Tag Archives: current-events

Charles Spurgeon – A home mission sermon

CharlesSpurgeon

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” Ecclesiastes 9:10

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 22:24-27

George Washington, the commander-in-chief, was going around among his soldiers. They were hard at work, lifting a heavy piece of timber at some fortification. There stood the corporal of the regiment calling out to his men, “Heave there, heave ahoy!” and giving them all kinds of directions. As large as possible the good corporal was. So Washington, alighting from his horse, said to him, “What is the good of your calling out to those men, why don’t you help them yourself and do part of the work.” The corporal drew himself up and said, “Perhaps you are not aware to whom you are speaking, sir; I am a corporal.” “I beg your pardon,” said Washington; “you are a corporal are you; I am sorry I should have insulted you.” So he took off his own coat and waistcoat and set to work to help the men build the fortification. When he had done he said, “Mr Corporal, I am sorry I insulted you, but when you have any more fortifications to get up, and your men won’t help you, send for George Washington, the commander-in-chief, and I will come and help them.” The corporal slunk away perfectly ashamed of himself. And so Christ Jesus might say to us, “Oh, you don’t like teaching the poor; it is beneath your dignity; then let your commander-in-chief do it; he can teach the poor, he can wash the feet of the saints, he can visit the sick and afflicted—he came down from heaven to do this, and he will set you the example.” Surely we should each be ashamed of ourselves, and declare from this time forward whatever it is, be it great or little, if it comes to our hand, and if God will but give us help and give us grace, we will do it with all our might.

For meditation: Our Master knew how to be humble (Philippians 2:6-9); he also knows how to deal with people who are proud or humble (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Sermon no. 259

26 June (1859)

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Hamlet’s Shoes

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is in a predicament most of us will never face. His uncle has killed his father and then married his mother to become the king. The main conflict of the play is found within Hamlet’s long monologues debating whether or not he should murder his uncle and avenge his father’s death. It’s not a life story most can fully identify with.

But for a group of prisoners at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center, Hamlet, both the man and the play, hit disruptively home. Over the course of six months, a prison performing arts program gave a handful of criminals, who are living out the consequences of their violent crimes, the chance to delve into a story about a man pondering a violent crime and its consequences. The result was a startling encounter for both the players, most of whom were new to Shakespeare, and the instructors, who long thought they knew every angle to Shakespeare’s tale, but came to see how much they had missed.

One man, in order to play the character Laertes, found himself reckoning with the temptation to manipulate as a means of getting what you want, only to realize a kind of cowardice in such actions. In a moment of clarity through the life of another, he admits, “I can identify with that [struggle] and I can play that role very well—because I’ve been playing that role my whole life….To put a gun in somebody’s face—that’s an unfair advantage.  That’s a cowardly act. And that’s what criminals are; we’re cowards.” He then admits with striking transparency, “I am Laertes. I am.”(1)

I was at a writers’ conference once that reminded an audience of aspiring artists of faith that in moments of moral crisis we do not pause to ask what Jane Erye would do. And yet there are inarguably characters and stories that become of immense moral significance, pulling us into worlds that call for attention, compassion, and consideration. As evidenced at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center, literature affords the unique and disarming possibility of placing oneself in another’s shoes, showing us sides of an individual we might otherwise miss, and depths of ourselves we might otherwise fail to consider. It is far harder to murder someone whose perspectives we have considered as imaginatively as our own. It is difficult to persist in self-deception when we find ourselves so jarringly laid out on the page. Such characters offer vessels of possibility beyond what is familiar, normal, and accepted—and often beyond what is even seen.

It is not accidental that Jesus used story as a vehicle to speak the truth in a way that was both disarming and inescapable.

“Simon, I have something to say to you,” Jesus said to a Pharisee who had invited him to dinner.

“Teacher,” he replied; “Speak.”

“A certain creditor had two debtors,” Jesus said; “one owed five hundred denarii,* and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”

43Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.”

Jesus* said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44Then turning towards the woman Simon had just flippantly dismissed as sinful and offensive, he said to Simon: “Do you see this woman?”

Simon had obviously seen her long before Jesus paused to tell him a story. With disgust, he had watched her enter his house, kneel at the feet of his guest, and proceed to weep so much that she could actually bathe his feet with her tears. Simon looked on as she dried his feet with her hair, kissing his feet incessantly, and anointing them with ointment. Seeing all of this clearly, he then questioned the sight of his guest. “If this man were a prophet,” Simon said to himself, “he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.”(2)

Like Hamlet to a hardened criminal, the simple story into which Simon willingly entered forced him to take another look at one he had hitherto willed not to see. We are not told what he saw the second time around, but his own words undoubtedly probed his hardened heart: The one who sees that she has had a great debt cancelled loves more. In a story of two debtors, Simon is invited to reconsider an easily-judged woman, his righteous self, and the one who forgives.

Jesus places us beside images of a kingdom that turns things around, stories that shock and offend us, metaphors that wake us to the presence of a surprising God, to the mindsets and pieties that block us from seeing this God, and to the abundance of divine grace that beckons us to look again and again.

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

(1) As heard on This American Life with Ira Glass, 218: Act V, October 12, 2007.

(2) See Luke 7:36-50.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Feast of Faith

 

Jesus loved to eat. At least that’s what the Gospel of Luke tells us. Throughout Luke’s narrative, Jesus is often coming and going from meals. Interestingly enough, Jesus is often eating meals with a very sundry cast of characters. Early on in Luke’s narrative, Jesus is thrown a banquet by tax gatherers—some of the most unsavory folks in Jesus’s day.

Meals with Jesus were not simply about the food. They were the conduits for spiritual and life transformation. One dramatic example of this transformation occurs with a chief tax gatherer, Zaccheus. And unlike other accounts of meals with Jesus in Luke’s Gospel where he is the invited guest, Jesus invites himself over to dine in Zaccheus’s home. As a result of this dining experience, Jesus gives Zaccheus a new identity as a “son of Abraham,” a title that inflamed the religious leaders of his day. How could Jesus count a scheming, conniving, tax-collecting outsider as a “son of Abraham”—which meant he was a son of the faithful patriarch and a true Israelite? And how did Zaccheus demonstrate faith that garnered Jesus’s commendation?

Understanding his place in society as a chief tax collector provides a necessary backdrop for Zaccheus’s feast of faith. Chief tax collectors contracted with the Romans to collect taxes in a particular town or region. It’s as if he purchased a franchise from the Roman government at a substantial price, and then subcontracted the actual collection of the taxes to a group of men who worked under him. His profit was the difference between the fee paid to the Roman government and the amount of taxes he collected. The system was prone to abuse and rewarded tax collectors for excessive collections.(1) Thus, the Jews saw tax collectors as mercenaries and thieves, and for one of their own to be in business with the Romans meant utter ostracism from the Jewish community.(2) Is it any wonder why all who heard Jesus invite himself over to Zaccheus’s house reacted with grumbling?

Yet, hearing the news of Jesus’s arrival, this much-maligned man pushed his way through the crowds, hoisting up his garments in a most undignified manner just to get a glimpse. Zaccheus had heard the stories about Jesus—his healings, his eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, and his remarkable, authoritative teachings. Now his curious faith compelled him to see for himself if all that he heard was really true.

Even knowing all of this, how surprising it must have been when Jesus invites himself over for dinner! Jesus wants to dine with this one who is despised. In response, Zaccheus overflows with generous gratitude. “Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor” (Luke 19:8). Jesus has asked for nothing but hospitality from Zaccheus, and in response, Zaccheus willingly surrenders half of his wealth. The tax collector’s willingness to let go of half of his wealth demonstrates faith—a faith, just like Abraham. The hospitality of Jesus prompts his faith-fueled donation.

But his faithful response goes beyond gratitude as he seeks to restore justice to those whom he has defrauded. It wasn’t enough for Zaccheus to give away half of his wealth in response to Jesus; he insists on repaying those he has defrauded. The Old Testament requirement for restitution is for the amount defrauded plus one-fifth.(3) But Zaccheus doesn’t simply meet the letter of the law; he offers to repay four times as much as he has defrauded others! Four-fold restitution will impoverish Zaccheus, as he’s already committed to give away half of his wealth. Yet in response to Jesus’s gracious invitation, Zaccheus parts with his wealth as a sign of his saving faith. Jesus declares, “Today, salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9).

Like Abraham, Zaccheus responds with faith that prompts action. Voluntarily impoverishing himself, Zaccheus shows that he, too, will live by faith—faith that demonstrates its true character in action. Thus, Zaccheus’s faith also benefits the community around him. At some point after Jesus invites himself to the tax collector’s home, Zaccheus rises—uncoerced, unadmonished, and unprompted—and commits himself to doing justice. For Zaccheus, justice rolls down like waters from the hospitality of Jesus, and it flows into his own faithful demonstration of hospitality towards others: he shares his wealth and restores what was ill-gotten. “Salvation has come to this house”—all in response to a meal. Imagine that. Hospitality—giving both emotional and physical nurture—proves the vessel for transformation. Let’s eat!

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

(1) Research from the website http://www.lectionary.org/luke.

(2) The Tosefta Toharoth notes, “When [tax] collectors enter into a house, the house [is considered] unclean.”

(3) See Leviticus 6:5 and Numbers 5:7.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – What is Good and Who Says?

 

We live in an era of multiple images, increasing violence, and an overexposure to sexual advertising and media. The mood is often dark; the feel is decadent. The very idea of goodness can seem quaint, an issue of rhetoric, or a throwback to some bygone age. Perhaps we picture something like the movie Titanic, the romantic age of civility and order, yet all the while mixed with 90s morality and behavioral patterns. “Whatever goodness is or was,” we might surmise, “it must have been something like this.”

The deeply expressed nostalgia in our world is surely a sign of the hunger for something more solid, more lasting, and more secure—perhaps even something more virtuous. It is ironic then that much of the energy of our cultural artists and architects has gone into debunking and deconstructing all that is good and beautiful, only to replace it with the shallow, the ugly, and the ephemeral. The often culturally expressed desire for the good old days, for better times, or for people to be more civil and courteous again betrays our inconsistency. Though it has supposedly been redefined, the language of “the good” does not leave our vocabularies any more than our hearts.

The massive contradictions and paradoxes that lie at the heart of our condition are too many to be cataloged. We seem to be experiencing a kind of cultural vaporization, where many ideas, practices, and values slowly but surely erode and then disappear. In such a time as this, what does it mean to be a sincere pursuer of the good?

I would argue that those who seek to offer hope, change, and good news to a nostalgic culture must wrestle with the issues both around us and within us. The good old days are not a lost hope, but perhaps a defining context for our lives. Nostalgia can be a misguiding illusion, or it can lead us to concrete questions about our place within this world. Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here and what is wrong? What is good and who defines it?

Stanley Hauerwas speaks of the people of God as “resident aliens,” a community of individuals who live aware of the past, present, and future. Those who follow Christ have come to see that he has placed us within a great story and a great creation, where it is God who first defined what is good and continues to characterize it. While contemporary society exerts enormous power and influence on defining the good, even as it proclaims who the definers of good shall be, the church proclaims another story. While the voices of a great multitude lose their hope of the future and awareness of the present in the power of a nostalgia that draws them to something else, the people of God demonstrate a community in history with a past, a present, and a future.

What does it mean to be the people of God? What is the calling and mission of people who follow Jesus? They are those who embody the Christian story. How one lives is as vital as what is said. The relational component of truth is held together with propositional presentations. The power of community, rootedness, and story are explored, shared, and communicated to the world.

Christ presents a way of recovering hope. He offers the “now” and the “not yet” of the kingdom. He offers a history, a hopeful present, and the best of futures.

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

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Keep the Faith

 

Hundreds of years ago Edward Gibbon penned his great treatise on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Among the reasons that great civilization capsized into the seas of history were the undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home – the firm underpinning of all society. Higher and higher taxes crept in, people desired pleasures from sports or other more brutal or immoral activities; individual responsibility collapsed; and Christianity lost its pure and gentle influence to guide people. Can you overlay that on today’s America?

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12

This weekend you may hear patriotic sermons based on today’s verse. There can be no doubt that for 200 years or more, God has blessed the United States. The second half of today’s passage reminds you that it is people who make up a nation. To keep God’s blessing on America, each citizen has the responsibility to keep faith in Him.

Revival takes place one person at a time. Hold onto the sanctity of life, marriage and family. Pray for the spiritual revitalization of leaders in government; for a return to individual responsibility; and for the Church to grasp, hold and teach God’s highest moral standards.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 33:8-18

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Preoccupied?

 

Where is your gaze? Is your vision focused on television programming or social networking? Or perhaps news reports of America’s struggling economy as wages decline and prices escalate? Maybe you’re looking primarily at your own situation or family circumstances?

Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. John 4:35

The challenge from Jesus is to lift your eyes – lift them from your focus on your own needs; lift them from your preoccupation with life’s myriad details; lift them from what distracts you. There is a harvest for you to see, the Lord said. If you walk through a peach orchard looking at the ground, you won’t spot many ripe peaches ready for gathering. But look up!

When God looks at your family or your neighborhood, what does He see that you don’t? Pray that you would be able to raise your view and see who it is the Lord wants you to witness to today. Let the Spirit of God be so bright in your life that when doors of opportunity open for you, you’ll rush through without hesitation and share with excited boldness. Show His love and grace. Be aware. Be a harvester. Nothing will make a greater difference for this nation than your God-focused witness.

Recommended Reading: John 4:27-41

Greg Laurie – A Different Kind of Battle

 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. — Ephesians 6:12

Captain Scotty Smiley has served his country with great courage, but he also has had to face great adversity. A U.S. Army Ranger and a combat diver-qualified infantryman, Captain Smiley is also the Army’s first active-duty blind officer and its first blind company commander. In April, 2006, Captain Smiley lost both of his eyes when a suicide bomber blew himself up 30 meters away from his vehicle.

He has faced this adversity with great faith and courage, an example to anyone dealing with a disability. Since losing his eyesight, he has climbed Mount Rainier, completed a triathlon, skied, skydived, and earned an M.B.A. He was named Soldier of the Year in 2007 and has written his story in a book called Hope Unseen. Captain Smiley is a fantastic model of bravery and courage on the battlefield.

As Christians, we, too, are in a battle, but it’s a battle of a different kind. It is not a physical battle, but a spiritual one—and it is just as real. The Bible tells us that we are “fighting against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It would blow our minds if God were to pull back the curtain and enable us to see into the spiritual world—the world of God and Satan, the world of angels and demons, the world of heaven and hell.

As I have often said, the Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground. So here is our choice: Either we are going to win or lose in this battle. Either we are going to gain ground or lose ground. Either we are going to advance or retreat.

Which will it be? It’s a decision we all need to make.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Hotel or Hospital

 

Sadly, increasing numbers of people in America are disenchanted with church. While some are leaving the age-old institution, others proclaim they will “never set foot in one.” A popular quote says, “Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.” It affirms church was never intended to be a country club for Christians.

Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?”Mark 11:17

Jesus shares in Mark 11 what church is intended to be: a place of prayer where “all” people can come. In a time where there was much distinction between the Jews and Gentiles, this was a bold statement. Today, Christ’s words still hold true. Church isn’t a place to categorize and accept or reject based on any criteria. Instead, it’s a place where all people can come to commune with God.

While so many judge others based on color, race, income and even political affiliation, Christians should not. The church is not made of bricks and mortar…but of men and women. Pray and ask God to open your eyes and heart to people of every background. Intercede for their salvation and shows acts of love to them. Then adopt the same attitude toward your political leaders of every persuasion.

Recommended Reading: Luke 5:27-32

Max Lucado – Face the Music

 

Many years ago a man conned his way into an orchestra although he could not play a note.  He would hold his flute against his lips, pretend to play but not make a sound.  Then one day the leader requested a solo from each musician. The man was panic stricken. On the day of his solo performance, he took poison and killed himself. The explanation of his suicide led to a phrase that found its way into the English language:  “He refused to face the music.”

Face the music! Some of us have buried a marriage, parts of a conscience, and even parts of our faith—all because we won’t face the music…we won’t tell the truth. Ask yourself, am I honest in my dealings? Am I a trustworthy student?  An honest taxpayer? Do you tell the truth—always?

Proverbs says, “The Lord hates a lying tongue.” (12:19)

Just tell the truth.

Max Lucado – Nothing But the Truth

 

A woman stands before judge and jury, places one hand on the Bible and the other in the air, and makes a pledge.

For the next few minutes, with God as her helper, she will “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  She is a witness.  Her job is to tell the truth. Leave it to legal counsel to interpret. Leave it to the jury to resolve. Leave it to the judge to apply.  But the witness? The witness speaks the truth.

The Christian, too, is a witness.  We are called to tell the truth. The Bible is present, the watching world is the jury, and we are the primary witnesses. We are called to testify; to tell what we have seen and heard. Our task is not to whitewash or bloat the truth. Our task is to tell the truth.  Period.

Alistair Begg – Are You a Grumbler?

 

And all the people of Israel grumbled. Numbers 14:2

There are grumblers among Christians now, just as there were in the camp of Israel of old. There are those who, when punished, cry out against the affliction. They ask, “Why am I afflicted? What have I done to be chastened in this manner?”

A word with you, grumbler! Why should you grumble against the dealings of your heavenly Father? Can He treat you more severely than you deserve? Consider what a rebel you once were, but He has pardoned you! Surely, if He in His wisdom considers it necessary to chasten you, you should not complain. After all, are you punished as severely as your sins deserve? Consider the corruption that is in your heart, and then will you wonder that so much of the rod is necessary to root it out? Weigh yourself, and discern how much dross is mingled with your gold; and do you think the fire is too hot to purge away the amount of dross you have? Doesn’t your proud rebellious spirit prove that your heart is not thoroughly sanctified? Aren’t those grumbling words contrary to the holy, submissive nature of God’s children? Isn’t the correction necessary?

But if you will grumble against the chastening, pay attention, for it will go hard with grumblers. God always chastises His children twice if they do not respond properly the first time. But know this–“He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” All His corrections are sent in love, to purify you and to draw you nearer to Himself. Surely it must help you to bear the chastening with submission if you are able to recognize your Father’s hand. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” “. . . nor grumble the way some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Beyond Willpower

 

Jesus says that as a Christian you are “not of the world” and if you want to make an impact then you must draw upon resources that are also not of the world. The Founding Fathers understood this. When news reached the Continental Congress that war with Britain had begun, the very first thing they did was to pray together for God’s guidance. Later, when the Congress was gridlocked in debate, Benjamin Franklin rose to urge them to consult a Higher Power. “I believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel,” Franklin said.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

To fulfill God’s purpose in your life, you need more than your own strength or discipline. That’s why Jesus prayed for His followers to be sanctified – that is, to be set apart for a holy purpose, and to be free from sin. You cannot be sanctified by good works or willpower. This is strictly the work of God in your life that follows your total devotion to Him and your submission to His perfect will.

Today, pray that America’s leaders will seek God’s “concurring aid” in every decision, and that He will sanctify you as you share His truth with others.

Recommended Reading: Romans 15:14-21

John MacArthur – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

 

People often define peace as the absence of conflict, but God sees it differently. The absence of conflict is merely a truce, which might end overt hostilities but doesn’t resolve the underlying issues. A truce simply introduces a cold war, which often drives the conflict underground, where it smolders until erupting in physical or emotional disaster.

James 3:17 says, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” Godly wisdom, purity, and peace go hand- in-hand. Peace is wisdom in action and is never established at the expense of righteousness. It brings righteousness to bear on the situation, seeking to eliminate the source of conflict and create right relationships. Feuding parties will know true peace only when they are willing to admit that their bitterness and hatred is wrong and humbly seek God’s grace to make things right.

Some people equate peacemaking with evading issues, but true peace can be very confrontive. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” That may seem to contradict Matthew 5:9, but it doesn’t: Jesus knew that sinful people have to be confronted with the truth before they can experience peace. That can be a painful and difficult process because people usually have a hostile reaction to the gospel before they finally embrace it. Even believers will sometimes react negatively when confronted with God’s truth.

Being a biblical peacemaker has its price. You can expect to upset unbelievers who openly oppose God’s Word as well as believers who compromise its truth for the sake of maintaining “peace” among people of differing doctrinal persuasions. Some will call you narrow-minded and divisive for dealing with controversial issues. Some will misunderstand your motives or even attack you personally. But that’s been the path of every true peacemaker– including our Lord Himself. Take heart and be faithful. Your efforts to bring peace show that you are a child of God.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Ask God for the boldness never to compromise His truth.

Pray for those you know who are suffering for the sake of the gospel.

For Further Study:

Read Luke 12:51-53, noting how the gospel can bring division even among families.

 

Max Lucado – Resentment

 

Resentment is a prison.  When you’ve put someone in your jail cell of hatred, you are stuck guarding the door.  If you’re out to settle a score, you are never going to rest.  How can you?  For one thing, your enemy may never pay up.

As much as you think you deserve an apology, your debtor may not agree.  The racist may never repent.  The chauvinist may never change. As justified as you are in your quest for vengeance, you may never get a penny’s worth of justice.  And if you do, will it be enough?

You see, resentment is a prison.  Jesus doesn’t question the reality of your wounds.  He just doubts whether resentment is going to heal you.  What are you going to do?  Spend your life guarding the prison jail cell?  Or entrust your wounds to Jesus?

John MacArthur – Commended or Condemned?

 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

Scripture shows that those whom God blessed most abundantly were abundantly merciful to others. Abraham, for example, helped rescue his nephew Lot even after Lot had wronged him. Joseph was merciful to his brothers after they sold him into slavery. Twice David spared Saul’s life after Saul tried to kill him.

But just as sure as God’s commendation is upon those who show mercy, His condemnation is upon those who are merciless. Psalm 109:14-16 says, “Let the iniquity of [the merciless person’s] fathers be remembered before the Lord, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out . . . because he did not remember to show [mercy].”

When judgment comes, the Lord will tell such people, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me” (Matt. 25:41-43). They will respond, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?” (v. 44). He will reply that when they withheld mercy from those who represented Him, they were withholding it from Him (v. 45).

Our society encourages us to grab everything we can for ourselves, but God wants us to reach out and give everything we can to others. If someone wrongs you, fails to repay a debt, or doesn’t return something he has borrowed from you, be merciful to him. That doesn’t mean you excuse sin, but you respond to people with a heart of compassion. That’s what Christ did for you–can you do any less for others?

Suggestions for Prayer:

If there is someone who has wronged you, pray for that person, asking God to give you a heart of compassion for him or her. Make every effort to reconcile as soon as possible.

For Further Study:

Read Romans 1:29-31. How did Paul characterize the ungodly?

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Prayer Bumps

 

You’re smoothly motoring along, being only moderately attentive, enjoying the beauty of the drive, when you hit it – a speed bump. You’re momentarily jarred by the impact, and your forward motion is impeded. You pay more attention as you proceed.

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.

I Timothy 2:8

Sometimes the Christian life is like that. You’re enjoying the beauty of time spent with the Lord in prayer, feel you’re moving forward in your relationships with Him and other people, and then along comes an unexpected spiritual prayer bump. Two of them are posted in today’s verse: anger and quarreling.

You have a choice to make. You can keep going as you were, allowing your spiritual life to slow down, maybe even come to an abrupt stop. Or you can pay more attention to your relationships with God and others, adjusting as you journey on. Confess to the Father what impedes you. Then work to smooth the road with the person you’ve quarreled with or held anger toward. Putting it off only guarantees more prayer bumps ahead.

Intercede, too, for those in positions of authority whose roads are bumpy from political anger and partisan quarreling. They, too, need the hope of a smoother road ahead in Christ Jesus.

Recommended Reading: I Timothy 2:1-8

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Postponed Pardon

 

“We can’t find your paperwork.” Ever heard that? Shortly after the American Civil War ended, Confederate General Robert E. Lee signed an “Amnesty Oath,” requesting that his rights of citizenship be restored. His request was sent to Washington, D.C., where it was promptly lost. General Lee died without ever being pardoned or restored. More than 100 years later, a clerk at the National Archives discovered Lee’s Amnesty Oath in a long-forgotten trove of documents. It was President Gerald R. Ford who finally signed the order restoring the General’s citizenship.

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor. Proverbs 21:21

This is the way it often seems as you pursue a life of righteousness. You’ve done your best to do what’s asked of you, but there seems to be no response from God. No answer to the financial need or the health crisis. No answer to your prayers that America turn back to God.

It’s almost as if your requests have been lost in some dark, forgotten corner of Heaven, never to be heard or acted upon by the Lord. But rest assured your rewards are on the way! He promises life, righteousness and honor. At just the right time, God will answer. Until then, be faithful, keep praying…and trust.

Recommended Reading: James 5:7-16

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Firsthand Change

 

Each year, millions of lawsuits are filed in the United States by people seeking compensation for personal loss, emotional distress, defamation of character, and a myriad of other circumstances where the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of others caused harm. In an effort to win these cases, both parties often use experts with industry knowledge or eyewitnesses to testify on their behalf.

One of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection. Acts 1:22

The Bible tells of Jesus’ appearances to others after His death, burial and resurrection. Those people became eyewitnesses to the fact that the same Jesus that was brutally killed by Roman soldiers was indeed alive again. Because Christ overcame the rule of death and destruction, His followers have access to the most powerful force in the universe – resurrection power, the authority to redeem all things to the glory of God.

As in the court of law, there is no more persuasive testimony than an eyewitness with firsthand knowledge. If you would like to change America today, start with proclaiming your redemption story. Bring hope to those you know by being a witness to God’s power in restoring health and life to what was once destroyed by sin.

Recommended Reading: Acts 8:26-40

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Audacity of Imitation

 

Unflattering as an adjective, insulting as a noun, imitation has fallen on particularly hard times. No one wants to be an imitation of a favorite songwriter, a fake impersonator of the grammy-award winning original. No restaurant proprietor wants to be reviewed as the “imitation” of a famed eatery; inherent in the classification is the notion of being a lesser version of the real thing. An idea is never lauded for being a good imitator of another. And imitation vanilla is rarely, if ever, invited to a cookbook. Originality is by far the more the accepted fashion of the day. And the pressure to be original—to be different than, better than, more than—is both constant and intense. It is the modern way of distinguishing oneself after all, whether applying for college or making a pithy tweet. From impressions to possessions to thoughts, being original seems to be everything.

The pressure may be subtle but it is often overwhelming. It is quite likely the reason why social media seems exhausting to me, why meeting someone with similar ideas can just as easily promote worry as it might a sense of camaraderie, or why I sometimes delay writing out of dread that it’s just all been said before. The pressure to be the inventor and not the imitator, the original and not the clone, the drive to make a new statement about oneself ad nauseam is both a strange and exhausting task.

I was thinking about this trend as I read some of the familiar, distinguishing, oft-quoted lines of Martin Luther King Jr. recently. In light of our need for incessantly original tweets and blog entries, it is interesting to note that King’s most trusted advisors were horrified when they heard him launch into his “I have a Dream” speech that fateful day in Washington. To them, this speech was played out. It was old and tired and not at all the new statement they were hoping to make for the Civil Rights Movement. He had given versions of this speech in other places and on other occasions, not the least of which a crowd of twenty-five thousand in Detroit. According to those who had helped him write the new speech the night before, they agreed they needed something far more original to make the greatest mark. Together they wrote a new speech that night, but on the day of the event, King set novelty aside for a less original dream.

Like his advisors, our modern allegiance to originality might make it difficult to imagine staring at a crowd of two hundred thousand, charged with a new and bold opportunity to make a statement heard by more of the United States than ever before, and deciding in a split moment not to say something new. Thankfully, Dr. King had the courage to believe that what we needed was not reinvention but, in fact, very old news. His acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize reflected a similar conviction:

“I have the audacity to believe that… what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will will proclaim the rule of the land. ‘And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.’ I still believe that we shall overcome.”(1)

To those inclined to obey the unrelenting orders of repackaging, reinventing, and re-presenting oneself ever-anew, proclaiming an ancient hope, being a follower of an ancient way, indeed, imitating a rabbi from the first century, likely seems as boring and unattractive as it is strange. Who wants to be an imitator, let alone an imitator of an antiquated mind and crucified body?

It may well be one of the most countercultural stances the church takes today. The Christian is an imitation. She walks a curiously ancient path toward a Roman cross of torture; he stands, unoriginally, with a humiliated body that bore the sorrow and pain of crucifixion. The way of Christ is not new. But the invitation of this broken body is paradoxical in this world as the broken body itself. For more curious than the invitation to be a follower in a world looking for trailblazers is the invitation to follow one who, though equal to God, emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, humbling himself to the point of death on a humiliating cross. Imitations of this unordinary love might almost be as gripping as the real thing.

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

(1) Martin Luther King, Jr.,
“Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech,” A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., 226.

Our Daily Bread — Riches Of The Soul

 

Proverbs 30:1-9

Give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me. —Proverbs 30:8

With the hope of winning a record jackpot of $640 million, Americans spent an estimated $1.5 billion on tickets in a multistate lottery in early 2012. The odds of winning were a staggering 1 in 176 million, but people stood in lines at grocery stores, gas stations, and cafes to buy a chance to become rich. Something inside us makes us think more money will solve our problems and improve our lives.

A man identified in the Bible as Agur had a different perspective on riches when he asked God to grant him two requests before he died.

First, he said, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me” (Prov. 30:8). Integrity is a key to living without anxiety. When we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. Deceit enslaves; honesty liberates. Second, he said, “Give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me” (v.8). Contentment springs from trusting God as our supplier and gratefully accepting what He provides. Agur said of the Creator that He “established all the ends of the earth. . . . He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (vv.4-5).

Integrity and contentment are riches of the soul that are available to all. Our Lord is pleased to give these treasures to everyone who asks. —David McCasland

Contentment does not come from wealth—

It’s not something you can buy;

Contentment comes to give you peace

When you depend on God’s supply. —Branon

 

Discontentment makes us poor while contentment makes us rich!