Tag Archives: Jesus

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K – Confident Dependence

ppt_seal01

He came believing that Jesus could heal his daughter. Then he was put off, having to wait while Jesus healed another. When friends arrived telling him of his daughter’s death, Jesus’ words were just what he needed to hear…and they should be for you, too.

Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” Mark 5:36

“Cease fearing, continue to believe.” Present tense imperatives – the language indicates the action should be ongoing. The ruler, Jairus, could have given up when his friends told him not to bother the Master. But Jesus wanted him to know being afraid wasn’t necessary, and keeping confidence in Christ, always depending on Him to do what was best, was the antidote.

Do you need a remedy for anxiety? Are there health issues, relationship problems or financial difficulties causing you concern? Maybe the lack of leadership in government has you shaking your head. Talk of debt ceilings, health care or immigration can drive you to despair, especially when you think there is nothing you can do.

Remember, Jesus’ words apply to you. Continue to believe. Know that God is in control. Never fear the things of this world. Intercede for those who govern. Then let His Word strengthen your faith and give you hope.

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:31-39

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Empty Cross

Ravi Z

There was a body on the cross. This was the shocking revelation of a 12 year-old seeing a crucifix for the first time. I was not used to seeing Jesus there—or any body for that matter. The many crosses in my world were empty. But here, visiting a friend’s church, in a denomination different from my own, was a scene I had never fully considered.

In my own Protestant circles I remember hearing the rationale. Holy Week did not end with Jesus on the cross. Good Friday is not the end of the story. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. And on the third day, he rose again. The story ends in the victory of Easter. The cross is empty because Christ is risen.

In fact, it is true, and as Paul notes, essential, that Christians worship a risen Christ. “[For] if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Even walking through the last events of Jesus on earth—the emotion of the Last Supper, the anguish in Gethsemane, the denials of the disciples, the interrogation of Pilate, and the lonely way toward Golgotha—the Christian is well aware that though the cross is coming, so is the empty tomb. The dark story of Good Friday will indeed be answered by the light of Easter morning.

And yet, there is scarcely a theologian I can imagine who would set aside the fathomless mystery of the crucifixion in the interest of a doctrine that “over-shadows” it. The resurrection follows the crucifixion; it does not erase it. Though Christians confess that the cross has indeed taken away the sting of death and that Christ has truly borne our pain, the burden of discipleship is that we will follow him. Even Christ, who retained the scars of his own crucifixion, told his followers that they, too, would drink the cup from which he drank. The Christian, who considers him or herself “crucified with Christ,” will surely take up one’s cross and follow him. The good news is that Christ goes with us, even as he went before us, fully tasting humanity in a body like yours and mine.

Thus, far from being an act that undermines the victory of the resurrection, the remembrance of Jesus’s hour of suffering boldly unites us with Christ himself. For it was on the cross that he most intimately bound himself to humanity. It was “for this hour” that Jesus himself declared that he came. Humanity is, in turn, united to him in his suffering and near him in our own. Had there not been an actual body on the cross, such mysteries would not be substantive enough to reach us.

Author and undertaker Thomas Lynch describes a related problem as well-meaning onlookers at funerals attempt to console the grief-stricken. Lynch describes how often he hears someone tell the weeping mother or father of the child who died of leukemia or a car accident, “It’s okay, that’s not her, it’s just a shell.”(1) But the suggestion that a dead body is “just” anything, particularly in the early stages of grief, he finds more than problematic. What if, he imagines, we were to use a similar wording to describe our hope in resurrection—namely, that Christ raised “just” a body from the dead. Lynch continues, “What if, rather than crucifixion, he’d opted for suffering low self-esteem for the remission of sins? What if, rather than ‘just a shell,’ he’d raised his personality say, or The Idea of Himself? Do you think they’d have changed the calendar for that? […] Easter was a body and blood thing, no symbols, no euphemisms, no half measures.”(2)

Surely, the body of God on a cross is a mystery. On the cross, we find the one whose offering of himself transformed all suffering and forever lifted the finality of death. We find the very figure of God with us broken, a body who cried out in a loud voice in the midst of anguish, on the brink of death, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Precisely because the cross was not empty, the resurrection is profoundly full.

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

(1) Thomas Lynch, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (New York: Penguin, 1997), 21.

(2) Ibid.

 

Alistair Begg – Choice Fruits

Alistair Begg

Choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.

Song of Songs 7:13

The spouse desires to give to Jesus all that she produces. Our heart has all kinds of “choice fruits, new as well as old,” and they are reserved for our Beloved. In this rich autumn season of fruitfulness, let us survey our supplies.

We have new fruits. We desire to feel new life, new joy, new gratitude; we wish to make new resolves and carry them out by new endeavors; our heart blossoms with new prayers, and our soul is committing herself to new efforts.

But we also have some old fruits. There is the choice fruit of our first love, and Jesus delights in it. There is our first faith-that simple faith by which, having nothing, we became possessors of everything. There is our joy when we first met the Lord: Let us revive it. We have our old memories of the promises. How faithful has God been! In sickness, how kindly He made our bed! In deep waters, how gently He picked us up! In the flaming furnace, how graciously He delivered us. Old fruits indeed! We have many of them, for His mercies have been more than the hairs of our head. Old sins we must regret, but then we have had repentances that He has given us, by which we have wept our way to the cross and learned the merit of His blood.

We have fruits, this morning, both new and old; but here is the point–they are all laid up for Jesus. Without question the best and most acceptable services are those in which Jesus is the solitary aim of the soul, and His glory is the focus of all our endeavors. Let our many fruits be laid up only for Him; let us display them when He is with us, and not use them to draw attention to ourselves. Jesus, we will turn the key in our garden door, and no one will enter to rob You of one good fruit from the soil that You have watered with Your grace. All that we are and have shall be Yours, Yours alone, O Jesus, our Beloved!

Max Lucado – Stand Up

Max Lucado

God’s efforts are strongest when our efforts are useless!  I want you to listen to some revealing dialogue between a man who’d been paralyzed for years. Jesus encounters him at the pool of Bethesda where he’d gone hoping to get into the healing waters (John 5).

Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be well?”

“Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool. While I’m coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.”

“Stand up,” Jesus respond.  “Pick up your mat and walk.”

“And immediately the man picked up his mat and began to walk.”

I wish we would do that; I wish we would take Jesus at His word. I wish we would learn that when He says something, it happens. What is this peculiar paralysis that confines us? What is this stubborn unwillingness to be healed? When Jesus tells us to stand—let’s stand!  Yes, God’s efforts are strongest when our efforts are useless.  So, let’s lean upon Him!

Charles Stanley – The Cost of Uncontrolled Anger

James 1:19-20

Anger is an extremely powerful emotion. It can destroy lives, tear relationships apart, and ruin a believer’s witness.

The apostle Paul understood the negative potential of resentment, and he offered this advice on how to deal with it: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

When we’re right in the middle of tense situations, Paul’s recommendations may seem unrealistic and impractical. But unless we apply his advice, we could easily face the devastating consequences of uncontrolled rage. For example, our anger can shut down communication with others. It can also lead to a silent but very damaging type of resentment—the “passive-aggressive” person takes out his bitterness on others in subtle ways. One of the most harmful consequences of uncontrolled anger is depression. Over time, inner turmoil and unresolved conflicts will take their toll on a person’s mental health.

But we have a choice. We can let our anger control us—which means we opt to suffer the consequences. Or we can release this debilitating emotion by forgiving those we feel have stirred our bitterness.

Try to identify causes of anger in your life, and bring them before the Lord. Trust that He will empower you to overcome these sources of strife. Read Ephesians 4:31-3 once more, and let the truth of God’s Word strengthen you.

Charles Stanley – The Alternatives to Patience

Galatians 6:7-9

Have you ever felt the Lord calling you to something really big—maybe some task that seemed impossible or a goal that would no doubt take years to achieve? Most likely, some aspiration or God-given promise just came to mind. As you think about it, let’s consider three common courses of action.

First, we can take a shortcut. After all, if the Lord makes a promise or gives us a goal, wouldn’t He want us to attain it as quickly as possible? The answer is, Not necessarily. God often gives a pledge years before He brings it to pass. When we try to manipulate circumstances and “help” the Lord fulfill His promise, we’ll surely get in the way of the good things He has in mind for us. We should remember that part of the blessing will be the trust and wisdom that we gain while we are waiting.

Second, we can simply quit. We might tell ourselves, Who wants to wait ten years for anything? That is simply too long. I’d rather move on to something else. So we just walk away, forget that the opportunity ever came up, and try not to think about it anymore. But what a tragedy it is to say no to a promise of God and to miss out on the blessing He has planned for us.

Third, we can wait patiently and trust the Lord to bless us. This is clearly the best option, but sadly the one too many of us tend to avoid.

If someone were to say to you, “Ten years from today, I’m going to give you ten million dollars,” what would you say? Most likely, you would not respond, “No, thanks. I want it now or not at all.” Why then, do so many Christians say that to God? He has tremendous blessings in store for you—if you’re willing to wait.

Our Daily Bread — Songs Born Out Of Struggle

Psalm 31:9-20

Have mercy on me, O LORD . . . ; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body! —Psalm 31:9

In a documentary film about three legendary guitarists, Jack White described the first essential for writing a song: “If you don’t have a struggle already inside of you or around you, you have to make one up.”

The songs that mean the most to us give expression to our deepest feelings. Many of the Psalms, often called “the Bible’s songbook,” were born out of struggle. They capture our disappointments and fears, yet they always point us toward the faithful love of God.

In Psalm 31, David wrote: “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body!” (v.9). He speaks of a trap set for him (v.4), his own sin (v.10), abandonment by friends (vv.11-12), and plots against his life (v.13).

Yet, David’s hope was not in his own strength, but in God. “I trust in You, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me” (vv.14-15).

The Psalms invite us to pour out our hearts to God, because He has stored up His goodness for those who trust in Him (v.19). —David McCasland

God gives to His servants this promise:

You’ll not have to face life alone;

For when you grow weak in your struggle,

His strength will prevail—not your own. —Hess

When in your deepest need, find God’s comfort in the Psalms.

Alistair Begg – Tempted by Idols?

Can man make for himself gods? Such are not gods!  Jeremiah 16:20

One great besetting sin of ancient Israel was idolatry, and the church is vexed with a tendency to the same folly. The ancient gods of man’s invention have mostly disappeared, but the shrines of pride are not forsaken, and the golden calf still stands. Self makes an empty display, and the flesh sets up its altars wherever it can find space for them. Favorite children are often the cause of much sin in believers; the Lord is grieved when He sees us doting upon them beyond measure; they will live to be as great a curse to us as Absalom was to David, or they will be taken from us to leave our homes desolate. If Christians desire to grow thorns with which to stuff their sleepless pillows, let them dote on their children.

It is accurate to say that “such are not gods,” for the objects of our foolish love are very doubtful blessings, the solace that they yield us now is dangerous, and the help that they can give us in the hour of trouble is small indeed. Why, then, are we so bewitched with vanities? We pity the poor heathen who worships a god of stone, and yet we worship a god of gold. Where is the vast superiority between a god of flesh and one of wood? The principle, the sin, the folly is the same in either case; the only difference is that our crime is more aggravated because we have more light, and sin in the face of it. The heathen bows to a false deity, but the true God he has never known; we commit two evils, inasmuch as we forsake the living God and turn to idols. May the Lord purge us all from this grievous iniquity!

The dearest idol I have known,

Whate’er that idol be;

Help me to tear it from Thy throne,

And worship only Thee.

Charles Spurgeon – Divine sovereignty

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?” Matthew 20:15

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 19:11-27

There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God should more earnestly contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of his own hands—the throne of God, and his right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by unbelievers, no truth which they have kicked about so much, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on his throne. They will allow him to be in his workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow him to be in his treasury to dispense his alms and bestow his bounties. They will allow him to sustain the earth and bear up its pillars, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends his throne, his creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and his right to do as he wills with his own, to dispose of his creatures as he thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are ridiculed, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on his throne is not the God they love. They love him anywhere better than they do when he sits with his sceptre in his hand and his crown upon his head.

For meditation: Do you have to think twice before addressing Jesus as Lord? Judas Iscariot could never bring himself to do it—the other disciples could say “Lord” (Matthew 26:22); Judas could only say “Rabbi/Master/Teacher” (Matthew 26:25,49).

Sermon no. 77

4 May (1856)

John MacArthur – Chosen to be Sent

“Having summoned His twelve disciples, [Jesus] gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles were these” (Matt. 10:1-2).

Have you ever met someone who constantly absorbs what the church has to offer, yet never seems to plug into a ministry where he can give to others? I’ve met many people like that. Some have attended church for many years, and have even taken evangelism and other special training classes. But they never quite feel qualified to minister to others or even to share their testimony. Eventually that has a crippling effect on their spiritual lives and on the life of the church in general.

When Jesus called the disciples to Himself, He did so to train them for ministry. We see that in Matthew 10:1-2. The Greek word translated “disciples” means “learners.” “Apostles” translates a Greek word meaning “to dispatch away from” or “send.” In classical Greek it refers to a naval expedition dispatched to serve a foreign city or country. Disciples are learners; apostles are emissaries. Jesus called untrained disciples, but dispatched trained apostles. That’s the normal training process.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says, “Go . . . and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Paul said to Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

As wonderful and important as it is to learn of Christ, you must never be content to be a disciple only. You must also be a discipler!

Suggestions for Prayer:

Memorize Matthew 28:18-20. If you aren’t currently discipling someone, ask the Lord for an opportunity to do so.

For Further Study:

An important part of discipleship is spending time with Christ. One way to do that is to read through the gospels on a regular basis. You might want to obtain a harmony of the gospels to help in your study. Tell a friend of your plan so he or she can encourage you and hold you accountable.

Joyce Meyer – Love Aggressively

This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you. No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends. —John 15:12-13

As the children of God, we must love others as God loves us. And that means aggressively—and sacrificially.

Love is an effort. We will never love anybody if we are not willing to pay the price. One time I gave a woman a nice pair of earrings. My flesh wanted to keep them for myself, but my spirit said to be obedient to the Lord and give them away.

Later that woman stood up in a meeting and told how she had been given the earrings she was wearing as “a free gift.”

The Lord spoke to me and said, “Yes, it was a free gift to her, but it cost you, just as salvation is a free gift to you but it cost Jesus His life.”

Love is the greatest gift of all. When you show forth the love of God, do it freely, sacrificially—and aggressively!

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Ways That Are Right and Best

“He will teach the ways that are right and best to those who humbly turn to Him” (Psalm 25:9).

A guide, taking some tourists through Mammoth Cave, reached a place called “The Cathedral.”

Mounting a rock called “The Pulpit,” he said he wanted to preach a sermon, and it would be short.

“Keep close to your guide,” he said.

The tourists soon found it was a good sermon. If they did not keep close to the guide, they would be lost in the midst of pits, precipices and caverns.

It is hard to find one’s way through Mammoth Cave without a guide. It is harder to find one’s way through the world without the lamp of God’s Word.

“Keep your eye on the Light of the World (Jesus) and use the Lamp of God’s Word” is a good motto for the Christian to follow.

Humbly turning to God is one of the most meaningful exercises a person can take. We come in touch with divine sovereignty, and we become instant candidates to discern God’s will for our lives.

Humbling ourselves is clearly in line with God’s formula for revival:

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV).

Bible Reading: Psalm 25:1-8

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I will fix my heart and mind on Jesus first and others second, which is true humility.

Greg Laurie –Not All There Is

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. —James 1:12

Not long ago, I had a conversation with two people after church.

One was in a wheelchair with a severe disability, and the other was speaking at length. I listened to her for a while, and then I turned to the woman in the wheelchair and said, “Well, how are you doing?”

“I am doing fine,” she told me.

But then her friend said that she actually had just had two brain surgeries to remove cancer, and they were successful.

I looked at this young woman with her disability, someone who had just come through such a difficult time, and I thought, “And where is she now?” She is at church.

I think of all of the excuses people come up with as to why they can’t make it to church. They have a cold, or it takes too long to get into the parking lot, and so forth. Yet here was this young woman who, despite her severe disability and recent surgeries, was at church, praising God and saying she is doing fine. I was touched by her example.

So I said to her, “You know, the Bible promises a special blessing and crown to those who have suffered in this life. I admire your faith. You are an inspiration to me.”

James 1:12 says, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (NLT). It all will be made up to us in the life to come. Have you lost something to follow Jesus? Whatever losses you may have incurred for following Christ will be more than made up to you.

Make no mistake about it: Our life on earth isn’t all there is. There will be rewards for our faithfulness to God.

Charles Stanley – The Rewards of Patience

 

Hebrews 6:13-15

Patience is hard for us to learn. I don’t know anyone who likes the trait—we simply don’t have time for patience! Life is fast, time’s running out, and we’ve got to get this show on the road, right?

This is clearly how most of us act, even if we don’t say it in so many words. Perhaps that’s why Scripture includes abundant examples of godly patience and its reward. Over and over again, we see the heavenly Father making promises to His children, only to have them wait years—sometimes decades—for the promise to be fulfilled. But the result of that patience is always blessing.

Consider Abraham. At age 75, he was given God’s promise of a son. Ten years later, he was still waiting. Fifteen years passed, then twenty, and still no son. At last, when he was 100—a quarter-century after the Lord had made the promise—baby Isaac was born. Surely Abraham must have had times of doubt during that lengthy wait. However, he continued to trust in God and kept watching for the fulfillment of His promise.

There are plenty of other examples. As a young man, Jacob met the girl of his dreams, but he had to work many years before making her his bride. Joseph had a God-given vision of blessing at 17 but languished more than a decade in slavery and prison prior to receiving the reward. And David was anointed King of Israel as a teenager but spent the next 14 years or so running for his life before taking the throne.

Shortcuts never lead to where God wants us to be. The long road, however, is filled with faithful servants. Are you waiting on the Lord today? Be encouraged—you’re in good company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Momma’s Rules

 

Ephesians 4:17-32

Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt. —Ephesians 4:22

I met a delightful woman named “Momma Charlie,” who has raised a dozen or so foster kids. These youngsters were assigned to her by the courts, and she gave them a home with stability, guidance, and love. She told me that every time a new child arrived, the first order of business was to explain “Momma’s Rules.” These included behavioral standards, plus chores that would provide much-needed help in the busy household while teaching accountability to kids with little previous training.

Some of the children may have balked at “Momma’s Rules,” thinking they were robbing them of fun or pleasure—yet nothing would be further from the truth. Those standards allowed for an orderly household where both Momma and the children could find life enjoyable and peaceful.

Similarly, some look at the standards God set forth in the Bible as obstacles that prevent us from enjoying life. However, the boundaries God places actually protect us from our worst inclinations and foster healthy responses to Him.

In Ephesians 4, for example, Paul provides some guidance for how we are to live. As we live by these and other loving instructions from God, we find protection and the opportunity for true, lasting joy. —Bill Crowder

Father, thank You for the boundaries of life that

protect us from sin and from ourselves. Give us

the wisdom and grace to respond gratefully to

Your Word in areas of danger and temptation.

God’s Word is the compass that keeps us on course.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Fabric of Counterculture

 

Some years ago a group of Christian thinkers were asked to answer the question: How can followers of Christ be countercultural for the common good? Their answers ranged from becoming our own fiercest critics to experiencing life at the margins, from choosing our battles wisely to getting more sleep. A case could easily be made to add many other ideas to their thoughtful list, and its project leaders would agree. The possibilities for counterculturalism are perhaps as numerous as the cultures and sub-cultures of our globalized world. The idea was to get people thinking about what it means to be countercultural in the first place, a lifestyle Jesus heralded as a man with the government on his shoulders, one from whom others hid their faces, and for whom affliction was well known.

Of course, Jesus did not come to shape an insurgent army of cultural protestors. But he did turn both culture and cultural norms on their heads, and he continues to do so today. To crowds gathered in the first century, the wisdom of the rabbi from Nazareth was different than most. He taught with authority, but he also perplexed his would-be students with words about the first being last, and prostitutes and tax collectors making their way into the kingdom before religious experts. To crowds in the current century, this radical teacher continues to herald a radical message. Loving your neighbor is a command that runs counter to most cultural norms, loving your enemy all the more so. The entire Sermon on the Mount was, and remains, the most countercultural sermon ever given.

But still, the question persists: Did Jesus come to overturn cultural norms like he overturned the moneychangers’ tables? And exactly how, then, are his followers to be countercultural themselves? Are Christians to be inherently cultural naysayers, gypsies who wander through this world unattached and (hopefully) unaffected? Did Christ come to free us from the very fabric of culture and history into which our lives are woven? Or was his life’s ambition to unravel something much deeper?

To begin with, I think we misunderstand Jesus as a countercultural leader heralding a countercultural message if we separate his radical life and message from his radical work on the cross. Jesus did not come to destroy culture as we know it, but to save the world within it. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets,” he told a Jewish world built upon the Law and the Prophets. “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

Perhaps the best image of counterculturalism is an image of something that is being woven rather than unwound. Nancy Jackson, an artist who creates tapestries, notes the “countercultural” philosophy of weaving. “Weaving tapestry in our modern world requires a different mindset that has taken many years to cultivate,” she writes. “It requires faith that the world will still be here in two years…. Weaving a tapestry is good for the soul.” The equally foreign message of Christ is that God is not only near us, but that God’s presence is woven into all of life; God has been before us and will remain after us. The saving grace of God’s work among us can be seen throughout history, in the lives we live today, and in every stroke of time to come. Jesus did not come to unravel the fabric of the human story nor the human him or herself. On the contrary, he came to unravel confusion, shortfall, immaturity, sin, and chaos, and to make clear the beautiful tapestry made by a creator who has in mind the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Perhaps his followers are most adequately countercultural, then, when we live as people aware that there is an entire picture, when we counter the pervasive individualism that bids us to look no further than our own homes or schedules or priorities. Perhaps we are effectively countercultural when we testify to the radical work of the cross in the world and in our hearts, a cross which exchanges guilt for grace, ashes for beauty, collective sorrow for joy.  Perhaps we are countercultural when we see the startling colors of Christ’s life in our own stories and in our neighbors’ stories and know that these are only small glimpses of the magnificent work that God is weaving through all of time, every tribe, and partial tapestry.

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

 

 

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – Regeneration

 

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 13:22-30

“Angels, principalities, and powers, would you be willing that men who love not God, who believe not in Christ, who have not been born again, should dwell here?” I see them, as they look down upon us, and hear them answering, “No! Once we fought the dragon, and expelled him, because he tempted us to sin! We must not, and we will not, have the wicked here. These alabaster walls must not be soiled with black and lustful fingers; the white pavement of heaven must not be stained and rendered filthy by the unholy feet of ungodly men. No!” I see a thousand spears bristling, and the fiery faces of a myriad seraphs thrust over the walls of paradise. “No, while these arms have strength, and these wings have power, no sin shall ever enter here.” I address myself moreover to the saints of heaven, redeemed by sovereign grace: “Children of God, are you willing that the wicked should enter heaven as they are, without being born again? You say you love men, but are you willing that they should be admitted as they are?” I see Lot rise up, and he cries, “Admit them into heaven! No! What! Must I be vexed by the conversation of Sodomites again, as once I was!” I see Abraham; and he comes forward, and he says, “No; I cannot have them here. I had enough of them whilst I was with them on earth—their jests and jeers, their silly talkings, their vain conversation, vexed and grieved us. We want them not here.” And, heavenly though they be, and loving as their spirits are, yet there is not a saint in heaven who would not resent, with the utmost indignation, the approach of any one of you to the gates of paradise, if you are still unholy, and have not been born again.

For meditation: Matthew 13:41-43; Luke 16:23-26 — at best the unsaved will have a distant view of heaven which will only add to their torment.

Sermon no. 130

3 May (1857)

John MacArthur – Overcoming Spiritual Inadequacies

 

“Having summoned His twelve disciples” (Matt. 10:1).

Most people think of the disciples as stained-glass saints who didn’t have to struggle with the faults and frailties of normal people. But they had inadequacies just like we all do. Seeing how Jesus dealt with them gives us hope that He can use us too.

One inadequacy common to all the disciples was their lack of understanding. For example, Luke 18 tells us Jesus gave them details about His future suffering, death, and resurrection, but they didn’t understand anything He said (vv. 31-34). Jesus overcame their lack of understanding by constantly teaching them until they got it right.

Another inadequacy was their lack of humility. More than once they argued among themselves about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (e.g., Mark 9:33-37). Jesus dealt with their lack of humility by His own example. He likened Himself to a servant, and even washed their dirty feet.

In addition to their lack of understanding and humility, they also lacked faith. Jesus often said to them, “O men of little faith.” In Mark 16:14 He rebuked them for not even believing the reports of His resurrection.

They also lacked commitment. Just prior to Christ’s death Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the others deserted Him. Jesus dealt with their lack of commitment by praying for them (e.g., John 17:15; Luke 22:31-32).

Finally, they lacked spiritual power, which Christ overcame by giving them the Holy Spirit.

Those are significant inadequacies, but despite all that, the book of Acts records that the disciples turned the world upside down with their powerful preaching and miraculous deeds. They were so much like Christ that people started calling them Christians, which means “Little Christs.”

Jesus still transforms inadequacies into victories. He does it through the Spirit, the Word, and prayer. Don’t be victimized by your inadequacies. Make those spiritual resources the continual focus of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank the Lord for your inadequacies because they help you realize your dependence on Him.

Ask for grace always to rely on your spiritual resources rather than human abilities.

For Further Study:

Read Matthew 20:20-28.

Who spoke to Jesus on behalf of James and John?

What was His response?

How did the other disciples respond?

What was Jesus’ concluding principle?

 

Joyce Meyer – Getting What We Want

 

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. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.—Proverbs 3:5–6

I usually know what I want, and I like to get it. I’m exactly like most people. When we don’t get what we want, our negative feelings flare up. (And remember those feelings began with thoughts.)

“I drove across town to buy that dress, and you’re out of my size?”

“What do you mean there are no HDTVs left? You advertised it in the paper.”

Most of us are like that—and when we don’t get what we want, we make people around us miserable. It’s not something we learn in school—it may be inborn. As I wrote the above quotations, I thought of a scene in the grocery store.

A young mother was pushing her cart along and stopped at the cereal. Her child—less than two years old—reached out for a box. “Want! Want!”

“No,” the mother said. “We have plenty at home.” She put a different box of cereal in the cart.

“Want! Want!” the child said. Getting no response, she began to kick and scream. To the mother’s credit, she did not give in but pushed the cart to another aisle and distracted her child.

As I watched that behavior, I thought, That’s the way we all are most of the time. We decide what we want, and when we don’t get it, we’re angry.

“Jack and I were both up for the same promotion. I’ve been with the company longer, and my sales figures are stronger,” Donna said. “I deserved it, but he got the job.”

“I had a grade of 98 going into my final essay test,” Angie said. “If I had made another 100, it would have given me a 4.0 average, and I would have become the top student in my graduating class. But I made only 83 on the test, and dropped down to fifth in my class. I deserved a grade of 100, but my teacher doesn’t like me.”

Let’s look at this problem more closely. The individuals mentioned above, who didn’t get what they wanted, made one common statement: “I deserved it, but I didn’t get it.”

Too often, we Christians expect life to be perfect and for everything to go smoothly for us. We expect success, happiness, joy, peace, and everything else. When we’re thwarted, we pout or complain.

Although God does want us to have a good life, there will be times when we must be patient and endure not getting our way. These disappointments test our character and level of spiritual maturity. They actually show whether or not we truly are ready for promotion.

Why do we think we should always be first while others have to endure a lesser position? Why do we think we are entitled to the perfect life? Perhaps sometimes we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. A humble mind enables us to take a back seat and wait for God to move us to the front. God’s Word says that we inherit the promises through faith and patience. Believing God is good, but can we continue to believe God and trust Him when we don’t feel that life is fair?

Satan plays with our minds. Most of the time, the evil one says negative things to us: “You don’t deserve it; you are worthless; you’re stupid.” Once in a while, however, he tries a different trick: He tells us how hard we work or how much we’re entitled to. If we listen and believe, we may begin to feel cheated or believe that someone has taken advantage of us.

When we don’t get what we want, we fall apart, saying, “I deserved it!” We not only get angry with the boss, the teacher, or anyone else, but we sometimes get angry with God for not giving us what we felt we deserved.

The big mistake was to say we deserved it, because then self-pity creeps in when we don’t get what we want. We can take that attitude, or we can recognize that we have a choice. I can choose to accept life the way it is and make the best out of it, or I can complain because it isn’t perfect.

I think of the story of Jonah—not the whale story—but what happened afterward. He had announced that in forty days, God would destroy the city of Nineveh, but the people repented. Because God listened to their cries, Jonah was angry. “Therefore now, O Lord, I beseech You, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3).

Sad, isn’t it? Jonah would rather have been right than to see 120,000 people saved. Our situations aren’t usually that dramatic, but so many people would rather sit and feel sorry for themselves, listen to the whispers of Satan, and miss out with God than to simply trust God in every situation.

The secret of the Christian life is that we commit ourselves fully to God. If we surrender our wills to God, what happens doesn’t make us angry. If God doesn’t give us what we want and ask for, our faith is strong enough to say, “Not my will, but Yours.”

God, help me. I often have strong desires, and when I don’t get what I want, I get upset. Forgive me. Remind me that Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross, but He lived in total submission to Your will. I ask You, through Jesus Christ, to help me live in total submission and be content with what You give me. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Perfect Harmony

 

“Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).

Martha had a very poor self-image. The distress she felt because of her physical appearance was compounded by the guilt of being grossly overweight. She hated herself and was despondent to the point of seriously considering suicide.

I counsel many students and older adults who are not able to accept themselves. Some are weighted down with guilt because of unconfessed sins. Others are not reconciled to their physical handicaps or deformities. Still others feel inferior mentally or socially.

My counsel to such people is this: God loves you and accepts you as you are. The love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit enables us to love ourselves as God made us. We can be thankful for ourselves, loving ourselves unconditionally as God does, and we can love others unconditionally, too.

It is Satan who is the great accuser, causing us to hate ourselves and others. God, having commanded us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, and our enemies, will enable us to do what He commands us to do as we claim His promise.

The great tragedy of many families is that resentment, bitterness and hate overtake their members like an all-consuming cancer, ultimately destroying the unity among husband, wife and children. Love of the husband and wife for each other, and of parents and children for one another, is so basic that it should not need to be mentioned. Yet, sadly and alarmingly, children are alienated from their parents, and even many Christian marriages are ending in divorce – in fact, in greater numbers today than at any other time in history.

God’s kind of love is a unifying force. Paul admonishes us to “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

Bible Reading: Colossians 3:18-25

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Since God commands us to love Him, our neighbors, our enemies and ourselves, today I will claim that supernatural love by faith on the basis of God’s command to love and the promise that if I ask anything according to His will, He will hear and answer me.