Tag Archives: nature

Joyce Meyer – Anger

Joyce meyer

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].

—Ephesians 4:26–27

We all get angry, but we must be careful to understand why we are angry. Many people who become frequently angry have a root of insecurity in their lives that wipes out their confidence. Those who are easily offended and touchy are insecure. They must be treated well to feel good about themselves. And if not, they get angry.

God never tells us not to feel anger, but He does give instructions on how we process our anger. When we stay angry, we open a door for the devil to work in our lives. Most of the ground gained by Satan in the Christian’s life is gained through bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. People who easily fly into a rage always make a bad landing. When our emotions are out of control, so is our life. Anger makes our mouth work faster than our mind. We end up saying and doing things we are sorry for later.

Staying angry and harboring unkind feelings toward others is disobedience. We must realize sustained anger is sin. If we don’t look at it for what it is, we may be tempted to hang on to it.

Lord, help me to understand my anger and to never let it be sustained and destroy my confidence. May I be quick to forgive others and keep my life in control. Amen.

 

 

Alistair Begg – He Tends His Flock

Alistair Begg

Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he guarded sheep.

Hosea 12:12

In conversation with Laban, Jacob described what he had done: “These twenty years I have been with you. . . . What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes.”1

Even more arduous than this was the life of our Savior here below. He watched over us until He was able to say, “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”2 His hair was wet with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night. Sleep departed from His eyes, for all night He was in prayer wrestling for His people.

One night Peter must be pleaded for; suddenly another claims His tearful intercession. No shepherd sitting beneath the cold skies, looking up to the stars, could ever utter such complaints because of the hardness of his toil as Jesus Christ might have brought, if He had chosen to do so, because of the sternness of His service in order to procure His bride.

Cold mountains and the midnight air,

Witnessed the fervor of His prayer;

The desert His temptations knew,

His conflict and His victory too.

It is helpful to meditate upon the spiritual parallel of Laban having required all the sheep at Jacob’s hand. If they were torn by beasts, Jacob must make it good; if any of them died, he must guarantee their replacement.

Was not the toil of Jesus for His Church the toil of One who was under obligation to bring every believing one safe to the hand of Him who had committed them to His charge? Look upon toiling Jacob, and you see a representation of Him of whom we read, “He will tend His flock like a shepherd.”3

1 Genesis 31:38-40 2 John 18:9 3 Isaiah 40:11

 

 

John MacArthur – The Reluctant Patriarch

John MacArthur

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come” (Heb. 11:20).

Isaac is a fascinating Old Testament character. He was Abraham’s long-awaited son, the covenant child, the child of promise. Yet aside from that, he was rather ordinary, passive, and quiet. Just over two chapters of Genesis center on him, whereas the other patriarchs (Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph) command about twelve chapters each.

In the final analysis, Isaac believed God and submitted to His will. But overall, his spiritual character seems more reluctant than resolute.

After a famine prompted Isaac to move his family to Gerar (a Philistine city on the border between Palestine and Egypt), he received a vision from the Lord. In it God passed on to Isaac the covenant promises He had made to Abraham: “Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. And I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 26:3-4).

You would think such promises would infuse Isaac with boldness and confidence, yet no sooner had he received them, then he lied to the men of Gerar about his wife, Rebekah, because he feared they might kill him to have her (v. 7).

It was only with great difficulty and prodding that the Lord finally brought Isaac into the Promised Land, where He once again repeated the covenant promises (vv. 23-24).

Later in his life Isaac even sought to bless his son Esau after Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob (25:33). Only after he realized that God’s choice of Jacob was irreversible did Isaac acquiesce.

Isaac is a vivid reminder of how believers can forfeit joy and blessing by disobeying God. But he’s also a reminder of God’s faithfulness–even toward reluctant saints.

Is your obedience reluctant or resolute?

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for His unwavering faithfulness to you.

Seek His forgiveness when your obedience is reluctant or withheld altogether.

Ask Him to teach you to love Him in the same unwavering, resolute way He loves you.

For Further Study:

Read of Isaac in Genesis 25:19–26:34.

 

Max Lucado – God is For You

Max Lucado

Paul asks the question in Romans 8:31,  “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

The question isn’t simply, “Who can be against you?” You could answer that one.  Who is against you? Disease, inflation, corruption, exhaustion. Calamities confront, and fears imprison. Were Paul’s question, “Who can be against us?” we could list our foes much easier than we could fight them.

But God is for us.  God is for us.  God is for us! Your parents may have forgotten you, your teachers may have neglected you, your siblings may be ashamed of you; but within reach of your prayers is the maker of the oceans. God!

God is for you.  Not “may be,” not “has been,” or “was,” but God is!  He is for you. Today.  At this hour.  At this minute. As you hear this, He is with you. God is for you!

From  The Lucado Inspirational Reader

 

Alistair Begg – The Role of the Holy Spirit

Alistair Begg

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4:30

All that the believer has must come from Christ, but it comes solely through the channel of the Spirit of grace. Just as all blessings flow to you through the Holy Spirit, so also no good thing can come out of you in holy thought, devout worship, or gracious act apart from the sanctifying operation of the same Spirit.

Even if the good seed is sown in you, it still lies dormant until He works in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure.

Do you desire to speak for Jesus-how can you unless the Holy Spirit touches your lips?

Do you desire to pray? Sadly, what dull work it is unless the Spirit makes intercession for you!

Do you desire to subdue sin? Would you be holy? Would you imitate your Master? Do you desire to rise to superlative heights of spirituality? Are you looking to be made like the angels of God, full of zeal and love for the Master’s cause? You cannot without the Spirit-“Apart from me you can do nothing.”1

O branch of the vine, you can have no fruit without the sap! O child of God, you have no life within you apart from the life that God gives you through His Spirit!

So let us not grieve Him or provoke Him to anger by our sin. Let us not quench Him even in one of His faintest motions in our soul; let us foster every suggestion and be ready to obey every prompting.

If the Holy Spirit is indeed so mighty, let us attempt nothing without Him; let us begin no project and carry on no enterprise and conclude no transaction without seeking His blessing.

Let us give Him the due homage of feeling our entire weakness apart from Him, and then depend alone upon Him, having this for our prayer: “Open my heart and my whole being to Your fullness, and uphold me with Your Spirit when I have received that Spirit in my inward parts.”

1 John 15:5

 

 

John MacArthur – Defeating Death

John MacArthur

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones” (Heb. 11:20-22).

Commentator Matthew Henry said, “Though the grace of faith is of universal use throughout the Christian’s life, yet it is especially so when we come to die. Faith has its great work to do at the very last, to help believers to finish well, to die to the Lord so as to honor Him, by patience, hope and joy so as to leave a witness behind them of the truth of God’s Word and the excellency of His ways.”

God is honored when His people die triumphantly. When we’ve lived a life to His glory, and joyfully left the world behind to enter into His presence for all eternity, He is pleased, for “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Ps. 116:15).

Many believers who have dreaded facing death have experienced a special measure of God’s grace that made their final hours the sweetest and most precious of their lives.

Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are examples of men who faced death with great faith and confidence. Each “died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). They hadn’t seen all God’s promises fulfilled, but by faith they passed them on to their children.

These men didn’t have perfect faith. Joseph was exemplary, but Isaac and Jacob often vacillated in their walk with God. Yet each ended his life triumphantly. That’s the reward of all who trust God and cling to His promises.

Like every believer before you, you haven’t seen the fulfillment of all God’s promises. But certainly you’ve seen far more than Isaac, Jacob, or Joseph did. How much more then should you trust God and encourage those who follow you to do the same?

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for His marvelous grace, which triumphs over sin and death.

For Further Study:

Read the final words of Jacob and Joseph in Genesis 48:1–49:33 and 50:22-26.

 

 

Joyce Meyer – The Freedom of Confession

Joyce meyer

I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord [continually unfolding the past till all is told]—then You [instantly] forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin.

—Psalm 32:5

In 1 John 1:9, the Bible teaches us that if we admit our sins and confess them, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Start by freely admitting all your faults. Hold nothing back. Admit them to God and to people. Don’t make excuses or place blame elsewhere.

As you do this, you will experience a new freedom, and your relationship with Jesus and with people will improve greatly. I have found that if I tell people my faults before they find them on their own, neither one of us is as bothered by them.

Be open with people. Most people respect and admire honesty and openness. It is what we try to hide that comes back to haunt us. Invite Jesus into every area of your life. Don’t feel you must hide your faults from Him. He knows all about them anyway. Actually, the Lord knows more about us than we can remember or will ever discover and He loves us anyway.

Give God not only what you are but especially give Him what you are not. It is easy to offer Him our strengths, but we should also offer Him our weaknesses because His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Don’t hold anything back; give God everything! The Lord doesn’t see only what we are right now, He sees what we can become if He is patient with us.

 

Max Lucado – God’s Reward

Max Lucado

God rewards those who seek Him! Not those who seek doctrine or religion or systems or creeds. Many settle for these lesser passions, but the reward goes to those who settle for nothing less than Jesus Himself.

And what is the reward? What awaits those who seek Jesus? Nothing short of the heart of Jesus. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.  Can you think of a greater gift than to be like Jesus?

Christ felt no guilt; God wants to banish yours. Jesus had no bad habits; God wants to remove yours. Jesus had no fear of death; God wants you to be fearless. Jesus had kindness for the diseased and mercy for the rebellious and courage for the challenges. God wants you to have the same.  Isn’t it just like Jesus!

From Lucado Inspirational Reader

Our Daily Bread — Genuine Concern

Our Daily Bread

Philippians 2:1-5

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

On the first night at family camp, the camp director informed the families of the schedule for the week. When finished, he asked if anyone else had anything to say. A young girl stood up and made a passionate appeal for help. She shared about her little brother—a boy with special needs—and how he could be a challenge to care for. She talked about how tiring this was for her family, and she asked everyone there to help them keep an eye on him during the week. It was an appeal born out of genuine concern for her brother and her parents. As the week went on, it was great to see people pitching in to help this family.

Her appeal was a gentle reminder of how easily we can all get wrapped up in our own world, life, and problems—to the point that we fail to see the needs of others. Here’s how Paul described our responsibility: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). The next verse reminds us that this is part of the example of Christ: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Our caring displays a Christlike concern for people who are hurting. May we rest in God’s grace, trusting Him to enable us to serve others in their seasons of need. —Bill Crowder

Lord, open my eyes to the hurts, needs, and struggles

of a world that is so desperately in need of Your

love. Help me to be Your instrument to

inject that love into hurting lives.

Nothing costs as much as caring—except not caring.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 14-15; James 2

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Commending Christ

Ravi Z

Author John Stackhouse describes apologetics as the Christian work of commending the faith as much as it is about defending the faith. Commending the faith, he argues, is something the Christian community does wherever it is—with one another, with neighbors, with the world. Consequently, it is also something the Christian community does whether they are aware of it or not.

In his sermon before the Areopagus, the apostle Paul commended the gospel with reason and rhetoric that would not have gone unrecognized. This is the “good news,” he professed, and the “good life” depends on it. To the Athenian philosophers, he commended the gospel in terms that mattered deeply to them. “Since we are God’s offspring,” he said quoting an Athenian poet, “we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.”(1) For on the contrary, he told them, the real and present Deity is now calling people everywhere to turn around and come near.

The apostle then followed this bold notion with a proof that would have caused as much, if not more, commotion in first century Athens as in hyper-rational modernity and cynical post-modernity. We know that God is the true creator, sustainer, and friend, he reasoned, because God “has given this proof… by raising [Christ] from the dead.”(2) Paul is telling the story of God in the world here, but he is also telling his own story. This Deity he commends to the Athenian philosophers is the risen Christ who appeared to him on Damascus road, who became ‘friend’ instead of ‘foe,’ and turned his own philosophy and consequently his life around.

Paul’s use of the resurrection as proof of all he has proclaimed to the Athenians is interesting on several levels. To begin with, while the apostle clearly sought to ground his Mars Hill message on a common foundation, he ended with a proof that must have seemed to some like a foreign tidal wave. For the Athenians, resurrection of the body was absurd and unreasonable, as much of an obstacle to them as the scandalizing cross to men and women of Jerusalem. While the philosophers of the Areopagus may have believed in the immorality of the soul, the body was what confined and imprisoned this soul. In their minds, there was a radical distinction between matter and spirit. Bodily resurrection did not make any more sense than a god with a body! For the Athenians, and indeed for all of us, this very proof required a radical turn of heart, mind, soul, and body. For some, this babbler’s new teaching was immediately labeled absurd. When they heard of this resurrection of the dead, reports Luke, there were scoffs and sneers.

Yet Paul’s apologetic, which was carefully researched, powerfully worded, and respectfully delivered, was not here ending on a careless note. On the contrary, he was ending with the chorus itself. For Paul, all of the words uttered up until this point would merely be noise had they not come from this very refrain. For if Christ has not been raised, both preaching and faith itself is useless, as he said elsewhere. Though it would have been a foreign language to the crowd at the Areopagus, Paul commended the resurrection as the very proof of his apologetic—for the entirety of his message was authoritative only and specifically because the resurrection had indeed occurred. Authors Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon note the central task of commending the Gospel: “Our claim is not that this tradition will make sense to anyone or will enable the world to run more smoothly. Our claim is that it just happens to be true. This really is the way God is. This really is the way God’s world is.”(3) For Paul, and for the apologist, the important Christian act of finding common ground must never involve burying what is real and living: Christ is risen from the dead.

This single event is the theological core of Paul’s identity and his highest apologetic. It is also the very pillar which makes abundantly clear that the true work of apologetics does not belong to Christians. Writes Stackhouse, “Spiritual adepts throughout the ages warn us that mere argument accomplishes little even within our own hearts.”(4) No one knew this better than the apostle Paul, who would never have otherwise considered Jesus anything more than one to despise. The work of conversion belongs to the Holy Spirit.

Thus, there were many at the Areopagus that day who sneered at Paul’s philosophical conclusions. There were also many who responded in the same manner they responded to any teaching considered at the Areopagus—namely, with fascination, with discussion, and with barren hearts and minds. But likewise, there were a number who believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.(5) By the grace of God, the risen Christ was commended and the clamoring alternatives were overcome.

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

(1) Acts 17:29.

(2) Acts 17:31.

(3) Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989), 101.

(4) John Stackhouse, Jr. Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 82.

(5) cf. Acts 17:34.

Charles Spurgeon – Man’s ruin and God’s remedy

CharlesSpurgeon

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” Numbers 21:8

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 23:1-5

Christ’s redemption was so plenteous, that had God willed it, if all the stars of heaven had been peopled with sinners, Christ need not have suffered another pang to redeem them all—there was a boundless value in his precious blood. And, sinner, if there were so much as this, surely there is enough for thee. And then again, if thou art not satisfied with Christ’s sin-offering, just think a moment; God is satisfied, God the Father is content, and must not thou be? The Judge saith, “I am satisfied; let the sinner go free, for I have punished the Surety in his stead;” and if the Judge is satisfied, surely the criminal may be. Oh! Come, poor sinner, come and see; if there is enough to appease the wrath of God there must be enough to answer all the requirements of man. “Nay, nay,” saith one, “but my sin is such a terrible one that I cannot see in the substitution of Christ that which is like to meet it.” What is thy sin? “Blasphemy.” Why, Christ died for blasphemy: this was the very charge which man imputed to him, and therefore you may be quite sure that God laid it on him if men did. “Nay, nay,” saith one, “but I have been worse than that; I have been a liar.” It is just what men said of him. They declared that he lied when he said, “If this temple be destroyed I will build it in three days.” See in Christ a liar’s Saviour as well as a blasphemer’s Saviour. “But,” says one, “I have been in league with Beelzebub.” Just what they said of Christ. They said that he cast out devils through Beelzebub. So man laid that sin on him, and man did unwittingly what God would have him do. I tell thee, even that sin was laid on Christ.

For meditation: Christ was truly a sign spoken against (Luke 2:34). Men called him many names which God had never given him—Beelzebub (Matthew 10:25), glutton and drunkard (Matthew 11:19), impostor (Matthew 27:63), liar (John 8:13), sinner (John 9:24), demon-possessed and mad (John 10:20), and blasphemer (John 10:33). On the cross God treated his Son as if he was everything that man had accused him of, and every other sin besides.

Sermon no. 285

20 November (1859)

 

 

John MacArthur – Passing the Test

John MacArthur

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your descendants shall be called.’ He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead” (Heb. 11:17-19).

John Bunyan had a little blind daughter, for whom he had a special love. When he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel, he was deeply concerned about his family, especially that little girl. He wrote, “I saw in this condition I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children. Yet, thought I, I must do it; I must do it. The dearest idol I have known, what ere that idol be, help me to tear it from Thy throne and worship only Thee.”

Despite his personal grief, Bunyan was willing to sacrifice the most precious thing he had, if God so willed. So it was with Abraham. Every promise God had made to him was bound up in his son Isaac.

Abraham believed God’s promises, and his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). But the moment of truth came when God instructed him to offer his son as a sacrifice. Abraham realized that to kill Isaac was to put to death God’s covenant. So he reasoned that surely God would raise Isaac from the dead. He believed in resurrection before the doctrine was revealed in clear terms.

God tested Abraham, and Abraham passed the test: He was willing to make the sacrifice. And that’s always the final standard of faith. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Romans 12:1 says, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

I pray that you are willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to minister most effectively for Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for those you know who are passing the test of a sacrificial faith.

Pray for the courage and grace to follow their example.

For Further Study:

Read the account of Abraham’s test in Genesis 22.

 

 

Joyce Meyer – Be Careful What You Think

Joyce meyer

But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night. And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity].

—Psalm 1:2–3

Your word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against You…I will meditate on Your precepts and have respect to Your ways [the paths of life marked out by Your law].

—Psalm 119:11, 15

In the early days of computers, they used to say, “Garbage in, garbage out.” That was a way of explaining that the computer only worked with the data put into the machine. If we wanted different results, we needed to put in different information. With computers, most people have no trouble grasping that concept, but when it comes to their minds, they don’t seem to get it. Or perhaps they don’t want to get it.

So many things demand their attention and beg for their focus. They’re not just sinful things. The apostle Paul said that although everything was lawful for him, not everything was helpful (see 1 Corinthians 6:12).

If you are going to win the battle of the mind and defeat your enemy, where you focus your attention is crucial. The more you meditate on God’s Word, the stronger you’ll become and the more easily you’ll win the victories.

Too many Christians don’t realize the difference between meditating on the Bible and reading the Bible. They like to think that whenever they read God’s Word, they’re absorbing the deep things of God. Too often people will read a chapter of the Bible, and when they get to the last verse, they have little idea of what they’ve read. Those who meditate on God’s Word are those who think—and think seriously—about what they’re reading.

They may not put it in these words, but they are saying, “God, speak to me. Teach me. As I ponder Your Word, reveal its depth to me.”

Above, I quoted from Psalm 1. This psalm begins by defining the person who is blessed, and then points out the right actions of that person. The psalmist wrote that those who meditate—and do it day and night—are like productive trees…and everything they do shall prosper.

The psalmist made it quite clear that meditating on and thinking about God’s Word brings results. As you ponder who God is and what He’s saying to you, you’ll grow. It’s really that simple. Another way to put it is to say that whatever you focus on, you become. If you read about and allow your mind to focus on God’s love and power, that’s what operates in you.

The apostle Paul says it beautifully in Philippians 4:8: “…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].”

It’s sad, but most Christians don’t put much effort into their study of the Word. They go to hear others teach and preach, and they may listen to sermon tapes and read the Bible occasionally, but they’re not dedicated to making God’s Word a major part of their lives.

Be careful what you think about. The more you think about good things, the better your life will seem. The more you think about Jesus Christ and the principles He taught, the more you become like Jesus and the stronger you grow. And as you grow, you win the battle for your mind.

Lord God, help me think about the things that honor You. Fill my life with a hunger for more of You and Your Word so that in everything I may prosper. I ask this through Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2006 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Where Were You?

Ravi Z

As a young girl, one of my favorite games was hide and seek. Gathering all of our friends from the street on which we lived, we played this favorite childhood game that offered the entire neighborhood as a hiding place. The familiar call “Where are you?” echoed down the streets as the seeker looked far and wide to find our hiding places.

A cosmic game of hide and seek is often how many view the search for God. “Where are you?” is the question that echoes throughout the ages as human beings seek for God in a vast universe often filled with inexplicable mystery.

This is no trivial game. Atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if after death he met God, to which he replied: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”(1) While those who have found God quite evident would balk at Russell’s impudence, it is helpful to remember that theists often wrestle with a similar struggle. Many of the biblical writers themselves have depicted God as hidden. “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1). Indeed, the psalmist accuses God of being “asleep” to his plaintive cries: “Arouse, yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24). Even blameless Job wondered aloud if in fact God viewed him as the enemy: “Why do you hide your face and consider me the enemy?” (Job 13:24). And from the place of his deepest suffering, Jesus himself cried out using the words of the poets of Israel, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Clearly, the hiddenness of God is problematic for theists and atheists alike. Indeed, the belief in a God who can be easily found, and who has acted in time and space, makes the experience of God’s hiddenness all the more poignant and perplexing.

“Where are you?” serves as one of the central questions in the acclaimed film by Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life. The film explores the paradoxical experience of both God’s astounding presence and God’s apparent absence. The questions concerning God’s whereabouts are posed by an adult man in the throes of a life-crisis resulting from family tragedy. Through a series of cinematic visions, the man reflects back on his life as his question “Where are you?” sounds a thematic refrain when tragic events ensue. It is this question that takes the man on a search for God, not only through recalling the events of his childhood in a small Texas town, but also as he contemplates the grandeur of the cosmos at the dawn of creation.

As the film begins, we hear the voice of this man’s, mother extolling a life of grace, as opposed to a life lived according to nature, for the self alone. To the oft-repeated question, “Where are you?” the film suggests God resides in this life of grace. The life that is grace-filled lives for others, revels in the beauty and wonder of the created world, and extends a gracious forgiveness toward others. It is this grace-filled life that the now adult Jack remembers as a clue to where God may be found. The gracious way in which his mother lived, and the way his younger brother extended forgiveness to the young Jack after he viciously shot him in the hand with a pellet gun provide the first hints for God’s hiding place. Jack recalls, “Brother, mother, it was they who led me to your door.” In these grace-filled human encounters, the doorway is opened to God’s dwelling place.

This gracious way is set in contrast to the way of nature, which competes and wrestles for control of Jack. The way of nature seeks to make its way in the world forcefully; its acquisitive nature clawing after worldly success, fortune, and power. It is a battle waged within every human being, and the film suggests that it is a path that leads one away from God; it is the way that hides us from God’s grace and God’s presence.

For indeed, the game of hide and seek is not one-sided. The film opens with a quotation from the book of Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth…when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” A cinematic kaleidoscope of those foundations—from a one-celled organism to the galaxies beyond invites the viewer to see the gracious hand of God touching all that makes up the universe. From the dawn of time to, by contrast, this seemingly insignificant family living in 1950′s Waco, Texas, the film shimmers with God’s presence. We often fail to accept the invitation, the film suggests, as we succumb to the way of nature—a way that reduces one’s vision only to self-interest. But God’s glorious grace is all around us. Sometimes abundantly obvious, sometimes subtle, God’s gracious presence beckons to us in this world and in our relationships with one another. “Always did you seek me” Jack recognizes as he wrestles with his own propensity to hide. Always do you seek for us—we humans who play hide and seek—from the very foundation of the world.

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

(1) Cited in Dr. Paul K. Moser’s booklet Why Isn’t God More Obvious: Finding the God who Hides and Seeks (Norcross, GA: RZIM, 2000)1.

 

John MacArthur – Living a Satisfied Life

John MacArthur

“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. “And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:13-16).

I remember watching in horror and disgust as angry mobs swept through Los Angeles, killing people and setting thousands of buildings on fire. Under the cover of chaos, countless people ransacked and looted every store in sight. I saw entire families- -moms, dads, and little children– loading their cars and trucks with anything they could steal.

That was the most graphic demonstration of lawlessness I’ve ever seen. It was as if they were saying, “I’m not satisfied with the way life’s treating me, so I’m entitled to grab everything I can–no matter who gets hurt in the process.”

Perhaps we don’t realize how selfish and restless the human heart can be until the restraints of law and order are lifted and people can do whatever they want without apparent consequences. Then suddenly the results of our godless “me first” society are seen for what they are. Instant gratification at any cost has become the motto of the day.

That’s in stark contrast to people of faith like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who trusted in God even when their circumstances were less than they might have expected. God promised them a magnificent land but they never possessed it. They were, in fact, strangers and refugees in their own land. But that didn’t bother them because they looked forward to a better place–a heavenly city.

Their faith pleased God and He was not ashamed to be called their God. What a wonderful testimonial! I pray that’s true of you. Don’t let earthbound hopes and dreams make you dissatisfied. Trust in God’s promises and set your sights on your heavenly home.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the blessing of a satisfied heart.

For Further Study:

Memorize Psalm 27:4.

 

Charles Stanley – The Promise of the Father

Charles Stanley

Acts 1:1-8

The Bible is a book of promises, each of which is guaranteed by the Lord’s unchanging nature (2 Cor. 1:20). One precious assurance is that those who trust Jesus as Savior will never be alone. Our Father has promised to send His Holy Spirit to take up residence within each believer. Scripture teaches that the Spirit is a member of the Trinity, along with God the Father and God the Son.

The triune nature of God is clear in a number of Bible passages. Genesis 1:1-2, for instance, identifies both the Father and the Spirit as active participants in creation. The New Testament later reveals that Jesus Christ was likewise present when the world was being made (Col. 1:16).

We find another example in John’s gospel. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus told the disciples that He was going away but would ask the Father to send “another Comforter” (14:16). The resurrected Christ later commissioned His followers to make disciples and baptize them in the name of all three members of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19).

On the basis of biblical truth, we can know for sure that the Spirit is fully God, just like the Father and the Son. Scripture teaches that we can intimately know the Father and Jesus, and the same holds true for the third person of the Trinity. Because of the Spirit’s importance, Jesus spent much time talking about Him with the disciples.

Do you know the Holy Spirit as well as you do the Father and Son? If not, spend time studying Scripture to gain understanding of His place in your life.

 

John MacArthur – Looking to the Future

John MacArthur

“By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore” (Heb. 11:11-12).

I’ve been blessed with a wonderful Christian heritage. In fact, I’m the fifth generation of preachers in our family. The faith of my predecessors has had an enormous impact on my life– either directly or indirectly. I have the same responsibility they did to influence others for good–as do you.

Hebrews 11:11-12 gives a very personal example of how one man’s faith influenced an entire nation. Verse 11 is better rendered: “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise” (NIV).

God had promised Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2). But Sarah, Abraham’s wife, had always been barren, and both of them were advanced in years. At one point Sarah became impatient and decided to take things into her own hands. She persuaded Abraham to have a son by her maid, Hagar (16:1-4). That act of disobedience proved to be costly because Ishmael, the child of that union, became the progenitor of the Arab people, who have been constant antagonists of the Jewish nation.

Despite his times of disobedience, Abraham believed that God would keep His promise. God honored Abraham’s faith by giving him not only Isaac, the child of promise, but descendants too numerous to count. One man’s faith literally changed the world.

Similarly, the faith you exercise today will influence others tomorrow. So be faithful and remember: despite your failures, God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for those who have had a righteous influence on you.

Pray for greater opportunities to influence others for Christ.

For Further Study:

Read the account of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18-21 and 23.

 

 

Joyce Meyer – Stay in God’s Presence

Joyce meyer

And now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies round about me; in His tent I will offer sacrifices and shouting of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

—Psalm 27:6

The psalmist David said that the thing he wanted most was to be with God and to dwell in His presence all the days of his life (See Psalm 27:4). David loved God for who He is, not just for what He did for him.

The Word says that if we abide in the presence of God, He will defeat our enemies, and hide us in the day of trouble (See v.5). God’s attention is on us, but we must keep our attention on Him to enjoy the fullness of His presence in our lives. We must invite God to be involved in everything we do, and then remember to praise Him for His goodness.

 

 

Greg Laurie – Barriers to Answered Prayer

greglaurie

These people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men. —Isaiah 29:13

You may have heard the old adage that says there are no atheists in foxholes. Actually, I think there may be some. But when the chips are down, most people will pray.

Remember the story of Jonah? He ran from God and boarded a boat that was going in the opposite direction of Nineveh, where God had told him to go. A great storm came, and the terrified sailors started calling on their gods. Meanwhile, Jonah had found his way to the ship’s hold and was sound asleep. The captain found Jonah and said, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish” (Jonah 1:6).

That is the way most people are. When we are in danger, we will call on God. But it is possible to pray all day long and never communicate with God. We can fervently say our prayers and never be heard. In Luke 18 we find a story Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee “stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men’ ” (verse 11). Meanwhile, the tax collector prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (verse 13). Jesus said that God heard the prayer of the sinner rather than the words of the self-righteous Pharisee.

You can pray and never really have a relationship with God. You can offer up prayers and never really pray. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” You can pray with all the passion and consistency in the world, but if your sin has not been confessed to God, then it won’t do you any good.

Charles Stanley – When Temptation Knocks

Charles Stanley

What makes a person successful at resisting temptation? I believe the best way to discover how to overcome temptation is to look at the One who dealt with every temptation successfully and consistently. The writer of Hebrews wrote of Christ:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Since Jesus successfully overcame temptation, we would do well to study his strategy for dealing with it. Unfortunately, we have only one clear passage of Scripture describing Christ’s encounter with temptation. We know from the Hebrews passage cited above that He was tempted more often than this, but the Holy Spirit chose not to include these in the Gospels.

Strangely enough, Jesus’ approach is so straightforward and simple that many believers tend to overlook it entirely. Others, after hearing it, make the most ridiculous excuses as to why they can not follow His example.

What was His strategy? After 40 days of fasting in the desert, Jesus used Scripture, and only Scripture, to resist Satan’s temptation (Matt. 4:1-11). This is hard for me to comprehend. The Son of God—the One who knows all things and has the power to do all things, the One whose words we study, memorize, and meditate on—never made an original comment during the entire interaction.

He never drew on his own wit. He never even relied on His own power. He simply responded with the truth of God’s Word. That’s all it took. Nothing fancy. Just the plain truth directed at the deception behind each of Satan’s requests. Jesus verbally confronted Satan with the truth, and eventually Satan gave up and left.

There are four primary reasons why a well-chosen passage or verse of Scripture is so effective against temptation.

First of all, God’s Word exposes the sinfulness of what you are being tempted to do. One of Satan’s subtle snares is to convince you that sin is really not so bad after all. God’s Word allows you to see things for what they really are.

A second reason the Word of God is so effective against temptation is that you gain God’s viewpoint through it. Since many temptations carry a strong emotional punch, you tend to get caught up in your feelings. Once you identify with the feelings temptation evokes, it becomes increasingly difficult to respond correctly. The truth of Scripture allows you to separate yourself just far enough mentally to deal with it successfully.

Another reason for turning to God’s Word in times of temptation is what one pastor calls the principle of displacement.1 This principle is based on the premise that it is impossible not to think about a seductive topic unless you turn your attention elsewhere. When you turn your thoughts to the Word of God during temptation, you do just that (Phil. 4:8).

If you don’t shift your attention away from the temptation, you may begin some form of mental dialogue: I really shouldn’t. But I haven’t done this in a long time. I am really going to hate myself later. Why not? I’ve already blown it. I’ll do it just this once, and tomorrow I’ll start over. When you allow these little discussions to begin, you’re sunk. The longer you talk, the more time the temptation has to settle into your emotions and will.

The fourth reason the Word of God is so effective against temptation is that you are expressing faith when you turn your attention to His Word. You are saying, “I believe God is able to get me through this; I believe He is mightier than the power of sin, my flesh, and Satan himself.” Nothing moves God like the active faith of His people.

To effectively combat the onslaughts of the enemy, you need an arsenal of verses on the tip of your tongue. Verses so familiar that they come to mind without any conscious effort on your part. If you have to dig them up from the caverns of your memory, they will do you no good. There isn’t time for that in the midst of temptation.

Begin memorizing scriptures that address the area that troubles you the most. Quote them audibly when you are tempted. When you speak the truth out loud, it’s as if you have taken a stand with God against the enemy. When I do this, I often feel a sense of courage and conviction sweeping over me. Remember, if the perfect, sinless, sovereign Son of God relied on Scripture to pull Him through, what hope do you have without it?

1. Bud Palmberg, “Private Sins of Public Ministry,” Leadership magazine (Winter 1988)

Adapted from “Winning the War Within: Facing Trials, Temptations and Inner Struggles by Charles F. Stanley, 1988.