Tag Archives: holy spirit

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –   Where Was God?

 

Over the last couple of weeks, Kenya, my homeland, has been thrust into the international news headlines due to the senseless massacre of students at the Garissa University. I am deeply saddened by the horrific nature of this tragedy, and I join the many across the world who have been praying for the victims. I especially pray with all sincerity for the parents, siblings, relatives, and friends of the 148 people who lost their lives, and those who were injured. I cannot even begin to imagine the agony the victims of this brutality have been going through.

It has been said that human beings are the only creatures in the world who have learned to ask questions instead of relying on instincts. In times like these, our questions are unleashed upon us in the fullest of force. What can we do? Where was God? These are perhaps two of the most frequent and important questions.

Short of turning back the clock, there is nothing any human being can do to erase the pain of what has taken place. But I would begin by encouraging you to pray sincerely for those affected by this tragedy. Only God can touch the hearts of the victims with his comforting presence. Pray that the authorities will be able to do all they can to bring the terrorists to justice. And yes, pray also for the perpetrators of this evil. From the very pages of the Scriptures to our own day, we meet people, like the Apostle Paul, who singled out others for extermination and who later became heroes of the faith.

In addition to prayer, we also need to remember the victims in an active manner. We are grateful that many world leaders have condemned these attacks, and a few have promised to stand with Kenya in the aftermath of this tragedy. But judging from previous experiences, it is reasonable to expect that the world will soon forget, and move on to another crisis. It can be overwhelming to think of trying to help in the midst of all that goes wrong in our world.

But if we really mean it when we ask what we can do, we need to identify whatever is within our power to do and get involved. These acts of terror and brutality are not just a problem for the victims; they are an affront to humanity. It is incumbent upon all of us to act, including those who insist that their religion has been hijacked by fanatics and that it has nothing to do with terrorism.

We need to let the victims know that they are not forgotten, and our promise to stand with them must be backed by action. Those who work with organizations like Wellspring International, RZIM’s humanitarian arm, know firsthand how meaningful it is to reach out to those who feel abandoned when their crisis no longer makes the headlines. We need to live up to the conviction many of us claim to hold: that all lives, from Los Angeles to Lagos and from Geneva to Garissa, matter.

So then, where was God? This is one question that inevitably comes up when tragedy strikes. It is most pertinent for those who claim that God is all-good and all-powerful. In other words, it is the very goodness of God that gives rise to the question. Deny God, and you lose the right to raise the question of evil, for without God there is no particular way things ought to be. But why would a morally perfect God fail to intervene to stop these atrocities?

One can approach this question in two ways: (1) from an intellectual perspective or (2) from an emotional perspective. In the face of tragedy, the most vexing issue is not whether or not there is a logical contradiction between believing in a perfect God given the reality of evil at the same time. That is actually easier to handle. By creating us as moral beings, God gave us the ability to choose, and with that ability came the possibility of evil.

Our ability to choose is at once God’s most powerful means of conferring dignity upon us as well as a deadly gift, depending on how we choose to use it. Nevertheless, we need to note that God’s jurisdiction extends beyond this life, and when all is said and done, every human being will be held accountable for his or her actions. So the intellectual side of the equation is easier to address. The most difficult problem is the emotional angst one inescapably feels while trying to understand why God would seemingly stand by and watch as these horrendous activities take place.

But it is in the very face of this troublesome question that the gospel message speaks with unparalleled authority and beauty. A day after the Garissa massacre, Christians all over the world celebrated Good Friday—a day in which we remember the ghastly murder of God’s innocent Son, Jesus Christ, on a Roman cross. The crucifixion was preceded by many hours of unbelievable flogging and humiliation.

In the face of this untold horror, Jesus raised this very question with God the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(1)

So, where was God when his Son suffered a slow, excruciating death on the cross? In biblical terms, God made the arrangement for this event before the world began.(2) And about seven hundred years before the crucifixion, the prophet Isaiah wrote,

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.(3)

God knew the choices we would make and the depth of the evil in the human heart. God made arrangements for a rescue plan—a plan that has proven to be incredibly effective to multitudes.

A story that has emerged from Garissa offers us a powerful analogy. One of the students, Hellen Titus, told the Kenyan media how she was able to escape from the tragedy as the shooters hovered over her and her fellow students. She covered herself with someone else’s blood and was thereby mistaken for dead.

That is exactly what Jesus has done for us; he invites us to be covered with his blood so that we can live. And when we are thus protected, we may grieve, but we do not grieve like those without hope, and we do not fear those who can only kill the body but cannot touch the soul.

So, why doesn’t God intervene in these types of situations? He has.

J.M. Njoroge is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Matthew 27:46

(2) Revelation 13:8

(3) Isaiah 53:5

Alistair Begg – Precious Blood!

 

…the precious blood of Christ.1 Peter 1:19

Standing at the foot of the cross, we see hands and feet and side all distilling crimson streams of “precious blood.” It is “precious” because of its redeeming and atoning efficacy. By it the sins of Christ’s people are atoned for; they are redeemed from under the law; they are reconciled to God, made one with Him.

Christ’s blood is also “precious” in its cleansing power; it cleanses from all sin. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”1 Through Jesus’ blood there is not a spot left upon any believer; no wrinkle nor any such thing remains. O precious blood that makes us clean, removing the stains of our iniquity and permitting us to stand accepted in the Beloved despite the many ways in which we have rebelled against our God.

The blood of Christ is also “precious” in its preserving power. We are safe from the destroying angel under the sprinkled blood. Remember, it is God’s seeing the blood that is the true reason for our being spared. Here is comfort for us when the eye of faith is dim, for God’s eye is still the same.

The blood of Christ is “precious” also in its sanctifying influence. The same blood that justifies by taking away sin also quickens the new nature and leads it onward to subdue sin and to obey the commands of God. There is no greater motive for holiness than that which streams from the veins of Jesus. And “precious,” unspeakably precious, is this blood because it has an overcoming power. It is written, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb.”2 How could they do otherwise? He who fights with the precious blood of Jesus fights with a weapon that cannot know defeat.

The blood of Jesus! Sin dies at its presence; death ceases to be death: Heaven’s gates are opened. The blood of Jesus! We shall march on, conquering and to conquer, so long as we can trust its power!

  1. Isaiah 1:18 2. Revelation 12:11

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Christ—our substitute

 

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 53:10-12

In no sense is he ever a guilty man, but always is he an accepted and a holy one. What, then, is the meaning of that very forcible expression of my text? We must interpret Scriptural modes of expression by the words of the speakers. We know that our Master once said himself, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood;” he did not mean that the cup was the covenant. He said, “Take, eat, this is my body”—none of us conceives that the bread is the literal flesh and blood of Christ. We take that bread as if it were the body, and it actually represents it. Now, we are to read a passage like this, according to the analogy of faith. Jesus Christ was made by his Father sin for us, that is, he was treated as if he had himself been sin. He was not sin; he was not sinful; he was not guilty; but, he was treated by his Father, as if he had not only been sinful, but as if he had been sin itself. That is a strong expression used here. Not only has he made him to be the substitute for sin, but to be sin. God looked on Christ as if Christ had been sin; not as if he had taken up the sins of his people, or as if they were laid on him, though that were true, but as if he himself had positively been that noxious—that God-hating—that soul-damning thing, called sin. When the judge of all the earth said, “Where is sin?” Christ presented himself. He stood before his Father as if he had been the accumulation of all human guilt; as if he himself were that thing which God cannot endure, but which he must drive from his presence for ever.

For meditation: God regarded Christ crucified just as if he were sin, not Son. The substitutionary atonement is the key which enables the Christian to make use of the description “Just as if I’d never sinned.”

Sermon no. 310

16 April (Preached 15 April 1860)

John MacArthur –  Commended or Condemned?

 

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

God commends merciful people but condemns the merciless.

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

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

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

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

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

For Further Study; Read Romans 1:29-31. How did Paul characterize the ungodly?

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A Healthy, Growing Body

 

“Instead, we will lovingly follow the truth at all times – speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly – and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is the Head of His body, the church. Under His direction the whole body is fitted together perfectly, and each part in its own special way helps the other parts, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

I am concerned, as you no doubt are, that God’s ideal church, in which the whole body is fitted together perfectly, becomes a reality. And if that is to happen, it will mean that I must become a part of that perfect fit.

Within the body of Christ, each of us has a unique function. True, two people might have similar functions just as a body has two hands that function similarly. But those two hands are not identical. Just try to wear a lefthand glove on your right hand!

The hands have similar functions, not identical functions. You and I might have similar abilities, but we are not identical. We are unique creations of God.

Therefore, we should not look upon our abilities with pride or be boastful of them. On the other hand, we should not be envious or look with disdain on others because of their different abilities.

Spiritual gifts include (1 Corinthians 12): wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostleship, teaching, helping, and administration; (Romans 12, additional): leadership, exhortation, giving and mercy.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:7-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  So that I might fit more perfectly into God’s whole body, I will prayerfully seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit to enable me to make a maximum contribution to the body of Christ.

Greg Laurie – Time to Grow Up

 

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. —Hebrews 6:1

With five grandchildren, I have discovered that it is actually enjoyable to go out and shop for babies. Today products for infants are so much cooler and high-tech than when Cathe and I had our boys. It is fun to get all of the little things for children that help them along in their growth process.

At first babies don’t do a whole lot because they are completely dependent on their mothers. But then they get a little bit older and start eating baby food. After a while, they can start eating food that has been chopped up in very small pieces for them. But you still have to keep them interested in what they’re eating by making airplane noises with the spoon.

That is all fine. But it is not fine when a child is thirteen years old and you still have to do airplane noises. You want to teach a child to grow up. You want to teach a child to eat adult food. Eventually you want to teach a child to be a young adult and ultimately to take care of himself or herself. That is part of growing up.

There are believers today who have known the Lord for ten, fifteen, or twenty years, and they are still like infants. They need their spiritual food in small pieces. Everything needs to be entertaining. Everything needs to be fun.

But the Bible says, “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding” (Hebrews 6:1).

I think it is time for all of us to grow up and be mature men and women of God, because the Christian life is following Jesus not only as our Savior but also as our Lord.

 

Max Lucado – Surrogate Spirituality

 

Some of us have tried to have a daily quiet time and have not been successful. Others of us have a hard time concentrating. And all of us are busy. So rather than spending time with God, listening for his voice, we’ll let others spend time with him and then benefit from their experience. Let them tell us what God is saying. After all, isn’t that why we pay preachers? Isn’t that why we read Christian books?

If that’s your approach, I’d like to challenge you with this thought: Do you do that with other parts of your life? I don’t think so. You don’t let someone eat on your behalf, do you?  Do others take vacations as your surrogate? Listening to God is a firsthand experience. When he asks for your attention, God doesn’t want you to send a substitute. He wants you!

From Just Like Jesus

Our Daily Bread — Too Much For Me

 

Read: Matthew 26:36-46
Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 27-29; Luke 13:1-22

O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. —Matthew 26:39

“God never gives us more than we can handle,” someone said to a father whose 5-year-old son had just lost his battle with cancer. These words, which were intended to encourage him, instead depressed him and caused him to wonder why he wasn’t “handling” the loss of his boy at all. The pain was so much to bear that he could hardly even breathe. He knew his grief was too much for him and that he desperately needed God to hold him tight.

The verse that some use to support the statement “God never gives us more than we can handle” is 1 Corinthians 10:13, “When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (niv). But the context of these words is temptation, not suffering. We can choose the way out of temptation that God provides, but we can’t choose a way out of suffering.

Jesus Himself wanted a way out of His upcoming suffering when He prayed, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. . . . O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:38-39). Yet He willingly went through this for our salvation.

When life seems too much to bear, that’s when we throw ourselves on God’s mercy, and He holds on to us. —Anne Cetas

Father, I feel vulnerable and weak. I know You are my refuge and strength, my help in trouble. I call upon Your name, Lord. Hold on to me.

With God behind you and His arms beneath you, you can face whatever lies ahead.

INSIGHT: Despite the fact that the crucifixion of Jesus was part of the divine plan for the restoration of humanity, Jesus was still apprehensive about the physical suffering He was about to endure. This fear is one of the strongest evidences of His humanity.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – GOD AS GARDNER

 

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …

When the morning stars sang in chorus, and all the sons of

God shouted for joy?

These are just two of the long list of questions asked of the ancient character Job. God’s interrogation bursts forth like thunder, breaking God’s long, unnerving silence with a clap that seems to drown out Job himself. I can read them as a harsh sting, as a silencing gavel to Job’s objections, akin to the response of an exasperated parent putting an end to the child’s inquisitive clamoring with the trump card of a louder sovereignty: Because I’m the parent, that’s why. It is God as Creator imagined something more like God as tyrant.

Our imagining of God is often a complicated collection of stories, images, memories, and emotions, some of which may well be more accurate—or heightened in our minds for whatever reason—than others. I long read God’s response to Job’s pain and questions with the sting of an angry or weary parent. It was the imagination of another that helped me ask: what if these words aren’t said angrily, but with gentle lament for the created world in the life of even one wilting soul? What if these words respond to both the vast pain of creation where it groans in need and the vast beauty of creation where it remains a wonder of good? Such questions thunder a bit differently.

A theology professor of mine who grew up farming speaks readily about the creation of the world through the landscape of gardening. I remember the first time I heard him simply read from the creation story. As he read aloud and commented on the story, it was as if I was hearing it again for the first time. Parts of it, I am certain, I had never heard before. Genesis chapter 2, the account of creation that Christians and Jews hold as sacred text, says that God planted a garden in Eden to the east. God, the gardener.

I can’t say that I have ever heard a sermon about creation as gardening, the creator as gardener. I had never considered what such an identity of God might mean to me or to the world around me. Yet here is one of the first passages in the Bible where we are introduced to who God is—and God is not a warrior or a judge or even a sovereign, but first, a gardener, a nurturer of all life, protector and planter, a designer, keeper, and pruner concerned with life’s flourishing. My own experiences with gardening bring to mind an entirely different set of emotions and dispositions than I typically consider God as having: delight in dirty hands and my own investment into the life I’ve planted, the thrill of fruit, the gentle attention to life, the compilation and cooperation with so many different factors—wind and rain, sun and predators—and the pleasure of simply being near it. “Gardens are a form of autobiography,” someone said. God as gardener, the intimate vision at creation’s beginning, can be traced throughout the Old Testament, in the psalms and in the prophets. Jesus, too, concurs: I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

Such a reading of the world’s creation and the thought of a gardener tending to me, stirs a response akin to that of the man after God’s own heart:

When I survey this vast world, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars and all that you have established, what are mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings in whatever state of despair or joy or smallness that you still care for them?

Magnificent and intimate, powerful and gentle, God as gardener, whose deepest concern is life’s flourishing, makes no clearer a case than in Easter’s undoing of death and the vicarious humanity of the resurrected Son. How fitting that the place of the tomb and resurrection is also described as a garden, and Jesus himself is mistaken as the gardener on that creative morning. The Maker of all creation, the Gardener who tends to the world, carefully continues to make things new.

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

Alistair Begg – Has He Forsaken You?

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Psalm 22:1

Here we view the Savior in the depth of His sorrows. No other place displays the griefs of Christ like this, and no other moment at Calvary is so full of agony as when His cry rends the air–“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” At this moment physical weakness was united with acute mental torture from the shame and ignominy through which He had to pass; His grief culminated in suffering the spiritual agony beyond all telling that resulted from the departure of His Father’s presence. This was the black midnight of His horror–when He descended the abyss of suffering.

No man can enter into the full meaning of these words. Some of us think at times that we could cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There are seasons when the brightness of our Father’s smile is eclipsed by clouds and darkness; but let us remember that God never really does forsake us. It is only a seeming forsaking with us, but in Christ’s case it was a real forsaking. We grieve at a little withdrawal of our Father’s love; but the real turning away of God’s face from His Son–who can calculate how deep the agony that caused Him?

In our case, our cry is often dictated by unbelief: In His case, it was the utterance of a dreadful fact, for God had really turned away from Him for a season. Poor, distressed soul who once lived in the sunshine of God’s face but now in darkness, remember that He has not really forsaken you. God in the clouds is as much our God as when He shines forth in all the beauty of His grace; but since even the thought that He has forsaken us gives us agony, what must the suffering of the Savior have been when He exclaimed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – The parable of the sower

 

“A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:5-8

Suggested Further Reading: Colossians 1:1-10

The ground was good; not that it was good by nature, but it had been made good by grace. God had ploughed it; he had stirred it up with the plough of conviction, and there it lay in ridge and furrow as it should be. And when the Gospel was preached, the heart received it, for the man said, “That’s just the Christ I want. Mercy!” said he, “it’s just what a needy sinner requires. A refuge! God help me to fly to it, for a refuge I sorely want.” The preaching of the gospel was the vital thing which gave comfort to this disturbed and ploughed soil. Down fell the seed; it sprung up. In some cases it produced a fervency of love, a largeness of heart, a devotedness of purpose, like seed which produced a hundredfold. The man became a mighty servant for God, he spent himself and was spent. He took his place in the vanguard of Christ’s army, stood in the hottest of the battle, and did deeds of daring which few could accomplish,—the seed produced a hundredfold. It fell in another heart of like character;—the man could not do the most, still he did much. He gave himself, just as he was, up to God, and in his business he had a word to say for the business of the world to come. In his daily walk, he quietly adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour,—he brought forth sixtyfold. Then it fell on another, whose abilities and talents were but small; he could not be a star, but he would be a glow-worm; he could not do as the greatest, but he was content to do something, even though it were the least. The seed had brought forth in him tenfold, perhaps twentyfold.

For meditation: Quantity of fruit is desirable, but quality of fruit is essential—fruit that has gone mouldy is useless. The Lord Jesus Christ is looking for fruit in quantity and fruit which lasts (John 15:5,16).

Sermon no. 308
15 April (1860)

John MacArthur – Showing Mercy

 

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

There are many ways to show mercy.

God delights in mercy, and as a believer you have the privilege of showing mercy in many ways. In the physical realm you can give money to the poor, food to the hungry, or a bed to the homeless. God has always wanted His people to be that way. Deuteronomy 15 says, “If there is a poor man with you . . . you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from [him]; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks” (vv. 7-8). Verses 12-14 instruct Israelites who release a slave to provide for the slave’s needs. That was the merciful thing to do.

In the spiritual realm you can show mercy by pitying the lost. St. Augustine said, “If I weep for that body from which the soul is departed, how should I weep for that soul from which God is departed?” (cited by Thomas Watson in The Beatitudes, p. 144). We mourn over the dead but do we mourn as much for lost souls? When Stephen was being stoned, he pitied his wretched murderers, asking God to forgive them (Acts 7:60). Jesus did the same (Luke 23:34). That should be our attitude as well.

Another way of showing mercy is to rebuke sin. Second Timothy 2:24-25 says, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all . . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” It is merciful and loving to rebuke sinners because it gives them a chance to repent and be forgiven.

Prayer is also an act of mercy, as is preaching the gospel. In fact, sharing Christ with someone is the most merciful thing you can do!

There are many more ways to be merciful, but I hope these will stimulate your thinking and encourage you to discover as many ways as possible to pass on the abundant mercy God has shown to you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the mercies you have received from others.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to minister to others.

For Further Study

Determine who receives mercy according to the following verses: Matthew 6:14; Titus 3:5-6; Hebrews 4:14-16; James 2:13; and 1 Peter 2:9-10.

Joyce Meyer – The Lord Is My Rock

 

The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God, my keen and firm Strength in Whom I will trust and take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my High Tower. Psalm 18:2

Why do you think Jesus is referred to as “the Rock”? Because He is stable and never-changing, just like a rock. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever—and we’re supposed to imitate Him.

Waiting to see how you feel each day is never a good idea. Has anyone ever invited you to do something and you responded, “Let me wait and see how I feel”? That just gives the devil room to make sure you don’t feel like doing what you need to do or what can benefit you. We will sometimes have unpleasant times, but we don’t have to live by our feelings; we can choose to stand firm and be stable when we find our strength in the One Who never changes.

Power Thought: In Christ, I am strong and stable

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – His Rich Storehouse 

 

“However, Christ has given each of us special abilities – whatever He wants us to have out of His rich storehouse of gifts” (Ephesians 4:7).

Roger and Len read a popular book on spiritual gifts. Instead of being blessed, they were distressed. They came for counsel.

“What is our gift?” they pleaded, as though I had the ability to immediately discern God’s supernatural provision for them.

“First of all,” I explained, “you should not be exercised over the undue emphasis on gifts, which has been of somewhat recent origin. For centuries, until recent times, men did not make a great deal of that particular emphasis in the Word of God.

“The emphasis was on the authority of the Scripture, the lordship of Christ, the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Great servants of God were mightily used as preachers, missionaries, teachers and godly laymen, without ever being made particularly aware that spiritual gifts were something that needed to be emphasized. The feeling was, ‘Whatever God calls me to do, He will enable me to do, if I am willing to surrender my will to Christ, study the Word of God, obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, work hard and trust God to guide me.'”

I gave them my own testimony of how, though I had been a Christian for more than 30 years and God had graciously used my life in many ways – sometimes my preaching, other times my teaching or administrative gifts, or in the area of helps – I quite honestly did not know my spiritual gift nor did I seek to “discover” my gift. I was very content to know, with the apostle Paul, that I could do all things through Christ who strengthened me, who keeps pouring His power into me. I showed them a quotation from a book on gifts, in which a famous Christian leader declared that for 25 years he had believed he had a particular gift but recently had cause to question whether he possessed it, and concluded finally that he did not.

My word to you, then, as to Roger and Len, is not to be distressed if you do not know your gift. Simply continue to walk in faith and obedience, make Christ the Lord of every part of your life, be sure you are filled with the Spirit, and hide the Word of God in your heart daily.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  For the rest of my life I shall seek the Giver and not the gift, depending upon Him to give me the necessary wisdom and ability and whatever else is needed to accomplish the task which He has called me to do. I shall share this concept with other Christians who are confused over the matter of spiritual gifts.

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Cloudy Days

 

On April 5, NBC launched a miniseries entitled “A.D.” a follow up to the “The Bible” produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. It was reported during filming that while the actors were depicting a scene from Acts, they noticed clouds in the sky formed in the perfect shape of a cross. Downey said they felt it was a sign and a blessing over the work they were doing to bring the Bible to the screen.

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.

Revelation 1:7

Clouds are mentioned often in the Bible. A cloud guided the Israelites through the wilderness (Exodus 40:36). God spoke from a cloud to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:16) and to the select witnesses at the transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:5). Jesus ascended to Heaven after His resurrection in a cloud (Acts 1:9). Today’s verse tells how Christ will return – on clouds of glory.

How many will be ready for His return? Pray today for the nation’s citizens and leaders to trust Christ as their Savior. Ask, too, for revival…so that all may hear of and prepare for His coming.

Recommended Reading: Mark 13:4-13, 24-27

Greg Laurie – How’s Your Service?

 

“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” —Acts 20:35

Some believers have known the Lord for years, yet they think it is all about everyone catering to them. But my question is this: When are they going to grow up and start serving other people?

Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive (see Acts 20:35). In fact, a sign of spiritual growth is that you want to serve—not be served.

I will let you in on a little secret: I have found that as I give, God blesses and replenishes me. As I give, He gives to me. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. . . . For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

If we go through life thinking, I need this or I want that, we will never quite have enough. That is why we need to learn the joy of giving and the joy of serving. The church isn’t a place where we simply have our needs met; it’s a place where we help to meet the needs of others.

The church is also a place where we discover our spiritual gifts. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men’ ” (verses 7–8). God wants to give you (or has given you) spiritual gifts—gifts to use for His glory.

I think we need to start saying, “How can I help? What can I do? I want to be serving the Lord in some way, shape, or form.” That is a mark of spiritual maturity.

Max Lucado – Let God Have You

 

How long has it been since you let God have you? I mean really have you? How long since you gave him a portion of undiluted, uninterrupted time listening for his voice?

Apparently, Jesus did. He made a deliberate effort to spend time with God. Spend much time reading about the listening life of Jesus and a distinct pattern emerges. He spent regular time with God, praying and listening. Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Luke tells us, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Let me ask the obvious. If Jesus, the Son of God, the sinless Savior of humankind, thought it worthwhile to clear his calendar to pray, wouldn’t we be wise to do the same?

From Just Like Jesus

Encouragement for Today – The Danger of an Empty Heart by Lynn Cowell.

 

“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Psalm 145:16 (NIV)

I’ve come to the realization that every choice I make is actually a trade.

Some trades are good. On the days I trade a half hour of sleep for extra time with Jesus in God’s Word … that’s a great trade. The time I chose to keep dusting as my daughter shared her heart with me … that was a horrible trade. Taking care of my body or indulging in a little more dessert? It’s all about what trade I will make.

There’s a guy in the Bible, not much different than me, who also made a trade. His name was Esau, and the story of his dealings are found in Genesis 25.

Esau was the twin brother of Jacob. Esau, like me, was an outdoorsy type. Jacob, unlike me, liked to hang out in the kitchen.

One day, after being out in the open country, Esau returned home exhausted and famished to find Jacob cooking some stew. He said, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew!” (Genesis 25:30, NIV).

Jacob, being the conniving type, saw an opportunity to play let’s-make-a-deal with his older brother. He made a proposition, “First, sell me your birthright”(Genesis 25:31, NIV).

According to Jewish tradition, fathers gave the birthright to the firstborn son. The eldest would receive the title of the family name (maybe something like the way royalty passes on the family title) and a double portion of his father’s inheritance.

Maybe Esau thought Jacob’s proposition was a lighthearted toss, so he threw back an exaggerated, sarcastic response: “Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32, NIV)

That’s all it took. He swore an oath and got his bowl of stew.

Some trade.

When I first read this account I thought: Really? Give away all of your rights for a bowl of stew?

What would possess Esau to make such an uneven exchange?

Take a closer look at the word describing Esau’s condition: famished. Extremely hungry, starving, empty, hollow. I think Esau’s condition had a lot to do with his decision. Past the point of being hungry, he was empty.

Hollow.

If Esau would have grabbed a snack while waiting for the meal preparation, he could have been sated until all was ready. The temptation to give up the best of later for the quick fix of now wouldn’t have had such a tantalizing pull.

Esau and I are a lot alike. When I’m “hungry” — whether that looks like loneliness, fear or tiredness — I can make some unwise decisions. When my heart is empty, I can make an unequal trade out of desperation. In this condition, I am tempted to:

Make quick decisions
Speed had everything to do with Esau’s choice. He wanted his problem fixed now! It wasn’t hard for Jacob to manipulate a man who wouldn’t wait.

Exaggerate my condition
Esau told his brother he was about to die. Someone who has been out in the open country all day doesn’t seem to be at death’s door.

Make unwise decisions
Esau gave up the best of what he had for a bowl of stew.

What’s the trade you’re facing? Does it have to do with how you spend your time, invest in relationships, or take care of yourself? Maybe you find yourself trading intimacy with your husband for a romance novel? Sacrificing financial freedom for “having it all”? Bypassing time with your kids for the project at work? The trade presents itself in many different ways.

Today’s key verse in Psalm 145:16 tells us, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Jesus will satisfy our hungers and allow us to see the truth of the trade if we turn to Him. Then, we can see the exchange for what it is.

What trades are you tempted to make today? Let’s learn from Esau. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is worth the trade if it means giving up God’s very best.

Father, I think often I am unaware that I am making a trade. Open my eyes to see the temptation for what it is and empower me by Your Holy Spirit to make the right choices for Your honor and glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 90:14, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (NIV)

Isaiah 58:11, “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Do you know a young woman making some unhealthy trades? Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants by Lynn Cowell can help her learn to make wise choices.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What are some of the trades, good or bad, that you make on a regular basis?

Take a moment to ask the Lord to help you see these choices and give you the strength to make the best trades in the week ahead.

Night Light for Couples – Your Father’s Arms

 

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father… encourage your hearts and strengthen you.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17

A talented young athlete, the son of a star baseball player, was struggling in the minor leagues and expected to be released any day. During one game, he came to bat having already struck out once and quickly rang up two more strikes. Then the catcher trotted away for a conference with the pitcher. The umpire, standing behind the plate, spoke to the young man. “You hold the bat just the way your dad held it,” he said. “I can see his genes in you. You have your father’s arms.” On the next pitch, the young man knocked the ball out of the park. His play improved remarkably, and soon he was called up to the major leagues. When asked what changed his game, the young man gave credit to the umpire’s words. “After that,” he explained, “whenever I swung the bat, I just imagined that I was using Dad’s arms instead of my own.”

In your ministry of encouragement in your marriage, remember to use your Father’s arms. Maybe you recall the biblical example of Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement.” The Bible says he was “full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24), and his gift was invaluable in helping the apostle Paul lead others to Christ during their missionary journeys.

Do you sometimes feel inadequate to help others? God Himself is ready to encourage you—and to bless you with His strength to encourage those you love.

Just between us…

  • What’s your favorite form of encouragement?
  • In what ways do I encourage you without words?
  • How can we best tap into God’s resources to encourage each other?

Almighty God, thank You for Your gifts of encouragement and comfort to us. Help us to draw on Your strength as we encourage one another. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson

Our Daily Bread — Don’t Worry!

 

 

Read: 1 Peter 5:1-11
Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 25-26; Luke 12:32-59

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. —1 Peter 5:7

George Burns, American actor and humorist, said, “If you ask, ‘What is the single most important key to longevity?’ I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress, and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” Burns, who lived to be 100, enjoyed making people laugh, and apparently followed his own advice.

But how can we keep from worrying when our lives are so uncertain, so filled with problems and needs? The apostle Peter offered this encouragement to the followers of Jesus who had been forcibly scattered across Asia during the first century: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Peter’s instructions were not given to help us avoid suffering (v.9), but so we can find peace and power to stand victorious against the attacks of Satan (vv.8-10). Instead of being consumed by anxiety and worry, we are set free to enjoy God’s love for us and express it to each other.

Our goal should not be to see how many years we can live but instead to live fully in loving service to the Lord for all the years we are given. —David McCasland

Lord, I admit that I take things into my own hands and worry. That weighs my spirit down and sometimes robs my nights of rest. Lift the heaviness from my heart as I lean into You.

I will never think of anything that [God, my Father,] will forget, so why should I worry? —Oswald Chambers

INSIGHT: Peter’s words in verses 1-3 are a challenge to those who serve in shepherding ministries—that is, as pastors or spiritual leaders. He reminds us that those who serve as shepherds are to reflect the heart of the good, great, and chief Shepherd—Jesus (see John 10).