Tag Archives: holy spirit

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  Losing Ground

 

Mine is not a heritage that deeply associates identity with the land on which that identity was forged. My ancestors packed every belonging they were able to place on a boat (including, I’m certain much to someone’s chagrin, a nine foot corner cupboard) and eventually made their way to Ohio. It was not easy for them; Irish immigrants were not well-received. But they made a life for themselves far away from all they once knew as home, choosing to distance themselves from the land of their forefathers in more ways than one. They even changed the spelling of their surname so that “home” would be less recognizable. For some immigrants, the land they leave is never far from their minds—and often this is true even of the generations who have never seen this land for themselves. This was not the case with my ancestors.

It was not until I spent time within a Native American community (and later the intertwining worlds of the Palestinians and Israelis) that I came to realize the powerful pull of a homeland, even for those who hold it only in the imaginative longings of their minds. For those of us who view land in terms of property lines and economics, there is a giant chasm that separates us from those who define geography as life and spirit. The tragic role of geography in the story of every Native American tribe is easily recognizable, but the spiritual, personal, and physical weight of that offense is often grossly miscalculated. “To us when your land is gone, you are walking toward a slow spiritual death,” says a Shoshone elder who has fought persistently for access to Shoshone land. “We have come to the point that death is better than living without your spirituality.”(1)

Such intensity in the name of place and homeland is not unique to Native America. For the people of ancient Israel, the relationship between land and faith was equally profound. The destructive loss of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. was infinitely more to them than the loss of home and property. For them it was the loss of faith, identity, and God’s presence. Walter Brueggemann writes of Jerusalem’s destruction: “The deep sense of displacement evoked by the loss led to the conclusion in some quarters that all the old promises of YHWH to Israel—and consequently Israel’s status as YHWH’s people and Jerusalem’s status as YHWH’s city—were placed in deep jeopardy.”(2)

The book of Lamentations is intricately bound to this all-encompassing loss. The book offers five poems of profound lament, each an attempt to put into words the abrupt reality of physical, spiritual, and personal exile. The poems are acrostic in style, meaning that each line of the poem begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet—as if the loss and grief of Israel is “expressed in totality and completeness from A to Z.”(3) Like an ancient funeral song, the writer’s words are consumed with the death that is homelessness in this deepest sense of the word.

“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness

is wormwood and gall!

My soul continually thinks of it

and is bowed down within me” (Lamentations 3:19-20).

For lives in exiled disarray, spirits torn from their homes, these words declare a misery deeper than many of us know. Yet this is not to say it is a misery unknown. On the contrary, the ache of homelessness is a well-recognized human experience. Though I am not among third and fourth generations of immigrants who hold visions of their homelands near, this does not at all suggest that the mark of lostness is foreign. Unexplained hope for a better land, longing for a place unknown but somehow known, feeling like a stranger though at home—such thoughts plague the most nomadic among us.

The writer of Lamentations gives voice to the uncertainty of exile, the finality of a destroyed Jerusalem, and the death of home in the deepest sense. But the writer also dares give voice in the midst of exile to the promise of restoration—in the assurance of coming home to one who never left. No matter the place of loss, wandering, or exile, no matter the distance, no matter the depth, the arm of God is not too short to save.

“But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,

‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:21-24).

Why should there be the notion of homelessness at all, if there is no such thing as home? Surely there is one who prepares a room for us, one who answers every real and imaginative longing for a homeland, every injustice of being torn from one’s home, and the mountains of sin and sorrow which block our vision of our place forever at his table. For both the wanderer and the exile, surely there is immense hope in a kingdom that is both present and coming, a homecoming we now see in part but one day will experience face to face.

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

(1) Sandy Johnson, ed., The Book of Elders (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994), 127.

(2) Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 334.

(3) Ibid., 335.

Charles Spurgeon – Jesus washing his disciples’ feet

 

‘Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?’ John 13:6

Suggested Further Reading: Philemon 4–20

The Scottish Baptists were accustomed to wash the saints’ feet literally; I dare say it would not do some of the saints much hurt; but still it never was intended for us to carry out literally the example of the Saviour; there is a spiritual meaning here, and what he means is this. If there be any deed of kindness or love that we can do for the very meanest and most obscure of God’s people, we ought to be willing to do it—to be servants to God’s servants—to feel like Abigail did, when she said to David, ‘Let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.’ Abigail became David’s wife; but yet she felt she was not worthy even to wash his servants’ feet. That must be our spirit. Do you know a brother who is rather angry in temper, and he wants a kind word said to him, and some one says, ‘I will not speak to any such person as he is’? Do it—do it, my dear brother; go and wash his feet! Do you know one who has gone astray? Some one says, ‘I would not like to be seen in association with him.’ My dear friend, you are spiritual; go and restore such a one in the spirit of meekness. Wash his feet! There is another riding the high horse; he is very very proud. One says, ‘I am not going to humble myself to him.’ My dear brother, go to him, and wash his feet! Whenever there is a child of God who has any defilement upon him, and you are able to point it out and rid him of it, submit to any degradation, put yourself in any position, sooner than that child of God should be the subject of sin.

For meditation: The New Testament gives Christians many instructions about their mutual behaviour towards one another. Check yourself against these commands: 1. In general—love; have peace; be likeminded; care. 2. In attitude—be subject; esteem better; prefer; forbear; forgive; be kind; consider; receive. 3. In speech—exhort; comfort; edify; greet; teach; admonish; confess; pray. 4. In action—bear burdens; serve; minister; use hospitality. Whose ‘feet’ are you ‘washing’ (John 13:14)?

Sermon no. 612

29 January (1865)

John MacArthur – Serving the Supreme One

 

God exalted Christ “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet” (Eph. 1:21-22).

Now and forever Christ is the Supreme One!

Yesterday we saw that Christ has both an exalted name and an exalted, authoritative position. In verses 21-22 Paul elaborates on the extent of Christ’s authority, which is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.”

“Rule,” “authority,” “power,” and “dominion” are designations for angelic beings, whether good or evil (cf. Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16). In His incarnation Christ was made lower in rank than the angels that He might suffer death on our behalf (Heb. 2:9). Now He has “become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4), and the Father commands all the angels to worship the Son (v. 6).

But Christ’s rule extends far beyond angelic beings. In Ephesians 1:21 the phrase “every name that is named” is a general reference to any form of authority—whether angelic or human, eternal or temporal. Now and forever Christ is the Supreme One! Ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).

The implications of that truth are staggering. For example Christ precedes the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, the heart of Christian evangelism and discipleship, with this significant statement: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

Ultimately your evangelism and discipleship efforts will bear fruit because they are backed by the authority of Christ Himself. Does that encourage you to seize every opportunity to share Christ and His Word with others? It should!

Be faithful today, realizing that you represent the One in whom lies all authority. Nothing can thwart His purposes.

Suggestions for Prayer; Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to a lost soul or anyone else you can encourage from the Word. Be sensitive to His leading.

For Further Study; Read Colossians 1:15-23.

  • What was Christ’s role in creation (vv. 15-17)?
  • What is His role in the church (v. 18)? In salvation (v. 23)?
  • What place have you given Him in your life?

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Knew His Future

 

“Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up'” (John 2:19, KJV).

A missionary in Turkey sought to teach the truth of the resurrection of Christ to a group of people.

“I am traveling, and I have reached a place where the road branches off in two ways,” he said. “I look for a guide, and find two men – one dead, and the other alive. Which of the two must I ask for direction – the dead or the living?”

“Oh, the living!” cried the people.

“Then,” said the missionary, “why send me to Mohammed, who is dead, instead of to Christ, who is alive?”

Jesus is the only person who has ever accurately predicted his own resurrection. He said He would be raised from the dead on the third day after dying on the cross for our sins, and He was!

Further, He was seen on many different occasions after His resurrection – once by as many as 500 people. He still lives today in the hearts of all who have placed their faith in Him, demonstrating His life of love and forgiveness through them.

Whenever men meet the living Christ, they are changed. The whole course of history has been changed because of Him.

“The gospel not only converts the individual, but it also changes society,” historian Philip Schaff wrote. “Everywhere the gospel has been preached, dramatic change has resulted. It has established standards of hygiene and purity, promoted industry, elevated womanhood, restrained antisocial customs, abolished human sacrifices, organized famine relief, checked tribal wars and changed the social structure of society.

“Born in a manger and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe.”

Bible Reading: John 2:20-25

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will reflect often today on the fact that the risen Christ of history is the same loving Savior who now lives within me, offering me His love, His peace, His comfort, His wisdom, His strength. I will claim by faith His resurrection life to enable me to live supernaturally each moment of every day.

 

Charles Spurgeon – The kingly priesthood of the saints

 

“And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:10

Suggested Further Reading: Mark 14:32-42

Jesus said, “I will take the cup of salvation;” and he did take it—the cup of our deliverance. Bitter were its drops; gall lay in its depths; there were groans, and sighs, and tears, within the red mixture; but he took it all, and drank it to its dregs, and swallowed all the awful draught. All was gone. He drank the cup of salvation, and he ate the bread of affliction. See him, as he drinks the cup in Gethsemane, when the fluid of that cup did mingle with his blood, and make each drop a scalding poison. Mark how the hot feet of pain did travel down his veins. See how each nerve is twisted and contorted with his agony. Behold his brow covered with sweat; witness the agonies as they follow each other into the very depths of his soul. Speak, you lost, and tell what hell’s torment means; but you cannot tell what the torments of Gethsemane were. Oh! the deep unutterable! There was a depth which couched beneath, when our Redeemer bowed his head, when he placed himself between the upper and nether millstones of his Father’s vengeance, and when his whole soul was ground to powder. Ah! that wrestling God-man—that suffering man of Gethsemane! Weep o’er, saints—weep o’er him; when you see him rising from that prayer in the garden, marching forth to his cross; when you picture him hanging on his cross four long hours in the scorching sun, overwhelmed by his Father’s passing wrath—when you see his side streaming with gore—when ye hear his death-shriek, “It is finished,”—and see his lips all parched, and moistened by nothing save the vinegar and the gall,—ah! then prostrate yourselves before that cross, bow down before that sufferer, and say, “Thou hast made us—thou hast made us what we are; we are nothing without thee.”

For meditation: Creating us could not have been easier for God—it took just a word. (Genesis 1:26,27). Making us right with himself could not have given him more trouble. The work of salvation was terribly hard for the Lord Jesus Christ, but he completed it. It would have been absolutely impossible for us.

Sermon no. 10

28 January (1855)

Joyce Meyer – Hold Your Tongue

 

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it! —Psalm 34:13-14

“You really have the gift of gab,” one man told me many years ago, when I first started in the ministry. He had pointed out something that I already knew: God had given me “a ready tongue,” that is, I speak easily. Words are my tools. The Lord first gave me that gift, and then He called me into the ministry to use that ability to work for Him.

I have no trouble talking. That’s my gift; that’s also been my greatest problem. Because I seem to always have something to say, I have struggled many, many years over the right use of my tongue.

It has not been an easy battle.

Over the years, I heard various people saying things like, “Hold your tongue.” “Do you have to speak every word that comes to your mind?” “Do you always speak first and think later?” “Must you sound so harsh?” Had I truly listened to what people were saying, I might have realized that God was trying to tell me something. But I ignored their comments and continued in my own stubborn ways.

I know I have wounded people with my words in the past, and I am sorry for that. I’m also grateful that God has forgiven me.

Several years ago, I realized that if God was going to use my life, I had to gain control of my tongue not to just stop talking, but to keep my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking deceit, as the psalmist David says.

I had a choice. I could hurt people with my words and I could do that well or I could bring my lips into subjection to God. Obviously, I wanted to be subject to the Lord, but it was still a battle.

Our words are expressions of our hearts of what’s going on inside us. If we want to know who a person really is, all we need to do is listen to their words. If we listen long enough, we learn a lot about them.

As I learned to listen to my own words, I also began to learn a lot about myself. Some of the things I learned did not please me, but they did help me realize that I had a character flaw that needed to be addressed. My words were not pleasing God, and I wanted them to. Once I confessed my failure to God, the victory came, not all at once and not perfectly, but God is patient with me. I’m growing, and part of my growth is keeping my lips from evil.

No matter how negative you are or have been, or how long you’ve been that way, God wants to change you. In the early days after my confession to God, I still failed more often than I succeeded, but every time I did succeed, I knew I was closer to God’s plan for my life. God can do the same for you.

It won’t be easy, but you can win. And the effort will be worth it.

Lord, help me use my mouth for right things. Put a watch over my mouth lest I sin against You with my tongue. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You. I ask it in Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen.

Charles Spurgeon – The heart—a den of evil

 

‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.’ Matthew 15:19

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 58:1–6

Your child will have evil thoughts without your sending him to a diabolical infant school; children who have been brought up in the midst of honesty, will be found guilty of little thefts early enough in life. False witness, which is one form of lying, is so common, that perhaps to find a tongue which never did bear false witness would be to find a tongue that never spoke. Is this caused by education or by nature? It is so common a thing that even when the ear has heard nothing but the most rigid truth, children learn to lie and men commonly do lie and love to tell an evil tale against their fellow men whether it be true or not, bearing false witness with an avidity which is perfectly shocking. Is this a matter of education, or is it a depraved heart? Some men will wilfully invent a slanderous lie, knowing that they need not take any special care of their offspring, for they may lay it in the street and the first passer-by will take it up and nurse it, and the lie will be carried in triumph round the world; whereas a piece of truth which would have done honour to a good man’s character, will be left to be forgotten till God shall remember it at the day of judgment. You never need educate any man into sin. The serpent is scarcely born before it rears itself and begins to hiss. The young lion may be nurtured in your parlour, but it will develop ere long the same thirst for blood as if it were in the forest. So is it with man; he sins as naturally as the young lion seeks for blood, or the young serpent stores up venom.

For meditation: Adam and Eve were created sinless in God’s image (Genesis 1:27; 5:1); they became sinners and as the result of disobedience Adam’s children were born sinful in his image (Genesis 5:3). Everybody since has sinned as the result of being born a sinner—except for the Son of God who was born in the likeness of sinful flesh i.e. in real, but sinless, flesh. Are you trusting in him alone as the one who was punished in his own flesh for your sin (Romans 8:3)?

Sermon no. 732

27 January (1867)

John MacArthur – Striving According to God’s Power

 

“These are in accordance with the working of the strength of [God’s] might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead” (Eph. 1:19-20).

In Christ you have all the power you will ever need.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great hope of believers. Because He lives, we will live also (John 14:19). Peter said we have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). We and what we have are protected by God’s power (v. 5).

In Ephesians 1:19-20 Paul draws two comparisons. The first is between the power God demonstrated in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the power He demonstrates on behalf of every believer. That power is described as God’s “working,” “strength,” and “might.” Together those synonyms emphasize the greatness of God’s power, which not only secures our salvation, but also enables us to live godly lives.

The second comparison is between our Lord’s resurrection and ascension, and ours. The grave couldn’t hold Him, nor can it hold us (1 Cor. 15:54-57). Satan himself couldn’t prevent Christ’s exaltation, nor can he prevent us from gaining our eternal inheritance.

In Christ you have all the power you will ever need. For evangelism you have the gospel itself, which “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). For difficult times you have the assurance that the surpassing greatness of God’s power is at work in you (2 Cor. 4:7). For holy living you have God Himself at work in you “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

No matter how weak or ill-equipped you may at times feel, realize God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that [you] ask or think, according to the power that works within [you]” (Eph. 3:20). So keep striving according to that power (Col. 1:29), but do so with the confidence that ultimately God will accomplish His good in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He can and will accomplish His purposes in your life (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:24).
  • Pray for wisdom in how you might best serve Him today.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 145, noting every mention of God’s power David makes. Allow those examples to fill your heart with confidence and praise.

Joyce Meyer – Stand Strong Against the Adversary

 

For a wide door of opportunity for effectual [service] has opened to me [there, a great and promising one], and [there are] many adversaries.—1 Corinthians 16:9

It is true that whenever you do anything for God, the adversary will oppose you. But you must remember that greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (see 1 John 4:4).

You should not have to spend your life struggling against the devil in order to serve God. Instead of wearing yourself out trying to fight spiritual enemies, you should learn to stand strong in the authority given to you by Jesus.

The best way to overcome the devil and his demons is simply to stay in God’s will by obeying His Word and allowing Him to work things out according to His divine plan and purpose.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Can Be Sure This Is God’s Will

 

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, KJV).

“Always give thanks for everything?” my friend Jim remarked with impatience bordering on anger. “How can I give thanks to God when my wife is dying of cancer? I would be a fool, and besides I don’t feel thankful. My heart is breaking. I can’t stand to see her suffer any more.”

Jim was a Christian, but he had not yet learned how to appropriate the supernatural resources of God by faith. He had not heard that the Holy Spirit produces the supernatural, spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He did not know that the Holy Spirit was ready and eager to lift his load, fill his heart with peace and enable him to demonstrate a thankful attitude, even in times of heartache, sorrow and disappointment.

About the same time, I had a call from a beloved friend and fellow staff member, Bob. “I’m calling to ask for your prayers,” he said. “My wife has an inoperable brain tumor, but we are trusting the Lord for a miracle. We are both thanking God, for we know He makes no mistakes and we are ready for whatever happens.”

Bob and Alice were controlled by the Holy Spirit, responding as Spirit-filled persons are equipped to respond. Though God did not heal Alice’s ailing body, He performed a greater miracle by providing the supernatural resources which enabled Bob and Alice to praise and give thanks to God as a powerful testimony of His love and grace in their behalf.

Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:11-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that “all things work together for good to those who love God” – and that includes me – I determine through the enabling of the Holy Spirit to obey God today as an expression of faith by thanking Him in everything and for everything.

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Adoption Opportunity

 

Eddie the Terrible needs a new home. The two-year old Chihuahua is known for being bad with kids and awful with other dogs. It is noted he has mood swings and can go from “zero to Cujo” in 0.5 seconds. Does all this make Eddie unadoptable? Absolutely not, according to the Humane Society in Silicon Valley, and they are giving him a second chance. They contend, “Somewhere out there is someone whose life will be better with Eddie in it.”

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

Who are the “Terrible Eddie’s” in your life? You know – those people with inflated opinions and awful social skills that irritate and annoy you? Wouldn’t it be great if you could run an advertisement and adopt them right into someone else’s life?

America will be blessed as God’s people invite His presence into their messy everyday relationships. Today, pray for a new beginning in His mercy, and ask for the grace to forgive those that snarl and bite at you. Humbly acknowledge that you were once the recipient of Christ’s forgiveness, without reservation. As you dispense grace, God will make a provision for both you and America, even if the Terrible Eddie’s are still barking.

Recommended Reading: Colossians 3:12-17

Max Lucado – Unceasing Prayer

 

Unceasing prayer may sound complicated, but it needn’t be that way. Do this. Think of prayer less as an activity for God and more as an awareness of God. Seek to live in uninterrupted awareness. As you stand in line to register your car, think, “Thank you, Lord, for being here.” In the grocery store as you shop, think, “Your presence, my King, I welcome.” As you wash the dishes, worship your Maker.

Brother Lawrence called himself the “lord of all pots and pans.” He wrote, “The time of busy-ness does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon knees at the blessed sacrament.”

So talk to God, always. Besides, it makes more sense to talk to God than mumble to yourself!

From Max on Life

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  The Trail and the Cross

 

Mention the word ‘immigration’ in conversation, and you are likely to get an earful from a variety of perspectives. Political debates notwithstanding, the topic has sprung up again in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish hostages being killed in Paris. Once a colonial power France’s colonized peoples have often come ‘home’ to try to find a better life. The influx of immigrants has brought both opportunity and challenge. Sadly, some immigrant communities report being marginalized from the opportunities a city like Paris affords. Kept on the sidelines a deep frustration and futility festers.

In the United States, a refuge for immigrants from its beginning, the indigenous people of this land often suffered by being pushed to the margins. One tragic episode of marginalization was “The Trail of Tears.” This ‘trail’ was the forced relocation of the Cherokee Nation from their home among the mountains of North Georgia to the plains of Oklahoma.(1) In one of the saddest episodes of the fledgling democracy of the United States, men, women, and children were taken from their land, herded into makeshift forts with minimal facilities and food, and then forced to march a thousand miles. Human loss for the first groups of Cherokee removed from North Georgia was extremely high. While records reflect differing accounts of casualties, some estimate that about 4000 Cherokee died as a result of the removal.

The story of Native American relocation is now a part of the history of the developing United States, where the North Georgia story is not unique. Activists for Native American causes remind those who have ears to hear that other trails of tears were forged in the land from east to west. While there have always been minority voices protesting against these federal government policies concerning relocation, including Davy Crockett (better known for his failed stand at the Texas Alamo), they were few and far between.(2) The country that had swelled on a tide of freedom also had an undertow of injustice toward its indigenous peoples.

In human terms, the death of Jesus by crucifixion demonstrates a horrible injustice committed against him. While Christians believe that God was at work even in the midst of this act of injustice, Jesus had committed no crime deserving this form of execution reserved for the worst criminals. He was betrayed by one closest to him, falsely accused, tortured, and nailed to the cross. Formal theology looks at the “injustice” of the crucifixion and seeks to explain the meaning of the event. Some theologians suggest that the atonement stands as the preeminent example of a sacrificial life in the face of injustice—an example which followers of Jesus are called to model in their own lives. Others see the Cross as the ultimate symbol of divine love or a demonstration of God’s divine justice against sin as the violation of his perfect law. Still others suggest the Cross overcame the forces of sin and evil, restored God’s honor in relation to God’s holiness and righteousness, and served as a substitution for the death we all deserved because of sin.(3)

While the meaning of the atonement may include a portion of all of these theories, I wonder about how the atonement might bring meaning to events like those suffered by Native peoples. And I wonder about how the atonement speaks to the personal injustices we all suffer, or commit against one another. Does the reality of the atonement give present meaning to the injustices experienced and felt by many in today’s world?

The word atonement itself indicates that the willing offer by Jesus to bear the injustices of the world creates the possibility to be at one, set right with God, and with one another. The apostle Paul indicates this in his second letter to the Corinthian Christians: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Christians believe that the enactment of reconciliation by God even through the human injustice perpetrated against Jesus, enjoins them to a ministry of reconciliation and justice. And the word of reconciliation—namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world—frees all who would receive this forgiveness to offer the ministry of reconciling forgiveness to one another. Forgiveness, then, creates the possibility for justice.

While at a local church gathering, I was introduced to a ministry that works with urban-dwelling Native Americans. Most are homeless and many struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. Even today, many dwell on the margins. Like me, these individuals are far removed from the Trail of Tears. But like me, this organization wonders what meaning to assign to a tragic past. Clearly, all of us carry the events of our past into our present lives. In some cases, painful hurts and histories have ongoing repercussions. Cycles of violence, addiction, and despair are shaped, in part, by the meaning assigned to these past events. Therefore, this ministry seeks to reassign new meaning to difficult pasts through reconciliation and forgiveness.

In the same way, Christians who affirm the atonement of Jesus also affirm a God who enjoins them to do justice on behalf of others. The atonement creates meaning for the past that is redemptive for the present. Those who recognize both the need for forgiveness and the need to offer forgiveness, give meaning to all who need atonement today. Seen this way, the crucifixion is not simply another act of injustice perpetrated against Jesus, the atonement brings life, as surely as it binds us to give life to others.

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

(1) “The Trail of Tears,” About North Georgia, http://ngeorgia.com/history/nghisttt.html, accessed February 16, 2010.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Theories of the atonement as highlighted in Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983), 781-823.

Alistair Begg –  A Fullness in Christ

And from his fullness we have all received.  John 1:16

 These words tell us that there is a fullness in Christ. There is a fullness of essential Deity, for “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”1 There is a fullness of perfect manhood, for in Him, bodily, that Godhead was revealed. There is a fullness of atoning efficacy in His blood, for “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”2 There is a fullness of justifying righteousness in His life, for “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”3 There is a fullness of divine prevalence in His plea, for “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”4 There is a fullness of victory in His death, for through death He destroyed him that had the power of death–that is, the devil. There is a fullness of efficacy in His resurrection from the dead, for by it “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope.”5 There is a fullness of triumph in His ascension, for “when he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”6 There is a fullness of blessings of every sort and shape; a fullness of grace to pardon, of grace to regenerate, of grace to sanctify, of grace to preserve, and of grace to perfect. There is a fullness at all times; a fullness of comfort in affliction, a fullness of guidance in prosperity. A fullness of every divine attribute–of wisdom, of power, of love; a fullness that it is impossible to survey, much less to explore. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”7

Oh, what a fullness must this be of which all receive! Fullness, indeed, must there be when the stream is always flowing, and yet the well springs up as free, as rich, as full as ever. Come, believer, and get all your need supplied; ask largely, and you will receive largely, for this “fullness” is inexhaustible and is treasured up where all the needy may reach it, even in Jesus, Immanuel–God with us.

1) Colossians 2:9    2) 1 John 1:7  3) Romans 8:1   4) Hebrews 7:25   5) 1 Peter 1:3    6) Ephesians 4:8    7) Colossians 1:19

Today’s Bible Reading

The family reading plan for January 27, 2015
* Genesis 28
Matthew 27

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

Charles Spurgeon – The Christ of Patmos

 

“… one like unto the Son of man,… His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow… And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” Revelation 1:12-18

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 22:41-46

“His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow.” When the Church described him in the Canticles she said “His locks are bushy and black as a raven’s.” How do we understand this apparent discrepancy? My brethren, the Church in the Canticles looked forward, she looked forward to days and ages that were to come, and she perceived his perpetual youth; she pictured him as one who would never grow old, whose hair would ever have the blackness of youth. And do we not bless God that her view of him was true? We can say of Jesus, “Thou hast the dew of thy youth;” but the Church of to-day looks backward to his work as complete; we see him now as the ancient of eternal days. We believe that he is not the Christ of 1800 years ago merely, but, before the day-star knew its place, he was one with the Eternal Father. When we see in the picture his head and his hair white as snow, we understand the antiquity of his reign. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” When all these things were not, when the old mountains had not lifted their hoary heads into the clouds, when the yet more hoary sea had never roared in tempest; ere the lamps of heaven had been lit, when God dwelt alone in his immensity, and the unnavigated waves of ether, if there were such, had never been fanned by the wings of seraphim, and the solemnity of silence had never been startled by the song of cherubim, Jesus was of old in eternity with God. We know how he was despised and rejected of men, but we understand, too, what he meant when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” We know how he who died, when but a little more than thirty years of age, was verily the Father of the everlasting ages, having neither beginning of days nor end of years.

For meditation: Glory in the paradoxes of Christ—seen as old, yet young; God and man; A.D. yet B.C.; David’s Son, yet David’s Lord; a Shepherd, yet a Lamb; the Master, yet a Servant; the Great High Priest, yet the Sacrifice; the Immortal who died and rose again!

Sermon no. 357

27 January (1861)

Joyce Meyer – Love God First

 

Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! —Psalm 66:5 NIV

We give attention to whatever we love the most. God wants to be first in our life (see Exodus 20:3). Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37–38 NIV).

What might happen in your life if you became so intent on seeking God that you hired a babysitter to watch your children, or used a vacation day, in order to spend time with the Lord? You can’t afford not to spend time with God. Give Him your full attention, and make a point to observe all He is doing for you.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Orders Your Steps

 

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:23, KJV).

Miriam Booth – a beautiful, brilliant, cultured woman – daughter of the Salvation Army founder, began her Christian work with great promise. She had unusual success. Before long, however, disease struck her and brought her to the point of death. A friend visiting her one day said it seemed a pity that a woman so capable should be hindered by illness from doing the Lord’s work. “It is great to do the Lord’s work,” she replied with gentle grace, “but it is greater to do the Lord’s will.”

Are you looking for direction, for purpose, for meaning to your life?

The psalmist wanted to make it very plain that the person who is “good,” the one who is clothed with the righteousness, the goodness of Christ, can have the absolute assurance that His steps, one by one, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, are ordered by the Lord (planned and directed by Him).

That wonderful truth is made even more meaningful by the reminder that our “stops” as well are directed by the Lord. He knows when we need to slow down, to wait on Him. As a Christian leader once said, after several weeks of being bedridden: “I needed to be flat on my back so that the only way I could look was up.”

Finding the will of God has been difficult for many people – for most of us at one time or another. But the truth remains that He promises to give wisdom to any who ask, and we have that privilege when we belong to Him by virtue of having received the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.

If you are facing a crossroad in your life, wait on Him and avoid the usual rush to a decision that might be disastrous. “He is faithful who promised.” Depend upon Him to make the way clear as you lay the decision prayerfully before Him.

Bible Reading: Isaiah 58:9-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: When I need wisdom for a specific decision today, I will breathe an earnest prayer for direction. Then I will thank God for the clear leading which He promises and for enabling me to continue living the supernatural life, as He directs my steps.

Max Lucado – God Heals, Not Prayer

God heals, not prayer. A matter of semantics? No. If you think the power is in the prayer and not the One who hears the prayer, you fault the pray-er for unanswered prayer. “If I had prayed more, better, differently. . .”

The power of prayer is in the One who hears it, not the one who makes it.  So if you are waiting on God to answer your prayer, don’t despair. We need to remember that many of God’s saints endured a time of unanswered prayer. Peter was in a storm before he walked on water. Lazarus was in a grave before he came out of it, the demoniac was possessed before he was a preacher, and the paralytic was on a stretcher before he was in your Bible.

We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. Please don’t interpret the presence of your disease as the absence of God’s love. I pray he heals you. And he will—ultimately!  Till then— keep praying.

From Max on Life

Charles Spurgeon – Marvelous increase of the church

 

“Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” Isaiah 60:8

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 10:5-16

They were not doves by nature; they were ravens; but they are doves now. They are changed from ravens into doves, from lions into lambs. Beloved, it is very easy for you to pretend to be the children of God; but it is not easy for you to be so. The old fable of the jackdaw dressed up in peacock’s feathers often takes place now. Many a time have we seen coming to our church, a fine strutting fellow, with long feathers of prayer behind him. He could pray gloriously; and he has come strutting in, with all his majesty and pride, and said, “Surely I must come; I have everything about me; am I not rich and polite: have I not learning and talent?” In a very little while we have found him to be nothing but an old prattling jackdaw, having none of the true feathers belonging to him; by some accident one of his borrowed feathers has dropped out, and we have found him to be a hypocrite. I beseech you, do not be hypocrites. The glory of the gospel is not that it paints ravens white, and whitewashes blackbirds, but that it turns them into doves. It is the glory of our religion not that it makes a man seem what he is not, but that it makes him something else. It takes the raven and turns him into a dove; his ravenish heart becomes a dove’s heart. It is not the feathers that are changed, but the man himself. Glorious gospel, which takes a lion, and does not cut the lion’s mane off, and then cover him with a sheep’s skin, but makes him into a lamb! O church of God! these that have come like doves to their windows are trophies of regenerating grace, which has transformed them, and made them as new creatures in Christ Jesus.

For meditation: We should expect to be among wolves in the world, but beware of them when they are in the church, undetected and unconverted (Matthew 7:15).

Sermon no. 63

26 January (Preached 27 January 1856)

John MacArthur – Maintaining a Clear Perspective

 

“I pray that . . . you may know . . . what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18).

How you perceive your spiritual resources dictates how you live.

Throughout Ephesians 1 Paul is clearly struck with the magnificence of our inheritance in Christ. Here he prays that we will know the riches of its glory.

Some commentators see “His inheritance” as a reference to believers, who are God’s inheritance or special possession (v. 14). That view stresses the value God places on us as believers, as demonstrated in Christ’s death, the forgiveness of our sins, and the abundant grace that He lavishes on us (vv. 7-8).

Others see it as referring to the believer’s inheritance, which Paul calls “His inheritance” because God is its source. Just as “His calling” (v. 18) issued from Him and was received by believers, so His inheritance issues from Him.

Both views are theologically sound but the second seems more consistent with Paul’s emphasis in verses 11 and 14. In either case Paul’s point is clear: redemption and its accompanying blessings are so profound that we must have supernatural help to understand them. That’s why he prayed for our enlightenment (v. 18).

Such enlightenment is crucial because how you perceive your spiritual resources dictates how you live. If, for example, you realize you have every resource for godly living (Eph. 1:3), you are less likely to succumb to temptation. Knowing God has given you His very best in Christ (Rom. 8:31) assures you that He won’t withhold lesser things, so you’ll not tend to worry about earthly needs. Understanding that you have already received “grace upon grace” (John 1:16), abundant life (John 10:10), and “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3) gives you confidence that God’s future grace and resources will be more than sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

Let that motivate you to praise your rich and glorious God for His rich and glorious inheritance!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the privilege of being His child.
  • Memorize Ephesians 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:3 and recite them often as anthems of praise for the Lord’s abundant grace.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11-12.

  • What kinds of trials did Paul face?
  • How did God respond to Paul’s prayer to remove his “thorn in the flesh”?
  • How might Paul’s response influence you when you face difficulties?