Tag Archives: holy spirit

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Like a Blanket of Snow

 

Today’s news reads more like a horror story than daily events. Like many others, you may wonder how people can be filled with such hate and evil. Christ’s prophecies are being fulfilled, including “nation will rise against nation.” (Matthew 24:7)

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

Proverbs 10:12

At the same time, God offers love and forgiveness to all who will receive it, and even to the vilest offenders such as the apostle Paul, the former murderer of Christians. Like a blanket of snow covers the Earth to where you can’t tell a car from a bush, God’s love completely covers and changes human hearts as He washes them clean. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Aim to love and forgive like He does, while praying against hatred and evil. Ask for His love to change America and that, in these last days, many lost souls will yield to Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Recommended Reading: I Timothy 1:12-17

Max Lucado – How Do you Say Lucado?

 

My last name has created some awkward moments. A woman said, “Max Lu-KAH-do—I’ve been wanting to meet you.”  I let it go thinking that was the end of it.  But then a man said to me, “My wife and I’ve been trying to figure out how you say your name.  Is it Lu-KAY-doh or Lu-KAH-doh! I felt trapped…as I looked at my new friend who had been mispronouncing my name.

On an infinitely grander scale, God faces with humankind a similar issue I faced with the woman. How can He be both just and kind?  How can He redeem the sinner without endorsing the sin?  From our perspective there are only two equally unappealing solutions. From God’s perspective, however, there is a third. It’s called the Cross of Christ!  And that is one phrase you want to say correctly!

From He Chose the Nails

Charles Stanley – THE BENEFITS OF WISDOM

 

Learn about a few of the benefits to seeking the Lord’s wisdom.

 

Wisdom is the capacity to see things from God’s perspective and respond according to scriptural principles. What are a few of the benefits to seeking the Lord’s wisdom? Let’s look at what the Bible says.

  1. Clear Guidance From God

Wisdom is the capacity to see things from God’s perspective and respond according to scriptural principles.

Those who walk in wisdom receive the Father’s direction for their lives. While God’s children still have some painful experiences, they are spared many mistakes and false starts. Biblical principles spare believers numerous wrong decisions and hurtful relationships.

Nobody is better qualified to guide your steps or lead you to the right path than God.

  • According to Proverbs 3:5-6, what attitude best facilitates the Lord’s direction in a person’s life?
  • What benefits does Proverbs 3:21-26 promise to those who “keep sound wisdom and discretion” (v. 21)?

When we walk in divine wisdom, we can rest assured that the Lord is with us always. He won’t allow us to enter into any situation that He has not anticipated, nor will He permit a circumstance unless He intends it for our good.

  1. God’s Divine Protection

Wisdom protects us from various sources of wickedness, including:

  1. Evil in such forms as dangerous situations, harmful substances, and destructive circumstances. We are to reject evil and flee from it whenever possible.
  • What attitude gets a “fool” (unwise person) into trouble with regard to evil (Prov. 14:16)?
  1. People who entice us to do evil: Any person who tempts you to sin is not a friend. He or she wants to lead you into a situation that will ultimately cause you loss or harm (Prov. 2:10-18).
  1. Misleading emotions: Many people live according to the whims of their emotions. But “what feels good” isn’t always beneficial for us. Instead, we are called to trust the Holy Spirit for guidance rather than our desires, impulses, and feelings.
  • Why should we not trust our hearts (Prov. 28:26)?
  • Briefly describe a choice you made based on what “felt good” rather than what the Lord wanted you to do. What did you learn from that experience?
  1. A Good Self-Image

You are extremely important to God. The Father loves you, values you, and desires a close relationship with you. He has a specific plan for your life. These facts should give you confidence and a strong self-image.

At the very core of our self-image is the desire to be loved and regarded as lovable. Only God can fully satisfy that need. When we accept that He loves us unconditionally, we have the foundation for healthy, godly self-esteem.

  • Some believers feel God no longer loves them because of sin. Why is this rationale not biblical (Rom. 5:8)?
  • What should our attitude be toward ourselves (Prov. 19:8, Matt. 22:39)?

A proper, healthy love for yourself leads to generosity and selfless giving. It also fills you with confidence to move against the tide of popular opinion when necessary. Why? God loves and approves of you, and His opinion is the only one that matters.

  • Where are you in your journey to healthy self-esteem?
  1. Whole-Person Prosperity

The heavenly Father blesses us—and that involves our spirits, minds, and bodies (3 John 1:2). Prosperity from God’s perspective includes material goods as well as our relationships, health, and happiness, plus fruitfulness in His kingdom.

  • Proverbs 8:17-21 talks about “enduring riches and righteousness”—in other words, eternal wealth, such as knowing the Lord. What phrases in this passage indicate that earthly prosperity is included?
  • What characterizes God-given riches (Prov. 10:22)?

God provides for those of us who are His children—not simply for our own enjoyment, but also to enable our generosity to people in need.

  • This week, how could you bless another person with your spiritual, physical, or material riches?
  1. Good Health and a Long Life

Wisdom saves us from many difficulties in this life. It equips us to handle difficult circumstances and positions us to receive eternal rewards.

No one can promise another person a long life or healing from a particular disease. But in general, godly living is characterized by healthier living and length of days.

  • How does walking wisely affect your body (Prov. 3:7-8)?

Individuals who walk in wisdom utilize their time carefully because they view each day as valuable. They seek to use their gifts, talents, and other resources for God’s glory and His purposes. They take care of their bodies by getting physical exercise, adequate sleep, nutritious food, and sufficient relaxation.

  • In what way does the paragraph above not describe your life? What can you do this week to change that?

Closing: Wisdom saves us from many difficulties in this life. It equips us to handle difficult circumstances and positions us to receive eternal rewards. So discover and apply God’s wisdom for every situation—you won’t regret it.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, which reveals how I am to live. Enable me to listen closely to Your voice, apply the principles of Scripture, and experience all the benefits of making wise choices. Amen.

 

Our Daily Bread – Pursuing Holiness

 

 

 

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. —Hebrews 12:14

 

Read: Romans 6:14-23
Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 5-7; Mark 11:1-18

We often see surveys that ask people if they are happy, satisfied with their work, or enjoying life. But I’ve never seen an opinion poll that asked, “Are you holy?” How would you answer that question?

One Bible dictionary defines holiness as “separation to God and conduct fitting for those separated.” Author Frederick Buechner said that when writing about a person’s character, “nothing is harder to make real than holiness.” He adds that “holiness is not a human quality at all, like virtue. Holiness is . . . not something that people do, but something that God does in them.”

Romans 6 presents the stunning gift that God gives us through faith in Christ: “We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (v.4). The pursuit of holiness occurs daily as we yield ourselves in obedience to the Lord instead of following our old ways of self-gratification. “Now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life” (v.22 nlt).

Are you becoming more holy? By God’s grace and power, the answer can be a resounding “Yes! More and more each day.” —David McCasland

Father, I want to cooperate with You in Your work of changing me to become more like Jesus. Help me to walk in Your ways. Without Your work in me, nothing of lasting value will occur in my growth in holiness.

The choice to pursue holiness is a matter of life or death.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  Think Again – Light in the Darkness 

 

 

The story is told of a cynic sitting under a nut tree, carrying on a jesting monologue with God. His grounds for complaint lay in what he considered to be an obvious failure on the part of God to go by the book on structural design. “Lord,” he said, “How is it that you made such a large and sturdy tree to hold such tiny, almost weightless nuts? And yet, you made small, tender plants to hold such large and weighty watermelons!”

As he chuckled at the folly of such disproportion in God’s mindless universe, a nut suddenly fell on his head. After a stunned pause, he muttered, “Thank God that wasn’t a watermelon!”

Even atheist Aldous Huxley acknowledged years ago, “Science has ‘explained’ nothing; the more we know, the more fantastic the world becomes, and the profounder the surrounding darkness.”

Justifiable worldviews must have explanatory power of the undeniable realities of life. As Christians who affirm the existence of a loving and all wise God, we long to push back the darkness in our world and to see the light of God’s Word soften the cynic and atheist alike. Yet if we are honest, sometimes we, too, struggle to come to terms with God’s world and his sovereign design; this is especially true in seasons of suffering and confusion.

Remember Job? He had become weary of his pain and sought a just answer for it. He built his argument to God on the fact that he needed to know what was going on, because only on the basis of that knowledge could his confusion and suffering be dissipated. But God then broke his silence, challenging Job’s very assumptions and reminding him that there was an awful lot he did not know but had just accepted and believed by inference. Notwithstanding the proverbial cynic under a nut tree, the argument from design is the very approach God used with Job. He reminded Job as a first step, and only that, that there were a thousand and one things he did not fully understand but had just taken for granted. In the light of God’s presence, Job was dumbfounded and confessed, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? … Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 40:4; 42:3).

Gaining a small glimpse of the majesty and holiness of God is light in a dark world. The prophet Isaiah described his awe-stricken state when God revealed Himself to him. Isaiah, a morally good man, nevertheless fell on his face and immediately sensed that he was unfit to be in God’s presence. He was not just in the presence of someone better than he was. He was in the presence of the One by whom and because of whom all purity finds its point of reference. That is why he was speechless.

God is not merely good. God is holy. He is the transcendent source of goodness: not merely “better” in a hierarchy of choices but rather the very basis from which all differences are made. He dwells in ineffable light. Moral categories, for us, often move in comparisons and hierarchies. We talk in terms of judging or feeling that one thing is better than another. Our culture is more advanced morally than someone else’s culture, at least so we may think. However, God’s existence changes those categories and moves us to recognize the very essence of what the word “goodness” is based upon.

This difference is what makes the argument almost impossible for a skeptic to grasp. Holiness is not merely goodness. “Why did God not create us to choose only good?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The reality is that the opposite of evil, in degree, may be goodness. But the opposite of absolute evil, in kind, is absolute holiness. In the biblical context, the idea of holiness is the tremendous “otherness” of God Himself. God does not just reveal Himself as good; He reveals Himself as holy.

There is no contradiction in Him. He can never self-destruct. He can never “not be.” He exists eternally and in a sublime purity that transcends a hierarchy of categories. As human beings we love the concept of holiness when we are in the right, but we are often reticent to apply it when we are wrong and brought under the stark scrutiny of its light. I recall talking to a very successful businessman who throughout our conversation repeatedly asked, “But what about all the evil in this world?” Finally, a friend sitting next to me said to him, “I hear you constantly expressing a desire to see a solution to the problem of evil around you. Are you as troubled by the problem of evil within you?” In the pin-drop silence that followed, the man’s face showed his duplicity.

The longer I have encountered this question about evil, the more convinced I am of the disingenuousness of many a questioner. The darkness of evil is more than an exterior reality that engenders suffering in our world; it is, at its core, an internal reality that systemically builds us for autonomy and destruction, blinds us, and from which only God is big enough to rescue us. You see, the problem of evil begins with me. The darkness is within.

Yet Jesus’s answer to the question of the blind man in John 9 brings us extraordinary power and hope. There is an illustration and explanation for us in his story. Here was a man living in physical darkness. There was no light that he could see. People wanted to know, why was he born this way? They were the ones who could see, so they asked about the one who could not. Jesus responded that the man’s blindness was due neither to the sin of the man nor of his parents, but so that the glory of God might be displayed. The lesson is drastic; the message profound.

Physical darkness has physical consequences and leaves a person bereft of seeing physical reality. It is a tragedy—but nowhere near the tragic devastation of spiritual blindness. The healing of that man’s blindness by Jesus was intended to draw those spiritually blind to seek his healing of their souls. When Beethoven, though deaf, could see the exhilarating response of the people to his composition, he outwardly resonated with what his inner being prompted. He could not hear his music but he sensed the harmony for which he longed in expression. So it is with us. We know on the inside how impoverished we are and for what we long. That ought to prompt us to the riches that only God in Christ is able to give to us.

Only when we surrender to the light of God’s truth in our own lives are we enabled to truly seeand then be a beacon of hope and healing in our dark world. Truthfulness in the heart, said Jesus, precedes truth in the objective realm. The problem of evil has ultimately one source: it is the resistance to God’s holiness that enshrouds all of creation. And there is ultimately only one hope for life: that is through the glorious display of God at work within a human soul, bringing about his work of pushing away the darkness. That transformation tenderizes the heart to become part of the solution and not part of the problem. Such a transformation begins at the Cross.

The day when Christ was crucified and darkness engulfed the scene was symbolic of the soul in rebellion. Then came the possibility of hope when the Son rose, with life made possible for all of us. The simple verse, John 3:16, says it all: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” “For God”: the starting point is filial. “So loved”: his reach is relational. “That he gave his only begotten Son”: sacrificial. “That whosoever believes in Him”: confessional. “Should not perish”: judicial. “But have everlasting life”: eternal.

There is a law unto death. The violation of law brings that within us. Our holy God deals with evil in us to transform us and draw us into his life and embrace. What a glorious gospel this is.

The songwriter Tim Hughes says it beautifully:

Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness

opened my eyes, let me see.

Beauty that made this heart adore you

hope of a life spent with you.

 

Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down,

here I am to say that you’re my God.

You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy,

altogether wonderful to me.

 

In a unique way, seeing is believing. Believing in God is surrendering. Surrendering to God is worshiping. To worship opens up vistas to see even more. Darkness is then vanquished.

In a dark world, we have the offer of Light through Jesus Christ.

Alistair Begg – His Superlative Beauty

 

Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.  Acts 14:22

 God’s people have their trials. It was never God’s plan, when He chose His people, that they should be untested. They were chosen in the furnace of affliction; they were never chosen for worldly peace and earthly joy. Freedom from sickness and the pains of mortality was never promised to them; but when their Lord drew up the charter of privileges, He included chastisements among the things to which they should inevitably be heirs.

Trials are a part of our experience; they were predestinated for us in Christ’s last legacy. As surely as the stars are fashioned by His hands, and their orbits fixed by Him, so surely are our trials allotted to us. He has ordained their season and their place, their intensity and the effect they shall have upon us. Good men must never expect to escape troubles; if they do, they will be disappointed, for none of their predecessors have been without them.

Consider the patience of Job; remember Abraham, for he had his trials, and facing them with faith, he became the father of the faithful. Review the biographies of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and you will find that each of those whom God made vessels of mercy were made to pass through the fire of affliction.

God has ordained that the cross of trouble should be engraved on every vessel of mercy, as the royal insignia distinguishing the King’s vessels of honor. But even though tribulation is the path of God’s children, they have the comfort of knowing that their Master has walked it before them. They have His presence and sympathy to cheer them, His grace to support them, and His example to teach them how to endure; and when they reach “the kingdom,” it will more than make amends for the “many tribulations” through which they passed to enter it.

Today’s Bible Reading

The family reading plan for March 8, 2015
* Exodus 19
Luke 22

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

John MacArthur –Denying Yourself

 

“I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed” (Dan. 9:4).

God will not respond to self-righteous prayers.

In Luke 18 Jesus told a parable to people who were trusting in their own self-righteousness. He said, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

“But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (vv. 10-14).

Apart from God’s mercy we cannot enter into God’s presence. The tax-gatherer knew that and pled for forgiveness. The Pharisee missed the point and went away without forgiveness.

Like the tax-gatherer, Daniel approached God with an attitude of confession and self-denial. He could have reminded God of his years of faithful service while in Babylon, but that didn’t enter his mind. He knew that in himself there was nothing to commend him to God. His only thought was for mercy for himself and his people, that God’s purposes could be realized through them.

As a Christian, you have the wonderful privilege of boldly entering into God’s presence “with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). That privilege is rooted in God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice and leaves no room for presumption or self-righteousness. Always guard your attitude in prayer so that you don’t unwittingly slip into a Pharisaic mentality.

Suggestions for Prayer; Memorize Psalm 117:1-118:1 and recite it often as a hymn of praise to the Lord.

For Further Study; Jesus had much to say about the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees of His day. Read Matthew 23, noting His scathing denunciations of their hypocritical attitudes and practices.

Joyce Meyer – It’s No Surprise to God

 

Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you . . . – Isaiah 41:10

One of the strongest and most persistent fears that people experience is the fear that they won’t have what they need. We want to feel safe in every area of life. But we’re constantly attacked with the fear that we won’t have what we need—whether it’s finances, relationships, or the ability to do what God has called us to.

More than any other command in Scripture, God tells us not to fear. God never promises us a trouble-free life, but He does promise us His presence and the strength (mental, physical, and emotional) we require to get through our troubles. Several years ago, a friend of mine went in for a routine checkup and learned days later that her doctor feared she might have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the most aggressive form of the disease. More tests were needed, and she was told it might take two or three weeks before a confirmed diagnosis could be reached.

I asked my friend how she got through those weeks of uncertainty and if she was afraid. “Yes, I was afraid,” she said. “But I also knew that whatever the outcome was, it would be no surprise to God.” Then she said something else that might be of help to you. She told me that she realized if she worried for three weeks and then learned that she had lymphoma, she would have wasted three valuable weeks of her life. And if she worried for three weeks and learned that she did not have lymphoma, she would have still wasted three valuable weeks of her life. “Believe it or not,” she said, “I didn’t lose a minute’s sleep for those twenty-one days.”

When the tests finally came back, my friend learned that she did indeed have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She had surgery and endured many months of chemo. I’m pleased to tell you that, ten years later, she’s in terrific health. And she didn’t waste three valuable weeks.

Trust in Him What are you afraid of? No matter what you are going through, it’s no surprise to God. He’s not unsure of what’s around the corner or unprepared for whatever you’re going through. Put your trust in Him and be confident in His plans for your life.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Share His Treasures

 

“For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tells us that we really are God’s children. And since we are His children, we will share His treasures – for all God gives to His Son Jesus is now ours too. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering” (Romans 8:16,17).

You may cringe, as I do, at the thought of suffering for Jesus. As He reminds us in Mark 10, anything we ever give up for Him will be given to us a hundred times over, with persecution. Quite frankly, I have never relished the thought of being persecuted. Yet, again and again, in my own experience I have known the reality of that supernatural presence of God, that peace that passes all understanding, during times of suffering and persecution.

Our Lord Himself, knowing that He was on His way to the cross, spoke of peace, love and joy more than at any other time in His ministry. The apostle Paul knew all kinds of suffering. He was in prison frequently; he was beaten, and he finally died as a martyr for his faith. Yet, even while in prison, he wrote of joy and peace – “Count it all joy,” he said. “Rejoice ever more.”

Philippians 3:10 records the desire of his heart: “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (KJV). Apart from the fellowship of His sufferings, Paul knew that he would never mature and become like the Lord Jesus Christ. “Adversity is the touchstone of character.”

All men suffer; however, the disobedient Christians and the unbelievers suffer far more than the obedient, Spirit-filled Christians, because most of the problems of life are self- imposed and when they suffer, they suffer alone, for they are on their own. But the Spirit-filled, obedient, faithful servant of God always knows the reality of God’s faithfulness.

Bible Reading: Romans 8:18-23

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Since it is my desire to be conformed to the image of Christ, to share His glory and His treasure. I will gladly share His suffering, knowing that He will be with me, ministering to me, caring for me, enveloping me with His love and peace. And I will share this word of encouragement with others who may not understand the faithfulness of God.

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Pray and Stay

 

National Geographic once featured an article about an encounter between a group of musk-oxen and arctic wolves ready for attack. Instinctively, the adult oxen formed an impenetrable circle around the calves with their rear hooves facing outward to protect them. The stand-off lasted quite some time with the calves remaining safe in the circle. However, the pressure built as the wolves continued to close in. Suddenly, one nervous ox broke from the unified group – causing them to divide and leaving the calves vulnerable. The wolves pounced; none of the calves survived.

All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast.

Proverbs 7:22

The passage surrounding today’s verse warns what happens when you are lured away from the protection of God’s commands. The same thing occurs when you stray from unity with other believers. Failing to stand together can lead to a trap or even destruction where many are wounded and few survive.

Petition God today for unity among Christians in America to pray together and stay together against attacks from Satan or human enemies of the faith. Intercede also for the nation’s leaders to not be led astray from God’s commands and the protection they bring.

Recommended Reading: I Corinthians 1:10-17

This is the 10,000 Post on Daily Devotional, News and Information WEB site

 

The First Daily Devotion was posted on December 30th 2009. Since that one simple Charles Stanley Devotional posting this WEB site has grown and expanded. The average now is about eleven devotionals a day, at least one for everybody. We try to provide a simple, quick Internet hit for your Daily spiritual “feeding” of the Word of God.

I would like to thank all the pastors, writers, people and companies that provide their Daily Devotionals in e-mails or on-line for free so that I can present them to you in this easy access format. Thank you very much!

I would also like to extend a special heartfelt thank you to all the readers.  You searched and found this Website and keep coming back. 2014 was our busiest year with over 50,000 hits. Thank You!

To my very beautiful and wonderful wife, you keep me going and give meaning to my life. Your Love and friendship has been a gift from God that started over 30 years ago and has grown stronger ever since. Without you I would not be here today. I love you!

Lastly and most importantly I Praise God for Jesus Christ and the Salvation He provided for me, all of us have a gift to know God and be free. If you are saved, born again in Jesus Christ; then you know and understand.

If you don’t know Jesus as your personal savior; keep coming back.  Here you can read what all these wonderful spirit filled writers present to you in their devotionals. You will learn about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Pray for help and understanding; the Holy Spirit will guide you, Jesus will save you and you will be with God the Father for all eternity, anyone can be saved.

Please find here a few of my favorite scriptures about God’s Word, why we read it and what it does for us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Psalm 119:105 ESV Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Matthew 4:4 ESV But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Joshua 1:8 ESV This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Romans 15:4 ESV For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Hebrews 4:12 ESV For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

1 Timothy 4:13 ESV Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

Psalm 119:18 ESV Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

Psalm 119:10-11 ESV With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 1:2 ESV But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

 

God Bless you all and have a Great Day in the Lord – Bro Bo in Hawaii

Greg Laurie – Church Growth: When Communers Become Consumers

 

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers . . . And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” —Acts 2:42, 47

Once I had a friend—I’ll call him Bill—who worked out every day at the gym. When we got together, he liked to flex his bicep and say, “Greg, feel this!” Bill’s muscles were rock hard. Then one day I heard terrible news. Bill had died of a heart attack. Even though he appeared robust and powerful, his heart was diseased. Inwardly, as it turned out, Bill was a weakling.

I keep Bill in mind when I think about the church today. Outwardly everything can look promising. A ministry may appear to be going very well. Yet the inside reality can be another story. What makes a church body grow big doesn’t necessarily make it grow healthy.

The past two decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of large churches, including “megachurches” (congregations of 1,000 or more), around the country. As a result of pastoring a large congregation, I’m frequently asked about our success at Harvest Christian Fellowship. What kind of church-growth formula do we follow? Can what we do at Harvest be applied to any church, anywhere, with similar results?

I understand these questions and the motivations behind them. Pastors would rather preach to people than to open spaces. And let’s face it, something would be terribly wrong if Christians weren’t interested in seeing churches grow. But it’s time to take a hard look at what church growth means.

In an article entitled “The Myth of Church Growth” featured in Current Thoughts and Trends, David Dunlap cites some troubling statistics.

For example, during the very time megachurches have sprouted across the landscape, the proportion of Americans who claim to be “born again” has remained a constant 32 percent. According to Dunlap, growth isn’t coming from conversions but from transfers—up to 80 percent of all growth taking place today. He goes on to quote C. Peter Wagner, one of the leading spokesmen for the church-growth movement, who admits, “I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with the church growth principles we’ve developed. . .yet somehow they don’t seem to work.”

I would suggest that one reason they don’t work is because they tend to approach church as if it were a business. For example, some church growth experts are telling pastors their “customers” no longer attend to commune with God, but to “consume” a personal or family service. In a survey of 1,000 church attenders, respondents were asked, “Why does the church exist?” According to 89 percent, the church’s purpose was “to take care of my family’s and my spiritual needs.” Only 11 percent said the purpose of the church is “to win the world for Jesus Christ.”

These attitudes concern me and many other observers deeply. A business-driven response may make things only worse. In the long run, if we train consumers instead of communers, we’ll end up with customers instead of disciples. It might fill up an auditorium, but it will never turn the world upside down for Christ.

The last thing I want to do is discourage any person or ministry, or cause division. We must be careful about limiting the ways God can work; but we also need to be aware of how our strategies—even well-intentioned, statistically valid ones—can actually take us off course.
Allow me to suggest how certain popular church-growth “rules” can put a church’s health at risk when slightly misapplied or taken to extremes.

Church-Growth Risky Rule #1:

If it brings people in, it pleases God.

Recently, I attended a pastor’s gathering where many participants expressed frustration with the lack of numerical growth in their churches. One pastor said to me, “My feeling is, whatever works, and if it pleases God, that is what I want to do.” I understood his good intentions, but I couldn’t agree with him. “You know, I don’t want to be nit-picky,” I said, “but I really have to differ with you. It’s not whatever works; it is whatever is pleasing to God. Period.”

Why? Because if it’s pleasing to God, it will work. If there was ever a church growth plan that did work, it was the one the early Christians used. Talk about numbers. Talk about effectiveness. This church exploded. Why? Because they knew why they were here on earth and what they were supposed to do.

A careful reading of Acts 2:42–47 shows that the early church didn’t make bigger and better their business. Instead, they focused on five priorities: worship, prayer, evangelism, learning, and loving. The passage ends with the words, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (KJV). The first church didn’t have a problem with growth because God took care of the growth as they took care of honoring His principles.

Church growth is ultimately God’s business, not ours to control. Our commission is to live out the gospel individually and whole-heartedly in community. Then, in keeping with God’s will, “the Lord added to the church daily” will become the success story of our church. Not every pastor will necessarily have a “megachurch,” but he will have a growing one.

Church-Growth Risky Rule #2:

The less confrontational or overt the gospel message, the better.

One positive aspect of the recent growth movement is the emphasis on getting nonbelievers to come to church. I’m concerned, however, that in a sincere effort to get their churches to grow, some pastors are exchanging entertainment for exhortation and gimmicks for the gospel. We recently conducted a survey at our church and found that over 40 percent of those who attended had become Christians at one of our services. If people walk away from our services with a good feeling but no idea who Jesus is, I know we have really missed the boat.

Graham Scroggie said compromise is what “prompts us to be silent when we ought to speak for fear of offending.” Of course, drama, videos, music, and other media used to communicate Christian faith in churches today aren’t compromises by themselves. Yet we must be sure that gimmicks don’t take the place of the gospel. Let’s be sure we are actually proclaiming the whole gospel—including sin, judgment, and salvation.

Church-Growth Risky Rule #3:

Find out what your church is hungry for and feed it to them.

People and churches develop an appetite for what they are accustomed to being fed. A church with a steady diet of feel-good sermonettes in place of solid teaching from Scripture might eventually grow to become a large congregation—but it will be weak and immature.

You could easily conclude that many congregants want the church to be light and hassle-free. No heavy meals or five-course messages. But just because people have developed an appetite for empty calories doesn’t mean their bodies have no need for nutritious meals.

When our two boys were younger, they didn’t understand why my wife, Cathe, and I wouldn’t let them exist on a steady diet of Hostess Twinkies and Ding-Dongs. Nevertheless, we insisted on a balanced diet. Why? Because the boys’ appetites didn’t feed their real, long-term hungers.

There’s a reason Scripture tells pastors to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Whether they always feel it or not, human beings have a deep need to know the meaning of life and the reason for their existence. The answers people need can be found only in God’s Word and in a living relationship with Jesus, “the bread of life” (John 6:35).

Church-Growth Risky Rule # 4:

Target your church to a particular demographic.

Despite their diversity, the believers of the early church maintained a love and unity so powerful that they enjoyed the favor of all (Acts 2:47). Who wouldn’t want to join in on such a love feast? As a result, their numbers exploded and thousands came to Christ. Nevertheless, one trend in church growth is the attempt to target churches to a particular niche of “consumers.” You might call these designer churches. Every decision has a particular “consumer” in mind.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with trying to find ways to reach out to a specific segment of society and make a connection or with using common interests as a springboard for the gospel. Yet we need to be cautious about mistaking our circles of comfort for our calling. Philip went to an Ethiopian court official (Acts 8); Peter went to a Roman centurion named Cornelius (Acts 10); Paul went to a Philippian businesswoman (Acts 16). Each one of those contacts was instrumental in helping to spread Christianity around the known world.

Discovering God’s Design – Gratitude for Grace

Luke 7:36–50

One of the most significant ways that we receive God’s generosity is through the gift of forgiveness. Jesus demonstrated the nature and extent of that forgiveness in this story. The woman sought Jesus because she recognized who he was, the Messiah. Church father Augustine (354–430) says that

she knew that he to whom she had come was able to make her whole; she approached then, not to the head of the Lord, but to his feet; and she who had walked long in evil, sought now the steps of uprightness. First she shed tears, the heart’s blood; and washed the Lord’s feet with the duty of confession. She wiped them with her hair, she kissed, she anointed them: she spake by her silence; she uttered not a word, but she manifested her devotion.

Simon, Jesus’ host, observed Jesus’ acceptance of the woman’s ministrations and thought that this proved Jesus was not a prophet. Ironically, Jesus read his thoughts. Augustine clarifies this passage:

Let now the Pharisee understand even by this, whether he was not able to see her sins, who could hear his thoughts. So then he put forth to the man a parable concerning two men, who owed to the same creditor. For he was desirous to heal the Pharisee also, that he might not eat bread at his house for nought; he hungered after him who was feeding him, he wished to reform him, to slay, to eat him, to pass him over into his own body.

So Jesus related to Simon the short parable, and Simon was forced to acknowledge that the one who has been forgiven most loves most. Jesus pointed out to Simon how little love he had shown for Jesus. He had not washed his feet, as was appropriate for an honored guest, nor had he anointed him, and he did not realize who Jesus was; he did not even acknowledge Jesus as a prophet. Moreover, Simon did not recognize that he was in need of a savior, that “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Ro 3:10). Augustine says,

O Pharisee, therefore dost thou love but little, because thou dost fondly think that but little is forgiven thee; not because little really is forgiven thee, but because thou thinkest that that which is forgiven is but little.

The woman, however, knew that she was a sinner, and she had faith that Jesus could forgive her. Even if Simon the Pharisee was a good, upstanding person with much less to forgive than the woman, this passage only serves to emphasize the fact that the Christian who begrudges God’s generosity to the outcast is in great need of forgiveness. It was the woman, not the “clean” Pharisee, who went away with Jesus’ forgiveness and Jesus’ blessing, “Go in peace” (Lk 7:50).

Think About It

  • How did the woman in the story know who Jesus was and what he could do for her?
  • If you heard Jesus was eating dinner at your neighbor’s house, how would you approach him?
  • Do you identify more with the woman in the story or the host?

Pray About It

Lord, I turn to you in repentance and faith. Forgive me, cleanse me and give me peace.

 

 

Our Daily Bread – Solving The Mystery

 

 

 

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8

 

Read: Romans 5:1-11
Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 1-2; Mark 10:1-31

One of the most popular tourist attractions in England is the giant stone pillars of Stonehenge. These massive pieces of granite are also a great source of mystery. Every year, people travel to Stonehenge with questions such as: Why were they erected? Who accomplished this extraordinary engineering marvel? And perhaps we wonder most of all how they did it. But visitors leave having received no answers from the silent stones. The mystery remains.

The Scriptures speak of a greater mystery—the fact that God came to live among us as a man. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.”

This brief overview of the life of Christ—the mystery of godliness—is remarkable. What prompted the Creator of the universe to come and live and die for His creation, however, is not a mystery. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God’s great love for us is at the root of the mystery of godliness, and the cross has made it plain for all to see. —Bill Crowder

Lord, we may not understand everything You have done for us, or how You have done it. But we know You love us and sent Jesus to die for us, and that is all we need to know.

How Christ became a human being may be a mystery, but God’s love isn’t.

Joyce Meyer – Privilege

 

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

Part of trusting God is having unanswered questions. When you get answers, you don’t need to trust God anymore. But if you don’t have answers, then you will need to trust God. He could give us all the answers to everything, but He doesn’t because He wants us to trust Him.

Have you ever said, “There’s nothing we can do but trust God”? Like it’s your last-ditch effort—you’ve done everything else and now you’re left with no other choice.

We need to change the way we talk. We need to realize trusting God is the greatest privilege we have. What an honor to be able to say, “No matter what kind of problem I have in my life, I get to trust God!” God wants to take care of you, but He doesn’t start until you stop. Retire from self-care, and start trusting God.

Power Thought: I don’t have all the answers, but God does. I put my trust in Him.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – No Longer Under Law

 

“So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

What an exciting fact! We are no longer under the law. We have been liberated from the bondage of trying to please God through our self-effort.

What is our motivation under grace? Under law our motivation was fear, and desire for reward and blessing; under grace, our basic motivation is an expression of gratitude – an inward appreciation and response to God’s love and grace.

Why do we do what we do as Christians? We should respond because we, like the apostle Paul, are constrained by the love of Christ. We live for the glory of God. You will remember that the apostle Paul had been beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, starved, buffeted, criticized and condemned, yet he said, “The love of Christ constrains me.”

Even if there were no rewards for those who live godly lives and obey our Savior, the reward of knowing Him as our God and Father, being forgiven of sin and cleansed from all guilt, is more than just enough; it is unfathomable. We can know Him, love Him, worship Him and serve Him by faith – here and now!

A young man I know is writing a book on how to become rich in the kingdom of God. He is basing his theme on the rewards that will be his by winning souls. “I want to be rich in heaven,” he says.

That may be a worthwhile goal, but it is not mine. Mine is gratitude and love. I love Him because He first loved me – died for me, liberated me, set me free.

Bible Reading: Romans 8:2-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will sing praises and give thanks in my heart to the Lord upon every remembrance of the liberty and grace that is mine in Christ Jesus, and I will tell everyone who will listen that we are no longer in bondage to sin, for Christ has set us free.

 

Max Lucado – Why Did He Do It?

 

Why did Jesus live on the earth as long as He did? To take on our sins is one thing; to experience death, yes, but to put up with long roads and long days? Why did He do it? Because He wants you to trust Him. Even His final act on earth was intended to win your trust.

Mark 15:22.says, “They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha where they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.  And they crucified Him.” Why?  Why did He endure all this suffering—all these feelings? Because He knew you’d be weary, disturbed, and angry. He knew you’d be grief-stricken, and hungry, that you’d face pain.

A pauper knows better than to beg from another pauper. He knows he needs someone who’s stronger than he is. Jesus’ message from the Cross is this:  I am that Person. Trust Me.

From He Chose the Nails

Our Daily Bread – Start With Me

 

 

 

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. —Philippians 2:4

 

Read: 1 Corinthians 13:4-13
Bible in a Year: Numbers 34-36; Mark 9:30-50

I call them Mell Notes—little comments my daughter Melissa made in her Bible to help her apply a passage to her life.

In Matthew 7, for instance, she had drawn a box around verses 1 and 2 that talk about not judging others because, when you do, “with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Next to it she wrote this Mell Note: “Look at what you are doing before you look at others.”

Melissa was an “others-oriented” teen. She lived the words of Philippians 2:4. Her classmate Matt, who knew her from church nursery through her final days in the eleventh grade when she died in a car accident, said of Melissa at her memorial service: “I don’t think I ever saw you without a smile or something that brightened up people’s days.” Her friend Tara said this: “Thanks for being my friend, even when no one else was as nice and cheerful as you.”

In a day in which harsh judgment of others seems to be the rule, it’s good to remember that love starts with us. The words of Paul come to mind: “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

What a difference we’ll make if, when we look at others, we say, “Love starts with me.” And wouldn’t that be a great reflection of God’s love for us? —Dave Branon

Lord, thank You for the great love You lavished on us when You sent Your Son to die and be resurrected so that we could be with You eternally. In response, help us to love others. Lord, we want to be like You.

Embracing God’s love for us is the key to loving others.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Beautiful Foolishness

 

“I don’t believe in God,” begins Julian Barnes in his book Nothing to Be Frightened Of, “but I miss him.” Though he admits he never had any faith to lose (a “happy atheist” as an Oxford student, Barnes now considers himself an agnostic), he still finds himself dreading the gradual ebbing of Christianity. He misses the sense of purpose that the Christian narrative affords, the sense of wonder and belief that haunts Christian art and architecture.

“I miss the God that inspired Italian painting and French stained glass, German music and English chapter houses, and those tumbledown heaps of stone on Celtic headlands which were once symbolic beacons in the darkness and the storm.” Such are the thoughts that surface as Barnes attempts to confront his fears of death and dying in this memoir. He believes Christianity to be a foolish lie, but insists, “[I]t was a beautiful lie.”(1)

There is certainly room for beauty in the description the apostle Paul gave of the gospel. Like Julian, Paul saw its foolishness clearly as well: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). He also noted the weakness inherent in the Christian proclamation. At the heart of the Christian religion is one who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form” (Philippians 2:7). On this much Paul and Julian agree: however beautiful, foolishness and weakness imbibe the Christian story.

But unlike Julian, Paul saw the foolishness of the gospel as a reason not to disbelieve, but to believe. “For God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). It is indeed difficult to explain why at the heart of the Christian narrative there is a child, why God would answer the dark silence of 400 years with the cry of a displaced and homeless infant, why God would take on the weakness of humanity in an attempt to reach humanity with power, dying as the Messiah. Most of us would know better than to create, or to perpetuate, a story so foolish. However beautiful, the story of Christ is difficult to explain; that is, unless it was not crafted with human wisdom at all.

The story of a Savior coming as an infant in Bethlehem is indeed astonishing, as astonishing an idea as the resurrection. That God chose to come into the world with flesh, flesh that would suffer, is strange and paradoxical, beautiful and foolish. Perhaps it is also wise beyond our comprehension. “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Though the word incarn is now used infrequently, it was once used medically, describing the flesh that grows over a wound. Applied to healing, the word refers to the recovery of wounded flesh due to the presence of new flesh.(2) The Incarnation, the astonishing event at the center of Christianity, the story that has inspired music, architecture, and hope, is God’s way of doing exactly that: Christ comes in flesh to cover our mortal wound. God comes near in body and in weakness to bring healing to weak and wounded bodies. Indeed, God’s own body is mortally wounded only to rise again in flesh and blood. This may seem a foolish mission, but to the blind who receive their sight, the lame who now walk, the diseased who are cleansed, the deaf who hear, the dead who are raised, and the poor who have good news brought to them, it is the most beautiful foolishness ever known.

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

(1) Julian Barnes, Nothing to Be Frightened Of (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008).

(2) Encyclopaedia Perthensis; Or Universal Dictionary of the Arts, Sciences, Literature (Edinburgh: John Brown, 1816), 53.

Alistair Begg – Stay Awake!

 

Let us not sleep, as others do.  1 Thessalonians 5:6

 

There are many ways of encouraging the Christian to stay awake. First, let me strongly advise Christians to talk to each other about the ways of the Lord. In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Hopeful, on their journey to the Celestial City, said to themselves, “To prevent drowsiness in this place, let us fall into good discourse.” Christian inquired, “Brother, where shall we begin?” And Hopeful answered, “Where God began with us.” Then Christian sang this song:

When saints do sleepy grow, let them come hither,
And hear how these two pilgrims talk together;
Yea, let them learn of them, in any wise,
Thus to keep open their drowsy slumb’ring eyes.
Saints’ fellowship, if it be managed well,
Keeps them awake, and that in spite of hell.

Christians who isolate themselves and walk alone are very liable to grow drowsy. Keep Christian company, and you will be kept wakeful by it, and refreshed and encouraged to make quicker progress on the road to heaven. But as you enjoy fellowship with others in the ways of God, take care that the theme of your conversation is the Lord Jesus. Let the eye of faith be constantly looking to Him; let your heart be full of Him; let your lips speak of His worth.

Friend, live near to the cross, and you will not sleep. Work hard to impress yourself with a deep sense of the value of the place to which you are going. If you remember that you are going to heaven, you will not sleep on the road. If you think that hell is behind you, and the devil pursuing you, you will not loiter. Would the innocent sleep with the enemy in pursuit and the city of refuge before him?

Christian, will you sleep while the pearly gates are open–the songs of angels waiting for you to join them–a crown of gold ready for your brow? Ah, no! In holy fellowship continue to watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation.

Today’s Bible Reading

The family reading plan for March 5, 2015
* Exodus 16
Luke 19

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