Tag Archives: faith

Humans Like Us – Ravi Zacharias

 

The 12th of January 2012 saw an India deeply shocked and embarrassed by a certain footage released by the British Newspaper The Observer, which showed half-clad Jarawa tribal women and children enticed to dance and sing for tourists in exchange for food and trinkets. Who are the Jarawas we may ask? The Jarawas are the tribal inhabitants of the Andaman Islands situated a few miles from southeast India. With an existing population of about 250-400 individuals, they are the descendants of one of the four ancient Negroid tribes who were stranded on the Andamans because of rising sea water. Apparently, this particular community still lives in complete isolation, cut off from any education, health care, or development.

Minutes after this footage from The Observer, a huge public outcry followed as newspapers, TV anchors, and people from various walks of life came forward to express their outrage at human beings treated “like zoo animals made to dance for food.” Television channels were abuzz with debates and discussions on this issue of “human safari,” as it was termed. It was interesting to observe the various reactions and responses sparked off by the issue: some NGOs demanded the immediate closure of Jarawas territory to tourists, others wanted the government to ensure that the Jarawas continue to be cocooned in seclusion and isolated from the mainstream population to protect them from disease and cultural degradation.

What is it about this issue that rankles so, and raises such a storm of protest? I think the answer is succinctly put by Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, a noted columnist who responded with an article in the Times of India: “Jarawas are human beings… just like us.”(1) The Jarawa issue was disturbing simply because it is about “human beings just like us.” Pertinent questions may arise: What is so special about being human? What is so great about being “us”? If we believe that mankind is just another species of animal, then why should we worry ourselves when human beings are treated like one? As for those who believe that everything is maya, or illusion, there is absolutely no reason for protest, for if everything is an illusion, then the Jarawas too are an illusion. They are not real; so the question of how they are treated or mistreated does not arise.

The biblical worldview gives a contrasting response to the Jarawas and the question of what it means to be human. The Bible asserts that human beings are created by God and in God’s own image. This fact of being specially created by a personal God gives humanity both worth and purpose. We recognize somewhere in our very beings that a human cannot be treated like an animal simply because he or she is more than this. He is different! She is special!

As King David reflects on the mystery of being human in Psalm 8:

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned them with glory and honor.

In the outcry heard around the nation and indeed, around the world, I believe there are echoes of the knowledge of this reflection. God has made us a little lower than the heavenly beings. God has crowned us with glory and honor.

Tejdor Tiewsoh is a member of the speaking team with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Shillong, India.

(1) Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, “Jarawas Are Human Beings…Just Like Us,” Times of India, 15 January 2012.

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Praising God for Your Election – John MacArthur

 

“Having been predestined according to [God’s] purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).

In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says that God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” In verse 11 he reiterates that marvelous truth by affirming that believers have been predestined to salvation according to God’s own purpose and will.

Many reject the teaching that God chose (predestined) believers to salvation. They think believers chose God. In one sense they’re right: salvation involves an act of the will in turning from sin to embrace Christ. But the issue in predestination goes deeper than that. It’s a question of initiative. Did God choose you on the basis of your faith in Him or did He, by choosing you, enable you to respond in faith.

The answer is clear in Scripture. Romans 3:11 says that no one seeks for God on his own. Unregenerate people have no capacity to understand spiritual truth. It’s all foolishness to them (1 Cor. 2:14). They are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), blind (2 Cor. 4:4), and ignorant (Eph. 4:18).

How can people in that condition initiate saving faith? They can’t! That’s why Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him. . . . All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:44, 37). Paul added, “God . . . has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9).

God took the initiative. He chose you and gave you saving faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Rejoice in that truth. Rest in His power to conform all things to His will. Draw strength and assurance from His promise never to let you go (John 10:27-29). Then live each day as God’s elected one by shunning sin and following after holiness.

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for placing His love upon you and granting you salvation.

Pray for the salvation of others and seek opportunities to share Christ with them today.

For Further Study: Read Ezekiel 36:22-32

Why will God one day redeem Israel?

What does that passage teach you about God’s initiative in salvation?

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A Choice in the Matter – Greg Laurie

 

And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”—Acts 9:17

After hearing the voice of Jesus on the road to Damascus, Saul (later to become Paul) was left blind. He was led to the home of a man named Judas in Damascus, and he had no idea what would happen next.

Enter an unsung hero named Ananias. God appeared to him in a vision and said, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight” (Acts 9:11–12).

But Ananias said, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem . . .” (verse 13).

I can understand the reticence on Ananias’ part. The idea of Saul’s becoming a Christian would not even be believable or plausible.

Yet God was unmoved by Ananias’ protest. He said, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (verse 15).

So Ananias obeyed, and Saul received his sight. Everything happened just as God said it would.

Sometimes God will ask us to do something we may be reluctant to do. But we have a choice in the matter. We don’t have to obey God. When God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach to them, he went—in the opposite direction. And eventually Jonah ended up doing what God wanted him to do.

So you can be a Jonah, or you can be an Ananias. You can say yes, or you can say no.

Man has his will, but God will always have His way.

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God’s Viewpoint about Money – Charles Stanley

 

1 Timothy 6:9-11

God knew how obsessively the issue of money would occupy our minds, so He placed special emphasis on it in His Word.

Did you know there are some 2,350 verses about money—more than any other topic? And did you realize more than half of Jesus’ parables use money as object lessons? Knowing where our greatest interest and temptations would be, God spelled out what we would need to know in order to handle our resources with His wisdom.

The Lord is personally interested in the details of our life, including our financial security. That is why His Word includes instructions about giving and attitudes He wants us to have. We are to give . . .

• Generously. Most likely, you have what some would view as blessing beyond measure. Many who have abundance succumb to a temptation to hoard. Honor God with your first fruits—right off the top—and then bless others with your abundance.

• Cheerfully. We should put the Lord’s monetary principles into effect joyfully, not under compulsion or guilt. Remember that He knows your heart and motives.

• Confidently.God keeps His promises. Malachi 3:10 tells us that when we give to support the Lord’s work, He will open the windows of heaven and impact every area of your life.

See what Scripture has to say about money and its usage, and put into practice biblical principles for handling treasure. God wants His children to take steps to follow Him. When He sees that you are being faithful in small ways, He will trust you in greater ways.

Surprised by Suffering – Ravi Zacharias

 

Gayle Williams was a 34 year-old foreign aid worker serving among the disabled in a country where humanitarian work is both needed and dangerous. Williams was killed as she walked to work, targeted by a militant group because they believed she was spreading Christianity.

Elsewhere, a young medical student at a prestigious university described in detail the hostility he confronts daily as a Christian. He spoke of students and friends who deride the possibility of possessing both faith and intellect, medical professors who actually apologize when the language of design inadvertently slips into lectures on the body, and the isolation that comes from trying to stand in the shadows of this increasingly antagonistic majority.

When confronted by the stories of those who live their faith among people who hate them for it, I am confounded, inspired, saddened, and thankful all at once. The death and murder of Gayle Williams startles those at ease in their faith to reflection. The pervasive opposition in the lives of believing university students awakens even seasoned believers to their own apathy. How courageous is the believer who follows Christ among those who hurl insults and hostility? How treasured is the Bible that must be buried in the backyard for protection? How sacred is the faith of one who is willing to die for it?

For those of us who live in far less hostile environments, news of persecution is foreign, frightening, and difficult to fathom. Their experiences bring the words of the early church to life in a way that many of us have never considered. When the apostle Paul wrote that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ—neither “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword”—he was referring to struggles that were dangerously real to him and the people to whom he was writing. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). Peter, too, encouraged believers in their troubling situations. He urged them to stand firm in their convictions regardless of their affliction; he reminded them that discomfort and suffering was a sacred part of following the wounded one. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

The apostles’ words do not take away the injustice of brutal murder. But they do assuage the shock of its occurrence. Jesus told his followers to expect persecution; in fact, he said they would be blessed by it. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). Peter’s words encourage the suffering not to see their painful trials as strange or out of the ordinary, but as something that further marks them as believers and unites them in even greater intimacy with their leader. Persecution may be always jarring, unfair, or lamentable, but it is not strange when it happens to those who follow Christ. Perhaps it is stranger when it is not happening.

Mark Twain once said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” For those of us who live the faith we profess without challenge, trial, or risk, reflection may well be appropriate. Is it possible that we have so shut ourselves up in Christian circles that we have closed ourselves off from the world and hence any chance of suffering for Christ? Is it possible that we are so at ease among the majority that we avoid venturing out as the minority among those who might hate or hurt us? Certainly we experience hostility and persecution indirectly. But how we are personally interacting with the angry, the lost, and the broken masses Jesus once wept over is another thing entirely. How effectively we live as “the salt of the earth” that Jesus described depends on our place and posture within it. Surely salt that remains content within the shaker has lost its saltiness.

The struggles of Christian students on university campuses, the sufferings of Christian aid workers across the world, and the daily trials of believers who live courageously in dangerous places are stories that frighten and sadden us.  They are also stories that depict what can happen when the salt of the kingdom is allowed to season the earth. Gayle Williams is said to have been the hand of Christ among some of the world’s most forgotten. “Remember the words I spoke to you,” said Jesus to his disciples. “‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). And then he was led away like a sheep to the slaughter.(1)

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

(1) Isaiah 53:7

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Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning “I will help thee, saith the Lord.” / Isaiah 41:14

This morning let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: “I will help

thee.” “It is but a small thing for me, thy God, to help thee. Consider what I

have done already. What! not help thee? Why, I bought thee with my blood.

What! not help thee? I have died for thee; and if I have done the greater,

will I not do the less? Help thee! It is the least thing I will ever do for

thee; I have done more, and will do more. Before the world began I chose thee.

I made the covenant for thee. I laid aside my glory and became a man for thee;

I gave up my life for thee; and if I did all this, I will surely help thee

now. In helping thee, I am giving thee what I have bought for thee already. If

thou hadst need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it thee; thou

requirest little compared with what I am ready to give. ‘Tis much for thee to

need, but it is nothing for me to bestow. Help thee?’ Fear not! If there were

an ant at the door of thy granary asking for help, it would not ruin thee to

give him a handful of thy wheat; and thou art nothing but a tiny insect at the

door of my all-sufficiency. I will help thee.'”

 

O my soul, is not this enough? Dost thou need more strength than the

omnipotence of the United Trinity? Dost thou want more wisdom than exists in

the Father, more love than displays itself in the Son, or more power than is

manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring hither thine empty pitcher!

Surely this well will fill it. Haste, gather up thy wants, and bring them

here–thine emptiness, thy woes, thy needs. Behold, this river of God is full

for thy supply; what canst thou desire beside? Go forth, my soul, in this thy

might. The Eternal God is thine helper!

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismay’d!

I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid.”

 

Evening “The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself.” / Daniel 9:26

Blessed be his name, there was no cause of death in him. Neither original nor

actual sin had defiled him, and therefore death had no claim upon him. No man

could have taken his life from him justly, for he had done no man wrong, and

no man could even have lain him by force unless he had been pleased to yield

himself to die. But lo, one sins and another suffers. Justice was offended by

us, but found its satisfaction in him. Rivers of tears, mountains of

offerings, seas of the blood of bullocks, and hills of frankincense, could not

have availed for the removal of sin; but Jesus was cut off for us, and the

cause of wrath was cut off at once, for sin was put away forever. Herein is

wisdom, whereby substitution, the sure and speedy way of atonement, was

devised! Herein is condescension, which brought Messiah, the Prince, to wear a

crown of thorns, and die upon the cross! Herein is love, which led the

Redeemer to lay down his life for his enemies!

It is not enough, however, to admire the spectacle of the innocent bleeding

for the guilty, we must make sure of our interest therein. The special object

of the Messiah’s death was the salvation of his church; have we a part and a

lot among those for whom he gave his life a ransom? Did the Lord Jesus stand

as our representative? Are we healed by his stripes? It will be a terrible

thing indeed if we should come short of a portion in his sacrifice; it were

better for us that we had never been born. Solemn as the question is, it is a

joyful circumstance that it is one which may be answered clearly and without

mistake. To all who believe on him the Lord Jesus is a present Saviour, and

upon them all the blood of reconciliation has been sprinkled. Let all who

trust in the merit of Messiah’s death be joyful at every remembrance of him,

and let their holy gratitude lead them to the fullest consecration to his

cause.

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Anticipating Your Inheritance – John MacArthur

 

“In [Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance” (Eph. 1:10-11).

An inheritance is something received by an heir as a result of a will or legal process. It’s a legacy one receives from family connections.

As a member of God’s family, you are an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). As such you have obtained an inheritance that Peter called “imperishable and undefiled . . . reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4). It cannot perish, fade away, or be defiled because heaven is timeless and sinless. It is a secure inheritance.

In Ephesians 1:11 Paul refers to it in the past tense (“have obtained”). That’s significant because the fullness of your inheritance won’t be revealed until you are glorified in God’s presence (1 John 3:2). But your inheritance is so sure, Paul refers to it as if it was already in hand.

Although its fullness is yet future, your inheritance has present benefits as well. In addition to inheriting Christ and the Holy Spirit, you also inherit peace, love, grace, wisdom, joy, victory, strength, guidance, mercy, forgiveness, righteousness, discernment, and every other spiritual benefit. Paul sums it all up in 1 Corinthians 3:22-23: “All things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.”

Nowadays many Christians are so preoccupied with acquiring material goods that they miss many of the present benefits of their spiritual inheritance and the joy of anticipating its future fulfillment. Don’t fall into that trap!

Looking forward to your eternal inheritance will help you maintain a proper perspective on temporal things and motivate you to praise and adore God.

Suggestions for Prayer:    Praise the Lord for the incredible inheritance that awaits you in heaven.

Thank Him for the present benefits of your inheritance, which are yours to enjoy daily.

 

For Further Study:   One precious aspect of your eternal inheritance is God’s mercy. Psalm 136 reflects on the mercy God demonstrated toward Israel. Read that psalm, noting the manifestations of mercy that relate to your life.

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Planting Seeds – Greg Laurie

 

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow—1 Corinthians 3:6–7

We don’t read of anyone in Scripture actually sharing the gospel with Saul (who later became the apostle Paul). But God used a number of people to prepare his heart to receive it.

As far back as I can remember in my life, no one ever sat me down and said, “Greg, here is how you can come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

I would hang out at the Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach and lean up against walls, trying to look tough and cool. I would watch Christians hand out religious materials and engage people in conversation, and I would be saying in my heart, Please talk to me. But they would never talk to me—they just offered me their tracts.

I shoved those tracts into my pocket and never threw one of them away. I had a drawer at home designated for religious material, and I deposited everything that was handed to me into that drawer. Every now and then, I pulled out the drawer, dumped it on my bed, and read through the material, trying to make sense of it all. What I needed was someone to show me the way.

Then one day, I eavesdropped on a Bible study that was being held on the lawn of my high school campus. And that is when I first heard the gospel and became a Christian.

Looking back, there were different people who helped get me ready for that moment. My grandparents were Christians and took me to church. I had the influence of an aunt and uncle who were strong Christians. Even watching Billy Graham on television with my grandparents was one of the many seeds that were sown in my life.

You see, we all have a part to play in God’s kingdom. We all can do something.

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Christ’s Priority for His Church – Charles Stanley

 

John 17:1-26

Sin is a divider. That’s what separated mankind from the Lord in the garden, and it has been fracturing relationships ever since. It’s also the reason that God considers reconciliation so important. He wants to re-establish an intimate relationship with fallen humanity. But His desires for His children don’t end with their salvation experience. He also wants His church to be a shining example of unity for all to see.

The last time Christ prayed for His followers before going to the cross, He asked “that they may all be one” as the Father and Son are one (v. 21). Despite the fact that we cannot attain perfect unity with God until we reach heaven, we do have the capacity to walk in harmony with Him by living in obedience to His Holy Spirit within us.

The other aspect of oneness that God desires for us is unity with one another within His church. We will always have differences in what we prefer and how we interpret certain Bible passages, but our common identity as Christians is based on the essential truths of the faith as revealed in God’s Word. The unity Christ advocates is possible only when each member of His body walks in submission to the Spirit so that together they can achieve the purposes of God and reflect Christ’s character in their behavior.

Ask the Lord to produce a desire for unity within your heart. When you’re tempted to demand your own way, remember what’s at stake. Accord in a local church allows God to do His work effectively through that congregation, but it’s also an attractive witness that draws the lost world to Christ.

Timeless News for the Time Bound – Ravi Zacharias

 

Most of us, if we’re honest, live by the clock. The alarm sounds and we are off, watching the minutes slip by. Time-sensitive deadlines drive our days. We have appointments and meetings, we eat at a certain time, and the day ends by a certain time. Bound to our timepieces, it often seems our every moment is synchronized and controlled.

In contrast to the “objective” measures of time marking seconds, minutes, and hours, there is also a “subjective” experience of time being “fast or slow.” Another year has come and gone, and it seems for those of us who are growing older that our experience of time passes by more and more quickly. Most of us feel our vacation time as ephemeral and fleeting, while our work week plods slowly by—and yet both are marked by the same objective measurements of time. How is it that our subjective experience of time is so different from what our watches and clocks objectively mark out for us, second by second, hour by hour?

This question of our subjective experience of time is one that ancient philosophers and theologians pondered. Their philosophical and theological musings bequeathed to us many perplexities regarding the human experience of time. Saint Augustine, for example, wrestled with the fleeting character of our human temporal experience. He was rightly perplexed by the experience of apprehending the present at the moment it recedes into the past. He wrote, “We cannot rightly say what time is, except by reason of its impending state of not-being.”(1)

Regardless of the perceptual and philosophical difficulties with understanding the nature of time, what seems most crucial for human beings is the significance of events that happen in time, moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day. Seeking to reclaim this emphasis, theologians have tried to understand the nature of time by what takes place in time—a narrative of unfolding events.(2) These theological discussions involve God’s engagement with time. Is God a wholly atemporal being, outside of time and history? Or is God genuinely engaged with time and revealed through an unfolding story of historical disclosure?

The biblical writers give witness to a God who progressively unfolds saving acts within history as they experienced them. The divine plan of salvation that Christians believe culminates in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is called salvation history. Yet, God did not, for example, reveal every aspect of salvation to Abraham or to Moses. Instead, the biblical writers give witness to the God who works within and through the temporal events of history to reveal the plan of redemption. We see this unfolding in God’s commissioning of Moses prior to the Exodus:

“I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai) but by my name ‘the Lord (YHWH)’ I did not make myself known.”(3)

Within the long ministry of the prophets as well, a God is revealed who gradually discloses what will take place. Isaiah presents the God who “proclaims to you new things from this time; even hidden things which you have not known. They are created now, and not long ago: and before today you have not heard them” (Isaiah 48:6-7).

For Christians, God’s decisive revelatory action in time is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While there are many glimpses, sign-markers, and hints pointing towards a messianic redeemer in the Old Testament, ultimately God chose to enter a particular time as a human being to live life among the time-bound.

The significance of those time-bound events continues into our time, and indeed into eternity. And through the unfolding of time, humans can grow in their understanding of who God is and what God has done through Jesus, the Messiah. Indeed, as Jesus spoke with his disciples, he suggested that there would be more to learn and more to reveal through the work of the Holy Spirit: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever he hears he will speak; and he will disclose to you what is to come.“(4)

The witness of Scripture suggests that the events of our lives reveal this ongoing work of the Spirit. Sometimes, we apprehend the significance of those events in the present time. Other times, it is only through the lens of hindsight as events recede into times past that we understand God’s action. While time might move slowly for some or quickly for others, while minutes and seconds and hours are filled with appointments, meetings, and all the events that make up our time-bound existence, the Spirit invites us to look around to see how God is working through what might appear to be ordinary events in the march of time.

As another year recedes and a new year unfolds, those who follow Jesus declare that God entered time to enact the new creation in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. As we grow in our understanding of that timeless act, the events of our temporal lives act as sign-markers for eternity. And while we often see the significance of our time-bound events “through a mirror darkly,” Christians continue to live each day in hope of that time that will come when “all things are subjected to Him…that God may be all in all.”(5)

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

(1) Augustine, Confessions, XI, 14.

(2) Colin Gunton, cited in John Polkinghorne, Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 120.

(3) Exodus 6:2-3, Italics mine.

(4) John 16:12-13, Italics mine.

(5) 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning   “Do as thou hast said.” / 2 Samuel 7:25

God’s promises were never meant to be thrown aside as waste paper; he intended

that they should be used. God’s gold is not miser’s money, but is minted to be

traded with. Nothing pleases our Lord better than to see his promises put in

circulation; he loves to see his children bring them up to him, and say,

“Lord, do as thou hast said.” We glorify God when we plead his promises. Do

you think that God will be any the poorer for giving you the riches he has

promised? Do you dream that he will be any the less holy for giving holiness

to you? Do you imagine he will be any the less pure for washing you from your

sins? He has said “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:

though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be

red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Faith lays hold upon the promise of

pardon, and it does not delay, saying, “This is a precious promise, I wonder

if it be true?” but it goes straight to the throne with it, and pleads, “Lord,

here is the promise, Do as thou hast said.'” Our Lord replies, “Be it unto

thee even as thou wilt.” When a Christian grasps a promise, if he does not

take it to God, he dishonours him; but when he hastens to the throne of grace,

and cries, “Lord, I have nothing to recommend me but this, Thou hast said

it;'” then his desire shall be granted. Our heavenly Banker delights to cash

his own notes. Never let the promise rust. Draw the sword of promise out of

its scabbard, and use it with holy violence. Think not that God will be

troubled by your importunately reminding him of his promises. He loves to hear

the loud outcries of needy souls. It is his delight to bestow favours. He is

more ready to hear than you are to ask. The sun is not weary of shining, nor

the fountain of flowing. It is God’s nature to keep his promises; therefore go

at once to the throne with “Do as thou hast said.”

 

Evening  “But I give myself unto prayer.” / Psalm 109:4

Lying tongues were busy against the reputation of David, but he did not defend

himself; he moved the case into a higher court, and pleaded before the great

King himself. Prayer is the safest method of replying to words of hatred. The

Psalmist prayed in no cold-hearted manner, he gave himself to the

exercise–threw his whole soul and heart into it–straining every sinew and

muscle, as Jacob did when wrestling with the angel. Thus, and thus only, shall

any of us speed at the throne of grace. As a shadow has no power because there

is no substance in it, even so that supplication, in which a man’s proper self

is not thoroughly present in agonizing earnestness and vehement desire, is

utterly ineffectual, for it lacks that which would give it force. “Fervent

prayer,” says an old divine, “like a cannon planted at the gates of heaven,

makes them fly open.” The common fault with the most of us is our readiness to

yield to distractions. Our thoughts go roving hither and thither, and we make

little progress towards our desired end. Like quicksilver our mind will not

hold together, but rolls off this way and that. How great an evil this is! It

injures us, and what is worse, it insults our God. What should we think of a

petitioner, if, while having an audience with a prince, he should be playing

with a feather or catching a fly?

Continuance and perseverance are intended in the expression of our text. David

did not cry once, and then relapse into silence; his holy clamour was

continued till it brought down the blessing. Prayer must not be our chance

work, but our daily business, our habit and vocation. As artists give

themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we

addict ourselves to prayer. We must be immersed in prayer as in our element,

and so pray without ceasing. Lord, teach us so to pray that we may be more and

more prevalent in supplication.

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Resting in God’s Sovereignty – John MacArthur

 

God made known the mystery of His will “according to His kind intention which He purposed in [Christ] with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth” (Eph. 1:9-10).

For centuries men of various philosophical schools have debated the cause, course, and climax of human history. Some deny God and therefore deny any divine involvement in history. Others believe that God set everything in motion, then withdrew to let it progress on its own. Still others believe that God is intimately involved in the flow of human history and is directing its course toward a specific, predetermined climax.

In Ephesians 1:9-10 Paul settles that debate by reminding us that Jesus Himself is the goal of human history. In Him all things will be summed up–all human history will be resolved and united to the Father through the work of the Son.

As Paul said elsewhere, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness [of deity] to dwell in [Christ], and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19-20). The culmination of Christ’s reconciling work will come during His millennial kingdom (Rev. 20). Following that, He will usher in the eternal state with a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21).

Despite the political uncertainty and military unrest in the world today, be assured that God is in control. He governs the world (Isa. 40:22-24), the nations (Isa. 40:15- 17), and individuals as well (Prov. 16:9). God’s timetable is right on schedule. Nothing takes Him by surprise and nothing thwarts His purposes. Ultimately He will vanquish evil and make everything right in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer:     Thank God for the wisdom and insight He gives you to see beyond your temporal circumstances to His eternal purposes.

Live today with that perspective in mind.

For Further Study: Read Revelation 20

What happens to Satan prior to the millennial kingdom?

How does Satan meet his final doom?

What happens at the great white throne judgment?

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Look to Jesus and Live – Charles Stanley

 

John 3:7-15

Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus was packed with symbolism. He compared salvation to a second birth and likened the Holy Spirit’s work to the wind. But then the Lord used an Old Testament illustration that might seem odd to modern readers— He said the Son of Man must be lifted up, just as Moses lifted the bronze serpent (Num. 21:1-9).

Nicodemus would have been familiar with the story: en route to the Promised Land, the Israelites once complained about going the long way around enemy territory. God responded by sending poisonous snakes into their midst. A bite victim would die unless he or she looked at the bronze serpent hanging from a pole in the camp. The statue was a symbolic representation of God’s presence among the Israelites as well as a reminder that He was their deliverer.

While we might not mix spiritual birth and a snake on a pole in one testimony, Jesus did so for a good reason. These metaphors describe related events. The Messiah was explaining that He must be lifted onto the cross as a sacrifice for all of mankind’s wrongs. A new birth is impossible unless somebody pays the price for our sinful condition. Those who look to Jesus and believe will be forgiven, saved, and born again.

Jesus’ message to Nicodemus becomes clear when we understand how the pieces fit together. The Savior is saying that He must die on the cross so that sinful human beings can be born again. Have you looked to Jesus Christ for salvation? He is the only way to new life.

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Creaturely Gifts – Ravi Zacharias

 

At the very first “show and tell” of my kindergarten career, I was faced with a moment of decision. We were seated in a circle, one by one offering the class our name and our favorite color. Oddly, it seemed as though there was an unwritten rule emerging around that circle. All of the girls, without exception, were declaring unanimously that “pink” and/or “purple” was their favorite. I was new to the idea of classmates and wanted these people beside me to be my friends. But I didn’t like either of these colors. Getting more and more anxious with each passing declaration, I decided to tell the truth. “Orange and green,” I avowed incompatibly. My response was met with giggles from boys and girls alike. Yet somehow this embarrassing spectacle only sealed my affection for the obviously unloved, underdog colors.

So when I found the pitiable orange plastic day lilies in the tiny green velvet flowerpot, I knew I had to buy them. My five-year-old eyes saw the beauty in the rejected knickknack, lost on a table full of junk, bearing a tag marked twenty-five cents at a garage sale. When I got them home, I dusted off the crispy petals, proudly wrapped a ribbon around the pot, and presented the flowers triumphantly as a gift to my dad.

Twenty years later, cleaning out the belongings of my father after he had passed away, I found the unsightly plastic flora still perched upon his desk. Looking at the tacky flowers, covered again with dust, still bearing the small ribbon, I recalled the joy of finding the orange treasure, the excitement in handing over twenty-five cents to claim it as my own, and the hard decision I made to give it away. Brushing my fingers over the green velvet pot, I recalled the pleased expression on my dad’s face as he placed it on his desk and told me he would keep it there always. And then I remembered a detail in adulthood that the eyes of the child overlooked: The quarter that purchased these flowers was his own.

Christianity is often thought of as a set of principles that people struggle to follow, earning their way into God’s favor with self-denial and obedience. But this is looking at God as we might look at a gumball machine or a bank. We cannot earn our way to whatever prize we have our eye on—even if the prize we seek is God. The shiny quarters we proudly offer, belong, in fact, to God.

Indeed, in the Christian imagination every faculty we have—from our ability to think or move to our ability to praise or seek Father, Son, and Spirit—is given to us by God Himself. As the apostle Paul declared among the idols of Mars Hill, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24-25). We are embedded in God’s creation; we are creatures within it. We cannot escape our creaturely vocation or our creaturely end. Everything we do is fixed within this drama of creation.

As such, we cannot possibly earn our way into God’s presence, for we cannot give the maker of heaven and earth anything that is not in a sense already God’s own. “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” The tattered gifts of faith and obedience we offer were purchased with God’s own flesh and blood. As hymnist Stuart Townend has written:

How deep the Father’s love for us,

how vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son

to make a wretch His treasure!

How great the pain of searing loss;

the Father turns His face away,

As wounds which mar the Chosen One

bring many sons to glory.

At the time, the thought didn’t strike me at all: I borrowed a quarter from my dad to by him a present. Technically, he bought himself an ugly dust-collector. But it was nonetheless a five year-old’s sacrifice of love, and one he held onto all his life. How much more so God the Father treasures his children’s sacrifice of praise.

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

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “Mighty to save.” / Isaiah 63:1

By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation,

from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are

multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only

“mighty to save” those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will

carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new

hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates

holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee

before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally

seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought

by “the Mighty God.” The bush burns, but is not consumed. He is mighty to keep

his people holy after he has made them so, and to preserve them in his fear

and love until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven. Christ’s

might doth not lie in making a believer and then leaving him to shift for

himself; but he who begins the good work carries it on; he who imparts the

first germ of life in the dead soul, prolongs the divine existence, and

strengthens it until it bursts asunder every bond of sin, and the soul leaps

from earth, perfected in glory. Believer, here is encouragement. Art thou

praying for some beloved one? Oh, give not up thy prayers, for Christ is

“mighty to save.” You are powerless to reclaim the rebel, but your Lord is

Almighty. Lay hold on that mighty arm, and rouse it to put forth its strength.

Does your own case trouble you? Fear not, for his strength is sufficient for

you. Whether to begin with others, or to carry on the work in you, Jesus is

“mighty to save;” the best proof of which lies in the fact that he has saved

you. What a thousand mercies that you have not found him mighty to destroy!

 

Evening   “Beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” / Matthew 14:30

Sinking times are praying times with the Lord’s servants. Peter neglected

prayer at starting upon his venturous journey, but when he began to sink his

danger made him a suppliant, and his cry though late was not too late. In our

hours of bodily pain and mental anguish, we find ourselves as naturally driven

to prayer as the wreck is driven upon the shore by the waves. The fox hies to

its hole for protection; the bird flies to the wood for shelter; and even so

the tried believer hastens to the mercy seat for safety. Heaven’s great

harbour of refuge is All-prayer; thousands of weather-beaten vessels have

found a haven there, and the moment a storm comes on, it is wise for us to

make for it with all sail.

Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition

which Peter gasped out, but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length

but strength is desirable. A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If

our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing they would be

all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat. Precious things

lie in small compass, and all that is real prayer in many a long address might

have been uttered in a petition as short as that of Peter.

Our extremities are the Lord’s opportunities. Immediately a keen sense of

danger forces an anxious cry from us the ear of Jesus hears, and with him ear

and heart go together, and the hand does not long linger. At the last moment

we appeal to our Master, but his swift hand makes up for our delays by instant

and effectual action. Are we nearly engulfed by the boisterous waters of

affliction? Let us then lift up our souls unto our Saviour, and we may rest

assured that he will not suffer us to perish. When we can do nothing Jesus can

do all things; let us enlist his powerful aid upon our side, and all will be

well.

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Pursuing God’s Will – John MacArthur

 

“In all wisdom and insight [God] made known to us the mystery of His will” (Eph. 1:8-9).

When God redeemed you, He not only forgave your trespasses and removed the guilt and penalty of sin, but He also gave you spiritual wisdom and insight–two essential elements for godly living. Together they speak of the ability to understand God’s will and apply it to your life in practical ways.

As a believer you understand the most sublime truths of all. For example, you know that God created the world and controls the course of history. You know that mankind’s reason for existence is to know and glorify Him. You have goals and priorities that transcend earthly circumstances and limitations.

Such wisdom and insight escapes unbelievers because they tend to view the things of God with disdain (1 Cor. 2:14). But you “have the mind of Christ” (v. 16). His Word reveals His will and His spirit gives you the desire and ability to understand and obey it.

Today is another opportunity to cultivate that desire through diligent prayer and Bible study. Let the psalmist’s commitment be yours: “O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies. . . . I have more insight than all my teachers. . . . I understand more than the aged . . . I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy word” (Ps. 119:97-101).

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the wisdom and insight He gives you through His Word.

If you have neglected the Word, ask His forgiveness and begin once again to refresh your spirit with its truths.

Ask for wisdom to respond biblically to every situation you face today.

For Further Study: Many Christians think God’s will is vague or hidden from them. But Scripture mentions several specific aspects of His will. Once you align yourself with those specifics, the Spirit will direct you in the other areas of your life.

List six elements of God’s will from these passages: 2 Peter 3:9; Ephesians 5:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 2:13-15; 1 Peter 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Are you following God’s will in those areas? If not, what steps can you take today to do so?

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Be a Hero – Greg Laurie

 

Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation —Hebrews 11:2

We throw the word “hero” around a lot today. If a basketball player is adept at sinking the ball in the basket, we say that he or she is a sports hero. A musician who is really good on a guitar is called a guitar hero. But do we actually know what a hero is anymore?

I think we are living in a time in which we are more obsessed with celebrities and have fewer heroes. In the age of Paris Hilton and the Kardashians, we have people who are famous for being famous.

Someone who compared celebrity with true heroism said that time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities. Well said.

Then there are the unsung heroes, those who often work behind the scenes but don’t get the credit. Sometimes we don’t even know that person is a hero until much later. Perhaps they made an unpopular stand or did something that was not politically correct or simply did the right thing. And with the passing of time, we realize they were right.

In the Bible, we find a lot of unsung heroes. We think of Moses and Joshua as heroes, but what about Caleb? Along with Joshua, he endured the ridicule of the Israelites when they told the people they should enter the Promised Land. But in the end, it was Caleb who said, “Give me the hill country that the Lord promised me” (Joshua 14:12), and then he took possession of his inheritance.

Andrew originally followed John the Baptist, who pointed him to Christ. And when Andrew found Jesus, the first thing he did was find his brother Peter and tell him. In fact, every time we read about Andrew in the Bible, he is bringing someone to Jesus.

You can stand as an example of what it is to be a true believer. You may never be famous, but you can be a hero to others as you faithfully walk with Christ.

Created to Love – Charles Stanley

 

Have you ever wondered if your life has a purpose? The Word of God says it does—one that is both noble and desirable: Every believer was created by God to love and be loved.

God loves you personally and individually, without limit or qualification. He desires to shower you with His affection and kindness. Let me assure you of several things:

God’s love is the most important thing we can know about Him.

The very essence of God’s being—in other words, His personality and nature—is love (1 John 4:8). It is the reason Jesus came to earth, lived a victorious life, and then died to restore man’s relationship with the Father (John 3:16). The most important decision we can ever make is to receive this gift of God.

The Lord’s affection is absolute, unwavering, and sacrificial. Moreover, God’s love is not subject to favoritism. He cares for the sinner as much as He does for the saint. In our human pride or our desire to be “somebody special,” we may find that fact difficult to swallow. But God grants love to each person.

The Bible tells us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust, and the sun shines on the righteous and the wicked (Matt. 5:45). This means that with or without faith in God, everyone experiences certain benefits and blessings from Him. But the person who receives Jesus as Savior is in a position to reap the blessings that accompany an outpouring of love into his or her life.

The Lord’s love is not based upon what we do, what we have, or what we achieve. He freely gives it to us simply because we are His creation. You cannot win or earn more of God’s favor—it has nothing to do with performance. Accept and delight in that truth.

The most important response we can make is to reciprocate God’s love.

John said it simply and eloquently: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NKJV). And Jesus said the first and foremost commandment was this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). The only acceptable response to God’s great outpouring of love toward you is to love Him back.

We can choose to rebel. And while this doesn’t affect God’s nature, it will change us. Those who refuse to acknowledge and receive divine love cut themselves off from great blessing. Not only that, but such individuals typically yield to anger, hatred, and bitterness. To harden one’s heart toward God is the supreme act of rebellion—in doing so, a person hurts himself far more than he hurts others. Humbly receiving God, on the other hand, brings good into one’s life.

Satan constantly tries to convince us that if we follow Jesus, we will have to give up personal freedom, identity, and pleasure. But those who live apart from God’s love inevitably discover their rebellion did not make them any freer. They may not go to jail, but they end up in emotional or psychological prisons—caught in addiction or trapped by feelings of resentment. The longer they live separated from the Lord’s love and mercy, the less pleasure they find in life. In that situation, it is easy to become cynical, jaded, critical, and in the end, apathetic to nearly everything.

But those who embrace and reciprocate God’s love enjoy inner freedom they never imagined. They develop as individuals, discovering hidden talents and abilities. They experience true delight in God’s creation and know the joy of perpetual discovery.

When we choose to love and obey God, we can be sure He will guide us toward doing what will bring about the greatest fulfillment in life.

God’s love is our ultimate reason to hope.

If we know with certainty that God loves us and desires good for our lives, what is there to fear? Hope in Christ is for everyone. It compels us not to remain in a state of dread, doubt, or worry but to seek transformation by the Holy Spirit’s power. Trust encourages us to anticipate God’s best and look for the dawning of a new day.

Our heavenly Father is generous—even extravagant—in His love. Open your heart and let the Lord shower more of His good gifts upon you. You won’t regret yielding your life to Him.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went

not; for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber” / 1 Kings 22:48

Solomon’s ships had returned in safety, but Jehoshaphat’s vessels never

reached the land of gold. Providence prospers one, and frustrates the desires

of another, in the same business and at the same spot, yet the Great Ruler is

as good and wise at one time as another. May we have grace today, in the

remembrance of this text, to bless the Lord for ships broken at Ezion-geber,

as well as for vessels freighted with temporal blessings; let us not envy the

more successful, nor murmur at our losses as though we were singularly and

specially tried. Like Jehoshaphat, we may be precious in the Lord’s sight,

although our schemes end in disappointment.

The secret cause of Jehoshaphat’s loss is well worthy of notice, for it is the

root of very much of the suffering of the Lord’s people; it was his alliance

with a sinful family, his fellowship with sinners. In 2 Ch. 20:37, we are told

that the Lord sent a prophet to declare, “Because thou hast joined thyself

with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works.” This was a fatherly

chastisement, which appears to have been blest to him; for in the verse which

succeeds our morning’s text we find him refusing to allow his servants to sail

in the same vessels with those of the wicked king. Would to God that

Jehoshaphat’s experience might be a warning to the rest of the Lord’s people,

to avoid being unequally yoked together with unbelievers! A life of misery is

usually the lot of those who are united in marriage, or in any other way of

their own choosing, with the men of the world. O for such love to Jesus that,

like him, we may be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; for

if it be not so with us, we may expect to hear it often said, “The Lord hath

broken thy works.”

 

Evening   “The iron did swim.” / 2 Kings 6:6

The axe-head seemed hopelessly lost, and as it was borrowed, the honour of the

prophetic band was likely to be imperilled, and so the name of their God to be

compromised. Contrary to all expectation, the iron was made to mount from the

depth of the stream and to swim; for things impossible with man are possible

with God. I knew a man in Christ but a few years ago who was called to

undertake a work far exceeding his strength. It appeared so difficult as to

involve absurdity in the bare idea of attempting it. Yet he was called

thereto, and his faith rose with the occasion; God honoured his faith,

unlooked-for aid was sent, and the iron did swim. Another of the Lord’s family

was in grievous financial straits, he was able to meet all claims, and much

more if he could have realized a certain portion of his estate, but he was

overtaken with a sudden pressure; he sought for friends in vain, but faith led

him to the unfailing Helper, and lo, the trouble was averted, his footsteps

were enlarged, and the iron did swim. A third had a sorrowful case of

depravity to deal with. He had taught, reproved, warned, invited, and

interceded, but all in vain. Old Adam was too strong for young Melancthon, the

stubborn spirit would not relent. Then came an agony of prayer, and before

long a blessed answer was sent from heaven. The hard heart was broken, the

iron did swim.

Beloved reader, what is thy desperate case? What heavy matter hast thou in

hand this evening? Bring it hither. The God of the prophets lives, and lives

to help his saints. He will not suffer thee to lack any good thing. Believe

thou in the Lord of hosts! Approach him pleading the name of Jesus, and the

iron shall swim; thou too shalt see the finger of God working marvels for his

people. According to thy faith be it unto thee, and yet again the iron shall

swim.

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Enjoying God’s Forgiveness – John MacArthur

 

In Christ we have “the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of [God’s] grace, which He lavished upon us” (Eph. 1:7-8).

On Israel’s Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) the high priest selected two goats. One was sacrificed; the other set free. Before releasing the second goat, the high priest symbolically placed the sins of the people on it by laying his hands on its head. This “scapegoat” was then taken a great distance from camp and released–never to return again (Lev. 16:7-10).

The Greek word translated “forgiveness” in Ephesians 1:7 means “to send away.” It speaks of cancelling a debt or granting a pardon. Like the scapegoat, Christ carried away our sins on the cross.

In Christ, God cancelled your debt and pardoned your transgressions, and He did so “according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon [you]” (v. 8). That means you have infinite forgiveness because God’s grace is infinite. You cannot sin beyond God’s grace because where sin abounds, grace super-abounds (Rom. 5:20).

God delights in lavishing His grace upon you. Such grace is overflowing and cannot be contained. You are forgiven for every sin–past, present, and future. You will never be condemned by God or separated from Him (Rom. 8:1-2, 31-39). Even when you fail, God doesn’t hold your sins against you. Christ bore them all so that you might know the joy and peace that freedom from sin and guilt brings.

Let the reality of God’s grace fill your heart with joy and assurance. Let the responsibility of glorifying Him fill you with awe and reverence. Let this day be a sacrifice of praise and service to Him.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for His infinite grace and forgiveness.

Look for opportunities to extend forgiveness to others.

 

For Further Study: Read Matthew 18:21-35

What characteristic marked the wicked slave?

What was the king’s response to the wicked slave’s actions?

What point was Jesus making? How does it apply to you?

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