Tag Archives: Jesus

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – The Bottom Line

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“God, I’m sorry, I wasn’t very loving today.” Well, some days are like that, aren’t they? You don’t accelerate soon enough when the traffic light turns green and a dozen horns honk. The coffee you picked up at the drive-thru was minus the flavored syrup you requested. You get home from the grocery, and the shredded cheese didn’t make it into your bag. And on it goes. You mutter, you complain, your irritations grow. And your evening devotional reminds you to do things in love. Not just some things. Everything!

Let all that you do be done in love.

I Corinthians 16:14

Like the other exhortations in I Corinthians 16, practice and patience come before the bottom-line payoff. When Jesus met with His disciples in the upper room, He reminded them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) That is your motivator. Then treat your neighbor as you’d treat yourself – rude motorists are forgiven, mistakes happen, and you have no idea what problem might be on the mind of the grocery bagger. A good start is in praying for each person you meet.

People in government have problems, too. It can be difficult when your viewpoints are so opposite from theirs, but pray for them in love. That’s God’s bottom line!

Recommended Reading: John 14:21-27

 

 

Greg Laurie – An Invitation to Rest

greglaurie

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. —Revelation 22:17

One December I was on my way to New York and had a connection through Chicago. It was very cold outside, and as I was walking through the airport terminal, I noticed a large advertisement. It featured a sunny, tropical beach with beautiful turquoise-blue water, white sand, and an empty beach chair. That picture was so alluring and so appealing because of where I was at that particular moment.

I think that photograph represented something all of us really want: rest, relaxation, and time off. Jesus has something to say to the person who is exhausted and worn out. He has something to say to people who have been chewed up and spit out by life — people who are frustrated, who are hurting. Here is His personal offer of rest to those who will respond: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT).

This passage gives us the Christian life in a nutshell. Here we see what it is to come to, to know, and to walk with Jesus Christ. This invitation stands today, but it won’t stay that way forever. What is the invitation? Jesus says, “Come to Me.”

That’s it? Yes, that’s it.

It’s so simple, yet so profound. And we see this same invitation echoed throughout Scripture. It all begins with coming to God . . . approaching Him . . . seeking Him . . . opening our hearts to Him. Never doubt it. He will respond.

 

Max Lucado – Hucksters and Faith Peddlers

Max Lucado

When religion is used for profit and prestige, people are exploited and God is infuriated! When Jesus entered Jerusalem the first day of Passover week, Matthew 21:12-13 says, “He went into the temple and threw out all the people who were buying and selling there.  He turned over the tables of those who were exchanging different kinds of money, and he upset the benches of those who were selling doves. Jesus said to all the people there, ‘It is written in the Scriptures, My temple will be called a house for prayer. But you are changing it into a hideout for robbers!’”

Hucksters. Faith peddlers. People making a franchise out of the faith. This was not a temper tantrum. It was an intentional message from Jesus. Cash in on my people and you’ve got me to answer to. God will never hold guiltless those who exploit the privilege of worship.

From And the Angels Were Silent

 

Charles Stanley – When We Are Abused

Charles Stanley

Luke 6:26-28

Knowing basic suggestions for handling abuse is wise. The problem is so widespread that even if you are not personally affected, someone closer than you realize probably is. Had I received this counsel early enough, perhaps I could have responded better to my stepfather’s abuse.

Seek God’s guidance. There is no standard answer for how to handle abusive situations, because they are all different. They range from irritating classroom bullying to life-threatening domestic violence, and are motivated by different reasons and emotions. Solutions also vary; severe conditions may warrant leaving the situation. Don’t simply do what others say they would do. Instead, ask, “Lord, what would You have me do?” Always check with God’s Word. He will never encourage doing anything that violates Scripture.

Pray for the abuser. As difficult as it seems, we are called to pray, even for our enemies. Ask that God’s love will make a difference in your oppressor’s life—that he or she will see the evil of the abuse and be set free from such harmful behavior. Pray that the Lord gives you understanding about the abuser’s motivation, which can be helpful as you deal with the situation.

This advice isn’t easy to follow; praying for the abuser goes against both our human nature and the popular message of our culture. However, there are former victims of abuse who testify that the Lord didn’t “waste” their suffering—and that some positive outcomes resulted from their experience (Rom. 8:28).

 

Our Daily Bread — Where Our Fears Live

Our Daily Bread

1 Kings 17:17-24

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. —Psalm 56:3

Twelve years into our marriage, my wife and I were discouraged by the emotional roller-coaster of hopes raised and dashed in attempting to have children. A friend tried to “explain” God’s thinking. “Maybe God knows you’d be a bad father,” he said. He knew that my mother had struggled with a terrible temper.

Then, Christmas 1988, we learned we were expecting our first child! But now I had this nagging fear of failure.

The following August, Kathryn joined our family. As nurses and doctors tended to my wife, Kathryn cried on the warming tray. I offered my hand to comfort her, and her tiny fingers wrapped around my finger. In that instant, the Holy Spirit swept through me, assuring me of what I had only recently doubted—that I would show love to this little one!

The widow of Zarephath also had doubts. Her son had been struck with a lethal illness. In her despair she cried out, “Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” (1 Kings 17:18). But God had other plans!

We serve a God who is mightier than the struggles we inherit and who is full of the desire to forgive, love, and heal the brokenness that rises up between us and Him. God is present in the places where our fears live. —Randy Kilgore

Father, make Yourself known to us in our weakest

moments and in our greatest fears. Teach us to

receive Your love in a way that enables us to show

it to others, especially those closest to us.

Love swims against the current of life’s false fears.

Bible in a year: Leviticus 11-12; Matthew 26:1-25

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Toward Freedom

Ravi Z

A recent article in Christianity Today Magazine caught my attention. Excerpted from his forthcoming book, What Good is God?, author Philip Yancey discusses his speaking and listening tour throughout several countries in the Middle East in 2009 (1). Part of his listening included hearing how the “Christian” West was viewed by those living in predominantly Islamic countries. Time and again, he heard a familiar refrain: freedom in the West was equated with decadence. Yancey writes, “Much of the misgiving…for the West stems from our strong emphasis on freedom…where freedom so often leads to decadence.” (2)

Of course, Yancey would quickly acknowledge that the freedom we enjoy in the West is often taken for granted. In general, we are free to do and to be whatever we want. We move unhindered towards the achievement of our own personal freedoms and objectives, without worrying about impediment or coercive control from outside forces. Certainly, the freedom to move about countries and across state borders effortlessly is a gift enjoyed by many in the Western world. We have the freedom to worship, unhindered by government intervention. Many who have financial abundance are able to access freedoms that only money can buy. We are free to think as we want, speak what we want, and do what we want. In comparison with people in places where freedoms are curtailed, we have the freedom to…. fill in the blank with endless possibilities.

But taking an honest look at how freedom is exercised in the Western world means turning a careful ear to this critique from those looking in from the outside. The belief that individual freedom to do, be, or say whatever we want is often cut off and isolated any thoughtfulness towards community consequences or responsibility. Sadly, freedom is rarely viewed as an opportunity to serve others.

The apostle Paul raised this issue as he wrote to the early Christians at Corinth. In discussing matters of personal freedom he exhorted these early Christians that “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his or her own good, but that of his or her neighbor….whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:23, 24, 31). In his letter to the Galatian Christians, Paul applies the gift of freedom to a sense of corporate responsibility: “You were called to freedom; only do not turn your freedom into and opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 3:13-14).

Paul’s definition of freedom for love and service seems to fly in the face of understanding freedom as doing whatever one wants to do, individually. And while deploring the restriction or oppression of human freedom as evidenced in totalitarian regimes and systems, might it also be prudent to deplore the unchecked, unthinking, and often self-centered understanding of freedom that occupies many Western societies and systems. We are called to freedom, freedom for others–and not simply as the individualistic pursuit of self-interest. Rightly understood, freedom is grounded in love for the sake of one another.

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

(1) Philip Yancey, “A Living Stream in the Desert” Christianity Today, November 2010, 30-34.

(2) Ibid., 32.

Alistair Begg – Return to Your First Love

Alistair Begg

Revelation 2:4

We will always remember that best and brightest of hours when we first saw the Lord, lost our burden, received the gift of grace, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on our way in peace. It was springtime in the soul; the winter was past; the mutterings of Sinai’s thunders were hushed; the flashings of its lightnings were no more perceived; God was beheld as reconciled; the law threatened no vengeance, and justice demanded no punishment.

Then the flowers appeared in our heart. Hope, love, peace, and patience sprang from the ground; the hyacinth of repentance, the snowdrop of pure holiness, the crocus of golden faith, the daffodil of early love–all decked the garden of the soul.

The time of the singing of birds had arrived, and we rejoiced with thanksgiving; we magnified the holy name of our forgiving God, and our resolve was, “Lord, I am Yours, Yours alone. All I am, and all I have, I devote to You. You have bought me with Your blood–let me spend myself and be spent in Your service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to You.”

How well have we kept this resolve? Our first love burned with a holy flame of devotion to Jesus–is it the same now? Is it possible that Jesus may say to us, “I have something against you, because you have left your first love”? Sadly we have done little for our Master’s glory. Our winter has lasted all too long. We are as cold as ice when we should feel a summer’s glow and bloom with sacred flowers. We give God pennies when He deserves much more, deserves our heart’s blood to be coined in the service of His church and of His truth. But shall we continue in this way? O Lord, after You have blessed us so richly, shall we be ungrateful and become indifferent to Your good cause and work? Quicken us that we may return to our first love and do our first works! Send us a joyful spring, O Sun of Righteousness.

The family reading plan for February 11, 2014 Job 10 | Romans 14

 

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – Christ crucified

CharlesSpurgeon

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:23,24

Suggested Further Reading: Galatians 1:1-9

I do not believe it is preaching Christ and him crucified, to give our people a batch of philosophy every Sunday morning and evening, and neglect the truth of this Holy Book. I do not believe it is preaching Christ and him crucified, to leave out the main cardinal doctrines of the Word of God, and preach a religion which is all a mist and a haze, without any definite truths whatever. I take it that a man does not preach Christ and him crucified, who can get through a sermon without mentioning Christ’s name once; nor does that man preach Christ and him crucified who leaves out the Holy Spirit’s work, who never says a word about the Holy Ghost, so that indeed the hearers might say, “We do not so much know whether there be a Holy Ghost.” And I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering, love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor. The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that.

For meditation: To “know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) may sound very limited. In fact it is a vast and glorious subject upon which everything else should be based and for which God should be given all the glory (1 Corinthians 1:30,31).

Sermon nos. 7/8

11 February (1855)

 

John MacArthur – The Joy of Intercession

John MacArthur

“Always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all” (Phil. 1:4).

There’s the story of a special nurse who knew the importance of intercessory prayer. Each day she used her hands as instruments of God’s love and mercy toward those in her care, so she found it natural to use her hand as a scheme of prayer. Each finger represented someone she wanted to pray for. Her thumb was nearest to her and reminded her to pray for those who were closest and dearest. The index finger was used for pointing, so it stood for her instructors. The third finger was the tallest and stood for those in leadership. The fourth finger was the weakest, representing those in distress and pain. The little finger, which was the smallest and least important, reminded the nurse to pray for her own needs.

Undoubtedly that nurse knew the joy of praying for others. Paul knew it too. Given the same circumstances, a lesser man would be consumed with his own well-being, but Paul modeled what he teaches in Philippians 2:4: “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Such an attitude is the heart of effective intercessory prayer.

Those who lack the joy of the Holy Spirit often harbor negative thoughts toward others, which debilitates compassion and hinders prayer. That’s tragic because intercessory prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of righteous people (James 5:16).

Analyze your own prayers. Are they generous with praise to God for His goodness to others? Do you pray for the needs of others? Practice doing so, and the joy of intercession will be yours.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Pray for specific people and specific needs.

Thank God for what you see Him doing in the lives of others.

For Further Study:

John 17 is Christ’s intercessory prayer for His disciples, including us (v. 20). After reading that chapter, complete the following statements:

Eternal life is . . .

Christ’s mission on earth was to . . .

The world’s reaction to Christ and His followers is . . .

The best way to convince the world that Christ was sent by the Father is to . . .

Joyce Meyer – Learn to Wait on God

Joyce meyer

Therefore return to your God! Holdfast to love and mercy, to righteousness and justice, and wait [expectantly] for your God continually! —Hosea 12:6

When Judas betrayed Jesus, He had insight to know what Judas was doing, but He just stood there and let him continue with his greeting, his embrace, and his kiss. Then in Matthew 26:50, Jesus said to him, Friend . . . (You ought to circle the word friend in your Bible.) Knowing that Judas was betraying Him, He still called him, Friend, for what are you here? Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and arrested Him. Peter, ready to defend Jesus drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Whack! Old lion-like Peter was full of fleshly zeal. He whipped out that sword and chopped off his ear. You know what Peter was thinking? “Bless God, we don’t have to put up with this! Whack! You’re messing with God’s anointed!”

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him (Luke 22:51 NIV). Peter was always talking when he didn’t need to be talking, doing things when he didn’t need to be doing them. Peter needed to learn how to wait on God and he needed to learn humility and meekness. God wanted to use Peter in a mighty way, but if Peter wanted to preach the Good News of the Gospel, he couldn’t do it by taking his sword out and chopping off ears when he felt angry.

Our abrasive words can cut off hearing, just as Peter’s sword cut off the servant’s ear. We just can’t come at people whenever we feel like justice is needed. We must be submissive to God; and if He says, “Say nothing,” we are to stand there and just let them think they are right even though we know they’re not. We have to say, “Yes, Lord,” and accept that He doesn’t even owe us an explanation. How many times do we prevent somebody’s spiritual growth or how many times do we prevent the blessings of God from coming on our own life simply because we don’t have control of the words that come out of our mouths?

None of us would have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life if Jesus hadn’t been submissive or if He had opened His mouth when He shouldn’t have. And He is our example. Jesus asks us to trust Him and wait on Him because He loves us.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Wait and He Will Help

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“Don’t be impatient. Wait for the Lord, and He will come and save you! Be brave, stouthearted and courageous. Yes, wait and He will help you” (Psalm 27:14).

Our surveys of hundreds of thousands of Christians throughout the world indicate that most Christians do not witness because of their fear. Even Timothy seems to have had the same problem.

His father in the faith, the apostle Paul, reminded him, as recorded in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (KJV). That is the reason our Lord promised, in Acts 1:8, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses” (KJV).

The Holy Spirit is the only one who can enable us to overcome fear. So, as we claim the promises of God and appropriate the fullness and power of His Holy Spirit, we can know that courage.

A Japanese schoolboy once showed his courage in a way that puts many of us to shame.

“He belonged to a school in Nagasaki containing 150 boys, and he was the only Christian among them all. He brought his lunch to school, as he lived at a distance, and he dared to fold his hands and ask a blessing every day before he ate.

He had some enemies among the boys who went to the master of the school and accused him of ‘doing something in the way of magic’ The master thereupon called the lad before the school and asked him what he had been doing.

“The little fellow spoke up bravely, explaining that he was a Christian, and that he had been thanking God and asking Him to bless the food. At once the master burst into tears, putting his head down on the desk.

“‘My boy,’ he said, ‘I too am a Christian; but I was afraid to tell anyone. Now, with God’s help I will try to live as a Christian ought to live.’ ”

Bible Reading: Isaiah 40:27-31

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I shall, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, be brave, stouthearted and courageous as I go forth to tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Greg Laurie – The Good in Guilt

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Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. —Romans 3:23–24

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, wanted to play a practical joke on twelve of his friends, he sent a note to each of them that simply read, “Flee at once. All is discovered.” Within twenty-four hours, all twelve friends had left the country. That’s what you call a guilty conscience.

If you ask me, I think we could use a little more guilt in our society. Guilt does serve a purpose. What good can possibly come from guilt? The same good that comes from that warning system in our bodies called pain. If you step on a piece of glass, your body sends a warning signal: “Stop! Don’t go any further!” In the same way, God has installed a warning system called guilt into our souls, and we experience it when we do something wrong. Just as pain tells us there is a physical problem that must be dealt with or the body will suffer, guilt tells us something is wrong spiritually and needs to be confronted and cleansed.

So you see, guilt isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The guilt feeling we experience is the symptom of the real problem, which is sin. All of the psychological counseling in the world can’t relieve a person of his or her guilt. We can pretend it is not there or try to find someone else to blame for our problems. But the only real and effective way to remove our guilt is to get to the root of the problem, which is sin.

 

Max Lucado – He Gave a Donkey

Max Lucado

I don’t know his name or what he looks like. I only know what he gave. He gave a donkey for Jesus to use on the Sunday he entered Jerusalem. An interesting bit of history is found in Matthew 21:3. It is the story of the man who gave the donkey to Jesus. The scripture says, “If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, say that the Master needs them, and he will send them at once.”

Did the man have any idea his generosity would be used for such a noble purpose? Did it occur to him God was going to ride that donkey?

All of us have a donkey. Something that, if given to God, could move Jesus and His story further down the road. Maybe you sing or program a computer or speak Swahili or write a check. Whichever it may be…that’s your donkey. Do you give it?

The guy who gave Jesus the donkey is just one in a long line of folks who gave little things to a big God.

From And the Angels Were Silent

Charles Stanley – Running the Race of Life

Charles Stanley

Hebrews 12:1-3

The Christian life is often described as a race-—one designed by God. In it, we are called to fulfill His purposes for us. That is, we are to be conformed to Christ’s likeness and bring God glory.

To run the race, we need to know the route. The Bible serves as our map, compass, and guidebook. It is an infallible manual for godly living, which is needed in our culture of contradictory voices, all claiming to be the truth.

To complete the race, we need inspiration and correction. Scripture provides both through the true accounts of biblical personalities. Some of us are like King Saul, who answered God’s call and began the race in strong fashion (1 Sam. 10:9-11); correction is likely if we lose our focus on God’s agenda and become immersed in worldly ways. Others of us are like the apostle Paul, who lived an ungodly life for years before salvation. His life inspires us to persevere and to embrace the Lord’s plan with growing passion.

During a race, we will encounter obstacles against which we must persevere. Some of these hindrances might include: criticism from believers and/or unbelievers; opposition to our stand for Jesus; and periods of loneliness and uncertainty when the way isn’t clear. The Holy Spirit strengthens us as we study God’s unchanging character and timeless promises.

Are you running the race well? How are you responding to pressures along the way? Remember that Christ, who is our very life, always runs with us. And be encouraged through the Scriptures.

 

 

Our Daily Bread — The Power Of Music

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 59:6-16

I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. —Psalm 59:16

In Wales, the music of men’s chorus groups is deeply engrained in the culture. Prior to World War II, one Welsh glee club had a friendly yet competitive rivalry with a German glee club, but that bond was replaced with animosity during and after the war. The tension was gradually overcome, though, by the message on the trophy shared by the two choruses: “Speak with me, and you’re my friend. Sing with me, and you’re my brother.”

The power of music to heal and help is a gift from God that comforts many. Perhaps that is why the Psalms speak so deeply to us. There we find lyrics that connect with our hearts, allowing us to speak to God from the depth of our spirits. “But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble” (Ps. 59:16). Amazingly, David wrote this song as he was being hunted down by men seeking to kill him! Despite his circumstances, David remembered God’s power and mercy, and singing of them encouraged him to go on.

May our God give us a song today that will remind us of His goodness and greatness, no matter what we may face. —Bill Crowder

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long;

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long. —Crosby

“I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel.” —Judges 5:3 (nlt)

Bible in a year: Leviticus 8-10; Matthew 25:31-46

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Mysterious Safety

Ravi Z

Someone told me recently that he wondered if humans only truly ever pray when we are in the midst of despair. Despite creed or confession, is it only when we have no other excuses to offer, no other comfort to hide behind, no more façades to uphold, that we are most likely to bow in exhaustion and be real with God and ourselves? “For most of us,” writes C.S. Lewis, “the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model.” In our distress, we stand before God as we truly are—creatures in need hope and mercy.

The words within the ancient Hebrew story of Jonah that are of most interest to me are words that in some ways seem not to fit in the story at all.(1) Interrupting a narrative that quickly draws in its hearers, a narrative about Jonah, the text very fleetingly pauses to bring us the voice of Jonah himself before returning again to the narrative. The eight lines come in the form of a distraught and despairing, though poetic prayer. And while it is true that the poem could be omitted without affecting the coherence of the story, the deliberate jaunt in the narrative text seems to provide a moment of significant commentary to the whole. The eight verses of poetry not only mark an abrupt shift in the tone of the text, but also in the attitude of its main character. The poetic words of the prophet, spoken as a cry of deliverance, arise from the belly of the great fish—a stirring image reminiscent of another despairing soul’s question: Where can I flee from your presence? If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me.

Jonah’s eloquent prayer for deliverance stands out in a book that is detailed with his egotistic mantras and glaring self-deceptions. By his own actions, Jonah finds himself in darkness, and yet it is in the dark that he speaks most honestly to God. The story is vaguely familiar to many hearers, and yet memory often seems to minimize the distress that broke Jonah’s silence with God. The popular notion that Jonah went straight from the side of the ship into the mouth of the fish is not supported by either the narrative as a whole or Jonah’s prayer. As one suggests, “[Jonah] was half drowned before he was swallowed. If he was still conscious, sheer dread would have caused him to faint—notice that there is no mention of the fish in his prayer. He can hardly have known what caused the change from wet darkness to an even greater dry darkness. When he did regain consciousness, it would have taken some time to realize that the all-enveloping darkness was not that of Sheol but of a mysterious safety.”(2)

When I think of the prayers I have offered in my deepest despair, the despair is always memorable, palpable even. And yet so is the sense that I was not yelling into an altogether empty darkness, that my voice was not alone, but that in this pained and enveloping darkness somehow the veil between creator and creature was parted. In the mysterious safety of the fish, Jonah seems to attest to the link between prayer and desperation; but more so, he attests to a God who hears in the void, whether the darkness is self-inflicted or thrown upon us like a violent sea. Likewise, the prophet reminds us of what is all too often our ironic refusal to face the face of a God who is equally present in the light of the ordinary. In prayer and desperation, Jonah saw himself without pretense. If only momentarily, the drowning prophet clung to a truth more secure than comfort and able than his alternatives: “Salvation belongs to the LORD.”

Sadly, Jonah’s distracted theology returned not long after the prayer was finished and his life was spewed back into normalcy. For many of us, it is a familiar tale. Honest words offered in despair remain with God in the darkness where we once cried out, the return of familiarity convincing us of a God more comfortably and safely remote. But if Jonah leaves us with a thought in the dark, it is the presence of options. Which view of God do you prefer? Which veil? Which distance? Which safety?

Once convinced there was a place he could flee from God’s presence, the prophet, sinking further into the depths of the sea, realized he was mercifully mistaken.

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

(1) See Jonah 2:2-10.

(2) H.L. Ellison, “Jonah,” The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 374.

 

Alistair Begg – I Have Redeemed You

Alistair Begg

Isaiah 44:22

Pay attention to THE INSTRUCTIVE PICTURE: Our sins are like a cloud. As clouds appear in many shapes and shades, so do our transgressions. As clouds obscure the light of the sun and darken the landscape below, so do our sins hide from us the light of Jehovah’s face and cause us to sit in the shadow of death. They are earthborn things and arise from the miry places of our lives; and when they collect and their measure is full, they threaten us with storm and tempest. Sadly, unlike clouds, our sins yield us no genial showers but rather threaten to deluge us with a fiery flood of destruction. How can it be fair weather when the dark clouds of sin remain within our souls?

Let our happy gaze ponder THE NOTABLE ACT of divine mercy–“blotted out.” God Himself appears upon the scene and in divine generosity, instead of manifesting His anger, reveals His grace. He at once and forever effectually removes the mischief, not by blowing away the cloud, but by blotting it out from existence once and for all. Against the justified man no sin remains; the great transaction of the cross has eternally removed his transgressions from him. On Calvary’s summit the great deed, by which the sin of all the chosen was forever put away, was completely and effectually performed.

Practically let us obey THE GRACIOUS COMMAND: “Return to me.” Why should pardoned sinners live at a distance from their God? If all of our sins have been forgiven, let no legal fear hold us back from the boldest access to our Lord. Let backslidings be bemoaned, but let us not persevere in them. Let us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, work strenuously to return to intimate communion with the Lord. O Lord, restore us now, tonight!

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2003, Good News Publishers and used by Truth For Life with written permission.

The family reading plan for February 10, 2014 Job 9 | Romans 13

 

Charles Spurgeon – The Tabernacle—without the camp

CharlesSpurgeon

“And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.” Exodus 33:7

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 13:9-16

This going out of the camp will involve much inconvenience. Some try to get over the inconvenience in the way Joshua did, they think they will come out of the camp altogether and live in the tabernacle, and then there will be no difficulty. You know there are many pious minds, a little over-heated with imagination, who think, that if they have never mixed with the world they could be holy. No doubt they would like to have a building erected, in which they could live, and pray, and sing all day, and never go to business, nor have anything at all to do with buying and selling. Thus they think by going without the camp they should become the people of God. In this however, they mistake the aim and object of the Christian religion—“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” That were an easy, lazy subterfuge, for getting rid of the hard task of having to fight for Christ. To go out of the battle in order that you may win the victory, is a strange method indeed of seeking to become “more than conquerors!” No, no, we must be prepared, like Moses, to go into the camp and to come out of it; always to come out of it when we seek fellowship with God, but still to be in it; to be mixed up with it, to be in the midst of it doing the common acts of man, and yet never being tainted by its infection, and never having the spirit troubled by that sin and evil which is so rampant there. I counsel you, not that you should come out of the world, but that being in it, you should be so distinctly not of it, that all men may see that you worship the Father outside the camp of their common association and their carnal worship.

For meditation: As in everything the Lord Jesus Christ is our perfect example—not of the world, but most certainly in it (John 17:14-18), separate from sinners (Hebrews 7:26) and yet able to be called the friend of sinners (Luke 7:34 and 15:2).

Sermon no. 359

10 February (1861)

 

 

John MacArthur – The Joy of Recollection

John MacArthur

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3).

Though Paul was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote to the Philippians, his mind wasn’t bound. Often he reflected on his experiences with the Philippian Christians. As he did, his thoughts turned to prayers of praise and thanksgiving for all that the Lord had done through them.

I’m sure Paul remembered when he preached in Philippi and God opened Lydia’s heart to believe the gospel (Acts 16:13-14). Subsequently everyone in her household was saved (v. 15). Surely her kindness and hospitality were bright spots in an otherwise stormy stay at Philippi.

He must also have remembered the demon-possessed girl whom the Lord delivered from spiritual bondage (v. 18), and the Philippian jailer, who threw Paul and Silas into prison after they had been beaten severely (vv. 23-24). Perhaps the girl became part of the Philippian church–the text doesn’t say. We do know that the jailer and his whole household were saved, after which they showed kindness to Paul and Silas by tending to their wounds and feeding them (vv. 30-34).

The many financial gifts that the Philippians sent to Paul were also fond memories for him because they were given out of love and concern. That was true of their present gift as well, which was delivered by Epaphroditus and went far beyond Paul’s need (Phil. 4:18).

Paul’s gratitude illustrates that Christian joy is enhanced by your ability to recall the goodness of others. A corollary is your ability to forgive shortcomings and unkindnesses. That goes against the grain of our “don’t get mad–get even” society but is perfectly consistent with the compassion and forgiveness God has shown you. Therefore be quick to forgive evil and slow to forget good.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Take time to reflect on some people who have shown kindness to you and encouraged you in your Christian walk. Thank God for them. If possible, call them or drop them a note of thanks. Assure them of your prayers, as Paul assured the Philippians.

If you harbor ill-will toward someone, resolve it quickly and begin to uphold that person in prayer.

For Further Study:

Read Matthew 5:23-26; 18:21-35. What were our Lord’s instructions regarding forgiveness and reconciliation?

 

Joyce Meyer – Think About What You Are Thinking About

Joyce meyer

Whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].—Philippians 4:8b

Some people are very unhappy, and they have been that way so long that they no longer realize there is another option. I can well remember being like that. I blamed my unhappiness on the way others behaved. I thought my husband and children caused me the most unhappiness. If they would change and just be a little more sensitive to my needs, I knew I’d feel better. If they would help around the house more, volunteer to run errands, or just ask how I was doing, I knew I’d be happy. Of course, I never said anything to them. If they were sensitive and caring, I thought, they would be able to see how they could help me and make my life easier. I did pray about it, and I often told God how much happier I would be if they cooperated more, but they didn’t change.

One day, God spoke to me—but not with the words I wanted to hear. He said, “Think about what you are thinking about. “ I had no idea what God meant. In fact, the words didn’t make sense. How could I think about what I was thinking about?

Then I realized the truth. My mind raced from one thought to another. That was bad enough, but worse, my thoughts centered around myself and my needs. I had thought that if they—the other people in my life—changed, I would be happy. I finally reluctantly admitted that even if they changed, I’d find something else to be unhappy about. I was just unhappy and didn’t need any particular reason. It was first one thing and then another.

As I pondered my condition, I thought of Philippians 4:8, where Paul presented a list of the kind of things we need to focus on. If God did not want me to think about the things I was thinking about, I first needed to know what I should think about. I soon realized I had a lot to learn. Although I had been attending church for years, I could not remember anyone ever telling me how important my thoughts were to God and to my quality of life.

If we concentrate our thoughts on good things—the kind of things Paul mentioned in that verse—we will be built up. We will grow spiritually and become strong in the Lord.

As I continued to meditate on God’s message, I realized how my thoughts affected my attitude—and this is true of all of us. God tells us to do things that are for our good. He wants us to be happy and fulfilled. If we want happiness and fulfillment, we must find it God’s way. If we’re full of wrong thoughts, we’re miserable. That’s not a theory—that’s spoken from my own experience and is found in God’s Word. I’ve also learned that when we’re miserable, we usually end up making others around us miserable, too.

Since those days, I’ve made it a practice to take a regular inventory of my thoughts. I review the way I think. What have I been thinking about? I ask myself.

I stress this because—as I learned from my own experience—¬Satan deceives us into thinking that the source of our misery or pain is other people or sometimes our situations. He tries not to let us face the fact that our own thoughts are the source of our unhappiness. I would venture to say that it is practically impossible to be happy while maintaining negative, critical, depressing thoughts.

We need to overcome Satan in this area of the battle for our thoughts, and God will help us if we ask Him to.

Dear Lord Jesus, I have determined to think about the things I have been thinking about. I admit that my thoughts are the source of any unhappiness that I experience and not other people. I also know that the source of my victory is in You, and in Your name, I ask You to give me greater victory as I monitor my thoughts through the help of the Holy Spirit. Amen.