Tag Archives: christianity

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning   “I will never leave thee.” / Hebrews 13:5

No promise is of private interpretation. Whatever God has said to any one saint, he has said to all. When he opens a well for one, it is that all may drink. When he openeth a granary-door to give out food, there may be some one starving man who is the occasion of its being opened, but all hungry saints may come and feed too. Whether he gave the word to Abraham or to Moses, matters not, O believer; he has given it to thee as one of the covenanted seed. There is not a high blessing too lofty for thee, nor a wide mercy too extensive for thee. Lift up now thine eyes to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, for all this is thine. Climb to Pisgah’s top, and view the utmost limit of the divine promise, for the land is all thine own. There is not a brook of living water of which thou mayst not drink. If the land floweth with milk and honey, eat the honey and drink the milk, for both are thine. Be thou bold to believe, for he hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”In this promise, God gives to his people everything. “I will never leave thee.” Then no attribute of God can cease to be engaged for us. Is he mighty? He will show himself strong on the behalf of them that trust him. Is he love? Then with lovingkindness will he have mercy upon us. Whatever attributes may compose the character of Deity, every one of them to its fullest extent shall be engaged on our side. To put everything in one, there is nothing you can want, there is nothing you can ask for, there is nothing you can need in time or in eternity, there is nothing living, nothing dying, there is nothing in this world, nothing in the next world, there is nothing now, nothing at the resurrection-morning, nothing in heaven which is not contained in this text–“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Evening  “Take up the cross, and follow me.” / Mark 10:21

You have not the making of your own cross, although unbelief is a master carpenter at cross-making; neither are you permitted to choose your own cross, although self-will would fain be lord and master; but your cross is prepared and appointed for you by divine love, and you are cheerfully to accept it; you are to take up the cross as your chosen badge and burden, and not to stand cavilling at it. This night Jesus bids you submit your shoulder to his easy yoke. Do not kick at it in petulance, or trample on it in vain-glory, or fall under it in despair, or run away from it in fear, but take it up like a true follower of Jesus. Jesus was a cross-bearer; he leads the way in the path of sorrow. Surely you could not desire a better guide! And if he carried a cross, what nobler burden would you desire? The Via Crucis is the way of safety; fear not to tread its thorny paths.

Beloved, the cross is not made of feathers, or lined with velvet, it is heavy and galling to disobedient shoulders; but it is not an iron cross, though your fears have painted it with iron colours, it is a wooden cross, and a man can carry it, for the Man of sorrows tried the load. Take up your cross, and by the power of the Spirit of God you will soon be so in love with it, that like Moses, you would not exchange the reproach of Christ for all the treasures of Egypt. Remember that Jesus carried it, and it will smell sweetly; remember that it will soon be followed by the crown, and the thought of the coming weight of glory will greatly lighten the present heaviness of trouble. The Lord help you to bow your spirit in submission to the divine will ere you fall asleep this night, that waking with to-morrow’s sun, you may go forth to the day’s cross with the holy and submissive spirit which becomes a follower of the Crucified

 

 

Realizing Our Ultimate Priority – John MacArthur

 

“To the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11).

Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 closes with a reminder that love, excellence, integrity, and righteousness bring glory and praise to God.

God’s glory is a recurring theme in Paul’s writings, and rightly so because that is the Christian’s highest priority. But what is God’s glory and what does it mean to bring Him glory? After all, He is infinitely glorious in nature, so we can’t add anything to Him. His glory is never diminished, so it doesn’t have to be replenished or bolstered.

In Exodus 33:18-19 Moses says to God, “‘I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!’ And [God] said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.'” In effect God was telling Moses that His glory is the composite of His attributes.

That suggests we can glorify God by placing His attributes on display in our lives. When others see godly characteristics like love, mercy, patience, and kindness in you, they have a better picture of what God is like. That honors Him. That’s why it’s so important to guard your attitudes and actions. Paul admonished Timothy to be exemplary in his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Tim. 4:12). That should be true of every believer!

Another way to glorify God is to praise Him. David said, “Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array. . . . In His temple everything says, ‘Glory!'” (Ps. 29:1- 2, 9).

You cannot add to God’s glory, but you can proclaim it in your words and deeds. What picture of God do others see in you? Does your life bring glory to Him?

Suggestions for Prayer: In 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 David instructs Asaph and Asaph’s relatives on how to glorify God. Using that passage as a model, spend time in prayer glorifying God.

For Further Study:  Reread 1 Chronicles 16:8-36, noting any specific instructions that apply to you.

 

An E-Mail from Heaven? – Greg Laurie

 

Imagine that you were desperately hoping for a letter from someone special. You stand at the window, waiting for what seems like an eternity for the mail carrier to arrive. Finally, he drives up and puts something in your mailbox. You bolt outside and tear into your mail, looking for that precious letter. Maybe it’s from someone you love. Maybe it’s an answer to a job application.

Or imagine you are waiting for that e-mail response from someone you had contacted. You really needed to hear what they had to say. The moment it arrived you opened it.

But what if you had a handwritten note from God, directly to you? Would you carry it around in your pocket for a couple of weeks and open it when you got around to it? I doubt it. You’d probably tear it open as you’re thinking, Wow, God spoke to me! What does He have to say?

The Bible is a letter written by God to us. A lot of us carry it. But few of us ever read it.

One of the wonderful, supernatural aspects to reading God’s Word is the way it speaks so directly to specific circumstances in our lives. We may have read a portion of the Bible many times before, but suddenly the words leap off the page at us with fresh meaning and power.

No matter where you are in life, God has a personal message for you in the pages of the Bible. It’s waiting for you right now. Why not take a few minutes to see what He wants to say to you today?

 

From the Inside Out by Joyce Meyer

 

The King’s daughter in the inner part [of the palace] is all glorious; her clothing is inwrought with gold.

—Psalm 45:13

During the Christmas season, department store windows often feature bright, shiny presents with perfectly tied bows. These gifts may look desirable, but if we were to open them, we would find nothing inside. They are empty, just for “show.” Our lives can be the same way, like beautifully wrapped packages with nothing of value inside. On the outside, our lives may look attractive or even enviable to others, but on the inside we may be dry and empty. We can look spiritual on the outside, but be powerless within if we do not allow the Holy Spirit to make His home in our hearts.

The verse for today emphasizes the importance of the inner life. God puts the Holy Spirit inside us to work on our inner lives—our attitudes, our responses, our motivations, our priorities, and other important things. As we submit to Christ’s Lordship in our inmost beings, we will sense when He is speaking to us, and we will experience His righteousness, peace, and joy rising up from within us to empower us for abundant living (see Romans 14:17).

The Holy Spirit lives inside us to make us more and more like Christ and to fill us with His presence and guidance, so we will have something to share with others, something that comes from deep in the core of our being and is valuable, powerful, and life giving to everyone with whom we interact.

God’s word for you today: Focus on your inner life more than your outer life

 

The Kingdom of Heaven – Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright

 

“Happy are those who are persecuted because they are good, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:10).

Have you ever been persecuted because of your faith in Christ? If so, how did you respond?

While Francis Xavier was preaching one day in one of the cities of Japan, a man walked up to him as if he had something to say to him privately. As the missionary leaned closer to hear what he had to say, the man spat on his face.

Without a word or the least sign of annoyance, Xavier pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his face. Then he went on with his important message as if nothing had happened. The scorn of the audience was turned to admiration.

The most learned doctor of the city happened to be present.

“A law which teaches men such virtue, inspires them with such courage, and gives them such complete mastery over themselves,” he said, “could not but be from God.”

Supernatural power and enablement by God’s Holy Spirit make that kind of behavior possible for every believer. Furthermore, that kind of behavior probably will do more to attract and influence an unbelieving world than words ever can.

With Christ as our example, love as our motive, and humility as our covering, let us depend on God’s Holy Spirit for the wisdom and strength required to respond to mistreatment in a Christ-like way. Then, and only then, are we in a position to reflect honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bible Reading: Matthew 5:7-12

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Mindful that millions of Christians have died as martyrs getting the message of God’s good news through to men, and remembering that “all who live godly lives in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, “I will not shrink from whatever the Lord may have in store for me today as His witness. Drawing upon the supernatural resources of God, I will demonstrate by my words and witness that I belong to Christ.

Spiritual Joy – Charles Stanley

 

Acts 16:16-34

Paul wrote extensively about spiritual joy and knew it was attainable even in dire situations. That’s because it originates with the indwelling Holy Spirit.

But believers can lose their gladness for several reasons:

• Wrong focus. Paul and Silas were able to praise God despite severe trials because they centered on Jesus. Concentrating on our difficulties will cause delight to disappear. Refocusing through praise will bring it back.

• Disobedience. Sin steals our joy because it separates us from the Lord. As we receive His forgiveness and obey Him, joy returns.

• Regret. We crowd out gladness when we continue to feel bad about past mistakes. God wants us to believe that He forgives us (1 John 1:9). He also desires that we choose to live in His grace and move ahead.

• Fear. Too often we let concerns about the future dictate our mood. With so much outside our control, we become afraid. Joy and fear cannot coexist. The Lord calls us to live by faith, asking Him to meet today’s needs and trusting Him with the future.

• Someone else’s suffering. How can we rejoice when others are hurting? The Bible says we are to weep with them (Rom. 12:15), but we are also to offer the hope of God’s presence, power, and provision. A downcast spirit is a poor witness for hope. (Ps. 42:11)

Because he had been through the “fires” of beatings, rejections, and arrests, the apostle Paul was qualified to write that confident gladness is possible for any surrendered believer. Are you lacking joy? Fix your gaze on the Savior and let His joy become yours.

Our Daily Bread — Crowned With Glory

 

Psalm 8

What is man that You are mindful of him? —Psalm 8:4

The Voyager 1 spacecraft, which was launched in 1977, is on the outer edge of our solar system more than 10 billion miles away. In February 1990, when Voyager 1 was almost 4 billion miles from us, scientists turned its camera toward Earth and took some pictures that revealed our planet as an almost imperceptible blue dot on a vast sea of empty space.

In the immense reaches of our universe, Earth is just a minuscule speck. On this seemingly insignificant pebble in the ocean of galactic objects live more than seven billion people.

If this makes you feel insignificant, God has some good news. Tucked into one of David’s psalms is a rhetorical question that can allow you to step out into the night air, look up at the sky, and rejoice. Psalm 8:3-5 tells us that we are superstars in God’s eyes: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, . . . what is man that You are mindful of him? . . . You have crowned him with glory and honor.” Soak that in! God—who spoke into existence a universe so vast that the Hubble telescope hasn’t found the end of it—created you, and He cares deeply for you. He cared enough to ask Jesus to leave heaven to die for you.

Look up in wonder at God’s creation and praise Him that He crowned you with glory through His Son Jesus. —Dave Branon

We praise You, Father, for Your creation which reaches

beyond our imagination, for the spellbinding night

sky with its vast array of lights, and for loving each of

us enough to send Jesus to be our personal Savior.

 

We see the power of God’s creation; we feel the power of His love.

The Humiliated Christ – Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

 

One of the unique qualities of the Christian story is that it is presented in the voices of four different witnesses. During the season of Lent, I try to look specifically at the different tellings of the events that led Jesus to the cross. The differences in each testimony offer an interesting glimpse of how personalities differ in their observing and experience of the world, as well as a potent reminder that the story of Jesus is not a flat and static conveying of information but a story as alive as the one who was tortured at the hands of the powers of this world.

For instance, as one theologian observes, Matthew’s crucifixion narrative and greater gospel presents “the way of the humiliated Christ.”(1) In my reading of Matthew, I am struck by the interplay between power and control, an interesting dynamic on which the writer has chosen to focus. Over and above the motif shared with Mark, Matthew seems to add a dimension of inquiry about power, and along with it, the hint that all is not as it seems: Who wants control? Who thinks they’re in control? Who is really in control? Roy Harrisville compares it to the paradox and reversal at the heart of Jesus’s ministry, the passion of Christ itself enacting “truths earlier hidden in the predictions and parables.”(2)

Thus, where Mark’s decisive crowd before Pilate yells, “Crucify him” (15:13 and again in 14b) and Luke’s crowd similarly, if more emphatically in the Greek, yells, “Crucify, crucify him!” (23:21), Matthew’s crowd twice yells, “Let him be crucified” (27:22b and 23b). There is a hint of a distancing of responsibility. The crowds indeed want the crucifying done, but done to him by someone else. Luke seems to further draw the distinction of choice and control, adding of his crowd, “And they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed” (23:23).

Matthew’s account seems at first passive in the “who” of the act of crucifying, a crowd calling for death at a distance. Later Pilate, too, wants to distance himself from this responsibility, adding a hand-washing scene unique to Matthew’s narrative. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” says Pilate, “see to it yourselves” (27:24). The people, preferring control over the risk of release, answer, “His blood be on us and on our children” (27:25).

Now phrased in terms of blood, Matthew’s interplay of power and control is made all the more potent. Like Jesus’s many parables with their jarring sense of mysterion (mystery that is not hidden, but revealed), Matthew seems to suggest there is one in control indeed, but it is not the one who seems to be holding the power. The image of Christ’s blood upon this blind—though professing to see—crowd and their children is chilling. For unknowingly, they have declared the very thing that the humiliated servant has set out to do: His blood be on us and on our children.

Harrisville illustrates this all the more profoundly in his analysis of Matthew’s narrating of the Last Supper and the curious words of Jesus about the “blood of the covenant,” now explained in this passion narrative before us:

“The statement about the ‘blood of the covenant’ (26:28) will have its explanation in subsequent events, in Judas’s confession (‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood’ [27:24]), in Pilate’s avowal of innocence (‘I am innocent of this man’s blood’ [27:4]), and in the people’s accepting responsibility for Jesus’s death (‘his blood be on us and on our children!’ [27:25]). All these will be the ‘many’ for whose forgiveness the blood of the covenant is poured out.“(3)

The story of Jesus as he moves toward the cross, told through eyes that remind us he has come for a world of unique individuals, is a story of power and weakness that turns our common assumptions and experience on its head. Like the parables, the way of the humiliated Christ confounds us, approaching in power, though hidden in the unlikely gift of a servant.

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

(1) Roy Harrisville, Fracture: The Cross as Irreconcilable in the Language and Thought of the Biblical Writers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 147.

(2) Ibid., 158.

(3) Ibid., 159.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “His bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the

hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” / Genesis 49:24

That strength which God gives to his Josephs is real strength; it is not a boasted valour, a fiction, a thing of which men talk, but which ends in smoke; it is true–divine strength. Why does Joseph stand against temptation? Because God gives him aid. There is nought that we can do without the power of God. All true strength comes from “the mighty God of Jacob.” Notice in what a blessedly familiar way God gives this strength to Joseph–“The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” Thus God is represented as putting his hands on Joseph’s hands, placing his arms on Joseph’s arms. Like as a father teaches his children, so the Lord teaches them that fear him. He puts his arms upon them. Marvellous condescension! God Almighty, Eternal, Omnipotent, stoops from his throne and lays his hand upon the child’s hand, stretching his arm upon the arm of Joseph, that he may be made strong! This strength was also covenant strength, for it is ascribed to “the mighty God of Jacob.” Now, wherever you read of the God of Jacob in the Bible, you should remember the covenant with Jacob. Christians love to think of God’s covenant. All the power, all the grace, all the blessings, all the mercies, all the comforts, all the things we have, flow to us from the well-head, through the covenant. If there were no covenant, then we should fail indeed; for all grace proceeds from it, as light and heat from the sun. No angels ascend or descend, save upon that ladder which Jacob saw, at the top of which stood a covenant God. Christian, it may be that the archers have sorely grieved you, and shot at you, and wounded you, but still your bow abides in strength; be sure, then, to ascribe all the glory to Jacob’s God.

 

 

Evening   “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power.” / Nahum 1:3

Jehovah “is slow to anger.” When mercy cometh into the world she driveth winged steeds; the axles of her chariot-wheels are red hot with speed; but when wrath goeth forth, it toileth on with tardy footsteps, for God taketh no pleasure in the sinner’s death. God’s rod of mercy is ever in his hands outstretched; his sword of justice is in its scabbard, held down by that pierced hand of love which bled for the sins of men. “The Lord is slow to anger,” because he is great in power. He is truly great in power who hath power over himself. When God’s power doth restrain himself, then it is power indeed: the power that binds omnipotence is omnipotence surpassed. A man who has a strong mind can bear to be insulted long, and only resents the wrong when a sense of right demands his action. The weak mind is irritated at a little: the strong mind bears it like a rock which moveth not, though a thousand breakers dash upon it, and cast their pitiful malice in spray upon its summit. God marketh his enemies, and yet he bestirs not himself, but holdeth in his anger. If he were less divine than he is, he would long ere this have sent forth the whole of his thunders, and emptied the magazines of heaven; he would long ere this have blasted the earth with the wondrous fires of its lower regions, and man would have been utterly destroyed; but the greatness of his power brings us mercy. Dear reader, what is your state this evening? Can you by humble faith look to Jesus, and say, “My substitute, thou art my rock, my trust”? Then, beloved, be not afraid of God’s power; for by faith you have fled to Christ for refuge, the power of God need no more terrify you, than the shield and sword of the warrior need terrify those whom he loves. Rather rejoice that he who is “great in power” is your Father and Friend.

 

 

Cultivating the Fruit of Righteousness – John MacArthur

 

“Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:11).

After facing life-threatening situations, people often say, “I saw my entire life flash before my eyes.” That’s the picture we get in Philippians 1:11.

“The fruit of righteousness” refers to what is produced in you as you operate in love, pursue excellence, and maintain your integrity. It includes every attitude and action consistent with God’s standard of what is right.

“Having been filled” speaks of something that happened in the past with continuing results. At your salvation the seed of righteousness was planted within you. It bears righteous fruit throughout your lifetime. On the day of Christ that fruit will confirm your salvation.

Fruitfulness has always been the acid test of true salvation. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). When John the Baptist admonished his followers to “bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8), he was speaking of good deeds (vv. 10-14). Paul said we are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10) John said that all who profess Christ should live as He lived (cf. 1 John 2:6).

Bearing spiritual fruit is not something you can achieve on your own. It “comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:11). Jesus Himself said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

You were redeemed to glorify God through righteous deeds. Make that your priority today.

Suggestions for Prayer:  Psalm 71 is a psalm of praise to God for His righteousness and faithful provisions. Read it and meditate on its truths. Then praise God for His righteousness toward you.

Ask for opportunities to demonstrate righteousness to others today.

For Further Study:   Read Proverbs 11:1-9, 15:8-9, and 21:2-3, noting the characteristics and benefits of righteousness.

The Subtle Attack – Greg Laurie

 

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall—Proverbs 16:18

What brought Adam and Eve down? We assume it was the attractiveness of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But it wasn’t the fruit; it was what the fruit promised.

Satan told them, “God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). In other words, “Eve, listen. You will be a goddess. Adam, you will be a god. Come on, go for it.” And they did. The devil had appealed to their pride.

That is one of the devil’s subtle ways to strike: he attacks us through pride. Popularity can be more deadly than persecution. Christians start believing their own press and become inflated with pride.

First the devil comes to us and says, You are worthless. You are a piece of garbage. God would never use someone like you.

We reply, “Well, I don’t know. The Bible says that if I will confess my sin, God is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. And the Bible also says that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise. So I think God will use me.”

Then the devil changes his whole mode of attack. Instead of trying to tear us down, he whispers in our ear, You are the awesome man of God (or the wonderful woman of virtue)! Everything you say is wonderful. You are so great! And we soak it up.

So if you have become filled with yourself and have started to believe you’re “all that,” then watch out. The Bible tells us that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Spend Time with Him – Max Lucado

 

C. S. Lewis wrote: “The moment you wake up each morning your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, letting that other, stronger, larger, quieter life come flowing in.”

Here’s how the psalmist began his day: “Every morning, I tell you what I need, and I wait for your answer” (Psalm 5:3).

Spend time waiting on God. And, at the end of the day, thank God for the good parts. Question him about the hard parts. Seek his mercy.  Seek his strength. And as you close your eyes, take this assurance into your sleep: “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).  If you fall asleep as you pray, don’t worry. What better place to doze off than in the arms of your Father.

The Empowering Emotion of Joy – Charles Stanley

 

John 15:9-17

Jesus promised us His joy. However, such gladness evades most Christians.

There are certain important points that we must understand about joy. This gift to every believer in Christ has a spiritual source—the Holy Spirit—and is produced from within by Him. Since divine joy is supernatural, it exists independently of our circumstances. In contrast, happiness comes from external causes, is earthly in nature, and increases or decreases as events change. Recognition by others, completion of a project, and a favorite team’s win all represent sources of earthly happiness.

Joy will emanate from the Holy Spirit as we . . .

• Focus on our relationship with Jesus. Because of the Lord, our sins are forgiven, our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and we are forever His. Nothing can separate us from Him now or in eternity.

• See His transforming work in others. Notice and draw pleasure from what God is doing: rescuing people from bondage to sin and conforming them to His Son’s likeness.

• Serve those He sends to us. Obedient, loving care for others brings spiritual joy.

• Meditate on God’s Word. Through Scripture, we receive an outpouring of His love and precious truths on which to build our lives.

The Holy Spirit desires to produce His gladness within you. Take a few minutes to ponder the wonder of your new birth, share someone’s spiritual joy, serve as God directs, or receive guidance from His Word. Then check your emotional barometer. Are you singing hallelujah yet?

 

Our Daily Bread — Jars of Clay

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. —2 Corinthians 4:7

When you buy a nice piece of jewelry, it is often tucked into a setting of black- or dark-colored velvet. I think it’s designed that way so that your attention is immediately drawn to the beauty of the jewelry. If the packaging were highly decorated, it would compete with the beauty of the treasure.

It reminds me of Paul’s comments about the ministry of Jesus through us, when he said, “We have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Cor. 4:7 niv). It’s easy to forget that we are the packaging and His work is the treasure. So we adorn our jars of clay, taking credit for the things we do to serve Christ. We seek to bring glory to ourselves when we’ve forgiven someone, or shown mercy, or given generously. The problem is, when we start seeking affirmation and praise for good deeds, we compete with the brilliance of the treasure of God working through us.

When we do things for Christ, it’s not about us but about His glory. The less obvious we are, the more brilliant He becomes. Which is why, Paul says, the treasure has been put in jars of clay so that God would be the one to be glorified. Besides, since when are jars of clay significant? It’s what’s inside that counts! —Joe Stowell

Help us not to cloud God’s glory

Nor with self His light to dim;

May each thought to Christ be captive,

Emptied to be filled with Him. —Anon.

 

Let the brilliance of the treasure of Christ shine through you as you live for Him.

 

Absurdity and the Cross – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

Doubt everything, find your own light.(1) So recommends the Buddha in his last words. It sounds like good advice, but then the human heart invariably presses on to doubt itself! After all, what kind of assurance can we have that this light is real light or true? The hunger for meaning, the quest for understanding, the search for answers and solutions are central features of the human condition.

For instance, what is the nature of reality? What is existence all about? What is the purpose of life, if any, and what should we try to give answers to? A much-neglected resource for reflection in this area is the book of Ecclesiastes, from the preacher, or Qoheleth in Hebrew. It is a book that speaks profoundly to our times by asking questions, by setting out contradictions, and by forcing the reader to feel what absurdity as an outlook is really like.

As the book opens, we are confronted with its most famous words, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity and a striving after wind.” Or in another translation of Ecclesiastes 1:2: “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher, ‘Utterly Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” Not a very inspiring start! He has devoted himself to explore life, to examine what is good for humanity to do under the sun, and his observations have yielded some depressing results:  Everything in life seems to be bound by inevitability. Human freedom appears to be constrained by overwhelming necessities, leading to a sense of helplessness. And the endless cycle of repetition leads to a sense of boredom, pointlessness, and despair.

Many a sage, philosopher, and guru have come to similar conclusions. What is unique to Ecclesiastes is how the author tackles the issues and what he leads us to see. By laying out the vanities of life, the propensities of youth, the all-encompassing reach of death, and the vast urgency of wisdom as a potential life-philosophy, he engages a chaotic world with some serious reflections. The writer takes us on a journey through life, and he deals with the questions and exasperations that we all inevitably encounter. His own desire was to try and figure things out so he could live well and be content, and encourage others to do the same. He likely hoped to discover the key or missing ingredient, the clues to true and lasting success and happiness.

Instead, the world he begins to see is one that displays both good and bad at the same time. He sees the superiority of wisdom, yet even the wise are reduced by death. He sees injustice being done and oppressors prevailing, yet he also notes there is a higher justice. He cites the sayings and actions of wise people but then goes on to point out how quickly they are forgotten! It is the tone that wears on us. We see ambiguity and fuzziness, a mixture of pain and problems, food, friends, wisdom, and a spiritual hunger. These things all dwell in the same world at the same time, and this is a difficult reality for many of us to digest. Like Qoheleth, we want better answers, tidier analysis, more comforting visions—and we have them, but not here, in doubt and darkness.

Qoheleth shows us the futility of life without God. He makes us feel what life is like from an honest look at how things truly are. He gives us a severe picture of reality and suggests that God is still worth seeking somewhere in the midst of it. Even prior to the coming of the Messiah, Qoheleth paints our stark need for the God who is there.

While the world as we know it is indeed disordered and damaged, and to find answers in the world itself is absurd, God does not abandon us to absurdity. Into this world, into its pain and confusion, God, too, became flesh and dwelt among us. And it ended for Jesus as tragically as anything we observe under the sun. He went to the cross with the full force of every ugly, honest reality of Ecclesiastes on his shoulders. And he stood with us in that darkness, giving us an equally severe image of a God worth seeking in the midst of it.

Stuart McAllister is vice president of training and special projects at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Terry Breverton, Immortal Words: History’s Most Memorable Quotations and the Stories Behind Them (London: Quercus Publishing Place, 2009), 13.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “He hath said.” / Hebrews 13:5

If we can only grasp these words by faith, we have an all-conquering weapon in our hand. What doubt will not be slain by this two-edged sword? What fear is there which shall not fall smitten with a deadly wound before this arrow from the bow of God’s covenant? Will not the distresses of life and the pangs of death; will not the corruptions within, and the snares without; will not the trials from above, and the temptations from beneath, all seem but light afflictions, when we can hide ourselves beneath the bulwark of “He hath said”? Yes; whether for delight in our quietude, or for strength in our conflict, “He hath said” must be our daily resort. And this may teach us the extreme value of searching the Scriptures. There may be a promise in the Word which would exactly fit your case, but you may not know of it, and therefore you miss its comfort. You are like prisoners in a dungeon, and there may be one key in the bunch which would unlock the door, and you might be free; but if you will not look for it, you may remain a prisoner still, though liberty is so near at hand. There may be a potent medicine in the great pharmacopoeia of Scripture, and you may yet continue sick unless you will examine and search the Scriptures to discover what “He hath said.” Should you not, besides reading the Bible, store your memories richly with the promises of God? You can recollect the sayings of great men; you treasure up the verses of renowned poets; ought you not to be profound in your knowledge of the words of God, so that you may be able to quote them readily when you would solve a difficulty, or overthrow a doubt? Since “He hath said” is the source of all wisdom, and the fountain of all comfort, let it dwell in you richly, as “A well of water, springing up unto everlasting life.” So shall you grow healthy, strong, and happy in the divine life.

 

Evening  “Understandest thou what thou readest?” / Acts 8:30

We should be abler teachers of others, and less liable to be carried about by every wind of doctrine, if we sought to have a more intelligent understanding of the Word of God. As the Holy Ghost, the Author of the Scriptures is he who alone can enlighten us rightly to understand them, we should constantly ask his teaching, and his guidance into all truth. When the prophet Daniel would interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, what did he do? He set himself to earnest prayer that God would open up the vision. The apostle John, in his vision at Patmos, saw a book sealed with seven seals which none was found worthy to open, or so much as to look upon. The book was afterwards opened by the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who had prevailed to open it; but it is written first–“I wept much.” The tears of John, which were his liquid prayers, were, so far as he was concerned, the sacred keys by which the folded book was opened. Therefore, if, for your own and others’ profiting, you desire to be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” remember that prayer is your best means of study: like Daniel, you shall understand the dream, and the interpretation thereof, when you have sought unto God; and like John you shall see the seven seals of precious truth unloosed, after you have wept much. Stones are not broken, except by an earnest use of the hammer; and the stone-breaker must go down on his knees. Use the hammer of diligence, and let the knee of prayer be exercised, and there is not a stony doctrine in revelation which is useful for you to understand, which will not fly into shivers under the exercise of prayer and faith. You may force your way through anything with the leverage of prayer. Thoughts and reasonings are like the steel wedges which give a hold upon truth; but prayer is the lever, the prise which forces open the iron chest of sacred mystery, that we may get the treasure hidden within.

Maintaining Spiritual Integrity – John MacArthur

 

“In order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10).

In our society, those whose lives are marked by moral soundness, uprightness, honesty, and sincerity are usually thought of as people of integrity. However, society’s standards often fall far short of God’s. Spiritual integrity calls for the highest possible standard of behavior and requires supernatural resources available only to those who trust in Him.

Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-10 outlines the path to spiritual integrity. It begins with love that abounds with knowledge and discernment (v. 9) and progresses to the pursuit of excellence (v. 10). The result is sincerity and blamelessness–two characteristics of godly integrity.

The Greek word translated “sincere” in verse 10 speaks of genuineness and authenticity. It literally means “without wax” and is an allusion to the practice of inspecting pottery by holding it up to the sunlight. In ancient times pottery often cracked during the firing process. Rather than discarding cracked pieces, dishonest dealers often filled the cracks with wax and sold them to unsuspecting customers. Holding a pot up to the sunlight revealed any flaws and protected the customer from a bad purchase.

Following that analogy, biblical integrity requires that you be without wax, having no hypocrisy or secret sins that show up when you’re under pressure or facing temptation.

“Blameless” speaks of consistency in living a life that doesn’t lead others into error or sin. Your standard is the same away from church as it is at church.

Being blameless isn’t easy in a world that unashamedly flaunts its sinful practices. You must guard against losing your sensitivity to the heinousness of sin and unwittingly beginning to tolerate or even accept the sin that once shocked you. That’s when you lose integrity and begin to cause others to stumble.

Diligently pursue integrity with a view toward glorifying Christ in all things until He returns.

Suggestions for Prayer:   Thank God that He is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in His presence blameless with great joy (Jude 24).

Prayerfully guard your heart and mind from the subtle evil influences that can erode your integrity and make you ineffective for the Lord.

For Further Study: Read Genesis 39.

How was Joseph’s integrity challenged?

How did God honor Joseph’s commitment to integrity?

For Righteousness’ Sake – Greg Laurie

 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

—Matthew 5:10

The great preacher John Wesley was riding along on his horse one day when he realized that three days had passed, and he had not been persecuted in any way. Not a single brick had been thrown in his direction. He had not been hit by an egg. So he actually stopped his horse and said out loud, “Could it be that I am backslidden or I have sinned?” Slipping down from his horse, he knelt on one knee and asked the Lord to show him if there was anything wrong with him spiritually.

A man who disliked Wesley saw him kneeling in prayer, so he picked up a brick and threw it at him, barely missing the preacher. When Wesley saw the brick fly by, he said, “Thank you, Lord! I know I still have Your presence.”

No wonder he was such a powerful preacher.

Your very presence and belief in God bothers some people. Sometimes you don’t even have to say anything. You are like a bright light, shining in a dark place. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18). You will be treated the same way Jesus was.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Sometimes persecution can show itself in a brick coming our way or in physical harm, even death. At other times, it can show itself in mockery or rejection or losing a job or friends. But if you are living a godly life, then you will face persecution.

Answers to Prayer – Charles Stanley

 

2 Chronicles 20:14-25

“My boss is intolerable, Lord. Please help me find another job.”

“God, this back pain is ruining my life. Have mercy and heal me!”

Christians almost universally agree that God answers prayer. But many people, if they were honest, would amend the phrase to say, “He answers most prayers, but not mine.” A believer can fervently call upon God without receiving what he considers a satisfactory answer. The stumbling block isn’t God’s unwillingness or inability to respond, but rather the word satisfactory. If we come to God with a preconceived idea of how to solve our problem, we will likely overlook His true resolution.

Suppose King Jehoshaphat had decided that God could answer his prayer only by giving the army extra strength for the forthcoming skirmish. He would have called a war council, arrayed his soldiers in armor, and set up battle lines. God’s solution was entirely unexpected: to send the choir out singing praises and then watch the Lord save Israel. Had the Israelite army attempted combat, they would have lost Jerusalem.

Sometimes we don’t like God’s solution. We desire freedom from difficulty rather than an extra measure of grace to endure it. Or we want a new job, not a command to ask the boss to forgive our poor attitude.

It is a very human reaction to want the Lord to fix everything without requiring any effort on our part. But our willingness to obey is a key to answered prayer. When He tells us how to resolve our problem, we must act just as He specifies, or we’ll never be satisfied.

Our Daily Bread — Rerouting . . . Rerouting

 

Proverbs 3:1-8

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. —Proverbs 3:6

Don’t worry. I know right where I’m going,” I said to my passengers. Then an almost-human voice ratted me out: “Rerouting . . . rerouting.” Now everyone knew I was lost!

These days, millions of drivers recognize those words, or others like them, as a sign they’ve gone off track or missed a turn. The GPS device not only recognizes when a driver is off course, but immediately begins plotting a new path to get back on track.

Sometimes followers of Jesus need help to get back on track spiritually. We may intentionally veer off course because we think we know best, or drift away slowly, failing to notice we’re moving further and further from the walk God wants with us.

God has not left us on our own, however. He has given all believers the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17; 1 Cor. 3:16), who convicts us of our sin (John 16:8,13). When we’re going off course, He sounds the alarm and triggers our conscience (Gal. 5:16-25). We may ignore the warning, but we do so to our own detriment (Isa. 63:10; Gal. 6:8).

What comfort to know that God is at work in our lives through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit! (Rom. 8:26-27). With God’s help and guidance, we can continue on a path that is pleasing to Him. —Randy Kilgore

Holy Spirit, we would hear

Your inner promptings, soft and clear;

And help us know Your still, small voice

So we may make God’s will our choice. —D. DeHaan

 

We’re never without a helper, because we have the Spirit within.