Tag Archives: faith

Understanding Your Calling – John MacArthur

 

“I pray that . . . you may know what is the hope of [God’s] calling” (Eph. 1:18).

In Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul proclaims the blessings of our salvation. In verse 18 he prays that we will comprehend those great truths, which he summarizes in the phrase “the hope of His calling.”

“Calling” here refers to God’s effectual calling–the calling that redeems the soul. Scripture speaks of two kinds of calling: the gospel or general call and the effectual or specific call. The gospel call is given by men and is a universal call to repent and trust Christ for salvation (e.g., Matt. 28:19; Acts 17:30-31). It goes out to all sinners but not all who hear it respond in faith.

The effectual call is given by God only to the elect. By it He speaks to the soul, grants saving faith, and ushers elect sinners into salvation (John 6:37-44, 65; Acts 2:39). All who receive it respond in faith.

The hope that your effectual calling instills is grounded in God’s promises and Christ’s accomplishments (1 Pet. 1:3), and is characterized by confidently expecting yet patiently waiting for those promises to be fulfilled. It is your hope of final glorification and of sharing God’s glory when Christ returns (Col. 3:4). It is a source of strength and stability amid the trials of life (1 Pet. 3:14-15). Consequently it should fill you with joy (Rom. 5:2) and motivate you to godly living (1 John 3:3).

As you face this new day, do so with the confidence that you are one of God’s elect. He called you to Himself and will hold you there no matter what circumstances you face. Nothing can separate you from His love (Rom. 8:38- 39)!

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the security of your salvation.

Ask Him to impress on your heart the blessings and responsibilities of your calling.

Live today in anticipation of Christ’s imminent return.

For Further Study: Joshua’s call to lead Israel was not a call to salvation, but it illustrates some important principles for spiritual leadership. You might not see yourself as a spiritual leader, but you are important to those who look to you as an example of Christian character.

Read Joshua 1:1-9 then answer these questions:

What were the circumstances of Joshua’s call (vv. 1-2)?

What promises did God make to him (vv. 3-6)?

What did God require of him (vv. 7-9)?

In God’s Hands – Greg Laurie

 

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”    —Luke 19:10

I have a friend whose father died and never had a relationship with God. As a matter of fact, my friend wasn’t a believer at that time, either. But my friend told me how he went to visit his father in his hospital room and noticed that one day, not long before he passed, there was a copy of the Bible there in his father’s room. It was apparent that his father had requested it, knowing the end was near.

So I told my friend, “Look, if your father was really seeking God, then God would have more than met him halfway, because God wants us to know Him more than we could ever imagine.”

When a loved one who has not made a profession of faith in Christ passes away, don’t necessarily assume that he or she is not in heaven, because you never know what prayers go through the heart of a man or a woman when they are entering into eternity. Even if someone cried out to the Lord in the last final seconds of life, you can be certain that God would save them.

Jesus extended mercy to the criminal who was being crucified next to Him on the cross. Those who were crucified at that time typically were murderers or insurrectionists or had rebelled against Rome. Yet God forgave such a person in the last moments of his life, simply because he had said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

I am not trying to give false hope, but neither do I want to give false condemnation. Let’s leave it in the hands of God and remember that God loves us, and God loves everyone. And we need to care about them and love them as well.

Tough Questions – Max Lucado

 

Some questions aren’t always easy to answer.  Maybe that’s the way it should be!  Here’s just that kind of question:

“I get tired of hearing people brush aside troubles with the platitude in Romans 8:28, ‘All things work together for good.’ Isn’t saying that cruel?”

The verse says, “We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him.”  I think it’s one of the most helpful, comforting verses in the entire Bible.  It announces God’s sovereignty in any painful, tragic situation we face. Why?  Because we know God is at work for our good!  He uses our struggles to build character.

So what do we do?  We trust.  Totally!  And we remember. . .God is working for the good.  Yes, any verse can be misused, but that doesn’t make it useless!

A Moment of Weakness – Charles Stanley

 

2 Samuel 11:1-5

We all face key moments of decision, when our actions can lead to lasting consequences. The issue is, will you be ready when such a time comes?

David wasn’t prepared for the moment of decision that suddenly faced him. At a time when he was restless, lonely, and preoccupied with worries, temptation and sin caught him unprepared. We can guard ourselves against these moments of weakness by remembering one simple word: H-A-L-T.

First, never allow yourself to get too hungry. When the body is weak from lack of food, poor decisions are likely to follow. Respect your body and provide the sustenance it needs.

Second, don’t permit yourself to get too angry. Anger can cloud judgment and lead to regrettable decisions.

A third caution is not to let yourself become too lonely. When you feel isolated, you may find yourself willing to do almost anything to feel accepted or loved.

Fourth, don’t allow yourself to get too tired. Sleep is essential for wise decisions. When you deprive your mind and body of its necessary “down time,” poor choices become probable.

Being wise in these four areas can prevent thoughts of “If only I hadn’t . . .” later on.

Commit now never to make important decisions when you are too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Instead, be honest at those times and admit you’re unprepared to make sound judgments. Then delay the decision until you can approach it with prayer, patience, and godly wisdom.

Like Jesus – Our Daily Bread

 

Read: 1 John 2:5-11

He who says he abides in [Jesus] ought himself also to walk just as He walked. —1 John 2:6

During a children’s church service, the teacher talked about the first of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3). She suggested some ways for the kids to keep this command. She said, “Nothing should come before God—not candy, not schoolwork, not video games.” She told them that putting God first meant that time with Him reading the Bible and praying should come before anything else.

An older child in the group responded with a thought-provoking question. She asked if being a Christian was about keeping rules or if instead God wanted to be involved in all areas of our life.

Sometimes we make the mistake of viewing the Bible as a list of rules. Certainly obeying God (John 14:21) and spending time with Him are important, but not because we need to be rule-keepers. Jesus and the Father had a loving relationship. When we have a relationship with God, we desire to spend time with Him and obey Him so we can become more like Jesus. John said, “He who says he abides in [Jesus] ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). He’s the example we can follow.

When we want to understand how to love, or how to be humble, or how to have faith, or even how to set our priorities, we can look at Jesus and follow His heart.

Lord, as I look ahead to another day, I give myself

to be led by Your Spirit. Give discernment in

priorities, but most of all a sensitive heart to live like

Jesus did—filled with Your love and power. Amen.

Jesus calls us to follow Him.

Bible in a Year: Exodus 9-11; Matthew 15:21-39

What Did Jesus Mean? – Ravi Zacharias

 

On the long walk up the steep hill of the historic castle in Marburg, Germany, nostalgia throbbed through every vein. If only the stones could speak and resonate with the voices that held forth within those confines–what rapture that would provide! Within the rooms of that castle a memorable meeting was held in October of 1529 at which a handful of men, principally Luther and Zwingli, were present. What occasioned that auspicious gathering, and why were the emotions so intense as the moods swung from castigating outbursts to heartfelt apologies?

The question before them was one of consolidating their theological convictions and of presenting a unified platform on what they believed and why they believed it. We read in the summation of those proceedings that of the fifteen points under debate they agreed on fourteen but with great anguish disagreed on the fifteenth. The issue that strongly divided them was the meaning of Jesus’s words “This is my body,” and the significant implications of those words upon the Christian celebration of the Lord’s Supper. To Luther it appeared to be as clear as the day—”This is my body” could only be literal. “Jesus said, ‘This is my body,’” he kept thundering forth. He was not arguing for transubstantiation, although Zwingli saw it as a capitulation to that. To Zwingli the words were only symbolic of Christ’s spiritual presence.

One has only to read the points and counterpoints made between the two and the spirit is stirred by the passion of the reformers. The contest of two different convictions, and the harshness of the words spoken in the heat of argument prompted tears and regret in each as they parted with the hope that the sharp edges of their verbal outbursts would be blunted and gentler words would prevail. Unfortunately, subsequent history unfolds a reality different to their hopes.

Today we marvel at such diatribe between people committed to Christ. But let us not lose sight of something so close to the eye that we may lose focus. For both Zwingli and Luther the fundamental question was unmistakable: What did Jesus mean? That was of supreme importance. To be absolutely sure of the answer to that question on the Lord’s Supper we may have to await the Real Presence when eternity is ushered in. But I strongly suspect that both Zwingli and Luther will be applauded for their unswerving commitment to determine God’s intent.

With the twists and turns of history, Marburg has a more sobering warning to us than a debate in a castle by a handful of reformers. The prestigious University of Marburg was founded just two years before that colloquy. In more recent times it has been the spawning ground for schools of thought that have brought havoc into theological institutions—typically not the intention of the thinker, but sadly often the consequence.

After decades of ministry, one of the deepest concerns I have lies in this twin-headed dilemma—how we approach the Scriptures and how we apply them. So much of faith today is muddied by spiritual jargon. Time and again we hear, “God spoke to me”—a mind-boggling statement, to be sure, not only to the skeptic but to many a serious student of the Word. Could such a claim not just as equally be the spiritual clothing of ambition with the verbiage of inspiration? I have seen some of the most incredible behavior justified with the words “God spoke to me.” How does one argue with that? The only way is to turn to the Scriptures and to verify whether the truth deduced is in keeping with the truth of Scripture, not just personally wrested but objectively revealed to all humanity. Further, if the life and conduct of the one to whom God is “constantly speaking” belies a disjunction between practice in day-to-day living and a precept that is harnessed to justify specific behavior, that one too has amputated the organ of fact from the feeling of faith.

From the beginning of time the most difficult question confronting humanity was in the words of the tempter, “Did God really say… ?” In a tragic and sometimes subtle sort of way we can jettison that revealed authority or else give lip service to it, breathing our own inspiration into self-chosen paths. May I suggest the latter is more dangerous, for while the former may deny the existence of God, the latter in the name of God, plays God. This may be the most important lesson to learn from the stones of Marburg. To Luther and Zwingli it was important to know what God meant when God said what God said, not what they might like it to mean. Their disagreement was based on the importance of truth. I have little doubt that to many professing Christians the choice between the two schools of thought is clear. The terrifying reality may be that in life and conduct we may be closer to playing God than we realize.

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Receiving Spiritual Enlightenment – John MacArthur

 

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Eph. 1:18).

Spiritual enlightenment doesn’t come through self-effort orintrospective meditation but through God’s Holy Spirit.

Our society has been enamored with the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, especially since the influx of Eastern thought into the West duringthe 1960s. Now we are drowning in a sea of false religions and New Age philosophies.

True enlightenment continues to elude many because they have denied itssource and have turned to gurus and teachers who have no light to give. They propagate self-effort and introspective meditation, but spiritual enlightenment doesn’t come through such means. It comes only through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14-16). That’s why Paul prayed that God Himself would enlighten the hearts of the Ephesian believers (Eph. 1:18).

We might expect Paul to pray for enlightened minds rather than hearts, butthat’s because we associate the word heart with emotions rather than with thought. But in Hebrew and Greek thinking, the heart was considered the seatof knowledge, thinking, and understanding. For example, Jesus said that evilthoughts come out of the heart (Matt. 15:19). Emotions are important, butthey must be guided and controlled by an enlightened mind.

How does the Spirit enlighten you? As you pray and study God’s Word, He transforms and renews your mind (Rom. 12:2) by filling you with “the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). He teaches you to recognize and uphold what is excellent so that you will be “sincere and blameless” before God (Phil. 1:10). He implants Biblical truthinto your thinking so that your responses become more and more like Christ’s.

How wonderful to know that each moment of the day God is workingwithin you in such a way. Be diligent to pray and spend time in the Word sothat your spiritual progress will be evident to all (1 Tim. 4:15).

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the Spirit’s transforming work within you.

Reaffirm your love for Him, and express your willingness to bechanged by His Spirit in any way He sees fit.

Be alert for attitudes or actionsthat need to be changed. Rely on His grace and strength in doing so.

For Further Study:  Read Genesis 27–33, noting how God used the events of Jacob’s life to transform his weak spiritual commitment to one that was strong and unconditional (see especially Gen. 28:20-22; 32:9-12).

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning “Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler.” / Psalm 91:3

God delivers his people from the snare of the fowler in two senses. From, and  out of. First, he delivers them from the snare–does not let them enter it;  and secondly, if they should be caught therein, he delivers them out of it.

The first promise is the most precious to some; the second is the best to  others.    “He shall deliver thee from the snare.” How? Trouble is often the means  whereby God delivers us. God knows that our backsliding will soon end in our  destruction, and he in mercy sends the rod. We say, “Lord, why is this?” not  knowing that our trouble has been the means of delivering us from far greater  evil. Many have been thus saved from ruin by their sorrows and their crosses;  these have frightened the birds from the net. At other times, God keeps his  people from the snare of the fowler by giving them great spiritual strength,  so that when they are tempted to do evil they say, “How can I do this great  wickedness, and sin against God?” But what a blessed thing it is that if the  believer shall, in an evil hour, come into the net, yet God will bring him out  of it! O backslider, be cast down, but do not despair. Wanderer though thou  hast been, hear what thy Redeemer saith–“Return, O backsliding children; I  will have mercy upon you.” But you say you cannot return, for you are a  captive. Then listen to the promise–“Surely he shall deliver thee out of the  snare of the fowler.” Thou shalt yet be brought out of all evil into which  thou hast fallen, and though thou shalt never cease to repent of thy ways, yet  he that hath loved thee will not cast thee away; he will receive thee, and  give thee joy and gladness, that the bones which he has broken may rejoice. No  bird of paradise shall die in the fowler’s net.

 

Evening “Martha was cumbered about much serving.” / Luke 10:40

Her fault was not that she served: the condition of a servant well becomes  every Christian. “I serve,” should be the motto of all the princes of the  royal family of heaven. Nor was it her fault that she had “much serving.” We  cannot do too much. Let us do all that we possibly can; let head, and heart,  and hands, be engaged in the Master’s service. It was no fault of hers that  she was busy preparing a feast for the Master. Happy Martha, to have an  opportunity of entertaining so blessed a guest; and happy, too, to have the  spirit to throw her whole soul so heartily into the engagement. Her fault was  that she grew “cumbered with much serving,” so that she forgot him, and only  remembered the service. She allowed service to override communion, and so  presented one duty stained with the blood of another. We ought to be Martha  and Mary in one: we should do much service, and have much communion at the  same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to  commune. Joshua never grew weary in fighting with the Amalekites; but Moses,  on the top of the mountain in prayer, needed two helpers to sustain his hands.  The more spiritual the exercise, the sooner we tire in it. The choicest fruits  are the hardest to rear: the most heavenly graces are the most difficult to  cultivate. Beloved, while we do not neglect external things, which are good  enough in themselves, we ought also to see to it that we enjoy living,  personal fellowship with Jesus. See to it that sitting at the Saviour’s feet  is not neglected, even though it be under the specious pretext of doing him  service. The first thing for our soul’s health, the first thing for his glory,  and the first thing for our own usefulness, is to keep ourselves in perpetual  communion with the Lord Jesus, and to see that the vital spirituality of our  religion is maintained over and above everything else in the world.

 

God’s Heart toward the Lost – Greg Laurie

 

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”—Acts 4:12

In our culture of moral relativism, the statement that Jesus Christ is the only way to God rubs a lot of people the wrong way, because the statement itself seems so narrow and dogmatic. In a way, it is. But this is what Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

The Bible clearly teaches that there is one mediator between God and man, and it is the Man Christ Jesus (see 1 Timothy 2:5). And Acts 4:12 says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Many hearing this will assume this verse means that those who have never heard about Jesus automatically will be sent to hell. But that is a false concept of God and His nature, because if the cross of Calvary proves nothing else, it proves this: God loves people deeply. Why else would the God the Father send His Son to suffer and die?

Here is God’s heart toward lost humanity. In Ezekiel 33:11, He says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”

The Bible also tells us that God is patient and doesn’t want anyone to perish (see 2 Peter 3:9). So God wants everyone to repent. You see, God is compassionate. He longs for fellowship with humanity, for friendship with us.

Jesus described God as a shepherd looking for a lost sheep (see Luke 15). That is God’s heart toward all of us. I believe that God will judge us according to what we know. God loves people. And I know He wants to save them.

God Knows More – Max Lucado

 

A young woman wrote to me,  “My boyfriend and I split up.  I applied for a job and was rejected.  Is God even listening to me?

You need to know that God knows more about life than we do! And, yes, He’s listening!  One day, my then six-year old said she wanted me leave the ministry.  “I just really wish you sold snow cones!”  An honest request from an honest heart.  To her the happiest people in the world were the guys who drove the snow-cone trucks. I heard her request, but I didn’t heed it.  Why?  Because I know more about life than she did.

Same with God. God hears our requests.  But His answer isn’t always what we’d like it to be.  Because He knows more about life than we do?  Don’t panic.  Don’t bail out.  Talk to your heavenly Father.  He’s still in control!

“Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.” Philippians 4:6-7

The Desired Will of God – Charles Stanley

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Unlike God’s “determined will,” His “desired will” is resistible and conditional. We have a choice to do things our way or His. The Lord designs a specific plan utilizing a believer’s unique gifts and talents for the kingdom. He wants to share His desired will so that we can live successfully.

First, God wants us to follow the moral laws, like the Ten Commandments, which apply to everyone. Throughout Scripture, we find principles that can add joy and meaning to our lives, such as the instruction always to give thanks and put aside bitterness in favor of forgiveness.(1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 4:31-32)

Following those basic principles lets us discover the second part of God’s desired will—His intentions for our personal life. One good example is vocation. Before our birth, God predestined us to have specific skills, talents, and spiritual gifts, which suit us for certain types of work. Our vocation may change, but with divine guidance, our work will consistently “fit” us.

Finally, God’s desired will is active in our daily life. What interests us interests Him, no matter how trivial. For example, we’ve all sent up desperate prayers when we couldn’t locate something we needed. Often we find the object within moments because a caring Father leads us right to it.

The Lord wants to work in our life, and He’ll send blessings if we follow Him. Remember, He’s a loving Father; what’s more, He is all-knowing and all-powerful—that is an unbeatable combination, no matter what comes against us. It is impossible to get less than the best when we do things His way.

Our Daily Bread — Wholesome Words

 

Ephesians 4:25-32

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. —Ephesians 4:29

A while back, an Emmy award-winning actress took a courageous stand and walked out in the middle of the Annual American Music Awards ceremony. Her reason? She grew increasingly upset and disappointed by what she described as “an onslaught of lewd jokes and off-color remarks” and raw and raunchy comments by presenters, performers, and hosts. She said the evening was an affront to anyone with a shred of dignity and self-respect.

Unwholesome speech was a problem even in the apostle Paul’s day. He reminded the Christians at Ephesus that they should put away vulgarity, lewdness, slander, and obscene talk from their lives (Eph. 5:4; Col. 3:8). These were expressions of their old lives (1 Cor. 6:9-11), and it was now out of place with their new identity in Christ. Instead, their lives were to be characterized by wholesome speech. Their good or wholesome words would give grace to the hearers (Eph. 4:29). The Holy Spirit would help guard their speech, convict of any filthy talk, and help them to use words to benefit others (John 16:7-13).

We are called to reflect God with all we are, and that includes our words. May our mouths be filled with thanksgiving and words that benefit others. —Marvin Williams

Holy Spirit, we need Your help. Guard our hearts

and minds today. Help us control our thoughts and

words so that we might lift others up and show them

who You are and what You’ve done in us. Amen.

Wholesome words flow out of a life made new.

Self-Conscious Samaritans – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

I remember the first time I learned that legal proceedings are not always exact pictures of justice. I think my mom was trying to get me to clean my room. Trying a new tactic, she told me that if a burglar happened to break in that night, trip over the junk on my floor and break his leg, I would be the one responsible for his injuries. In such a scenario, the thief could actually take legal action against the very person he was trying to rob. I remember feeling indignant at the thought of it (though likely not enough to clean my room).

A similarly troubling picture of justice arises when a person is trying to help a victim, but ends up becoming the victim herself—such as when a passerby stops to administer CPR and winds up, for whatever reason, with a lawsuit on her hands. A newspaper column by Abigail Van Buren, known to her advice and manner-seeking readers as “Dear Abby,” lamented the increasing need for “Good Samaritans” to stop and consider the risk before providing assistance. While Abby herself noted there was no excuse to withhold help, one reader was insistent. In places without a “Good Samaritan law,” which actually removes the liability of the one providing assistance, “people who offer a helping hand place themselves potentially at financial and emotional risk.”(1) The reader continued, “I only hope that I have the presence of mind in the future to withhold assistance in a state that has no Good Samaritan law.”

While the law of human nature seems to assure the majority of people will pass by an accident assuming that someone else will help out, the laws of litigation seem to warn Good Samaritans to watch their backs altogether. Consequently, in many cases, increasingly so, no one does anything. The victim remains the victim; the Samaritan remains unscathed.

I suppose it should not come as a surprise that we have managed to hyper-individualize one of the most non-individualistic characters in all of storytelling. The very point of the parable of the Good Samaritan, the story from which the vernacular term for helper now takes its name, is to teach that hierarchical, individual distinctions, whether thinking in terms of race, religion, or personal liability, are misleading and harmful. In the story Jesus tells, the Samaritan’s presence of mind is the exact opposite of self-conscious. The Samaritan deliberately places himself in the center of harm’s way (not knowing if the thieves are still nearby), not to mention the epicenter of disdain for showing disregard to cultural norms (he was a Samaritan who should have been keeping to himself). The assurance of coming out unscathed could hardly have been this Samaritan’s motive for reaching out. On the contrary, the Samaritan places himself in a position where he is certain to bear the cost—one such cost being the financial burden of care for the wounded person on the road.

While it is indeed lamentable that the current state of the world seems to necessitate self-consciousness in dealing with our neighbors, it is both lamentable and entirely unreasonable that we assume this was not the same scenario for the crowd who first heard the story. We seem to reason that the Good Samaritan only helped because it was not a liability for him, giving ourselves a rational exemption: “If it weren’t for the law, I would be more than willing to see and care for that person as my neighbor.” In fact, the one who first asked the question that merited Jesus’s telling of the parable was thinking quite similarly. His very question of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” betrays his philosophy that the world can be classified in terms of commodities. In this estimation, there are those I am responsible to help, and there are those I am not responsible to help. And he bases these distinctions on his reading of the law. Albeit a different kind of “law” than the laws that discourage us from helping today, it is a similar use of legalism all the same.

Yet Jesus calls the questioner away from his legalistic mindset with a story that turns these categories into smoke and mirrors. Instead of the stance of self-consciousness that asks, “What will happen to me if I stop and help this man?”, a far better question is posed on the lips of one who has much to lose: “What will happen to this man if I don’t stop?” Setting aside the categories that could easily hold him back, the Good Samaritan has room to hold the very commandment Jesus describes as the crux on which all the law and the prophets hang: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. With this wisdom in hand, the Good Samaritan, and every soul that carries his presence of mind thereafter, is not far from the kingdom of God.

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

(1) Abigail Van Buren, “Good Samaritan risks a lot in lending a hand,” The Post and Courier, August 7, 2007, 5D.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning”I have exalted one chosen out of the people.” / Psalm 89:19

Why was Christ chosen out of the people? Speak, my heart, for heart-thoughts are best. Was it not that he might be able to be our brother, in the blest tie of kindred blood? Oh, what relationship there is between Christ and the believer! The believer can say, “I have a Brother in heaven; I may be poor, but I have a Brother who is rich, and is a King, and will he suffer me to want while he is on his throne? Oh, no! He loves me; he is my Brother.” Believer, wear this blessed thought, like a necklace of diamonds, around the neck of thy memory; put it, as a golden ring, on the finger of recollection, and use it as the King’s own seal, stamping the petitions of thy faith with confidence of success. He is a brother born for adversity, treat him as such. Christ was also chosen out of the people that he might know our wants and sympathize with us. “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.” In all our sorrows we have his sympathy. Temptation, pain, disappointment, weakness, weariness, poverty–he knows them all, for he has felt all. Remember this, Christian, and let it comfort thee. However difficult and painful thy road, it is marked by the footsteps of thy Saviour; and even when thou reachest the dark valley of the shadow of death, and the deep waters of the swelling Jordan, thou wilt find his footprints there. In all places whithersoever we go, he has been our forerunner; each burden we have to carry, has once been laid on the shoulders of Immanuel.

“His way was much rougher and darker than mine

Did Christ, my Lord, suffer, and shall I repine?”

Take courage! Royal feet have left a blood-red track upon the road, and

consecrated the thorny path forever.

 

Evening  “We will remember thy love more than wine.” / Song of Solomon 1:4

Jesus will not let his people forget his love. If all the love they have enjoyed should be forgotten, he will visit them with fresh love. “Do you forget my cross?” says he, “I will cause you to remember it; for at my table I will manifest myself anew to you. Do you forget what I did for you in the council-chamber of eternity? I will remind you of it, for you shall need a counsellor, and shall find me ready at your call.” Mothers do not let their children forget them. If the boy has gone to Australia, and does not write home, his mother writes–“Has John forgotten his mother?” Then there comes back a sweet epistle, which proves that the gentle reminder was not in vain. So is it with Jesus, he says to us, “Remember me,” and our response is, “We will remember thy love.” We will remember thy love and its matchless history. It is ancient as the glory which thou hadst with the Father before the world was. We remember, O Jesus, thine eternal love when thou didst become our Surety, and espouse us as thy betrothed. We remember the love which suggested the sacrifice of thyself, the love which, until the fulness of time, mused over that sacrifice, and long for the hour whereof in the volume of the book it was written of thee, “Lo, I come.” We remember thy love, O Jesus as it was manifest to us in thy holy life, from the manger of Bethlehem to the garden of Gethsemane. We track thee from the cradle to the grave–for every word and deed of thine was love–and we rejoice in thy love, which death did not exhaust; thy love which shone resplendent in thy resurrection. We remember that burning fire of love which will never let thee hold thy peace until thy chosen ones be all safely housed, until Zion be glorified, and Jerusalem settled on her everlasting foundations of light and love in heaven.

Hope Does Not Disappoint- Greg Laurie

 

I am the LORD . . . they shall not be ashamed who wait for me. ♦ Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. ♦ You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength. ♦ My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. ♦ I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed.

God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus.

Romans 5:5; Isaiah 49:23; Jeremiah 17:7; Isaiah 26:3–4; Psalm 62:5–6; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 6:17–20

The Determined Will of God – Charles Stanley

 

Ephesians 1:1-14

Believers who feel frustrated by the Christian life lack two critical pieces of knowledge: an understanding of God’s will and an awareness of the steps to discover His plan for our lives. Over the next couple of days, we will study the nature of God’s intentions and how to access them.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the “determined will” of God, which includes His unchangeable plans for the world. As the sovereign ruler, He is in total control— no government rises to power and no physical ailment occurs unless He allows it. He is determined to carry out the plan that He developed long before creation.

The Lord reveals very little of His determined will to mankind. We can anticipate only those events He has disclosed, such as Christ’s return and the great white throne judgment. (Rev. 19:11; 20:11-15) Much of the knowledge we have comes from our experience and Bible reading. We know, for example, that the Lord has given us limited free will and that He has a plan for redeeming us from the sin in our life.

The Lord will have His way, whether we believe in His sovereignty or not. His plan is far bigger than we can grasp, and it was designed in a way that will glorify Him while revealing our need for Him.

God’s purpose is His glory. Because our limited human perspective sees only the evil of crime, disease, and war, people wonder how He can allow these. But we know “God causes all things to work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). Just look at the cross—God’s greatest expression of good and glory!

Our Daily Bread

 

I recently saw a commercial for an online game based on Greek mythology. It spoke about armies, mythological gods, heroes, and quests. What got my attention was the description of how to get the game started. You go online to register, choose your god, then build your empire.

Wow! “Choose your god.” Those words, though presented casually in the ad, struck me as being characteristic of one of the most dangerous things about our world. In a game, it may be insignificant what “god” you choose; but in the real world that choice has eternal consequences.

To a generation of Israelites surrounded by the gods of their day, Joshua declared that they must choose their god—but it must not be done in a cavalier way. He set the example as he said, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

Today, as in the days of Joshua, there are many options. But there is only one wise choice—the true God. Joshua made the right choice. “We will serve the Lord.”

The gods of this world are empty and vain,

They cannot give peace to one’s heart;

The living and true One deserves all our love—

From Him may we never depart. —D. DeHaan

Nothing can fill the emptiness in your heart except God.

 

Read: Joshua 24:14-18

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. —Joshua 24:15

Bible in a Year: Exodus 4-6; Matthew 14:22-36

Knowledge Without Shame – Ravi Zacharias

 

A few years ago, a man had an idea. He decided to start a blog—intended to be a temporary community art project—in which individuals would mail postcards on which was written one secret they hadn’t told anyone. No longer a “temporary art project” this blog is now an online community with over 80,000 members. Apparently, even those with secrets feel the need to share them with someone. Whatever secrets people have hidden, this blog phenomenon highlights the fundamental human desire to be known and seen at the deepest levels.

Yet being truly known simultaneously arouses fear. And it is no wonder that so many keep secrets from even their nearest and dearest. Being known opens us up to exposure, and if exposed we risk rejection—for all of who we truly are is neither beautiful nor lovely. As the contemporary songwriter Aimee Mann once lamented, “People are tricky. You can’t afford to show anything risky, anything they don’t know. The moment you try, well kiss it goodbye.”(1) So rather than risk relationship, we hide from others what resides in the dark recesses of our souls. We hide our private secrets and put on our public facades praying that what we really are will never be seen or come to light.

Given this fear of being known, the invocation to “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done,” could be heard more like an accusation at an inquisition than an invitation to be seen completely without shame. Yet, this invitation—given by an unnamed, Samaritan woman in the gospel of John—is an invitation to see, and to be seen by one who tells her all that she had done. His knowledge doesn’t reject or destroy relationship. His knowledge restores her dignity.

We are only given a few details about her. She was a Samaritan, a long-despised ethnic group. She came to draw water during the hottest part of the day and not early in the morning or late in the evening as would have been typical for the women of her day. We are told that she had five husbands and was currently living with a man to whom she was not married. While it is not stated explicitly, this is likely the source of her shame. Women in the ancient world derived their social standing and economic viability from their husbands. Without a husband, and particularly without a male child, a woman was without recourse and completely dependent on a society that often abandoned her. And so, perhaps this woman comes to draw water when no other women were around as a way of hiding her shame. Hers is a secret too painful to sit with in the open.

Yet in her brief encounter with a man who asks her to give him a drink, her secrets are revealed. But not for the sake of shaming her or exposing what she feared the most. This prophet at no point invites repentance or, for that matter, speaks of sin at all since she very easily could have been widowed or have been abandoned or divorced. Five times would be heartbreaking, but not impossible. Further, she could now be living with someone that she was dependent on, or be in what was called a Levirate marriage (where a childless woman is married to her deceased husband’s brother in order to produce an heir, yet is not always technically considered the brother’s wife). Her shame is tragic, rather than scandalous; her fear of being seen the result of deep pain.

Immediately after the man describes her past, she says, “I see that you are a prophet” and asks him where one should worship. “Seeing” in John, biblical scholars note, is all-important. “To see” is often connected with belief. When the woman says, “I see you are a prophet,” she makes a confession of faith.(2)

She sees because this man named Jesus has seen her. He has seen her plight. He has recognized her, spoken with her, offered her something of incomparable worth. He has seen her—and showered on her worth, value and significance. All of this is treatment to which she is unaccustomed. And so when he speaks of her past both knowingly and compassionately, she realizes she is in the presence of a prophet. She leaves her waterpot, runs into her city, and issues an invitation to all the townspeople to “come, see a man who told me all the things I have done.”

John’s gospel places this encounter with the unnamed Samaritan woman immediately after Jesus speaks with Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader. Nicodemus, however, has great difficulty comprehending who or what Jesus was. Yet as scholar David Lose notes, Jesus’s encounter with this woman yields an entirely different result. She “who was the polar opposite of Nicodemus in every way, she recognizes not just who Jesus is but what he offers—dignity. Jesus invites her to not be defined by her circumstances and offers her an identity that lifts her above her tragedy. And she accepts, playing a unique role in Jesus’ ministry as she is the first character in John’s gospel to seek out others to tell them about Jesus.”(3)

Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done becomes an invitation to be welcomed into knowing, and welcoming others to know. This Jesus is the one who demonstrates that knowledge of our most intimate life details need not make us afraid or feel ashamed. His knowledge brings dignity and freedom to be known in all of our human complexity. The nearness of Jesus doesn’t kill us from exposure, but offers us a new identity forged from intimate knowledge. It is an invitation to know, just as we are fully known.

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

(1)Aimee Mann, “It’s Not,” Lost In Space, Superego Records 2002.

(2)David Lose, “Misogyny, Moralism and the Woman at the Well,” The Huffington Post, March 21, 2011.

(3) Ibid.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning   “Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which

is among the trees of the forest?” / Ezekiel 15:2

These words are for the humbling of God’s people; they are called God’s vine,

but what are they by nature more than others? They, by God’s goodness, have

become fruitful, having been planted in a good soil; the Lord hath trained

them upon the walls of the sanctuary, and they bring forth fruit to his glory;

but what are they without their God? What are they without the continual

influence of the Spirit, begetting fruitfulness in them? O believer, learn to

reject pride, seeing that thou hast no ground for it. Whatever thou art, thou

hast nothing to make thee proud. The more thou hast, the more thou art in debt

to God; and thou shouldst not be proud of that which renders thee a debtor.

Consider thine origin; look back to what thou wast. Consider what thou wouldst

have been but for divine grace. Look upon thyself as thou art now. Doth not

thy conscience reproach thee? Do not thy thousand wanderings stand before

thee, and tell thee that thou art unworthy to be called his son? And if he

hath made thee anything, art thou not taught thereby that it is grace which

hath made thee to differ? Great believer, thou wouldst have been a great

sinner if God had not made thee to differ. O thou who art valiant for truth,

thou wouldst have been as valiant for error if grace had not laid hold upon

thee. Therefore, be not proud, though thou hast a large estate–a wide domain

of grace, thou hadst not once a single thing to call thine own except thy sin

and misery. Oh! strange infatuation, that thou, who hast borrowed everything,

shouldst think of exalting thyself; a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty

of thy Saviour, one who hath a life which dies without fresh streams of life

from Jesus, and yet proud! Fie on thee, O silly heart!

 

Evening   “Doth Job fear God for nought?” / Job 1:9

This was the wicked question of Satan concerning that upright man of old, but

there are many in the present day concerning whom it might be asked with

justice, for they love God after a fashion because he prospers them; but if

things went ill with them, they would give up all their boasted faith in God.

If they can clearly see that since the time of their supposed conversion the

world has gone prosperously with them, then they will love God in their poor

carnal way; but if they endure adversity, they rebel against the Lord. Their

love is the love of the table, not of the host; a love to the cupboard, not to

the master of the house. As for the true Christian, he expects to have his

reward in the next life, and to endure hardness in this. The promise of the

old covenant was prosperity, but the promise of the new covenant is adversity.

Remember Christ’s words–“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit”–What?

“He purgeth it, that it may bring forth fruit.” If you bring forth fruit, you

will have to endure affliction. “Alas!” you say, “that is a terrible

prospect.” But this affliction works out such precious results, that the

Christian who is the subject of it must learn to rejoice in tribulations,

because as his tribulations abound, so his consolations abound by Christ

Jesus. Rest assured, if you are a child of God, you will be no stranger to the

rod. Sooner or later every bar of gold must pass through the fire. Fear not,

but rather rejoice that such fruitful times are in store for you, for in them

you will be weaned from earth and made meet for heaven; you will be delivered

from clinging to the present, and made to long for those eternal things which

are so soon to be revealed to you. When you feel that as regards the present

you do serve God for nought, you will then rejoice in the infinite reward of

the future.

Praying for Believers – John MacArthur

 

“For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16).

The Ephesian Christians demonstrated two important characteristics of genuine Christian faith: faith in the Lord Jesus and love for fellow believers.

“Faith in the Lord Jesus” implies both an affirmation of Christ’s deity and submission to His sovereignty. Because He is God, He is the Sovereign Lord, so we must obey what He commands (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).

Your “love for all the saints” is as much a mark of true faith as your love for God. John said, “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now” (1 John 2:9). In that passage “light” is a metaphor for righteousness and truth, and “darkness” is a metaphor for sin and error. It is sinful and erroneous to claim you love God if you have no love for other believers. Those who love God will love fellow believers as well.

If you love others, you will pray for them and praise God for their spiritual progress–as Paul did for the Ephesians–and they will do the same for you. That’s a wonderful dynamic within the Body of Christ, and one that you must diligently pursue.

Suggestions for Prayer:  If you haven’t done so already, start a prayer list of individuals for whom you will pray each day. List their names and some specific requests. Record answers to your prayers as you see God moving in their lives.

Remember to thank God for their spiritual progress as well as praying for their needs. Let them know you are praying for them. That could be a source of great encouragement for them.

If you are at odds with another believer, seek to reconcile immediately (Matt. 5:23-24) so your witness will be strong and the Lord’s name won’t suffer reproach.

 

For Further Study: Read Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-14

What requests and concerns did Paul express in his prayers?

Do your prayers reflect Paul’s priorities? If not, what adjustments must you make to have a more biblical pattern of prayer?