Tag Archives: nature

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – The Best Valentine’s Gift

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It’s Valentine’s Day! If you forgot, hopefully you still have time to run out and purchase something for your sweetheart. According to Statistic Brain, $13 billion is spent each year on this “day of love” for gifts such as candy, flowers, cards, jewelry and dining out. What gift will you give this year?

If anyone comes to me and does not hate…even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26

Today’s verse is about love, even though it contains the word hate. It’s about your love for Christ. Jesus taught that no person or thing, not even yourself, should come before your love for Him. All else must be secondary to your devotion to Him. He must come first if you want to be His disciple; and being His disciple is the best gift you can give to your loved one, yourself and Him.

As you consider how to best show love to others, start by loving Christ the most. Follow His command to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37) and love for others will follow. Pray today for God to help you put Him first…and for the country’s leaders to do the same.

Recommended Reading: Luke 10:27-42

 

Max Lucado – Come to Me

Max Lucado

Invitations are special.

“You’re invited to a gala celebrating the grand opening of. . .”

“Mr. and Mrs. John Smith request your presence at the wedding of their daughter. . .”

To be invited is to be honored—to be held in high esteem! The most incredible invitations aren’t found in envelopes, but rather, they are found in the Bible. God invited Eve to marry Adam, the animals to enter the ark, and Mary to give birth to His son.

“Come,” he invited, “Come to me all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”

“Come,” he would say.  God is the King who invites us to come, who prepares the palace, sets the table, and invites his subjects to come in. His invitation for you, however, is not just for a meal, it’s for life!

From And the Angels Were Silent

Charles Stanley – Created to Love Others

Charles Stanley

Mark 12:28-34

Loving our neighbor is a biblical mandate and the foundation for the Golden Rule, but the phrase is not complete without the last two words: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, emphasis added). If we are to be vessels used for pouring out the Father’s love on others, we must always be unselfish in our concern for them.

Regardless of how we act or feel, our Father loves us perfectly. The proof is in John 3:16, which says God loved mankind so much that He gave His Son to die for their sins. And He did this while all human beings were still His enemies (Rom. 5:8-10)! No one is worthy of the sacrifice Christ made, and yet the Father’s perspective is that we are worth it. If He considers each of us that valuable, then we ought to look at others the same way.

Experiencing God’s love should inspire us to love our neighbors—this includes everyone in our sphere of influence, although some are easier to love than others. Throughout the gospels, Jesus repeated the command to His disciples, probably because He knew how often His followers, both then and now, would run into people who are difficult to love. But we are most like God when we ask, How can I serve this person? What is in his or her best interest?

Though we’ll encounter people who seem unlovable, the commandment stands: We are to love them as ourselves. This is a powerful evangelism tool. Few can resist the attraction of a loving friend acting on behalf of the perfectly loving Friend. Who among your neighbors needs to feel loved today?

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Character Or Reputation?

Our Daily Bread

Revelation 3:1-6

You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. —Revelation 3:1

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden (1910–2010) believed that character is far more important than reputation. “Your reputation is what you’re perceived to be by others,” Coach Wooden often told his players, “but your character is what you really are. You’re the only one that knows your character. You can fool others, but you can’t fool yourself.”

In the book of Revelation, we find the words of the risen Christ to seven churches in Asia. To the church in Sardis, Jesus said, “I know your works, that you have a name [reputation] that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1). The Lord knew the truth about them, and no doubt deep down they knew it too. Jesus told them to wake up and strengthen the spiritual life inside them that was about to die (v.2). He urged them to remember the truth they had received, obey it, then turn around and start moving in a new direction (v.3).

When the Lord shows us what’s wrong in our lives, He always provides a remedy for change. When we turn from our sins, He forgives and strengthens us to start over.

How liberating to exchange a false spiritual reputation for the true, life-giving character that comes from knowing Christ our Lord! —David McCasland

Men talk too much of gold and fame,

And not enough about a name;

And yet a good name’s better far

Than all earth’s glistening jewels are. —Guest

The true test of our character is what we do when no one is watching.

Bible in a year: Leviticus 14; Matthew 26:51-75

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Ravi Z

Excerpts taken from Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. Copyright © 2014 by Nabeel Qureshi. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Click for additional information or promotional offer.

Fading footsteps echoed through the halls of the mosque as the humid summer evening drew to a close. The other worshipers were heading back to their homes and families for the night, but my thoughts were still racing. Every fiber of my being wrestled with itself. With my forehead pressed into the ground and heart pounding in my chest, my mind scrutinized each word my lips whispered into the musty carpet.

These were not new words. I had been taught to recite this Arabic phrase 132 times, every single day, from a time before I even knew my name. It was the sajda, the portion of the ritual prayers in which Muslims lower themselves before Allah, glorifying His loftiness. The words had always flowed with ease, but this day was different. As my lips exercised their rote rituals, my mind questioned everything I thought I knew about God.

Subhana Rabbi al-ala.

Glorified is my Lord, the Highest.

“Glorified is my Lord… Who is my Lord? Who are You, Lord? Are You Allah, the God of my father and forefathers? Are You the God I have always worshiped? The God my family has always worshiped? Surely You are the one who sent Muhammad (SAW)(1) as the final messenger for mankind and the Quran as our guide? You are Allah, the God of Islam, aren’t You? Or are You…” I hesitated, fighting the blasphemy I was about to propose. But what if the blasphemy was the truth?

“Or are You Jesus?”

My heart froze, as if indignant at my mind for risking hell. “Allah, I would never say that a man became equal to You. Please forgive me and have mercy on me if that’s what I said, because that’s not what I mean. No man is equal to You. You are infinitely greater than all of creation. Everything bows down before You, Allah subhanahu wata ‘ala.(2)

“No, what I mean to say is that You, O Allah, are all powerful. Surely You can enter into creation if You choose. Did You enter into this world? Did You become a man? And was that man Jesus?

“O Allah, the Bible couldn’t be right, could it?”

As if on parallel timelines, my lips continued to pray in sajda while my mind relentlessly fought with itself. The Arabic phrase was to be recited twice more before the sajda would be complete.

Subhana Rabbi al-ala.

Glorified is my Lord, the Highest.

“But how is it conceivable that Allah, the highest being of all, would enter into this world? This world is filthy and sinful, no place for the One who deserves all glory and all praise. And how could I even begin to suggest that God, the magnificent and splendid Creator, would enter into this world through the birth canal of a girl? Audhu billah,(3) that’s disgusting! To have to eat, to grow fatigued, and to sweat and spill blood, and to be finally nailed to a cross. I cannot believe this. God deserves infinitely more. His majesty is far greater than this.

“But what if His majesty is not as important to Him as His children are?”

Subhana Rabbi al-ala.

Glorified is my Lord, the Highest.

“Of course we are important to Him, but Allah does not need to die in order to forgive us. Allah is all powerful, and He can easily forgive us if He chooses. He is al-Ghaffar and ar-Rahim!(4) His forgiveness flows from His very being. What does coming into this world to die on a cross have to do with my sins? It doesn’t even make sense for Allah to die on the cross. If He died, who was ruling the universe? Subhanallah,(5) He cannot die! That is part of His glory. There is no need for these charades. He can simply forgive from His throne.

Rising from the ground and sitting on my heels, I recited the takbir.

Allah-hu-akbar.

God is great.

“God, I know that You are great in reality, but some of what the Holy Quran teaches is far from great. I am having a very difficult time understanding it, Allah… Please, Allah, may all this doubt not anger You. I must have misunderstood something, but there’s no way You, being good and loving, would have given some of the commands found in the Quran. I have found so much violence and contempt in its pages, the pages of a book I have read and loved every day because it is Your word…

“Who are You?”

At-tahiyyatu lillahi, was-salawatu wat-tayyibatu. As salamu ‘alayka ayyuha n-nabiyyu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. As salamu ‘alayna wa-’ala ‘ibadi llahi salihin.

All compliments, prayers, and good things are due to Allah. Allah’s peace be upon you, O Prophet, and His mercy and blessings. Peace be on us and on all righteous servants of Allah.

“I praise You, Allah. All homage is certainly due to You. But there is so much I do not understand…

Following the traditions of the Prophet and the guidance of my parents, I pointed my forefinger skyward while reciting the proclamation:

Ashhadu alla ilaha illa llahu wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa-rasuluh.

I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.

“O Allah, have mercy on me. How can I bear witness that Muhammad (SAW) is Your messenger? It used to be so easy! Ammi taught me to love Muhammad (SAW) because he was the greatest man who ever lived, and there was no close second. She taught me that his generosity was abundant, his mercy was incomparable, and his love for mankind was beyond measure. I was taught that he would never wage war unless he was defending the ummah,(6) and that he fought to elevate the status of women and the downtrodden. He was the perfect military leader; he was the ultimate statesman; and he was the exemplary follower of Allah. He was al-Insan al-Kamil, the perfect man. He was Rahmatu-lil alameen, God’s mercy personified for all the world. It was easy to bear witness that such a man is Rasul Allah, the messenger of God.

“But now I know the truth about him, and there’s too much to sweep under the rug. I know about his first revelation, his raids on caravans, his child bride, his marriage to Zainab, the black magic cast upon him, his poisoning, his assassinations, his tortures, and…”

My thoughts slowed as they arrived at the one issue that I simply could not overlook. “And how could Muhammad (SAW), my beloved Prophet, have allowed … that?”

Awash in empathy, my mind drifted from the prayers. I was still grappling with what I had come across while investigating the Quran…

My eyes shot open as I snapped back to reality. I was still in the mosque, still praying the salaat. My overwhelming revulsion toward Muhammad suddenly met with immediate contrition. I had been impudent before Allah. Muhammad was still my Prophet. I still swore allegiance to him. I had gone too far.

How could I continue like this? Astaghfirullah.(7)

Quickly, I finished the rest of the ritual prayers, ending by turning my head to the right and the left: Assalaamo alaikum wa rahmutallah.

The peace and mercy of Allah be upon you.

After a pause, I let my face fall into my hands. Tears blurred my sight. The ritual prayers had ended, and now it was time for my heart’s prayer.

“God, I want Your peace. Please have mercy on me and give me the peace of knowing You. I don’t know who You are anymore, but I know that You are all that matters. You created this world; You give it meaning; and either You define its purpose or it has none.

“Please, God Almighty, tell me who You are! I beseech You and only You. Only You can rescue me. At Your feet, I lay down everything I have learned, and I give my entire life to You. Take away what You will, be it my joy, my friends, my family, or even my life. But let me have You, O God. Light the path that I must walk. I don’t care how many hurdles are in the way, how many pits I must jump over or climb out of, or how many thorns I must step through. Guide me on the right path. If it is Islam, show me how it is true! If it is Christianity, give me eyes to see! Just show me which path is Yours, dear God, so I can walk it.”

Although I did not know it, that peace and mercy of God which I desperately asked for would soon fall upon me. God was about to give me supernatural guidance through dreams and visions, forever changing my heart and the course of my life.

Nabeel Qureshi is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) This symbol represents the Arabic phrase sall Alaahu ‘alay-hi wa-sallam, which means “peace and blessings of Allah be upon him,” a standard Muslim formula after mentioning the name of Muhammad.

(2) This formula, subhanahu wata ‘ala, is often repeated after the name of Allah, meaning “glorified and exalted.”

(3) A common Muslim formula meaning “I seek refuge in Allah,” this phrase is verbalized after something dishonorable, blasphemous, or otherwise negative is stated or suggested.

(4) In mainstream Islam, it is commonly understood that Allah has ninety-nine names. These are two, translated as “the forgiver” and “the merciful” respectively.

(5) A very common formula meaning “glory be to Allah,” this phrase is often exclaimed whenever good news is heard or something positive is stated.

(6) An Arabic term meaning “community,” referring to all Muslims.

(7) A common formula of repentance meaning “I seek forgiveness from Allah.”

Alistair Begg – The Privileges of Mercy

Alistair Begg

Romans 8:1

Come, my soul, think about this. Believing in Jesus, you are actually and effectually cleared from guilt; you are led out of prison. You are no longer in chains as a slave; you are delivered now from the bondage of the law; you are freed from sin and can walk around as a free man–the Savior’s blood has procured your full acquittal. You now have a right to approach your Father’s throne. No flames of vengeance are there to scare you now–no fiery sword; justice cannot strike the innocent. Your disabilities are removed.

Once you were unable to see your Father’s face; now you can. You could not speak with Him; but now you can approach Him with boldness. Once there was a fear of hell upon you; but now you have no fear of it, for how can there be punishment for the guiltless? He who believes is not condemned and cannot be punished.

And more than all, the privileges you might have enjoyed, if you had never sinned, are yours now that you are justified. All the blessings that you would have had if you had kept the law are yours, because Christ has kept it for you. All the love and acceptance that perfect obedience could have obtained belong to you, because Christ was perfectly obedient on your behalf and has imputed all His merits to your account, that you might be exceedingly rich through Him who for your sake became exceedingly poor. How great the debt of love and gratitude you owe to your Savior!

A debtor to mercy alone,

Of covenant mercy I sing;

Nor fear with Your righteousness on,

My person and offerings to bring:

The terrors of law and of God,

With me can have nothing to do;

My Savior’s obedience and blood

Hide all my transgressions from view.

The family reading plan for February 13, 2014 Job 12 | Romans 16

 

Charles Spurgeon – Reform

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“Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all.” 2 Chronicles 31:1

Suggested Further Reading: Ecclesiastes 12:9-12

There are many books that are to be so esteemed by the Christian man, that they must be cut down like the groves of trees, not because they are bad in themselves, but because there false gods are worshipped. Novel-reading is the rage of the present day. I go to a railway bookstall, and I cannot see a book that I can read, I get one, and it is all trash. I search to find something that would be really valuable, but I am told, “It would not sell here.” The fact is, nothing will sell but that which is light, and frothy, and frivolous; so every traveller is compelled to consume such food as that, unless he carry something better with him. Do I, therefore, say, that the Christian man must condemn all reading of fiction and novels? No, I do not, but I do say, that the mass of popular books published under the name of light literature, is to be eschewed and cut down, for the simple reason that the moral of it is not that of piety and goodness; the tendency of the reading is not to bring the Christian towards heaven, but rather to retard and impede him in his good course. I lift up my axe against many a work that I cannot condemn, if I look at it abstractedly in itself, but which must come down, because I recollect how much of my own precious time I wasted in such trivial reading, how many years in which I might have had fellowship with Christ have been cast away, whilst I have been foolishly indulging a vicious taste for the romantic and the frivolous. No, there are many things which are not wrong in themselves, but which nevertheless must be given up by the true Christian, because they have had, and do have association with things positively wrong. Just as these groves must be cut down—not because there can be a sin in trees, but because the trees have been associated with the worship of idols.

For meditation: 1 Corinthians 10:23. “The best book to read is the Bible … It will help you on your way”.

Sermon no. 238

13 February (1859)

John MacArthur – The Joy of Anticipation

John MacArthur

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it” (Phil. 1:6).

All who love Christ desire to be like Him in spiritual perfection and absolute holiness. We want to please Him in every respect. However, that noble pursuit is often met with frustration and discouragement as human frailties and sin block our pathway.

Paul’s cry in Romans 7 is ours as well: “That which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (vv. 15, 21, 24). His answer resonates with confidence and relief: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25).

Paul was convinced that God always completes the good work of salvation He begins in every new believer–a work that progressively conforms us to the image of His Son (2 Cor. 3:18). That might seem like a painfully slow process at times, but be assured He will complete it. All whom He justifies will be glorified (Rom. 8:29-30).

In the meantime, you have an active role to play in the process. Paul called it working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). You must discipline yourself for holiness through prayer, Bible study, obedience, and accountability to other believers. All the resources you need are at your disposal as God Himself works in you to produce His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

Rejoice in knowing that you belong to God and that He is conforming you to the image of His Son. See every event of this day as part of that process. Yield to the Spirit’s prompting and take heart that God will accomplish His will.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Give thanks to God, who is able “to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).

Express the desire to discipline yourself for godliness. Ask for wisdom in taking advantage of all the spiritual resources available to you as a believer.

For Further Study:

Read Hebrews 10:19-25.

What should be your attitude when approaching God?

What is your responsibility in light of God’s promises?

Joyce Meyer – Begin Again

Joyce meyer

They set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the Israelites went out [of Egypt] with a high hand and triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn whom the Lord had struck down among them—Numbers 33:3–4

Are you doing what you really believe you should be doing at this stage in your life, or have you allowed fear and a lack of confidence to prevent you from stepping out into new things—or higher levels of old things? If you don’t like your answer, then let me give you some good news: It is never too late to begin again! Don’t spend one more day living a narrow life that has room for only you and your fears. Make a decision right now that you will learn to live boldly, aggressively, and confidently. Don’t let fear rule you any longer.

It’s important to note that you can’t just sit around and wait for fear to go away. You will have to feel the fear and take action anyway. Or, as John Wayne put it, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” In other words, courage is not the absence of fear; it is action in the presence of fear. Bold people do what they know they should do—not what they feel like doing.

Lord, show me any narrowness in my life and help me to take the steps of faith that break the rule of fear over my life. Amen.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Restoration Business

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The Civil War started out badly for Abraham Lincoln. “We are utterly and disgracefully routed, beaten, whipped,” wrote one Northerner after the disastrous loss at the Battle of Bull Run. And newsman Horace Greeley told Lincoln it was best for the country to “make peace with the rebels, and on their own terms.” But the President, historian James McPherson writes, was “filled with grim determination.” He immediately began making plans for the prosecution of the war – and victory.

The great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him.

Nehemiah 1:5

How do you react to bad news? Nehemiah’s example, like Lincoln’s, is instructive. Upon hearing that Jerusalem had been broken down and its gates destroyed, he “wept and mourned for days,” (Nehemiah 1:4)…and then began to praise the God who would save His people. Even in the worst of times, remember that God is “great and awesome” and ready to do wonderful things.

America’s future looked bleak following Bull Run. Jerusalem was written off after being overrun by its enemies. But the Lord restored them and made them great again, against all odds. Today, pray for the nation’s leaders with the belief – and grim determination – that God is still in the business of restoration…and that you will be a part of it!

Recommended Reading: Joel 2:23-27

 

Greg Laurie – Through the Storm

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That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” —Mark 4:35

In the gospel of Mark, we find an interesting story in which Jesus invited the disciples, some of whom were seasoned fishermen, to join Him on a little boat trip across the Sea of Galilee. But on the way over, they encountered a sudden, violent storm.

Now the question would arise, did Jesus know that a storm was coming? The answer is yes. In fact, you might even say that it was a part of His curriculum that day. It was all part of teaching the disciples to believe what they claimed to believe.

We don’t want to make light of what these disciples were experiencing, because I’m sure this was a very harsh storm and a terrifying experience. Several on board had seen many storms on the Sea of Galilee, so it had to have been a most unusual storm for the disciples to be so gripped by fear. According to Mark’s gospel, the waves were breaking over the boat and filling it with water. The disciples were very afraid, but they didn’t have to be.

Before they left, Jesus had made a significant statement they apparently had forgotten about: “Let us go over to the other side.” And when God says, “Let us go over to the other side,” it means you will get to the other side. He didn’t say it would be smooth sailing. He didn’t say it would be an easy trip. But He did say, “Let us go over to the other side.”

Often we are gripped by fear and cease to think logically when we forget God’s Word to us. That is exactly what happened to the disciples. But Jesus was on board with them, and He was there to see them through.

Max Lucado – God’s Eternal Plan

Max Lucado

When our oldest daughter was two, I lost her in a department store. I panicked! All of a sudden only one thing mattered—I had to find Jenna. Shopping was forgotten. The list of things I came to get was unimportant. I yelled her name. What people thought didn’t matter. Every ounce of energy had one goal: to find my lost child. I did, by the way.  She was hiding behind some jackets.

No price is too high for a parent to pay to redeem his child. No energy is too great.  No effort too demanding. A parent will go to any length to find his or her own. So will God. Mark it down. God’s greatest creation is not the flung stars or the gorged canyons.  It’s his eternal plan to reach his children. Heaven and earth know no greater passion than God’s personal passion for you and your return!

From And the Angels Were Silent

Charles Stanley – The Power of Love

Charles Stanley

Luke 15:11-24

At times, those of us reading Scripture in English are shortchanged by the language’s limitations. For instance, English has just one word for love, but Paul’s original letters, written in Greek, use two words. Believers are promised that God’s love will reside in them (Eph. 3:19). But we often think that refers to phileo love—brotherly concern and affection for others. Yet the truth is, the Holy Spirit shows agape love in us—a commitment to another person’s security, satisfaction, and development.

We, too, have the capacity to show the same sacrificial love Jesus demonstrated at Calvary. He subtly described the power of this love in His parable of the prodigal son. The father must have recognized that greed and wanderlust were gnawing at the young man and that denying his request for an early inheritance would lead to bitterness. So, despite personal and financial sacrifice, he gave the son his share of the estate. Then, the father waited while the prodigal learned his lesson.

No doubt that was a trying time. A good dad wants to protect his children from making mistakes. But a wise man also knows that people often must discover hard truths for themselves. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to get out of their way.

The prodigal son returned home dirty, contrite, and seeking a place in the servants’ quarters. What he received instead was the full force of his father’s love and instant restoration to his place as the master’s son. That is agape, and it is the kind of love that wins hearts and minds for the Lord.

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Hyperseeing

Our Daily Bread

Romans 8:28-30

When He is revealed, we shall be like Him. —1 John 3:2

Sculptors have a term for the artist’s ability to look at a rough piece of stone and see it in its final, perfected form. It is called “hyperseeing.”

Gutzon Borglum (1867–1941) is the sculptor who created many well-known public works of art. Probably the most famous is Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. Borglum’s housekeeper captured the concept of hyperseeing when she gazed up at the massive faces of the four US presidents on Mt. Rushmore for the first time. “Mr. Borglum,” she gasped, “how did you know Mr. Lincoln was in that rock?”

Hyperseeing is also a good description of our all-seeing God. He sees all that we are and more. He sees what we shall be when He has completed His work and we stand before Him, holy and without blemish: the exact likeness, the very image of Jesus. The God who started this great work in you will keep at it until He completes it on the very day Jesus Christ appears (see Phil. 1:6).

God will not be denied! He has such a longing for our perfection that nothing can or will remain an obstacle until He has finished the work He began so long ago.

If only . . . if only we will put ourselves in the Master Sculptor’s hands. —David Roper

Doubt whispers, “Thou art such a blot;

He cannot love poor thee.”

If what I am He lovest not,

He loves what I shall be. —MacDonald

God works in us to grow us into what He wants us to be.

Bible in a year: Leviticus 13; Matthew 26:26-50

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Father of Mine

Ravi Z

Not far into John’s Gospel, Jesus seems to be gaining enemies at every turn. He uses a whip to drive men and livestock out of the temple. He chooses the wrong day to heal a man who cannot walk, angering religious leaders for his violation of the holy Sabbath. But it is because of his words that they seek all the more to kill him. At their anger, Jesus simply replies, “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”(1)

To the person well-versed in biting comebacks and fatal rhetoric, these words don’t seem at all like fighting-words. But to Jews who knew a history of combating (and failing to combat) the polytheistic influences of surrounding nations, Jesus uttered what seemed the most blasphemous notion possible. He was calling God his own Father, describing their work as shared, making himself equal with God.

The notion of God as Father was not a new concept.  Even to the Jews who took offense at Jesus’s words that day, God was understood as Father in the sense that God is creator, that God is Lord, protector, redeemer, working for our good. Fourteen times in the Old Testament God is spoken of as Father, and each instance depicts a sacred glimpse of divine fatherhood.

But here, Jesus scandalously adds to the notion of Father a distinct element of intimacy and uniqueness with himself. Nowhere in Palestinian Judaism is God addressed by an individual as my father.(2) Jesus’s use of such an title—and elsewhere the intimate “abba” or daddy—reveals the very basis of his communion with God, a communion he then boldly offers his followers: “This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.’”(3)

For those familiar, the invitation to approach the mystery of Son and Father and Spirit may seem commonplace. “Heavenly Father” and “only Son” may not seem like phrases with which we need to wrestle. Yet this vast allowance is not a quality inherent in other religions; it is, in fact, an obstruction to some, an enigma to others. The startling Christian confidence that God can be approached as Father is the unique and pressing gift of the Son.

The work of a man in India reminded me once that this claim is both one of highest theology and of actual grace at the ground level. Reverend Deveraj works among the discarded lives of Mumbai, India. For nearly twenty years, the ministry he founded has fostered life-saving outreach to orphaned children, drug addicts, and victims of the sex trade. To each one he offers the same message as many times as necessary: “Whenever you are ready, your Father’s house is waiting.”  Often, he offers for years.

Such is the startling, radical, simple message of Christ. “In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.“(4) What if there is indeed not a cosmic sadist or an indifferent force, but a Father who waits, who longs to gather his children together and take them into his arms? The gift is both highest theology and ordinary miracle: God offers us a place, held within the greater gift of adoption. This God is Father, whose name is hallowed and whose kingdom comes, whom we know through the Son and by the Spirit, whom we run toward as children. His name is Abba.

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

(1) John 5:17.

(2) See Joachim Jeremias, Jesus and the Message of the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002).

(3) Matthew 6:9-10.

(4) John 14:20.

Alistair Begg – Do We Recognize Him?

Alistair Begg 

John 14:16

God the Father revealed Himself to Old Testament believers before the coming of His Son and was known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty. Then Jesus came, and the ever-blessed Son in His own proper person was the delight of His people’s eyes. At the time of the Redeemer’s ascension, the Holy Spirit became the head of the present era, and His power was gloriously displayed in and after Pentecost. He remains at this hour the present Immanuel–God with us, dwelling in and with His people, quickening, guiding, and ruling in our lives.

Is His presence recognized as it ought to be? We cannot control His working; He is sovereign in all His operations, but are we sufficiently anxious to obtain His help or sufficiently watchful lest we grieve Him and He withdraws His help? Without Him we can do nothing, but by His almighty energy the most extraordinary results can be produced: Everything depends upon His revealing or concealing His power.

Do we always look up to Him for our inner life and our outward service with the respectful dependence that is appropriate? Do we not too often run before His call and act independently of His aid?

Let us humble ourselves this evening for past neglect, and now entreat the heavenly dew to rest upon us, the sacred oil to anoint us, the celestial flame to burn within us. The Holy Spirit is not a temporary gift–He remains with the church. When we seek Him as we should, we will find Him. He is jealous, but He is full of pity; if He leaves in anger, He returns in mercy. Condescending and tender, He does not grow tired of us but constantly displays His grace.

Sin has been hammering my heart

Unto a hardness, void of love.

Let supplying grace to cross his art

Drop from above.

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 12, 2014 Job 11 | Romans 15

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – Sin immeasurable

CharlesSpurgeon

“Who can understand his errors?” Psalm 19:12

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 5:21-30

With every commandment—the bare letter is nothing, compared with the whole stupendous meaning and severe strictness of the rule. The commandments, if I may so speak, are like the stars. When seen with the naked eye, they appear to be brilliant points; if we could draw near to them, we should see them to be infinite worlds, greater than even our sun, stupendous though it is. So is it with the law of God. It seems to be but a luminous point, because we see it at a distance, but when we come nearer where Christ stood, and estimate the law as he saw it, then we find it is vast, immeasurable. “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” Think then for a moment of the spirituality of the law, its extent and strictness. The law of Moses condemns for offence, without hope of pardon, and sin, like a millstone, is bound around the sinner’s neck, and he is cast into the depths. Moreover, the law deals with sins of thought,—the imagination of evil is sin. The transit of sin across the heart, leaves the stain of impurity behind it. This law, too, extends to every act,—tracks us to our bed-chamber, goes with us to our house of prayer, and if it discovers so much as the least sign of wavering from the strict path of integrity, it condemns us. When we think of the law of God we may well be overwhelmed with horror, and sit down and say, “God be merciful to me, for to keep this law is utterly beyond power; even to know the fulness of its meaning is not within finite capacity. Therefore, great God, cleanse us from our secret faults—save us by thy grace, for by the law we never can be saved.”

For meditation: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19:8)—we should admire the spirit of the Israelites, but not their self-confidence. Only one slip-up spells condemnation (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10). Praise God for his Son who came to fulfil the law perfectly (Matthew 5:17) and then to die in our place to save us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).

Sermon no. 299

12 February (1860)

John MacArthur – The Joy of Participation

John MacArthur

“In view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5).

In recent years the Greek word koin[ma]onia has become familiar to many Christians as the New Testament word for fellowship. However, it is also translated “partnership” and “participation.” In Philippians 1:5, Paul uses it to emphasize the participation of the Philippians in common ministry goals.

Romans 12:13 gives one aspect of that partnership and participation: monetary contributions. That’s one aspect of fellowship that the Philippian church eagerly shared with Paul. As he says in Philippians 4:15-16, “At the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” They were partners in his ministry because their financial support made it possible for him to preach the gospel more effectively.

The Philippians knew that Paul carried a tremendous burden in his heart for all the churches. In listing many of the trials he endured as an apostle, then added, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). The Philippian church eased that burden somewhat by being committed to Paul, to his teaching, and to godly living. That brought great joy to him.

How about you? Do your leaders derive encouragement and joy from your participation in the gospel? Remember, you share in a sacred partnership with Christ and your fellow Christians in the advancement of the gospel, just as the Philippians shared a partnership with Paul. Rejoice in that privilege and make the most of it today.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank the Lord for the Christian fellowship you enjoy.

Ask for wisdom on how you might advance the gospel more effectively.

Always seek to ease the burden of your spiritual leaders by faithfully participating in the ministry of your church as God has gifted you.

For Further Study:

Read Ephesians 4:11-16.

What is the goal of Christian ministry?

What is the role of a pastor/teacher in achieving that goal?

What is your role (see also Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4- 11; 1 Pet. 4:10-11)?

 

 

Joyce Meyer – God Speaks So He Can Help Us

Joyce meyer

The yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.—Isaiah 10:27 KJV

When God speaks to you about an issue that needs to be dealt with in your life, you should not put it off. You can trust that the anointing, which is the power and ability of the Holy Spirit, is present to break its grip on you. If you put off confronting the problem until you want to deal with it, you may have to face trying to change without God’s power or anointing.

We often want to do things in our own timing, and we struggle and struggle because it is not anointed by God at the time we are trying to deal with it. For example, there are times when I feel like I want to confront an issue with an employee, but I know that it would be wiser for me to pray about it for a while and let God prepare that person’s heart. When I follow God’s timetable, I always have His anointing to get it done. I have learned to deal with issues when God wants to deal with them and leave them alone when He wants me to wait. I have also had the frustrating experience of trying over and over to change myself without waiting on God’s help and timing. God’s anointing must be present for anything to work right in our lives.

When God convicts us of something that needs to change in our lives that means He has prepared us to face it. We may not feel that we are ready, but we can trust that His timing is perfect and His anointing is present to break the yoke that is hindering our full freedom. I have learned to say, “Lord, I may not feel ready, but if You say the time is now then I trust that Your power is with me and I am willing to be obedient to You.” As you step out in faith to deal with issues you will find that the wisdom, grace, power, and ability that you need are present.

God’s word for you today: Don’t put off until another day what He wants you to deal with today.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Set Upon a Rock

dr_bright

“For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5, KJV).

Doug and Judy stood at the graveside of their little Timothy – their only child – who had been run over by a drunken driver while riding his tricycle on the sidewalk. It was a senseless, one-in-a-million, freak kind of accident, but their little lad was gone forever from their loving embraces.

As they wept, I consoled them with the promises of God’s Word: “In the time of trouble, He shall hide us in His pavilion, in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide us. He shall set us upon a rock.”

In the words of Jesus, I shared with them His promise, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, KJV). “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, KJV).

Man’s words are never adequate in a time like this. Only the holy, inspired Word of God, revealed through the indwelling Holy Spirit, can help us to comprehend and experience the reality of His promises.

What a joy to be able to tell people – burdened people, grieving people – that we serve God, who not only saves to the uttermost, but who also is the God of all comfort. As His Holy Spirit empowers us, let us share the good news of an all-loving, ever-wise Savior.

Bible Reading: Psalm 27:1-4

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will ask God to help me to be sensitive to the hurts and heartaches of others, so that I can comfort them with the Word of God through the enabling of the Holy Spirit. And when I face grievous troubles, I too will look to the rock, Christ Jesus, and claim His wonderful promises for comfort and strength.