s work backward through the hurdles to see what God’s Word says. First, God doesn’t play head games. He promises that if we read His Word, He will make sure it accomplishes His purpose (Isa. 55:11). In other words, if we read it we will discover that God is communicating with us. This is precisely why the Bible speaks so often of His grace and mercy toward all (v.7). His willingness to forgive surpasses our own. Once we learn that we can hear God in the Bible and once we see the emphasis on His mercy, it becomes easier to believe we have His attention when we cry out to Him.

God’s story is amazing. It can give hope for all of us. —Randy Kilgore

There can be times when one’s mind is in doubt,

Times when one asks what the faith is about;

But we can believe Him, we know that He cares—

Our God is real, as the Bible declares. —Fitzhugh

Honest skepticism can be the first step to a strong faith.

Bible in a year: Hosea 5-8; Revelation 2

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Faith, Trust, and Evidence

Ravi Z

I’ve been trying to avoid using the word ‘faith’ recently. It just doesn’t get the message across. ‘Faith’ is a word that’s now misused and twisted. ‘Faith’ today is what you try to use when the reasons are stacking up against what you think you ought to believe. Greg Koukl sums up the popular view of faith, “It’s religious wishful thinking, in which one squeezes out spiritual hope by intense acts of sheer will. People of ‘faith’ believe the impossible. People of ‘faith’ believe that which is contrary to fact. People of ‘faith’ believe that which is contrary to evidence. People of ‘faith’ ignore reality.” It shouldn’t therefore come as a great surprise to us, that people raise their eyebrows when ‘faith’ in Christ is mentioned. Is it strange that they seem to prefer what seems like reason over insanity?

It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t overemphasize the individual elements of the whole picture of faith, like we so often do. But what does the Bible say about faith? Is it what Simon Peter demonstrates when he climbs out of the boat and walks over the water towards Jesus? Or is it what Thomas has after he has put his hand in Jesus’s side? Interestingly, biblical faith isn’t believing against the evidence. Instead, faith is a kind of knowing that results in action. The clearest definition comes from Hebrews 11:1. This verse says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In fact, when the New Testament talks about faith positively it only uses words derived from the Greek root [pistis], which means ‘to be persuaded.’ In those verses from Hebrews, we find the words, “hope,” “assurance,” “conviction” that is, confidence. Now, what gives us this confidence?

Christian faith is not belief in the absence of evidence. It is the proper response to the evidence. Koukl explains that, “Christian faith cares about the evidence…the facts matter. You can’t have assurance for something you don’t know you’re going to get. You can only hope for it. This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. It gives assurance to the hope. Because of a Christian view of faith, Paul is able to say in 1 Corinthians 15 that when it comes to the resurrection, if we have only hope, but no assurance—if Jesus didn’t indeed rise from the dead in time/space history—then we are of most men to be pitied. This confidence Paul is talking about is not a confidence in a mere ‘faith’ resurrection, a mythical resurrection, a story-telling resurrection. Instead, it’s a belief in a real resurrection. If the real resurrection didn’t happen, then we’re in trouble. The Bible knows nothing of a bold leap-in-the-dark faith, a hope-against-hope faith, a faith with no evidence. Rather, if the evidence doesn’t correspond to the hope, then the faith is in vain, as even Paul has said.”

So in conclusion, faith is not a kind of religious hoping that you do in spite of the facts. In fact, faith is a kind of knowing that results in doing. A knowing that is so passionately and intelligently faithful to Jesus Christ that it will not submit to fideism, scientism, nor any other secularist attempt to divert and cauterize the human soul by hijacking knowledge.

Tom Price is an academic tutor at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Can Be Sure

dr_bright

“And how can we be sure that we belong to Him? By looking within ourselves: are we really trying to do what He wants us to? Someone may say, ‘I am a Christian; I am on my way to heaven; I belong to Christ.’ But if he doesn’t do what Christ tells him to do, he is a liar. But those who do what Christ tells them to will learn to love God more and more. That is the way to know whether or not you are a Christian. Anyone who says He is a Christian should live as Christ did” (1 John 2:3-6).

I frequently counsel with people who assure me that they are Christians, but their life-styles betray their profession. In fact, Jesus refers to this kind of person in His parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30).

“I never knew you; depart from me,” He will say to people whose profession of Christian faith is insincere (Matthew 7:23, NAS). According to the Word of God, these people are confused, and we do them a great injustice if we do not hold before them the mirror of God’s Word. Our Scripture portion today is one of the most effective passages to help open their eyes.

If there has not been a difference in your life-style since you professed faith in Christ; if, even in your failure and sin – and we all fail and sin at times – you do not have a desire to obey God and live a life pleasing to Him, it is quite possible that the new birth has not taken place in your life. Test yourself if you are not sure; if you have not done so, you can experience the new birth simply by receiving Christ into your heart today. This applies more directly to carnal Christians.

Bible Reading: I John 3:18-24

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: To be absolutely certain of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I will take spiritual inventory of my life and seek to ascertain whether my life-style is consistent with that of the true believer and follower of Christ.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Happy Are the Mourners

dr_bright

“Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

During my days of agnosticism and early inquiry into the Christian faith, I was not aware of my sin. I had come to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, that He died on the cross for the sins of man but somehow it had not dawned on me that I was that bad. My life-style was not much different from that of the average church member. And, though my life was far from exemplary, in my own estimation I was a pretty decent fellow. As a matter of fact, I had some problems with all the talk about the cross and the shedding of blood. It seemed offensive to my aesthetic nature.

I was willing to believe that Jesus was the greatest influence, the greatest teacher, the greatest leader, the greatest example that man had ever known. And if He had to die on the cross to make a point, I did not think it was important enough to be made an issue. In fact, the thing that was really important to me was the fact that according to the Bible and the historical evidence, Jesus lived a very wonderful life dedicated to helping others. Then one day – I shall never forget the time and place, though I have forgotten the exact passage – as I read the Bible I was suddenly gripped with the necessity of Christ dying on the cross for my sins. I finally realized that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin, that I had fallen short of the glory of God and that I deserved death. I realized that there is nothing in me that merited His love, His grace, His forgiveness, His cleansing. I found myself on my knees in tears, deeply conscious of my unworthiness and, for the first time in my life, understood the true meaning of the cross and the reason He shed His blood for me.

Soon after I was elected to the board of deacons of my church and was called upon to serve communion. I shall never forget that experience. I found myself weeping as I served the wafers representing His broken body and the grape juice representing His blood that was shed for the sins of all men, for my sins, because now his death on the cross meant everything to me. A hymn, which had once been offensive to me, now became one of my favorites: “what can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” I believe that this is what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.”

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 31:10-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will not ignore my sins but will mourn over them by confessing, repenting, and, through the discipline of spiritual breathing, walking constantly in the light as a model of the supernatural life.

 

John MacArthur – Fulfilling the Royal Law

John MacArthur

“If . . . you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well” (James 2:8).

In Matthew 22:36 a lawyer asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest. Jesus answered, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (vv. 37-40). Love for God and one’s fellow man summarizes the intent of God’s law, and is the measure of true faith.

Jesus wasn’t calling for the shallow, emotional, self- oriented love that is so prevalent in our society, but for a sacrificial quality of love that places the needs of others on par with your own. That kind of love is utterly incompatible with partiality, which seeks only to further its own selfish goals.

Showing partiality breaks God’s law because it violates God’s attributes, misrepresents the Christian faith, ignores God’s choice of the poor, and condones the blasphemous behavior of the rich (James 2:1-7). But when you treat others impartially, you fulfill the royal law. “Royal” in James 2:8 translates a Greek word that speaks of sovereignty. The law was given by God, who is the supreme authority in the universe, so it is authoritative and binding. Love fulfills God’s law because if you love someone, you won’t sin against him.

Apparently not all of James’s readers were showing partiality, so he commended them, saying they were “doing well.” The Greek word translated “well” speaks of that which is excellent. They were doing an excellent thing because they were acting in a manner consistent with God’s impartial, loving nature. That’s God’s call to every believer: for “the one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). As you do, you fulfill God’s law and thereby prove that your faith and love are genuine.

Suggestions for Prayer:

God’s love is the only antidote for partiality, so pray each day that He will teach you how better to express His love to those around you.

For Further Study:

Read the following verses, noting the characteristics of godly love: John 3:16, Ephesians 5:25-29, Philippians 1:9- 11, and 1 John 5:1-3.