Tag Archives: church

Our Daily Bread — Giving Thanks

 

John 11:32-44

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.” —John 11:41

A tragedy left a family with a void that nothing could fill. A toddler chasing a cat wandered into the road and was run over by a delivery truck. A 4-year-old watched in shocked silence as her parents cradled the lifeless body of her little sister. For years, the cold emptiness of that moment encased the family in sadness. Feelings were frozen. The only comfort was numbness. Relief was unimaginable.

Author Ann Voskamp was the 4-year-old, and the sorrow surrounding her sister’s death formed her view of life and God. The world she grew up in had little concept of grace. Joy was an idea that had no basis in reality.

As a young mother, Voskamp set out to discover the elusive thing the Bible calls joy. The words for joy and grace come from the Greek word chairo, which she found out is at the center of the Greek word for thanksgiving. Could it be that simple? she wondered. To test her discovery, Voskamp decided to give thanks for 1,000 gifts she already had. She started slowly but soon gratefulness was flowing freely.

Just as Jesus gave thanks before, not after, raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41), Voskamp discovered that giving thanks brought to life feelings of joy that had died along with her sister. Joy comes from thanksgiving. —Julie Ackerman Link

Lord, I thank You that You have the power

to raise the dead. May the feelings of joy

that arise from our thanksgiving be seeds of

grace to those who are afraid to feel.

 

The joy of living comes from a heart of thanksgiving.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Nature of Request

 

I had always wanted to visit India. In the India of my imagination, a myriad of colors, smells, sounds, and people danced together. The air would always be saturated by an atmosphere of mystery. India would never be a place that could be categorized neatly or understood completely; comprehension would slip stealthily around a corner just as I thought I had gotten hold of it.

In reality, India was indeed a land of color, contrast, and mystery. Like a whirling dervish, India spins round and round in constant activity, rarely standing still. One cannot help but feel both overwhelmed and exhilarated by life there.

Despite all the complex, continual motion, one constant became apparent to me: Hospitality—gracious, open, generous and dignified—is a way of life. People are always around to serve, whether they are paid to do so or not. Someone is there to take your bags from the car, or someone is bringing you a cup of tea just the way you like it. Someone is enticing you to eat more, and someone is sweeping the city streets clean of leaves, dust, or debris with a broom made from a bundle of twigs. There are household servants, and those designated to serve as a result of their caste. Yet, regardless of why someone is serving, there is always someone to serve, someone who through class or training or culture inhabits an ethos of hospitable care. All one need do is ask and it will be done.

It was in India that I learned something about the nature of request. One morning, having spent a good portion of the previous night dealing with what I affectionately came to call my “spicy stomach,” I was languishing for plain, cold cereal and milk—my normal breakfast when at home. Having enjoyed too much fabulous Indian cuisine, I knew I simply couldn’t have any more or my stomach would rebel entirely. Not wanting to offend my hosts or their generous hospitality, I timidly expressed my desire for bland food. “Oh,” she exclaimed, “Why didn’t you ask?” “My husband and I normally eat eggs and toast or cereal for breakfast!”  Instantly, the phrase you do not have because you do not ask came to mind.

In the biblical letter of James, you do not have because you do not ask is used in quite a different context.(1)  The author issues a rebuke against the quarrels and conflicts that rage within human beings. We are jealous of others, we covet them, and so we get into conflicts with others because of our lust and our greed.

But, I had been thinking for quite some time about the nature of request as it relates to prayer. I was wrestling with the nature of prayer as request in the face of so many no’s as answers. The result was that I simply stopped asking. I began to wonder if God was not hospitable to me any longer and would not honor my requests with answers that accorded my needs. Even in my personal relationships, I had stopped asking for fear of rejection or disappointment. I would sit on my hands, as it were, and stew with resentment and anger at all of my unmet needs. And yet I became haunted by this phrase from James: You do not have because you do not ask.

What seemed a tangential connection between the service culture of India, and my own choice to withhold requests from God, actually revealed a powerful reality about the nature of request. Like household servants who are there at my beckon call, there are some things over which we have total control. If there are weeds in the garden, or if we have a broken faucet, we do not request that the weeds go away, we go out and pull the weeds, or fix the faucet.

There are many things, perhaps even most things, however, over which we exercise minimal, direct control. Instead, we have to make a request—a request that may or may not be granted. As one author notes, “The request, while powerful, does not always get us what we have in mind as we make it.  This is true when it is addressed to other human beings and true when it is addressed to God as prayer….It is a great advantage of requesting and prayer that it not be a fail-safe mechanism. For human finitude means that we are all limited in knowledge, in power, in love, and in powers of communication.”(2)

Nevertheless, requests are made and they are powerful because in making them our deepest selves are revealed. We can truly hear what we are asking for. We come to stare at our desires face to face. In so doing, we have the opportunity to see the often complex motivations behind our requests. Furthermore, as we make requests we do so with the knowledge that we cannot always fulfill all that is asked of us, or by us. As we make requests of God and of others, we make them with a tenacious trust in the power of love that grants or withholds.

Prayer is never just asking, nor is it merely a matter of asking for what I want—even as we cling to the hope that that the God of the universe cares for what concerns us. While there is no simple explanation to why some requests are granted and some are not, and while there is mystery surrounding the efficacy of request, there is always the power to ask. We may still not have even when we ask with what appears to be the purest intentions, but we always have the power of request. The way into the meaning of request is to start by making them, just as I learned in India. Perhaps as we do, “The circle of our interests will grow in the largeness of God’s love.”(3) Perhaps as we do, the admonition to ask, seek, and knock will not simply be a formula to get what we want, but an invitation to look into what we ask for, whom we seek, and upon which doors we are knocking.

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

(1) See James 4:1-3.

(2) Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. (San Francisco: Harper Sa

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning “Salvation is of the Lord.” / Jonah 2:9

Salvation is the work of God. It is he alone who quickens the soul “dead in trespasses and sins,” and it is he also who maintains the soul in its spiritual life. He is both “Alpha and Omega.” “Salvation is of the Lord.” If I am prayerful, God makes me prayerful; if I have graces, they are God’s gifts to me; if I hold on in a consistent life, it is because he upholds me with his hand. I do nothing whatever towards my own preservation, except what God himself first does in me. Whatever I have, all my goodness is of the Lord alone. Wherein I sin, that is my own; but wherein I act rightly, that is of God, wholly and completely. If I have repulsed a spiritual enemy, the Lord’s strength nerved my arm. Do I live before men a consecrated life? It is not I, but Christ who liveth in me. Am I sanctified? I did not cleanse myself: God’s Holy Spirit sanctifies me. Am I weaned from the world? I am weaned by God’s chastisements sanctified to my good. Do I grow in knowledge? The great Instructor teaches me. All my jewels were fashioned by heavenly art. I find in God all that I want; but I find in myself nothing but sin and misery. “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Do I feed on the Word? That Word would be no food for me unless the Lord made it food for my soul, and helped me to feed upon it. Do I live on the manna which comes down from heaven? What is that manna but Jesus Christ himself incarnate, whose body and whose blood I eat and drink? Am I continually receiving fresh increase of strength? Where do I gather my might? My help cometh from heaven’s hills: without Jesus I can do nothing. As a branch cannot bring forth fruit except it abide in the vine, no more can I, except I abide in him. What Jonah learned in the great deep, let me learn this morning in my closet: “Salvation is of the Lord.”

Evening “Behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague.” / Leviticus 13:13

Strange enough this regulation appears, yet there was wisdom in it, for the throwing out of the disease proved that the constitution was sound. This evening it may be well for us to see the typical teaching of so singular a rule. We, too, are lepers, and may read the law of the leper as applicable to ourselves. When a man sees himself to be altogether lost and ruined, covered all over with the defilement of sin, and in no part free from pollution; when he disclaims all righteousness of his own, and pleads guilty before the Lord, then he is clean through the blood of Jesus, and the grace of God. Hidden, unfelt, unconfessed iniquity is the true leprosy; but when sin is seen and felt, it has received its deathblow, and the Lord looks with eyes of mercy upon the soul afflicted with it. Nothing is more deadly than self-righteousness, or more hopeful than contrition. We must confess that we are “nothing else but sin,” for no confession short of this will be the whole truth; and if the Holy Spirit be at work with us, convincing us of sin, there will be no difficulty about making such an acknowledgment–it will spring spontaneously from our lips. What comfort does the text afford to truly awakened sinners: the very circumstance which so grievously discouraged them is here turned into a sign and symptom of a hopeful state! Stripping comes before clothing; digging out the foundation is the first thing in building–and a thorough sense of sin is one of the earliest works of grace in the heart. O thou poor leprous sinner, utterly destitute of a sound spot, take heart from the text, and come as thou art to Jesus–  “For let our debts be what they may, however great or small,  As soon as we have nought to pay, our Lord forgives us all.  ‘Tis perfect poverty alone that sets the soul at large:  While we can call one mite our own, we have no full discharge.”

John MacArthur – Enjoying a Bountiful Harvest

 

“Bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

Every farmer who enjoys a plentiful harvest does so only after diligent effort on his part. He must cultivate the soil, plant the seed, then nurture it to maturity. Each step is thoughtful, disciplined, and orderly.

Similarly, bearing spiritual fruit is not an unthinking or haphazard process. It requires us to be diligent in pursuing the knowledge of God’s will, which is revealed in His Word. That is Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9, which he reiterates in verse 10.

The phrase “increasing in the knowledge of God” (v. 10) can be translated, “increasing by the knowledge of God.” Both renderings are acceptable. The first emphasizes the need to grow; the second emphasizes the role that knowledge plays in your spiritual growth.

As your knowledge of God’s Word increases, the Holy Spirit renews your mind and transforms your thinking. As you gaze into the glory of the Lord as revealed in Scripture, you “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). You have “put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Col. 3:10).

One of Satan’s ploys to retard spiritual productivity is getting Christians preoccupied with humanistic philosophy and other bankrupt substitutes for God’s truth. That’s why he planted false teachers at Colosse to teach that knowing God’s will is inadequate for true spirituality. Paul refuted that claim by affirming that Christ is the fullness of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9). In Him are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). He is all you need!

Scripture commands you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Is that characteristic of your life? Are you looking forward to a bountiful spiritual harvest?

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the privilege of knowing His will and studying His Word.

Prayerfully guard your mind from sinful influences. Saturate it with God’s truth.

For Further Study: Read the following passages, noting the effects of God’s Word:

Psalms 119:9, 105; Acts 20:32; Romans 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 2:14.

Joyce Meyer – God’s Anointing Helps You in Everything You Do

 

…Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit… —Zechariah 4:6

The anointing of the Holy Spirit is one of the most important things in my life and ministry. It ushers me into the presence and the power of God. The anointing manifests in ability, enablement, and strength. The anointing ministers life to me. I feel alive and strong physically when the anointing is flowing, as well as mentally alert.

When we live in peace and harmony, we unleash God’s anointing for more than just ministry. I believe there is an anointing for everything that we are called to do—not just for spiritual things. We can be anointed for cleaning the house, doing laundry, leading a home or business, or being a student. God’s presence makes everything easy and enjoyable.

What other kinds of things may we expect to be anointed for? I believe a woman can go to the grocery store and be anointed by God to shop for her family’s groceries if she will exercise her faith to release the anointing.

I believe there is an anointed sleep we can enjoy when we go to bed at night. However, if a person lies in bed and thinks of some situation that is full of strife, he or she is not likely to sleep well due to fretful dreams or tossing and turning all night.

I believe there is an anointing to go to your workplace and enjoy being there. The anointing will also help you do your job with ease. Again, if you have strife with your boss or with other employees, the anointing will be blocked. Whether the strife is open or hidden within your heart, the effect is the same.

So, keep strife out so that you can live by the anointing. God has given the anointing to you to help you in all you do. Stay peaceful and calm; be quick to forgive, slow to anger, patient, and kind. Protect the anointing in your life, and sow good seeds by helping others do the same. In so doing, you will reap a harvest in your own time of need.

Trust in Him: Think of a time when you have felt God’s Spirit on you—when time has flown by as you enjoyed what you were doing and did it with ease. Everything you do can feel just li

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Great and Mighty Things

 

“Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3, KJV).

How long has it been since you have prayed for great and mighty things – for the glory and praise of God?

I find in God’s Word at least six excellent reasons you and I should pray for “great and mighty things”: to glorify God; to communicate with God; for fellowship with God; because of Christ’s example; to obtain results; and to provide spiritual nurture.

There is a sense in which I pray without ceasing, talking to God hundreds of times in the course of the day about everything. I pray for wisdom about the numerous decisions I must make, for the salvation of friends and strangers, the healing of the sick and the spiritual and material needs of the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry – as well as for the needs of the various members of the staff and leaders of other Christian organizations and the needs of their ministries.

I pray for the leaders of our nation and for those in authority over us at all levels of government. I even pray about the clothes I wear, on the basis of the people I am to meet – that the way I dress, as well as my words and actions, will bring glory to God.

But there is another sense in which there is a set-apart time each day for prayer – I often kneel quietly before the open Bible and talk with God as I read His Word.

Before I begin to read the Bible, I ask the Holy Spirit, who inspired its writing, to make my reading meaningful. Throughout the reading I often pause to thank God for His loving salvation and provision, to confess the lack in my own life revealed by the Scriptures, to ask Him for the boldness and faith His apostles displayed and to thank Him for new insights into His divine strategy for reaching the world with the gospel.

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 33:4-8

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will call unto God, expecting Him to show me great and mighty things beyond anything I have ever experienced, for His glory and for the blessing of those about me, that they may know that God does supernatural things in response to the faith and obedience of His children.

Presidential Prayer Team – Feel the Weight

 

How much does water weigh? When you dive under it, you feel no weight of it. But fill a tub with water and balance it on your head and the burden will soon make you weary. The same can be said of sin.

Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

The ones who have been led into sin and continue in it are deceived and hardened by it until they become cocky in their disregard of others and make a mockery of sin. They rarely will see the wrong in what they do and are not weighed down by it. Proverbs 10:23

But if you begin to be aware of what sin is and what it is doing in your life, you will experience a weight that becomes ponderous and burdensome. Wisdom and understanding come to the person who understands their sin and its consequence. You can delight in knowing that Christ took your sin on Himself to give you a cleansed heart.

Beloved, pray that this nation realizes it is under the weight of sin. It is not a joke and there are consequences. Ask God to reveal His truth and revive the hearts of all – leaders and citizens alike.

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 12:14-28

Greg Laurie – Staying Usable

 

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me—2 Corinthians 12: 9

Do you think having a vision of heaven might make you a little arrogant? Imagine sitting around with a group of people who were talking about where they went for vacation. We went to Hawaii. . . . We went to Tahiti. . . . We went to Italy. . . .

The apostle Paul could say, “I went to heaven.”

“No, no! Where did you go, Paul? Really.”

“Heaven—I went to heaven.”

“Yeah? What was it like?”

“I can’t really explain it. But it was better than where you went.”

So that Paul would not be filled with pride, God allowed adversity into his life to keep him humble and usable. Writing about this experience, Paul said,

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8–10)

God may allow hardship in the life of a Christian. In Paul’s case, it was “a thorn in the flesh” (see 2 Corinthians 12:7). We don’t know what this thorn in the flesh was, exactly. Whatever it was, Paul asked the Lord to take it away three times, and three times He said, “My grace is all you need.” God allowed this hardship in Paul’s life to keep him usable in His kingdom. And he was very usable.

Max Lucado – A Worship-Hungry Heart

 

Parents, what are your children and others learning from your worship?  Do they see the same excitement as when you go to a basketball game?  Do they see you prepare for worship as you do for a vacation?  Do they see you hungry to arrive, seeking the face of the Father?  Or are others seeking the face of the Father while you’re seeking the face of your wristwatch?  Do they see you content to leave the way you came?  They are watching.  Believe me.  They are watching.

Do you come to church with a worship-hungry heart?  Our Savior did. May I urge you to be just like Jesus? Prepare your heart for worship. Let God change your face through worship.  Your heartfelt worship is a missionary appeal. Let others hear the passion of your voice as they see the sincerity in your face, and they may be changed.  I know you will be!

Ends, Means, Journey – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

An essay from G.K. Chesterton begins, “In all the current controversies, people begin at the wrong end as readily as at the right end; never stopping to consider which is really the end.”(1) In a world very impressed with our ability to create and acquire our own high-tech “carts,” putting the cart before the horse comes very naturally. Even very thoughtful people can fail to think through the point of all their thinking. Chesterton continues, “One very common form of the blunder is to make modern conditions an absolute end and then try to fit human necessities to that end, as if they were only a means. Thus people say, ‘Home life is not suited to the business life of today.’ Which is as if they said, ‘Heads are not suited to the sort of hats now in fashion.’” His observations are akin to the experiment of Solomon. Cutting a child in two to meet the demand of two mothers is hardly fixing what we might call the “Child Problem.”

The reverse of the end and the means is hardly a modern problem, though some argue the trend is increasing. As C.S. Lewis observed many years ago, logic seems to be no longer valued as a subject in schools. Never having taken logic as a school subject, or even noticed its absence for that matter, I might agree the observation still rings with some truth. But any critique of illogic is perhaps startling when juxtaposed by how much we currently seem to value a constant surge of information. In the chorus of incessant infotainment, T.S. Eliot’s lament from “The Rock” seems almost a heretical voice:

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

The inconsistency of information-dependence and logic-disinterest aside, the silent battle within our over-stimulated ethos of options and information seems to become one against indifference. Weary from pleasure and choice, apathy becomes a major obstacle. We get to the point where we do not even remotely care whether the horse or the cart comes first.

In the book recounting the lineage of Israel’s Kings, Elijah went before a people who had grown indifferent to the differences between Baal and Yahweh. “How long will you waver between two opinions?” Elijah asked them. “‘If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, then follow him.’ But the people said nothing” (1 Kings 18:21).

Cultural commentators note among us a similar indifference. While there is an increasing interest in spirituality and a desire to locate deeper meaning in life and experience, we waver between the gods and goods that seem to offer any answers. And while the need to pursue meaning is certainly a cultural insight we do well to cultivate, the danger is perhaps in allowing this desire to be the end in itself, the goal by which God or Buddha or nature might serve as a means to fill. Like the men and women before Elijah, our illogic is only compounded by our indifference. Should we attempt to fulfill our spiritual voids without first asking why they are there? Could not the desire itself exist because the God of creation, the beginning and the end, placed it within? If the LORD is God, why would I not want to follow?

When Elijah asked the prophets of Baal to call him to reveal himself, the test of truth was not avoided, but the ultimate decision was still before the people. “Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. No one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:26). In a loud voice Elijah then called out, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:37). The fire of the LORD immediately fell upon the altar. And when the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God!”

In this season of Lent a similar invitation looms large before any who seek. We are invited both to see anew our motivations and the reasons of our own hearts. We are invited to examine the call of Christ to follow him to the Cross, wherever it might lead. At the end of that road, however tumultuous the means, we shall perhaps find that it was always Christ who carried us. Even now, he is among us, one worthy of being our end. If the LORD is God, why would we not want to follow?

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

(1) G.K. Chesterton, As I was Saying (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 63.

 

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning”The wrath to come.” / Matthew 3:7

It is pleasant to pass over a country after a storm has spent itself; to smell the freshness of the herbs after the rain has passed away, and to note the drops while they glisten like purest diamonds in the sunlight. That is the position of a Christian. He is going through a land where the storm has spent itself upon his Saviour’s head, and if there be a few drops of sorrow falling, they distil from clouds of mercy, and Jesus cheers him by the assurance that they are not for his destruction. But how terrible is it to witness the approach of a tempest: to note the forewarnings of the storm; to mark the birds of heaven as they droop their wings; to see the cattle as they lay their heads low in terror; to discern the face of the sky as it groweth black, and look to the sun which shineth not, and the heavens which are angry and frowning! How terrible to await the dread advance of a hurricane–such as occurs, sometimes, in the tropics–to wait in terrible apprehension till the wind shall rush forth in fury, tearing up trees from their roots, forcing rocks from their pedestals, and hurling down all the dwelling-places of man! And yet, sinner, this is your present position. No hot drops have as yet fallen, but a shower of fire is coming. No terrible winds howl around you, but God’s tempest is gathering its dread artillery. As yet the water-floods are dammed up by mercy, but the flood-gates shall soon be opened: the thunderbolts of God are yet in his storehouse, but lo! the tempest hastens, and how awful shall that moment be when God, robed in vengeance, shall march forth in fury! Where, where, where, O sinner, wilt thou hide thy head, or whither wilt thou flee? O that the hand of mercy may now lead you to Christ! He is freely set before you in the gospel: his riven side is the rock of shelter. Thou knowest thy need of him; believe in him, cast thyself upon him, and then the fury shall be overpast forever.

 

Evening  “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa.” / Jonah 1:3

Instead of going to Nineveh to preach the Word, as God bade him, Jonah disliked the work, and went down to Joppa to escape from it. There are occasions when God’s servants shrink from duty. But what is the consequence? What did Jonah lose by his conduct? He lost the presence and comfortable enjoyment of God’s love. When we serve our Lord Jesus as believers should do, our God is with us; and though we have the whole world against us, if we have God with us, what does it matter? But the moment we start back, and seek our own inventions, we are at sea without a pilot. Then may we bitterly lament and groan out, “O my God, where hast thou gone? How could I have been so foolish as to shun thy service, and in this way to lose all the bright shinings of thy face? This is a price too high. Let me return to my allegiance, that I may rejoice in thy presence.” In the next place, Jonah lost all peace of mind. Sin soon destroys a believer’s comfort. It is the poisonous upas tree, from whose leaves distil deadly drops which destroy the life of joy and peace. Jonah lost everything upon which he might have drawn for comfort in any other case. He could not plead the promise of divine protection, for he was not in God’s ways; he could not say, “Lord, I meet with these difficulties in the discharge of my duty, therefore help me through them.” He was reaping his own deeds; he was filled with his own ways. Christian, do not play the Jonah, unless you wish to have all the waves and the billows rolling over your head. You will find in the long run that it is far harder to shun the work and will of God than to at once yield yourself to it. Jonah lost his time, for he had to go to Nineveh after all. It is hard to contend with God; let us yield ourselves at once.

Anything You Ask – Campus Crusade; Bill Bright

 

“You can get anything – anything you ask for in prayer – if you believe” (Matthew 21:22).

God’s Word reminds us that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Jesus said, “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7, KJV).

A godly widow with six children was facing great stress. The family had eaten their last loaf of bread at the evening meal. The next morning, with no food in the house, the trusting mother set seven plates on the table.

“Now, children,” she said, gathering them around her, “we must ask God to supply our need.”

Just as she finished her prayer, one of the children shouted, “There’s the baker at the door.”

“I was stalled in the snow,” the baker said, after entering the house,” and I just stopped by to get warm. Do you need any bread this morning?”

“Yes,” said the mother, “but we have no money.”

“Do you mean to say you have no bread for these children?” he asked.

“Not a bit,” said the mother.

“Well,” said the baker, “you will soon have some.” Whereupon he returned to his wagon, picked up seven loaves and brought them into the house. Then he laid one on each plate.

“Mama!” one of the children cried out. “I prayed for bread, and God heard me and sent me bread.”

“And me!” chorused each of the children, feeling that God had answered personally.

God does not require us to have great faith. We are simply to have faith in a great God.

Bible Reading: Mark 11:20-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will continue to abide in Christ and have His Word abide in my heart, so that when needs arise today – whether large or small; physical, material or spiritual – I will choose to place my simple faith in God, knowing that He is willing and able to hear and answer prayer. I will also encourage others to join me in the great adventure of prayer.

Worship Changes Our Face – Max Lucado

 

Exactly what is worship?  I like King David’s definition in Psalm 34:3:  “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”

Worship is magnifying or enlarging our vision of God. Of course his size doesn’t change, but our perception of him does. As we draw nearer, he seems larger. Isn’t that what we need?  A big view of God?  Don’t we have big problems, big worries, and big questions? Of course we do.  So, we need a big view of God. Worship offers that.

A vibrant, shining face is the mark of one who has stood in God’s presence.  He wipes away the tears.  Not only does God change the face of those who worship, he changes those who watch us worship!

 

Our Daily Bread — God’s Lighthouse

 

Matthew 5:1-14

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. —Matthew 5:14

The Mission Point Lighthouse was built in 1870 on a peninsula in Northern Michigan to warn ships of sand bars and rocky shores along Lake Michigan. That lighthouse got its name from another kind of lighthouse, a mission church, which was built 31 years earlier.

In 1839, Rev. Peter Dougherty answered the call to become pastor of a church in Old Mission that was made up of Native Americans who lived farther south on the same peninsula. Under his leadership, a thriving community of farmers, teachers, and craftsmen worked side by side to build a better life for the community.

When believers in Christ work together in unity, their fellowship of faith provides spiritual light in the world’s darkness (Phil. 2:15-16). Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).

The Mission Point Lighthouse warned ships of danger, but the original Old Mission Church provided spiritual direction to all who would listen. Believers do the same individually and through our churches. We are God’s lighthouse because Jesus lives in us. —Dennis Fisher

You are called with a holy calling

The light of the world to be;

To lift up the lamp of the Savior

That others His light may see. —Anon.

 

Believers help the lost to find their way home when their life shines brightly.

 

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning “I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of

blessing.” / Ezekiel 34:26

Here is sovereign mercy–“I will give them the shower in its season.” Is it not sovereign, divine mercy?–for who can say, “I will give them showers,” except God? There is only one voice which can speak to the clouds, and bid them beget the rain. Who sendeth down the rain upon the earth? Who scattereth the showers upon the green herb? Do not I, the Lord? So grace is the gift of God, and is not to be created by man. It is also needed grace. What would the ground do without showers? You may break the clods, you may sow your seeds, but what can you do without the rain? As absolutely needful is the divine blessing. In vain you labour, until God the plenteous shower bestows, and sends salvation down. Then, it is plenteous grace. “I will send them showers.” It does not say, “I will send them drops,” but “showers.” So it is with grace. If God gives a blessing, he usually gives it in such a measure that there is not room enough to receive it. Plenteous grace! Ah! we want plenteous grace to keep us humble, to make us prayerful, to make us holy; plenteous grace to make us zealous, to preserve us through this life, and at last to land us in heaven. We cannot do without saturating showers of grace. Again, it is seasonable grace. “I will cause the shower to come down in his season.” What is thy season this morning? Is it the season of drought? Then that is the season for showers. Is it a season of great heaviness and black clouds? Then that is the season for showers. “As thy days so shall thy strength be.” And here is a varied blessing. “I will give thee showers of blessing.” The word is in the plural. All kinds of blessings God will send. All God’s blessings go together, like links in a golden chain. If he gives converting grace, he will also give comforting grace. He will send “showers of blessing.” Look up today, O parched plant, and open thy leaves and flowers for a heavenly watering.

 

Evening  “O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy upon Jerusalem? … And the Lord answered the angel … with good words and comfortable words.” /Zechariah 1:12-13

What a sweet answer to an anxious enquiry! This night let us rejoice in it. O Zion, there are good things in store for thee; thy time of travail shall soon be over; thy children shall be brought forth; thy captivity shall end. Bear patiently the rod for a season, and under the darkness still trust in God, for his love burneth towards thee. God loves the church with a love too deep for human imagination: he loves her with all his infinite heart. Therefore let her sons be of good courage; she cannot be far from prosperity to whom God speaketh “good words and comfortable words.” What these comfortable words are the prophet goes on to tell us: “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.” The Lord loves his church so much that he cannot bear that she should go astray to others; and when she has done so, he cannot endure that she should suffer too much or too heavily. He will not have his enemies afflict her: he is displeased with them because they increase her misery. When God seems most to leave his church, his heart is warm towards her. History shows that whenever God uses a rod to chasten his servants, he always breaks it afterwards, as if he loathed the rod which gave his children pain. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” God hath not forgotten us because he smites–his blows are no evidences of want of love. If this is true of his church collectively, it is of necessity true also of each individual member. You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars, and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made, or the only saint he ever loved. Approach him and be at peace.

Our Daily Bread — No Simple Recipe

 

Hebrews 4:11-16

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. —Hebrews 4:15

For our grandson’s birthday, my wife baked and decorated a gigantic chocolate chip cookie to serve at his party. She got out her cookbook, gathered the ingredients, and began to follow the simple steps involved in making cookies. She followed a simple recipe and everything turned out well.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life was like that? Just follow a few easy steps and then enjoy a happy life.

But life is not so simple. We live in a fallen world and there is no easy recipe to follow that will ensure a life free of pain, loss, injustice, or suffering.

In the midst of life’s pain, we need the personal care of the Savior who lived in this world and experienced the same struggles we face. Hebrews 4:15 encourages us: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Christ, who died to give us life, is completely sufficient to carry us through our heartaches and dark experiences. He has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4).

Jesus knows there is no simple “recipe” to prevent the heartaches of life, so He entered into them with us. Will we trust Him with our tears and grief? —Bill Crowder

When the trials of this life make you weary

And your troubles seem too much to bear,

There’s a wonderful solace and comfort

In the silent communion of prayer. —Anon.

 

The Christ who died to give us life will carry us through its heartaches.

 

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.

 

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

 

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.