Tag Archives: god

Joyce Meyer – Yearnings in the Night

 

My soul yearns for You [O Lord] in the night, yes, my spirit within me seeks You earnestly.—Isaiah 26:9

Nothing can satisfy your longing for God except communion and fellowship with Him. The apostle John wrote, “And the world passesaway and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he whodoes the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever” (1 John 2:17).

The world makes it easy for you to fill your ears with all kinds of things that drown out the voice of God and push Him far into the background of your life. However, the day comes for every person when only God remains. Everything else in life eventually passes away; when it does, God will still be there. Seek God earnestly tonight and He will abide in you.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – When He’s in Control

 

“But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us:…self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23).

Sue insisted that she was Spirit-filled, and she frequently challenged others to be filled with the Spirit. But there was no evidence that the Holy Spirit was in control of her life, because she was completely undisciplined in everything she did. She knew nothing about self-control. She knew all about the Holy Spirit, in her mind, but there was no evidence that He was in her life – and in control of her life.

Dr. Henrietta Mears, as director of Christian education at the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, had one of the greatest spiritual ministries of her time. Hundreds of young men and women became church members and missionaries under her influence. She lived in a palatial home, owned priceless antiques and dressed beautifully. Most people assumed that she was a woman of great wealth. Actually, she was a person of relatively modest means. She simply knew how to take her regular salary, a modest inheritance, plus savings, and maximize them for God’s glory.

For example, she would advise young people, “Do not eat in expensive restaurants where you spend excessively except on rare occasions. Instead, prepare your own lunch, and over a period of a year you can save enough money by not eating out to take a trip around the world and enrich your spirit, your soul and your cultural sensitivities. Or you can use the money you save to buy something which will enhance the beauty of your home or person.”

We see disciplined people all around us in the world. Athletes discipline themselves to strict training, soldiers are drilled in military discipline, artists and writers are disciplined to sharpen their talents through dedicated practice. On the other hand, we also see examples of a lack of discipline in the lives of many people around us.

Whether a person is a Christian or a non-believer, the development of self-control as a quality of character seems to be difficult for most people. Yet we are told in the Bible that the Spirit-filled Christian will exhibit self- control as a part of the fruit of the Spirit.

Bible Reading: I Chronicles 28:9-13

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I acknowledge that to walk in the fullness and control of the Holy Spirit will enable me to demonstrate a life of discipline and self-control. Therefore, by faith, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I shall live a life of discipline and self-control for the glory of God. Self- control is essential for supernatural living.

Greg Laurie – For Just Such a Time

 

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” —Esther 4:14

I love the story of Esther because in some ways, it reminds me of a fairy tale, except it is true. Esther was a beautiful Jewish girl who was plucked from obscurity, won a beauty contest, and became the queen of the kingdom. Then there was a wicked man named Haman, who hatched a plot to have all of the Jews put to death. It was Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, who came to her and described the plight of her fellow Jews, saying, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

Esther was the queen who saved a nation. She used her influence with the king, the plot was averted, and the people were saved. Then, in perfect poetic justice, Haman, the guy who hatched the plot, ended up hanging on the very gallows he had erected for others. She was there behind the scenes. Esther could have said, “I don’t want to jeopardize my position. No one will ever find out I am a Jew. I am going to be careful and play it safe.” But instead, she put everything on the line.

Who knows that God has not put you where you are right now for such a time as this? You may be the only Christian in your family or the only believer in your neighborhood. You may be the only follower of Jesus Christ in your workplace or in your classroom. Like Esther, will you stand up for such a time as this? Will you use your influence where you can, when you can?

Max Lucado – Give Him a Pretzel

 

Years ago I was traveling with my daughter, Jenna.  When I realized she and I weren’t seated together,  I asked the fellow sitting next to her to swap seats with me.  Surely he’ll understand, I thought.  He didn’t.  I was left separated from my 12 year old on a long transatlantic flight.

I began plotting how I’d trip him if he dared walk to the restroom during the flight. I turned to intimidate him with a snarl and saw, much to my surprise, Jenna offering him a pretzel. What?  My daughter was fraternizing with the enemy! As if the pretzel were an olive branch, he accepted her gift and they both leaned their seats back and dozed off.

I learned the lesson God had used my daughter to teach me. All of us are here by grace and, at some point, all of us have to share some grace. So the next time you find yourself next to a questionable character, don’t give him a hard time—give him a pretzel!

Charles Stanley – Christ’s Blood: The Necessity

 

Romans 3:21-26

Romans 3 communicates the very heart of Scripture. Apart from the cross of Christ and His atoning death, no one can be declared righteous.

In other words, there is only one way to become a child of God—through the blood of the Savior (John 14:6). Good works and right living will not earn the Lord’s favor, because every person inevitably sins, and a sinner cannot enter the presence of holy God. The shedding of Christ’s blood on the world’s behalf made it possible for anyone to be cleansed of sin and have a relationship with the Creator. The only requirement is trusting Jesus as Savior.

For God to be just, He must remain true to His own principles. His holiness dictated that “the soul who sins will die” (Ezek. 18:4). The penalty for sin—namely, death—had to be paid in a way that was acceptable to God. He explained through Moses why a blood sacrifice was required: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Lev. 17:11). A life must be given for a life to be spared.

On that basis, the heavenly Father provided a perfectly sinless sacrifice for all mankind. The only way God’s justice could be satisfied and His holiness could be maintained was for Jesus Christ to take our guilt and sin upon Himself and die in our place.

When we say that there is only one way to the Father, we mean that a person must believe Jesus Christ died as a perfect sacrifice. To trust in anything else is to ignore God’s holiness and the admonition of His Word (Acts 4:12).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Breaking Time

 

“Uncanny” was one of the vocabulary words on my sixth grade vocabulary list, which was to be found within the book we were reading as a class. I remember thinking Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was exactly that—uncanny, peculiar, and uncomfortably strange. Yet I also remember that it stayed with me—the story of a quirky girl named Meg, her overly-intelligent little brother, and their time-transcending journey to save their physicist father with the help of three mysterious beings. L’Engle’s book, which recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, invites readers to see time itself differently. Her stories will no doubt continue to perplex sixth graders, and stay with us long after we have set them aside.

L’Engle is the writer who first showed me the incredible difference between two words in Greek, which we unfortunately translate identically. To the English reader, chronos and kairos both appear to us as “time.” But in Greek, these words are vastly different. Chronos is the time on your wrist watch, time on the move, passing from present to future and so becoming past. Kairos, on the other hand, is qualitative rather than quantitative. It is time as a moment, a significant occasion, an immeasurable quality. In the New Testament, kairos is God’s time, it is real time—it is the eternal now.

Thus, when Jesus stepped into time to proclaim the kingdom of God among us, he came to show us in chronos the reality of kairos. “Jesus took John and James and Peter up the mountain in ordinary, daily chronos,” writes L’Engle. “Yet during the glory of the Transfiguration they were dwelling in kairos.”(1) With this story in mind, L’Engle describes kairos as that time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, time where we are completely unselfconscious and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we are continually checking our watches. “Are we willing and able to be surprised?” L’Engle asks. “If we are to be aware of life while we are living it, we must have the courage to relinquish our hard-earned control of ourselves.”(2) For the Christian, the thought is particularly consequential. We must have the courage to see counterculturally beyond ourselves and our self-importance. We must have the courage to live aware that the kingdom of God is close at hand.

I imagine Jacob discovered this difference between chronos and kairos when he set aside both the past that was about to catch up with him and his paralyzing fear of the future only to find himself living in “none other than the house of God” (Genesis 28:17). The prophets and others describe similar moments of waking to the present and finding the eternal dimensions of time. The shepherds in Bethlehem were going about their ordinary work when an angel appeared before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them.  ”Do not be afraid,” the angel announced. “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:13-14).  At this invasion of kairos into the routine of chronos, the shepherds chose to respond with action: “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (2:15).

In the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, where eternity steps into time and invites us to see far beyond our watches, we are presented with a similar decision. Are we willing to be surprised again by Christ’s coming? Are we willing to act on it? Are we able to release the nervous control of our daily schedules in order to stop and see the resurrected Christ, the eternal now in our midst? With every prophet who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah in history, the apostle calls out today, “Behold, now is the time (kairos) of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Whether we are ready for our sense of time and self to stop at such an invasion, Christ has come. He comes quietly and unexpectedly; he comes and upsets our very notions of time and all we discover within it. The eternal Word steps into flesh, into our bounded realm of time, and literally embodies the reality that time is meaningful because of the eternal one in our midst. His presence reminds us that kairos is breaking into chronos and transforming it, transforming us. It proclaims, “The kingdom of God is close at hand”—and invites us to join the world breaking in along with it. In moments of life and death, present fears and plans for the future, might this radical invasion move us and our vantage points, as we find ourselves continually surprised by the one who comes so near.

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

(1) Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (New York: Bantam, 1982), 93.

(2) Ibid., 99.

Alistair Begg – Renew Your Covenant

 

Because of all this we make a firm covenant.  Nehemiah 9:38

There are many occasions in our experience when we may very rightly, and with benefit, renew our covenant with God. After recovery from sickness when, like Hezekiah, we have had a new lease of years added to our life, we may do so appropriately. After any deliverance from trouble, when our joys spring forth anew, let us again visit the foot of the cross and renew our consecration. Especially let us do this after any sin that has grieved the Holy Spirit or brought dishonor upon the cause of God; let us then look to that blood that can make us whiter than snow and again offer ourselves to the Lord.

We should not only let our troubles confirm our dedication to God, but our prosperity should do the same. If we ever meet with occasions that deserve to be called “crowning mercies,” then surely, if He has crowned us, we ought also to crown our God; let us bring out again all the jewels of the divine regalia that have been stored in the jewel-closet of our heart, and let our God sit upon the throne of our love, arrayed in royal apparel. If we could learn to profit by our prosperity, we would not need to face so much adversity. If we would gather from a kiss all the good it might confer upon us, we would not have to bear the imprint of punishment so often.

Have we recently received some blessing that we hadn’t expected? Has the Lord opened our way? Can we sing of mercies multiplied? Then this is the day to put our hand upon the horns of the altar and say, “Bind me here, my God; bind me here with cords, even forever.” Just as we need the fulfillment of new promises from God, let us offer renewed prayers that our old vows may not be dishonored. This morning let us make with Him a firm covenant because of the sacrifice of Jesus that we have been considering with gratitude for the last month.

 

Charles Spurgeon – A vision of the latter day glories

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” Isaiah 2:2 & Micah 4:1

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-15

I am looking for the advent of Christ; it is this that cheers me in the battle of life—the battle and cause of Christ. I look for Christ to come, somewhat as John Bunyan described the battle of Captain Credence with Diabolus. The inhabitants of the town of Mansoul fought hard to protect their city from the prince of darkness, and at last a pitched battle was fought outside the walls. The captains and the brave men of arms fought all day till their swords were knitted to their hands with blood; many and many a weary hour did they seek to drive back the Diabolonians. The battle seemed to waver in the balance; sometimes victory was on the side of faith, and then, triumph seemed to hover over the crest of the prince of hell; but just as the sun was setting, trumpets were heard in the distance; Prince Emmanuel was coming, with trumpets sounding, and with banners flying; and while the men of Mansoul pressed onward sword in hand, Emmanuel attacked their foes in the rear, and getting the enemy between them both, they went on, driving their enemies at the sword’s point, till at last, trampling over their dead bodies, they met, and hand to hand the victorious church saluted its victorious Lord. Even so must it be. We must fight on day by day and hour by hour; and when we think the battle is almost decided against us, we shall hear the trump of the archangel, and the voice of God, and he shall come, the Prince of the kings of the earth; at his name, with terror shall they melt, and like snow driven before the wind from the bare side of a mountain shall they fly away; and we, the church militant, trampling over them, shall salute our Lord, shouting, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

For meditation: The Lord’s second coming is an encouragement for us to hold fast to what we have (Revelation 2:25; 3:11). “Hold the fort, for I am coming!”

Sermon no. 249

24 April (1859)

John MacArthur – Christ Is Our Peace

 

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

After World War II the United Nations was created to promote world peace. But since its inception in 1945 there has not been a single day of global peace. That’s a sad commentary on man’s inability to make peace. In fact, someone once quipped that Washington D.C. has so many peace monuments because they build one after every war!

It hasn’t always been that way. Prior to the Fall of man peace reigned on the earth because all creation was in perfect harmony with its Creator. But sin interrupted peace by alienating man from God and bringing a curse upon the earth. Man couldn’t know true peace because he had no peace in his heart. That’s why Jesus came to die.

I once read a story about a couple at a divorce hearing whose conflict couldn’t be resolved. They had a four-year-old boy who became distressed and teary-eyed over what was happening. While the couple was arguing, the boy reached for his father’s hand and his mother’s hand and pulled until he joined them.

In a sense that’s what Christ did: He provided the righteousness that allows man and God to join hands. Romans 5:1 says that those who are justified by faith have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:20 says that God reconciled all things to Himself through the blood of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Yet on the surface, the scene at the cross wasn’t peaceful at all. Pain, sorrow, humiliation, hatred, mockery, darkness, and death were oppressively pervasive, but through it all Christ was doing what He alone could do: making peace between man and God. He paid the supreme price to give us that precious gift.

In the future, Jesus will return as Prince of Peace to establish a kingdom of peace that will usher us into an eternal age of peace. In the meantime He reigns over the hearts of all who love Him. Let His peace reign in your heart today!

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the peace of heart that comes from knowing Christ.

For Further Study:

Read Philippians 4:6-9. What must a person do to know God’s peace?

Joyce Meyer – Show Jesus

 

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.—Ephesians 4:32

I hope to show to everyone I meet the character of Jesus through my words and actions. I pray that everyone who contacts our ministry team will say: “Those people are full of Jesus. They are patient, kind, and sweet.”

We are containers capable of being filled to overflowing with the Spirit of Jesus, who dwells in our hearts. If we understand that everywhere we go we can demonstrate His character and virtue, we will be as the Word says—lights in a dark world (see Philippians 2:15).

Jesus called us the salt of the earth (see Matthew 5:13). Salt gives flavor to what is otherwise bland or tasteless. Be salt today—at home, at your job, wherever you go.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Poor, Blind and Naked

 

“You say, ‘I am rich, with everything I want; I don’t need a thing!” And you don’t realize that spiritually you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

George had come for a week of lay training at Arrowhead Springs. Following one of my messages on revival, in which I explained that most Christians are like the members of the church at Ephesus and Laodicea, as described in Revelation 2 and 3, he came to share with me how, though he was definitely lukewarm and had lost his first love, he frankly had never read those passages, had never heard a sermon such as I had presented and therefore did not realize how wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked he was.

If there were such an instrument as a “faith thermometer,” at what level would your faithfulness register? Hot? Lukewarm? Cold?

Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, “I know you well – you are neither hot nor cold; I wish you were one or the other! But since you are merely lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Revelation 3:15).

Again, I ask you, where does your faithfulness register on that faith thermometer?

The greatest tragedy in the history of nations is happening right here in America. Here we are, a nation founded by Christians, a nation founded upon godly principles, a nation blessed beyond all the nations of history for the purpose of doing God’s will in the world. But most people in this country, including the majority of church members, have without realizing it become materialistic and humanistic, all too often worshiping man and his achievements instead of the only true God.

Granted, the opinion polls show meteoric growth in the number of people in America who claim to be born-again Christians. But where does their faith register on the faith thermometer? America is a modern-day Laodicea. We are where we are today because too many Christians have quenched the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Bible Reading: Revelation 3:14-19

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Realizing that America cannot become spiritually renewed without individual revival, I will humble myself, and pray, and seek God’s face, and turn from my wicked ways. By faith I will claim revival in my own heart.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – Total Reliance

 

The saddest of stories: a rich, young ruler came running to Jesus, knelt at His feet and asked, “What must I do to have eternal life?” He came not to lay a trap, as some did, but because of a truly honest longing for assurance.

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26

He knew the commandments, but Jesus read his heart and knew the idol in his life gave the young man a deceptive feeling that he was self-sufficient. The answer to his question – give away all he possessed and follow Jesus – was an impossible request…unless he relied totally on God to do it. Instead, he turned away in sorrow, loving his possessions more than his soul!

In one form or another, the test comes to every Christian. It is the smallest of things that sometimes prevents the greatest results. A slight defect in the finest bell and it ceases to sound. The tiniest of sin, if there could be such a thing, keeps you from doing what the Lord has in mind.

Don’t go away sorrowfully. Reinstate God as the center of your life. All things are possible with Him. The hope of this nation rests on the prayers of those who give their all to Christ.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 62:5-12

 

 

Greg Laurie – A Bittersweet Message

 

To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? —2 Corinthians 2:16

Have you ever eaten something that was sweet going down but made you sick later? Let me restate the question: Have you ever eaten eight Krispy Kreme doughnuts in one sitting? I have. I got a little carried away. They were great going down. But less than ten minutes later, I was asking, What have I done?

In Revelation 10, the apostle John asked an angel for a small scroll. When the angel gave him the scroll, he told John, “Yes, take it and eat it. It will be sweet as honey in your mouth, but it will turn sour in your stomach!” (verse 9).

John said, “So I took the small scroll from the hand of the angel, and I ate it! It was sweet in my mouth, but when I swallowed it, it turned sour in my stomach. Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings’ ” (verses 10–11).

The message that we believe as Christians is sweet to us, but it is bitter to others. This is God’s Word to us. We eat it like food. Job said, “I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food” (Job 23:12). For Christians to have a Bible study is like a feast. We love it. But for others, it is misery and torment. They don’t like it.

Some hear the gospel and say, “I love that. I believe it. I want Jesus.”

Others say, “Not only do I not like it, I hate it. And I hate you for saying it.”

As believers, we need to take the message of the gospel and give it to as many as we can. Whether they love it or hate it is really up to them.

Max Lucado – We Are All Beggars

 

We are all beggars in need of bread. “Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray. (Matthew 6:11). You may prefer, “We are all hungry, in need of bread.”  Such a phrase certainly has more dignity than the word beggar.  Who wants to be called a beggar?  After all, didn’t you create the ground in which the seed was sown? No? Well at least you made the seed? Right? You didn’t?

What about the sun?  Did you provide the heat during the day?  Or the rain.  Did you send the clouds?  No?   Then exactly what did you do?

You harvested food you didn’t make from an earth you didn’t create. Let me see if I have this straight. Had God not done His part, you would have no food. Hmmm. . .perhaps we best return to the word beggar. We are all beggars, in need of bread!

Charles Stanley – How to Be Encouraged

 

Psalm 139:7-10

Most of us yearn to walk through life with a sense of confidence and assurance. But see if the following scenario ever describes you: At the end of your day or week, you feel worn out and depleted. Your nerves are frazzled—you seem to be in a season of trials, trudging through valleys, water, and fire. You know Scripture says the Lord has omniscience and uses all things for His good purposes, but feelings of isolation and discouragement leave you wondering if He’s even aware of the situation.

If that sounds familiar, then you need this reminder: You do not journey through this life alone. Our loving heavenly Father is and has been with each believer every single day. He travels with us side by side and hand in hand. We are walking in the presence of the living God, whose Spirit abides with us and is in us (John 14:16-17).

No matter what season of life you are in—no matter how long, short, painful, or easy it might be—God wants you to know you are never alone. He is with you always (Matt. 28:20). Allow yourself to be encouraged by that truth.

David reflected on this reassurance in Psalm 139—he realized that no matter where we might go, the Lord is right there with us. We are never beyond the reach of a God who is full of lovingkindness, mercy, and comfort (1 Chron. 16:34; 2 Cor. 1:3).

Friend, remember that God is faithful and omnipresent. You have a partner in this life—a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24), and He will never leave or forsake you, on this day or any other. Have a wonderful time walking with Him today.

Our Daily Bread — Now I See

 

John 14:15-27

The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. —John 14:26

Deborah Kendrick loves to attend Broadway musicals even though she is blind and always struggles to understand the setting and the movements of the characters onstage. Recently, however, she attended a play that used D-Scriptive, a new technology that conveys the visual elements of the stage production through a small FM receiver. A recorded narration, keyed to the show’s light and sound boards, describes the set and the action as it unfolds onstage. Writing in The Columbus Dispatch, Deborah said, “If you ask me if I saw a show last week in New York, my answer is yes . . . I genuinely, unequivocally mean that I saw the show.”

Her experience struck me as a vivid illustration of the Holy Spirit’s role in our understanding of God’s Word. Just before Jesus went to the cross, He told His followers that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).

As we open the Bible to read or study, the Spirit of Truth is with us to guide us into all truth (16:13). On our own we are blind, but through the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit we can see. —David McCasland

Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,

As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea.

Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;

My spirit pants for Thee, O Living Word. —Lathbury

The Father gave the Spirit to teach us from the Word.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God of Hope

 

“Do not be afraid,” my instructor encouraged me as my horse continued to back up getting closer and closer to the edge of the trail. The “edge” once crossed would certainly mean that horse and rider would tumble down an eight foot embankment. “Do not be afraid” sounded silly and naïve to me as my horse continued to ignore my increasingly anxious prodding with my arms and legs. “Watch out; beware; don’t ever ride a horse” would have sounded more apropos given these circumstances. I was afraid, terrified even, as my horse backed right over the edge.

Fear is an entirely appropriate and indeed necessary emotion when facing danger. Proper fear ignites the “fight or flight” response in the animal world. And for human beings, we too experience a “fight or flight” response to danger, or harm to life. But our response is much deeper than simply the instinct to survive. Author Scott Bader-Saye argues: “We fear evil because it threatens the things we love—family, friends, community, peace, and life itself.  The only sure way to avoid fear, then, is to love less or not at all. If we loved nothing, we would have no fear, but this would hardly be considered a good thing.”(1) We are afraid of losing that which we love.

Interestingly enough, more than any other command in the Christian bible, Christians are commanded to “fear not,” and to “not be afraid.”(2) In fact, the admonition to not be afraid is offered up 366 times (one for every day of the year and for Leap Year). And just like my instructor, who uttered those words right in the middle of a crisis, so too, the writers of Scripture record these words in the midst of a crisis, or prior to one’s life being turned upside down. In the birth narratives of both John the Baptist and Jesus, for example, Zacharias and Mary are told “do not be afraid” even though they are being visited by an angelic being, not a likely or typical visitor. Furthermore, Mary is unmarried, just a young girl. Surely, she must have feared the repercussions of an unplanned pregnancy, including the possibility of her betrothed, Joseph, rejecting her. In the very midst of their worst fears, these and other biblical figures are told not to be afraid.

For many living in today’s world, do not be afraid evokes images of ostriches with their heads in the sand as the world collapses around them. In the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the mayhem that followed, the residents of Massachusetts can attest that uttering these words sounds just as naïve and perplexing as my instructor’s words to me right as my horse backed me off the eight-foot embankment. We have many, many reasons to feel afraid largely because we feel we have so much to lose. Do not be afraid echoes in our heads, whether or not we claim the Christian faith, and we wonder how to live courageously in a world filled with jagged edges and eight-foot embankments that would seek to claim all that is near and dear to us.

While there are no explicit references to hope in the teaching of Jesus, he too encouraged his followers to “not be anxious” but to trust in the God who could be trusted even in the face of our anxieties. Hope, contrary to what many of us might believe, is not the absence of fear but often arises in the midst of fear. It is both that which anchors us in the midst of the storm, and that which compels us to move forward—however ploddingly—towards goals, others, and the God whom the apostle Paul names the “God of hope” in his letter to the Romans. We hold on to hope, just as I held on while my horse slid backwards with me on her back, down the embankment that seemed without bottom, down to what I feared would end her life and my life. It is a desperate clinging to the God who is mysterious, and of whom we do not have control. There is a mystery in hope because we do not know how God will intervene.

I lived to tell about my horse-riding adventure without even a broken bone—not my own bones, or the bones of my horse. I couldn’t see the wide trail below me that would hold me, and would offer sure footing for my wayward steed. Our lives are often this way; we are often afraid because we cannot see where we will land. In the midst of broken bodies, maimed or decimated limbs, and in the loss of life itself fear can blind, disorient, and dismantle all that was normal before. But hope longs to hold us and to ground us in the midst of our fears. Hope is like a broad place, a wide trail underneath us. And though we know of those who fell and were not caught, though we all know that eventually life will end for all whom we love and hold dear, though we often fear a world destroying itself, the God of hope is at work raising the dead to life. Do not be afraid.

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

(1) Scott Bader-Saye, Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007), 39-40.

(2) Lloyd Ogilvie cited in John Ortberg, If You Want To Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of The Boat (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 118.

Alistair Begg – How Are You Fighting Sin?

 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  Romans 8:37

We go to Christ for forgiveness, and then too often look to the law for power to fight our sins. Paul issues this rebuke: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? . . . Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Take your sins to Christ’s cross, for the flesh can only be crucified there: We are crucified with Him. The only weapon to fight sin with is the spear that pierced the side of Jesus.

To give an illustration–if you want to overcome an angry temper, how do you go about it? It is very possible that you have never tried the right way of going to Jesus with it. How did I get salvation? I came to Jesus just as I was, and I trusted Him to save me. I must kill my angry temper in the same way. It is the only way in which I can ever kill it. I must go to the cross with it and say to Jesus, “Lord, I trust You to deliver me from it.” This is the only way to give it a deathblow.

Are you covetous? Do you feel the world entangle you? You may struggle against this evil as long as you please, but if it is your besetting sin, you will never be delivered from it in any other way than by the blood of Jesus. Take it to Christ. Tell Him, “Lord, I have trusted You, and Your name is Jesus, for You save Your people from their sins. Lord, this is one of my sins; save me from it!”

Ordinances are nothing without Christ as a means of mortification. Your prayers, and your repentances, and your tears–the whole of them put together–are worth nothing apart from Him. Only Jesus can do helpless sinners good, and helpless saints too. You must be conquerors through Him who has loved you if you will be a conqueror at all. Our laurels must grow among His olives in Gethsemane.

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.