Tag Archives: faith

Charles Spurgeon – A divine challenge

 

“Thus saith the Lord, let my people go, that they may serve me.” Exodus 8:1

Suggested Further Reading: James 3:3-6

Moses goes to Pharaoh yet again, and says, “Thus saith the Lord, let my people go, that they may serve me.” And at one time the haughty monarch says he will let some go; at another time he will let them all go, but they are to leave their cattle behind. He will hold on to something; if he cannot have the whole he will have a part. It is wonderful how content the devil is if he can but nibble at a man’s heart. It does not matter about swallowing it whole; only let him nibble and he will be content. Let him but bite at the fag ends and be satisfied, for he is wise enough to know that if a serpent has but an inch of bare flesh to sting, he will poison the whole. When Satan cannot get a great sin in he will let a little one in, like the thief who goes and finds shutters all coated with iron and bolted inside. At last he sees a little window in a chamber. He cannot get in, so he puts a little boy in, that he may go round and open the back door. So the devil has always his little sins to carry about with him to go and open back doors for him, and we let one in and say, “O, it is only a little one.” Yes, but how that little one becomes the ruin of the entire man! Let us take care that the devil does not get a foothold, for if he gets but a foothold, he will get his whole body in and we shall be overcome.

For meditation: Beware of giving Satan a window of opportunity (Ephesians 4:27), it is amazing how much damage can be caused by something apparently little (1 Corinthians 5:6; Hebrews 12:15).

Sermon no. 322

23 April (Preached 22 April 1860)

John MacArthur – Hindrances to Peace

 

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

Just as righteousness and truth are the noble companions of peace, so sin and falsehood are its great hindrances. The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately [evil]; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

People with sinful hearts create a sinful society that resists true peace. Ironically, many who talk of peace will also pay huge sums of money to watch two men beat the daylights out of each other in a boxing ring! Our society’s heroes tend to be the macho, hard-nosed, tough guys. Our heroines tend to be free-spirited women who lead marches and stir up contention. Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us to stand up for our rights and get everything we can for ourselves. That breeds strife and conditions people to reject the peace of the gospel.

Beyond that, the unbelieving world has never tolerated God’s peacemakers. Christ Himself often met with violent resistance. His accusers said, “He stirs up the people” (Luke 23:5). Paul’s preaching frequently created conflict as well. He spent much time under house arrest and in filthy Roman prisons. On one occasion his enemies described him as “a real pest . . . who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world” (Acts 24:5).

All who proclaim the gospel will eventually meet with opposition because sin and falsehood have blinded people’s hearts to true peace. That’s why Paul warned us that all who desire to be godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). You can avoid strife by remaining silent about the Lord, but a faithful peacemaker is willing to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Let that be true of you.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for Christ, who is the solution for the world’s problem of sin and falsehood.

Follow Paul’s example by praying for boldness to proclaim God’s truth at every opportunity (Eph. 6:19).

For Further Study:

Read Matthew 10:16-25, noting the kind of reception the disciples were to expect from unbelievers.

Joyce Meyer – Like a Child

 

Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all]. —Matthew 18:3

Jesus said we should become like little children if we expect to enter the kingdom of God. I believe that one of the things He was telling us is to study the freedom that children enjoy. They are unpretentious and straightforward; they laugh a lot; they’re forgiving and trusting. Children are definitely confident, at least until the world teaches them to be insecure and fearful. I can remember our son Danny at the age of three walking through the shopping mall with Dave and me and saying to people, “I’m Danny Meyer, don’t you want to talk to me?” He was so confident that he was sure everyone wanted to know him better.

Children seem to be able to make a game out of anything. They quickly adjust, don’t have a problem letting other children be different than they are, and are always exploring something new. They are amazed by everything!

Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest: “The freedom after sanctification is the freedom of a child; the things that used to keep the life pinned down are gone.” We definitely need to watch and study children and obey the command of Jesus to be more like them. It is something we have to do on purpose as we get older. We all have to grow up and be responsible, but we don’t have to stop enjoying ourselves and life.

Trust in Him: Take time to watch children today and learn from them—play a game, adjust to your circumstances without complaint, let others be who they are—remember what it is like to be confident and bold and trust that God wants you to be just like that!

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Abounding Therein

 

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8, KJV).

Some years ago, while speaking at the University of Houston, I was told about a brilliant philosophy major. He was much older than most of the other students, having spent many years in the military before he returned to do graduate work.

He was so gifted, so brilliant, so knowledgeable that even the professors were impressed by his ability to comprehend quickly and to debate rationally. He was an atheist, and he had a way of embarrassing the Christians who tried to witness to him.

During one of my visits to the university, I was asked to talk with him about Christ. We sat in a booth in the student center, contrasting his philosophy of life with the Word of God. It was an unusual dialogue. He successfully monopolized the conversation with his philosophy of unbelief in God.

At every opportunity, I would remind him that God loved him and offered a wonderful plan for his life. I showed him various passages of Scripture concerning the person of Jesus Christ (John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1). He seemed to ignore everything I said; there appeared to be no communication between us whatsoever.

A couple of hours passed, and it was getting late. I felt that I was wasting my time and there was no need to continue the discussion. He agreed to call it a day. A friend and staff member who was with me suggested to this student that we would be glad to drop him off at his home on the way to my hotel.

As we got into the car, his first words were, “Everything you said tonight hit me right in the heart. I want to receive Christ. Tell me how I can do it right now.” Even though I had not sensed it during our conversation, the Holy Spirit – who really does care – had been speaking to his heart through the truth of God’s Word which I had shared with him.

Bible Reading: Colossians 2:1-10

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will not depend upon my own wisdom, my personality or even my training to share Christ effectively with others, but I will commit myself to talk about Him wherever I go, depending upon the Holy Spirit to empower me and speak through me to the needs of others.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Resistance is Futile

 

Evil machines called Borg, from the television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” voiced a recurring theme: “Resistance is Futile.” Eventually, all living things in the Star Trek world would become part of the Borg Collective…or so Borg postured.

Nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory. Psalm 102:15

The futility of resistance is today being proclaimed by leaders of North Korea, Iran, and Al-Qaeda militants. They firmly believe they will eventually control the world. But there is One ruling in Heaven to laughs at them – not in pleasure or delight, but a scoffing laugh of derision. Evil rulers mock God, but one day they will bend their knees before Him. No matter how many terrorists or religious fanatics conspire together against the Lord, no matter how many in America’s own government deny His precepts, God can laugh because He is still on the throne. Jesus Christ is King, and there is no other.

No rebellion against God can succeed. Victory has already been won in Jesus. Resisting Him and His plans is truly futile. Pray for the Holy Spirit to penetrate hardened hearts – in your community and in the governing halls of Washington D.C. – with the truth of the Lord. Then give glory to His name as your triumphant King!

Recommended Reading: Psalm 2

Greg Laurie – In Their Image

 

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” —Exodus 20:3

Pastor Chuck Smith once told a story about a Papua New Guinea tribe that had a widespread birth defect. Everyone had one leg shorter than the other. Interestingly, the idol they worshipped also had one leg shorter than the other. They had created a god in their own image.

I believe this is the same direction America is going. When people say, “I am spiritual, I am just not religious,” it is code for “I’m making it up as I go.”

People effectively make a god in their own image when they say things like, “My god would never judge a person” and “My god would never condemn two people of the same sex living together in a committed relationship.” But they just made up their own god. And their god, essentially, is them.

What is the first of the Ten Commandments? “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). What is the second commandment? It is related to the first: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (verse 4). Idol worship is putting anyone or anything in the place of God.

I read an article in USA Today about the fastest growing spiritual group in America, which claims no affiliation with any faith. The article states, “This group, called ‘Nones,’ is now the nation’s second-largest category only to Catholics, and outnumbers the top Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists. The shift is a significant cultural, religious and even political change.”

It has been said, “When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes in anything.”

We can’t edit the Bible. We can’t say, “I like this part of the Bible and not that part.” If we do, then we will end up with a god that is not the God of the Bible.

 

 

 

Max Lucado – Abba

 

When my daughter Jenna was twelve, I took her to Jerusalem.  As we were exiting the Jaffa gate, an orthodox Jewish family was in front of us—a father and his three small girls.  One of the daughters fell a few steps behind and couldn’t see her father.  “Abba!” she called to him.  “Abba!” she called again.  He spotted her and immediately extended his hand.  As they continued, I wanted to see the actions of an abba.  He held her hand tightly in his.  When he stopped at a busy street, she stepped off the curb, so he pulled her back.  When the signal changed, he carried her and led her sisters through the intersection.

Isn’t that what we all need?  An abba who’ll hear when we call?  An abba who’ll swing us up into his arms and carry us home?  Don’t we all need an Abba Father?

Charles Stanley – Encouragement for All Seasons

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

Spring, summer, fall, and winter—these are the seasons of the year. Life also has its seasons. Some are filled with joy, while others are characterized by difficulty. Take comfort because there is a principle from the Bible that can encourage and sustain you through every season: Our God is faithful.

We learn about this attribute of the Lord from passages like 1 Corinthians 1:9, where Paul says, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” To say that God is faithful means He always does exactly what He says He will do.

How reassuring it is to know that He will keep His promises to His children and never leave their side, whatever “season” of life they are in. No matter how deep, how dark, how depressing, how hopeless, or how good things may seem, the child of God can count on the Father’s abiding presence.

So regardless of your present trials or triumphs, embrace these three truths:

1. God will be faithful to you because it is His very nature (Ps. 36:5).

2. God knows all about your situation; you are never alone in any season of life (Ps. 139:7-12).

3. God is omnipotent, so He has the power to meet every single need, and He knows how to move you through the various seasons of your life (Rom. 8:28).

Hold onto this fact: You will change and seasons will change, but our wonderful God is always the same. That means He won’t fail you, He won’t waver on you, and He won’t vary—you can fully rely on Him. And He will never forget about you; He is with you always. Great is His faithfulness!

A Time for Courage By Dr. Charles Stanley

 

Would you describe yourself as a courageous person? Or does fear have a grip on your life in one area or another? Of course, healthy apprehension keeps us from making unwise choices or taking foolish risks. But fear can leave us in a state of perpetual anxiety or keep us from fulfilling God’s will for our lives.

•What unhealthy fears do you have?

•How do your fears limit or hinder you from fully obeying God?

The Old Testament judge Gideon was initially timid, but he learned to put his trust in the Lord. Despite his dread of the enemy, He chose to obey God and became a courageous–and victorious–warrior. Let’s take a look at five principles found in Gideon’s story about overcoming fear.

Read Judges 6 and 7.

1. Sometimes fear is related to sin.

Sometimes we feel discontent or anxious because of sin in our lives.

•In what ways were the Israelites being tormented (Judg. 6:1-5)?

•What did the angel of the Lord instruct Gideon to do (vv. 25-26)?

•Given this instruction, name one way the people of Israel disobeyed God (vv. 8-10).

•At this point, what evidence points to the fact that Gideon was still timid (v. 27)?

•What happened after he destroyed the altar to Baal (v. 34)?

The sins of worry, impurity, greed, unforgiveness, and many others can open the door to fear. Although believers in Jesus are always indwelt by the Holy Spirit, clearing our conscience of known sins enables us to walk in His power in a fresh, new way.

•Are any of your worries the fruit of sin? If so, take a few moments to confess and repent.

2. Our lack of courage can enable us to operate in God’s strength.

The Lord works through people who allow Him to use their weaknesses for His glory.

•When the angel of the Lord appeared to him, what was Gideon doing (v. 11)?

•What is ironic about God’s greeting to Gideon (v. 12)?

•How did Gideon see himself (v. 15)?

•Explain the principle the apostle Paul discovered (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

•Can you relate to experiencing the Lord’s power in your weakness, especially when you have felt afraid? Give a specific example if possible.

3. Discovering God’s will is an important part of overcoming fear.

The angel of the Lord told Gideon that he had been chosen to lead the people in battle against Midian and that God would give him victory (vv. 14, 16). However, Gideon wanted to make sure this was indeed the Lord talking to him.

•What was the first sign Gideon asked of God (vv. 17-21)?

•What two other signs did he request (vv. 36-40)?

Gideon overcame his fear, in part because he asked for signs that God was indeed speaking to him.  But the leader’s approach described in verses 36-40 is not recommended anywhere else in Scripture.

While no one should stipulate how the Father is to confirm His promises, we certainly can ask Him to make His will clear to us.

•When deciding about something that frightens you, how do you confirm what God’s will is?

•How can hearing from the Lord about a fearful situation bring inner peace?

4. Humanly speaking, God’s path to peace may not make sense at first.

•How are the army and camels of Midian described (Judg. 6:5)?

•Why did God not allow all of Israel’s army to fight the battle (v. 7:2)?

•After the Lord eliminated the men who were afraid to fight and the men who lapped water like dogs, how many were left to fight the battle (v. 7:7)?

The world–and sometimes fellow believers–won’t always understand why we obey the Lord even when His commands defy common wisdom.

•Why do you think He chooses to work through actions that, humanly speaking, seem foolish?

5. When we obey God despite our fears, He will fight our battles for us.

•How had the Lord already worked within the enemy camp (vv. 13-14)?

•What happened when Gideon and his small army blew their trumpets, uncovered their torches, and shouted “a sword for the Lord and for Gideon” (vv. 19-22)?

•What remained for the Israelites to do (vv. 23-25)?

•Although the Israelites mistakenly credited Gideon with the victory (Judg. 8:22), what should they have learned as a result of this battle?

•When you have obeyed God despite your fears, how did He show Himself strong on your behalf? Be specific.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the promise that I don’t have to be afraid. You are always with me. I pray that I would learn to magnify You and let my fears fall into perspective. Help me keep a clean conscience and meditate on Your marvelous promises instead of giving in to anxiety. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Note: If you are suffering debilitating fears that prevent you from carrying out everyday tasks or result in panic attacks, you may want to seek professional help from a pastor or Christian counselor.

Our Daily Bread — One By One

 

Acts 8:26-35

Philip . . . preached Jesus to him. —Acts 8:35

Edward Payson was a famous preacher in a bygone era. One stormy Sunday, he had only one person in his audience. Some months later, his lone attendee called on him: “I was led to the Savior through that service,” he said. “For whenever you talked about sin and salvation, I glanced around to see to whom you referred, but since there was no one there but me, I had no alternative but to lay every word to my own heart and conscience!”

God saves us one by one. If you have access to one, that is your mission field. “Every soul with Christ is a missionary; every soul without Christ is a mission field,” the slogan goes. One person cannot reach the entire world, but we can love our neighbor. “Who is my neighbor?” we ask. The next person we meet along the way.

The Spirit brought Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading the Scriptures and needed someone to explain them to him (Acts 8:26-35). The Spirit gave Philip the right words to say, and the eunuch confessed his faith in Christ (v.37).

Ask God to bring you to the one He has prepared. He’ll get you to the right place at the right time to speak to that individual. He will speak through your lips, work through your hands, and fulfill in you the great purpose of His will. —David Roper

Father, we’ve been called to witness—

Called to speak of Your dear Son;

Holy Spirit, grant discernment;

Lead us to some seeking one. —D. DeHaan

You are a success in God’s kingdom if you are faithful where He has placed you.

Alistair Begg – I Know

 

I know that my redeemer lives.

Job 19:25

The essence of Job’s comfort lies in the little word “my”–“my Redeemer”–and in the fact that the Redeemer lives. Oh, to get hold of a living Christ. We must get a share in Him before we can enjoy Him. What is gold to me while it is still in the mine? It is gold in my possession that will satisfy my necessities by purchasing the things I need. So a Redeemer who does not redeem me, an avenger who will never stand up for my blood, what benefit is there in that?

Do not rest content until by faith you can say, “Yes, I cast myself upon my living Lord; and He is mine.” You may hold Him with a feeble hand and half think it presumption to say, “He lives as my Redeemer.” But remember, if you have faith even as a grain of mustard seed, that little faith entitles you to say it.

But there is also another word here, which expresses Job’s strong confidence: “I know.” To say, “I hope so, I trust so” is comfortable, and there are thousands in the fold of Jesus who hardly ever get much further. But to reach the essence of consolation you must say, “I know.” Ifs, buts, and maybes are sure destroyers of peace and comfort. Doubts are dreary things in times of sorrow. Like wasps they sting the soul! If I have any suspicion that Christ is not mine, then there is vinegar mingled with the gall of death. But if I know that Jesus lives for me, then darkness is not dark: Even the night is light about me.

Surely if Job, in those ages before the coming of Christ, could say, “I know,” we should not speak less positively. God forbid that our positiveness should be presumption. Let us make sure that our evidences are right, in case we build upon an ungrounded hope; and then let us not be satisfied with the mere foundation, for it is from the upstairs rooms that we get the panoramic views. A living Redeemer, truly mine, is unspeakable joy.

Charles Spurgeon – The carnal mind

 

“The carnal mind is enmity against God.” Romans 8:7

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 5:6-11

Let me suppose an impossible case for a moment. Let me imagine a man entering heaven without a change of heart. He comes within the gates. He hears a sonnet. He starts! It is to the praise of his enemy. He sees a throne, and on it sits one who is glorious; but it is his enemy. He walks streets of gold, but those streets belong to his enemy. He sees hosts of angels; but those are the servants of his enemy. He is in an enemy’s house; for he is at enmity with God. He could not join the song, for he would not know the tune. There he would stand; silent, motionless; till Christ should say, with a voice louder than ten thousand thunders, “What doest thou here? Enemies at a marriage banquet? Enemies in the children’s house? Enemies in heaven? Get thee gone! Depart ye cursed, into everlasting fire in hell!” Oh! sirs, if the unregenerate man could enter heaven, I mention once more the oft-repeated saying of Whitefield, he would be so unhappy in heaven, that he would ask God to let him run down into hell for shelter. There must be a change, if you consider the future state; for how can enemies to God ever sit down at the banquet of the Lamb? And to conclude, let me remind you—and it is in the text after all—that this change must be worked by a power beyond your own. An enemy may possibly make himself a friend, but enmity cannot. If it be but an adjunct of his nature to be an enemy he may change himself into a friend; but if it is the very essence of his existence to be enmity, positive enmity, enmity cannot change itself. No, there must be something done more than we can accomplish.

For meditation: The Lord Jesus Christ has done for us much more than he commanded his disciples to do for their enemies (Luke 6:27-28).

Sermon no. 20

21 April (Preached 22 April 1855)

John MacArthur – The Cushion of Peace

 

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

I remember reading about what is called “the cushion of the sea.” The ocean surface is often greatly agitated, but as you descend, the water becomes increasingly calm. At its greatest depths the ocean is virtually still. Oceanographers dredging ocean bottoms have found animal and plant remains that appear to have been undisturbed for hundreds of years.

Similarly, Christians can experience a cushion of peace in their souls regardless of their troubled surroundings. That’s because they belong to God, who is the source of peace; serve Christ, who is the Prince of Peace; and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is the agent of peace. Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, [and] peace.” When you become a Christian, God grants you the gift of peace.

God is not only the source of perfect peace, but also its purest example. Everything He does is marked by peace. First Corinthians 14:33 says He is not a God of confusion but of peace. In Judges 6:24 He is called Jehovah-shalom, which means, “the Lord is peace.” The Trinity is characterized by a total absence of conflict: perfect oneness, perfect righteousness, and absolute harmony. It is impossible for God to be at odds with Himself!

God wants everyone to know that kind of peace. He created the world with peace and sent His Son to offer peace. Someday Christ will return to establish His kingdom and reign in peace for eternity.

In the meantime turmoil exists for all who don’t know Christ. They have no cushion for their souls. You, however, have peace with God through the death of Christ Jesus, and as you obey Him, His peace will continually reign in your heart. Don’t ever let sin rob you of that blessed cushion. Only as you experience peace within yourself can you share it with others.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the cushion of peace He has provided amid difficult circumstances.

Ask God to use you as an instrument of His peace today.

For Further Study:

Read Isaiah 57:15-21, noting how God encourages the repentant and warns the wicked in relation to peace.

Joyce Meyer – Be a Risk Taker

He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he gained five talents more. And likewise he who had received the two talents—he also gained two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. —Matthew 25:16–18

When Jim Burke became the head of a new products division at Johnson & Johnson, one of his first projects was the development of a children’s chest rub. The product failed miserably, and Burke expected that he would be fired. When he was called in to see the chairman of the board, however, he was met with a surprising reception.

“Are you the one who just cost us all that money?” asked Robert Wood Johnson. “Well, I just want to congratulate you. If you are making mistakes, that means you are taking risks, and we won’t grow unless you take risks.” Some years later, when Burke himself became chairman of Johnson & Johnson, he continued to spread that word.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. You will never succeed without making mistakes and possibly many of them. Making mistakes is something we do as human beings, but we are still God’s children, and He has a good plan for our lives. He is long-suffering, plenteous in mercy, and filled with loving kindness.

Lord, help me to use the talents You have given me and to not be afraid of making mistakes. Give me wisdom on how to be the best I can be for You. Amen.

Joyce Meyer – An Unfolding Relationship

 

The path of the [uncompromisingly] just and righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines more and more (brighter and clearer) until [it reaches its full strength and glory in] the perfect day [to be prepared]. —Proverbs 4:18

One of the best things about learning to hear God’s voice is that it is progressive. It is not a skill we master; it is an unfolding relationship we enjoy. As the relationship unfolds, we learn to communicate with Him more often, more deeply, and more effectively; we learn to follow the Holy Spirit more closely; we learn to pray with more confidence; and we learn to hear His voice more clearly.

Have you ever been happy in your relationship with God, feeling it was going well for a while and then, for no apparent reason, you start to feel restless, bored, distracted, or unsatisfied? Have you ever felt a nagging that something just was not right about your fellowship with God, or a stirring to do something differently? Most of the time, when you have such impressions, the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something.

Your inner man (your spirit, the part of you that communes with God) knows when something is not right in your prayer life, because the Holy Spirit lives in your spirit and will let you know when something needs to change in your relationship with God. You just need to be bold enough to follow the Spirit. God knows we are ready for more and is urging us on to a deeper place of communing with Him and hearing His voice. God is always on the move and He wants us to move with Him. Never be afraid to leave one way or method of doing something to press toward something new.

God’s word for you today: Remember, hearing God’s voice is not a skill; it’s a relationship.

Greg Laurie – K.I.S.S.

 

Someone once asked the great British preacher C.H. Spurgeon if he could put into a few words his Christian faith. “Yes,” he replied, “I can give it to you in four words: Jesus died for me.”

That is what it all comes down to.

The gospel in a nutshell is that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. That is the cornerstone of our faith. So when you share the gospel, remind those you speak to that Jesus died for them. He shed His blood for them.

Paul the apostle was a brilliant person, known for his majestic and commanding letters. He had a phenomenal grasp of various cultures and languages. If anyone could have intellectually convinced a person of the validity of some proposition, it was Paul. Yet listen to what he said about preaching the gospel: “Dear brothers and sisters, when I first came to you I didn’t use lofty words and brilliant ideas to tell you God’s message. For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross” (1 Corinthians 2:1).

We can actually hinder the message of the gospel by complicating it. Remember that it is the simple, powerful, yet profound message of the cross of Christ that has the power to change lives. It changed your life and mine, didn’t it?

Here is a simple thing to remember when presenting the gospel: K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Our Daily Bread — Strengthened Through Suffering

 

1 Peter 5:1-11

May the God of all grace, . . . after you have suffered a while, . . . strengthen, and settle you. —1 Peter 5:10

Church services often end with a benediction. A common one is taken from Peter’s concluding remarks in his first epistle: “May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10). Sometimes omitted in the benediction is the phrase “after you have suffered a while.” Why? Perhaps because it is not pleasant to speak of suffering.

It should not surprise us, however, when suffering comes our way. The apostle Paul, who knew well what it was to suffer, wrote: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

If we live a life of submission to God (1 Peter 5:6) and resisting the devil (v.9), we can expect to be maligned, misunderstood, and even taken advantage of. But the apostle Peter says that there is a purpose for such suffering. It is to “restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast” (v.10 NIV).

God’s path for our Christian growth often leads us through difficulties, but they fortify us to withstand life’s future storms. May God help us to be faithful as we seek to boldly live a life that honors Him. —C. P. Hia

Forbid it, Lord, that I should be

Afraid of persecution’s frown;

For Thou hast promised faithful ones

That they shall wear the victor’s crown. —Bosch

When God would make us strong He schools us through hardships.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Clinging to Straw

 

On a routine trip through well-worn streets, I found myself pulled out of the fragmented consciousness of a mind captive to the day’s worries with the jarring lyrics of a song. Up until that point, the song itself was much like the familiar patterns of scenery, an external factor impervious to the siege of my own fears; I was seeing but not seeing, hearing but not really hearing. But then I suddenly took in the artist’s abrupt words: “Hoping to God on high is like clinging to straws while drowning.”(1)

The stark image of clinging to straw cleared everything else from my mind. It also set me thinking about the descriptive words of a friend hours earlier. Encouraging me in the midst of a difficult place, a friend simply reminded me that I was not alone. She was intending to assure me of her friendship and support, but I also knew she was assuring me of the presence of God. “The LORD is near to all who call on him,” declares the psalmist; and I needed to hear it.

There are many who take comfort in the thought that God is among us, comforting our fears, quieting our cries of distress, standing near those who call, moving in lives and history that we might discover the God who is there. As a following of Christ, knowing that he is with me in struggle and darkness is one of the only reasons I don’t completely surrender to my fears and stop moving forward. Knowing that there is a kingdom of grace, beauty, and mystery is the hope I remember when I fear death, my console when I fear uncertainty, the picture that somehow makes sense of a strand of DNA and quiets my fear of being uncared for and alone. I can relate to the resolution of the psalmist in a world of many and distant gods: “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge” (73:28).

But what good is it if there is a throne but it is empty, a kingdom without a king, a god who is close but like straw?  Who is it who is near us? If god is an impersonal force, or a tyrant, or a distant, semi-interested being, the kingdom is no refuge. If the hope we cling to is like straw that cannot save us from drowning, we have good reason to live in fear, “huddled,” as the musician later described, “afraid if we dance we might die.”

The image that brought my distraction to a grinding halt forced me to think graphically about the hope to which a Christian really clings, that promise that is so often on the mouth of God in Scripture: Do not be afraid, for I am with you.(2) If God on high is merely straw and fairytale, then emptiness is inevitable, fear is certain, and hope is futile, for we are ultimately alone. We all cling futilely to fantasy and drown in delusion. Could there really be one both graceful and near enough to answer the cry of a lonely heart, the fears of an entire nation, the uncertainties of the world around?

Throughout Scripture that very divine vow “I am with you” is made with sovereign confidence, but also in stirring circumstance. Speaking into the fears of exile, God said to the prophet Isaiah, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.” To the apostle Paul who was struggling with uncertainty and weakness, the divine voice encouraged him in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” And Jesus even as he anticipated the nearing cross gave his closest followers a promise that remains comforting today:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”(3)

The promise of God’s nearness is one that Christians rightfully utter as encouragement and cling to in joy, in fear, and in sorrow, knowing the face and character of the one who is near. When God assures of with a self-revealing presence, it is more than just a promise of proximity and intimacy. There is a purpose for God’s nearness, the pledge of relationship, the promise of community. It is not an empty or superficial presence, having taken on the things humanity itself to draw intimately near. As the Father reminded the prophet Jeremiah so God attests, the promise of proximity may well be far more profound than we even fathom: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…Do not be afraid…for I am with you to deliver you” (1:5-8).

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

(1) Dave Matthews Band, “What You Are,” Everyday, 2001.

(2) Genesis 26:24, 2 Chronicles 20:17, Isaiah 43:5, Daniel 10:12, Matthew 1:20, John 14:27, Acts 18:9-10, and Revelation 1:17 among many others.

(3) Isaiah 43:5, Acts 18:9-10, John 14:27.

Alistair Begg – Torn in Two

 

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Matthew 27:51

No small miracle was performed in the tearing of so strong and thick a curtain; but it was not intended merely as a display of power–many lessons were contained in it.

The old law of ordinances was put away and, like a worn-out garment, torn and set aside. When Jesus died, the sacrifices were all finished, because they were fulfilled in Him; and therefore the place of sacrifice, the temple, was marked with a clear sign of this change.

With the curtain torn, all the hidden things of the old dispensation became apparent: The mercy-seat could now be seen, and the glory of God gleaming above it. By the death of our Lord Jesus we have a clear revelation of God, for He was “not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face.” Life and immortality are now brought to light, and things that have been hidden since the foundation of the world are displayed in Him.

The annual ceremony of atonement was also abolished. The atoning blood that once every year was sprinkled inside the curtain was now offered once for all by the great High Priest, and therefore the place of the symbolical rite was finished. No blood of bullocks or of lambs is needed now, for Jesus has entered inside the curtain with his own blood.

Therefore access to God is now permitted and is the privilege of every believer in Christ Jesus. It is not just a small opening through which we may peer at the mercy-seat, but the tear reaches from the top to the bottom. We may come with boldness to the throne of heavenly grace.

Is it wrong to suggest that the opening of the Holy of Holies in this marvelous manner by our Lord’s expiring cry was signifying the opening of the gates of paradise to all the saints by virtue of the Passion? Our bleeding Lord has the key of heaven; He opens and no man shuts; let us enter in with Him to the heavenly places and sit with Him there until our common enemies shall be made His footstool.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Prays for You

 

“Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself [Himself] maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26, KJV).

Prayer is our mighty force for supernatural living and the most personal, intimate approach to and relationship with God. Through the instrumentality of God’s Holy Spirit, we have access to the Almighty, leading the way to supernatural living.

In some theological circles there is much skepticism and hesitancy about the Holy Spirit. We must not forget, however, that Jesus Himself had much to say about the Holy Spirit.

In John’s gospel, for instance, Jesus explained to the disciples that it was necessary for Him to leave them in order that the Holy Spirit should come to them. “He shall guide you into all truth…He shall praise Me and bring Me great honor by showing you My glory” (John 16:13,14 LB).

Just as the Holy Spirit transformed the lives of the first- century disciples from spiritually impotent, frustrated, fruitless men into courageous witnesses for Christ, He wants to transform our lives in the same way. We need only to surrender ourselves and by faith we will be filled with His power.

It is the Holy Spirit who draws us to the Lord Jesus whom He came to glorify. He makes the difference between failure and success in the Christian life, between fruitlessness and fruitfulness in our witness. Through His filling of our lives with God’s love and forgiveness we are “born again” into the family of God.

And it is the Holy Spirit who not only enables us to pray but who also prays on our behalf, as today’s verse clearly points out.

Bible Reading: Romans 8:27-31

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Today I will visualize, with deep joy and gratitude, the Holy Spirit Himself praying for me, beseeching God on my behalf.