Tag Archives: Peace

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.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Grace for Everyone

 

Winning a war is call for celebration and, usually, humiliation of the vanquished. But that’s not what Ulysses S. Grant had in mind when he accepted the surrender of Robert E. Lee at the close of the Civil War. As Union artillery began to pound the air in jubilation, Grant sent word to have it stopped. “The war is over,” he told his staff. “The rebels are our countrymen again.”

A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for your glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:32

Many of the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day firmly believed there was no place for Gentiles in God’s kingdom. Yet when Jesus was presented at the Temple, a righteous man named Simeon proclaimed that He would be the Savior not just of Israel…but of the Gentiles and all the world. It was a shocking, heretical and distasteful proclamation for some back then to be sure. There remains a natural inclination in people today to think that some are less worthy than others, forgetting that Christ is “not wishing that any should perish.” (II Peter 3:9)

As you pray for your leaders in America today, resist the urge to intercede only for those you like. Lift up all of your countrymen, remembering that no one is beyond God’s grace.

Recommended Reading: Romans 1:5-16

Greg Laurie – The Bible’s Most Popular Verse

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” —Matthew 7:1–2

There was a time when probably the best-known Bible verse would have been John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It seemed as though everyone either knew this verse or knew a little bit about it.

But that is no longer the favorite verse of most people, especially nonbelievers. In fact, I believe the nonbeliever’s favorite verse is Matthew 7:1. I don’t think they know the actual reference, but they love to quote it: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

That is usually what they say to a Christian who has the audacity to hold a biblical worldview. If we dare say that something is right or wrong, or if we make an evaluation about something, they will shoot back, “How can you say that? That is so judgmental! That is so narrow-minded! That is so bigoted! Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Judge not, lest you be judged’?”

Don’t be put off by that. A better translation of this verse would be, “Condemn not, that you be not condemned.” I am not in the position to say who will get into heaven or who will end up in hell. Ultimately that is up to God.

But I am to make judgments in life. Every day, I make judgments. If I am stepping into the street, I look both ways to make sure it is safe. That is a judgment. If I see a dog and decide to pet it, only to change my mind when he suddenly bares his teeth and growls, then that is a judgment.

So I am to make judgments and evaluations as a follower of Jesus Christ. We must make judgments. But we must not condemn.

Max Lucado – Tell the Truth

 

Some of us could state our credo as, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you squirm.”

Our dislike for the truth began at age three when mom walked in our rooms and asked, “Did you hit your little brother?” We knew then and there that honesty had its consequences.  “Did I hit baby brother?  Well, that all depends on how you interpret the word hit.”

We want our bosses to like us, so we flatter. God calls it a lie. We want people to admire us, so we exaggerate.  God calls it a lie.  We want people to respect us, so we live in houses we can’t afford and charge bills we can’t pay.  God calls it living a lie.

The cure for deceit is simply this: face the music. The ripple of today’s lie is tomorrow’s wave and next year’s flood.

Be just like Jesus.  Tell the truth!

Charles Stanley – Discovering God’s Will

 

Colossians 1:9-12

Would you say that discovering God’s will is like trying to catch a butterfly that’s always just out of reach? Or is it more like fishing, where you cast your lure and hope for the best? In either case, you lack the assurance that you can know what His will is. Jesus, on the other hand, was absolutely certain that He knew what His Father had planned (John 6:38-39). In fact, the heavenly Father gives believers His Holy Spirit to reveal His purposes for each one.

Scripture is the Lord’s primary means of communication. It is both complete and comprehensive in content. Containing principles that address all areas of life, the Bible is the Father’s instruction book for godly living. You cannot maintain the Christian life apart from a steady diet of His Word.

The Bible’s purpose is to give us guidelines for living, and—through the influence of the Holy Spirit—the wisdom to apply them to our daily decisions. The more familiar we are with Scripture, the easier it will be to see the relevance of biblical precepts to our lives. Not adhering to the Lord’s plan will result in missing out on the abundant spiritual life that Christ has promised. Even more importantly, veering from God’s way will mean failure to bring Him the glory He deserves—glory that would result from following His plan.

Unless the Word of God has a central place in our lives, we’ll find it almost impossible to be certain we are in His will. Today is the day to change all that. God is waiting to meet with you in His Word. Won’t you join Him—nothing on your schedule could possibly be more valuable than time spent with your Father.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – To Seek the Light

 

In the book Megatrends 2000, authors Naisbitt and Aburdene outlined trends they anticipated would be transformational as we moved into the new millennium. Among their calculations was the New Age movement, which in 1990 was quickly gaining momentum. They wrote: “In turbulent times, in times of great change, people head for the two extremes: fundamentalism and personal, spiritual experience… With no membership lists or even a coherent philosophy or dogma, it is difficult to define or measure the unorganized New Age movement. But in every major U.S. and European city, thousands who seek insight and personal growth cluster around a metaphysical bookstore, a spiritual teacher, or an education center.”(1) This is all the more an accurate picture for today.

New Age seekers, who today are unlikely to call themselves by this name, may not share a cohesive focus or an organizational center, but there are certainly consistent and underlying tenets of thought among them. The movement is syncretistic, in that it incorporates any number of spiritual and religious ideologies at one time, but it is consistently monistic and pantheistic. New Age seekers are informed by the belief that all of reality is essentially one. Thus, everything is divine, often including themselves; for if all is one, and there are no distinctions, then all is God. Or, in the words of Shirley Maclaine in Dancing in the Light, “I am God, because all energy is plugged in to the same source….  We are individualized reflections of the God source. God is us and we are God.”(2)

Seven hundred years earlier, medieval Christian mystic Julian of Norwich spoke in what some may consider a similar tone: “[O]ur substance is our Father, God almighty… [O]ur substance is whole in each person of the Trinity, who is one God.”(3) Early Christian mystics are known for their fervent seeking and spiritual awareness of the oneness of life. Thus, there are certainly similar melodies to be found within the songs of Christian mysticism and the growing chorus of New Age spirituality. But so there are marked differences among them.

Within its historical context, mysticism, like many other Christian movements, was an expression of faith in response to faithless times. In this regard, New Age seekers are not entirely different. Some New Age seeking is, I think, a legitimate reaction to the comfortable and shallow religious life we find within our society. But as New Age seekers long for the depth and freedom to believe in everything, the result is often contrary to what they seek. Their theology and spirituality are entirely segregated. The quest for illumination is a quest that can begin and end anywhere; thus, they find neither depth nor freedom. On the contrary, Julian of Norwich and other early Christian mystics sought an authentic experience of faith as a result of an already dynamic understanding of that faith. Their theology in and of itself is what led them to spirituality.

For the Christian today, illumination still begins with Light itself, God unobscured, though incomprehensible, revealed through the glory of the Son. Starting with light and standing beside Christ, the Christian begins his or her journey as a seeker knowing there is one unique being who hears our prayers and cries and longings. There is a source for all illumination, and that God is light of the world.

Those for whom New Age thought seems attractive would perhaps be helped to know there is a great tradition of seeking within Christianity, a tradition that began with the recognition that we could not fix what is wrong, and a tradition that continues because there is one who can, one who also longs to find and to be found. The human heart is ever-seeking, showing the longing of a soul to be known. In the words of Julian of Norwich, “We shall never cease wanting and longing until we possess [Christ] in fullness and joy… The more clearly the soul sees the Blessed Face by grace and love, the more it longs to see it in its fullness.”(4) For the Christian seeker, communion with God is far more than self-discovery or personal freedom; it is theology that has become doxology, which in turn becomes life.

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

(1) J. Naisbitt and P. Aburdene, Megatrends 2000: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1990), 11.

(2) Shirley Maclaine, Dancing in the Light (New York: Bantam Doubleday, 1991), 339.

(3) Julian of Norwich, Showings, ed. and trans. by James Walsh in “The Classics of Western Spirituality” (New York: Paulish Press, 1978), 129.

(4) Ibid.

Alistair Begg It’s Spring!

 

His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. Song of Songs 5:13

Here we are in the month when flowers come! March winds and April showers have done their work, and the earth is all dressed with beauty. Come, my soul, put on your springtime clothes and gather garlands of heavenly thoughts. You know where to go, for the “beds of spices” are well known, and you have so often smelled the perfume of “sweet-smelling herbs” that you will go at once to Him who is altogether lovely and find all loveliness and all joy in Him.

His cheek, which once was so rudely smitten with a rod, often covered with tears of sympathy and defiled by man–that cheek smiles with mercy and is a fragrant aroma to my heart. You did not hide Your face from shame and spitting, O Lord Jesus, and therefore I will find my dearest delight in praising You. Your face was furrowed by the plow of grief, and blood flowed freely from Your thorn-crowned brow; such marks of unbounded love fill my soul far more than words can tell. If I may not see the whole of His face, I would behold His cheeks, for the least glimpse of Him is exceedingly refreshing to my spiritual sense and yields a variety of delights.

In Jesus I find not only fragrance but a bed of spices; not one herb, but all kinds of sweet herbs. He is to me parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. When He is with me, it is May all year round, and my soul goes forth to wash its happy face in the morning-dew of His grace and to solace herself with the singing of the birds of His promises. Precious Lord Jesus, let me in very deed know the blessedness that dwells in abiding, unbroken fellowship with You. I am a poor, worthless one whose cheek You have deigned to kiss! O let me kiss You in return with the kisses of my lips.

John MacArthur – The Master’s Men

 

“The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:2- 4).

We live in a qualification-conscious society. Almost everything you do requires you to meet someone else’s standards. You must qualify to purchase a home, buy a car, get a credit card, or attend college. In the job market, the most difficult jobs require people with the highest possible qualifications.

Ironically, God uses unqualified people to accomplish the world’s most important task: advancing the kingdom of God. It has always been that way: Adam and Eve plunged the human race into sin. Lot got drunk and committed incest with his own daughters. Abraham doubted God and committed adultery. Jacob deceived his father. Moses was a murderer. David was too, as well as an adulterer. Jonah got upset when God showed mercy to Nineveh. Elijah withstood 850 false priests and prophets, yet fled in terror from one woman–Jezebel. Paul murdered Christians. And the list goes on and on.

The fact is, no one is fully qualified to do God’s work. That’s why He uses unqualified people. Perhaps that truth is most clearly illustrated in the twelve disciples, who had numerous human frailties, different temperaments, different skills, and diverse backgrounds, yet Christ used them to change the world.

This month you will meet the disciples one by one. As you do, I want you to see that they were common men with a very uncommon calling. I also want you to observe the training process Jesus put them through, because it serves as a pattern for our discipleship as well.

I pray you will be challenged by their strengths and encouraged by the way God used them despite their weaknesses and failures. He will use you too as you continue yielding your life to Him.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Memorize Luke 6:40. Ask God to make you more like Christ.

For Further Study:

Read 2 Timothy 1:3-5, noting the weaknesses Timothy may have struggled with, and how Paul encouraged him. How might Paul’s words apply to you?

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Glad to be a Whoever

 

Researcher George Barna reports 51 percent of people in America believe if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in Heaven. But the infallible Word of God says that just isn’t so! People who put their faith in their own earned way are mistaken.

Whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

In the apostle Paul’s day, many Jews believed their only entrance into Heaven was obeying the Ten Commandments (and another 600+ as well). But zeal for the law was misdirected then, and living by the Commandments or the Golden Rule is not salvation’s means today.

Jesus, who is God, said the only way to God was through Him. Some quarrel with “easy believism.” They say there has to be something more. But Jesus is enough. He is all in all. He is the door, and there is no other way. And the way is open to whoever – no one is excluded.

Share your gladness at being a “whoever” with one of the 51 percent who need to find the Truth. Pray for them to hear, have faith, and believe in God’s provision through Jesus Christ…while there still is time.

Recommended Reading: Romans 10:11-20

Greg Laurie – If Only . . .

 

“Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” —Matthew 12:39

Have you ever thought, If someone were raised from the dead, I know people would believe? Or, If I could do a miracle for my friends, I know they would believe?

Remember the story of the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus? They both died and went into eternity. The rich man had no place for God, but Lazarus was a believer. At that time before the death and resurrection of Jesus, Hades was divided into a place of comfort and a place of torment. Lazarus went to the place of comfort on the heart and bosom of Abraham. The nonbelieving rich man went to the place of torment.

The rich man called out to Abraham, wanting to go back and warn his family about the horrible place he was in. But Abraham told him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29 NKJV).

But the rich man persisted. He thought if someone were to rise from the dead, they surely would believe.

Here is what Abraham told him: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (verse 31).

Maybe, like the rich man, you think that if only your friends and family could witness a miracle, they would believe.

Jesus said, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39). Jesus was saying, “You want a sign for a nonbelieving world? Here it is: My death and resurrection from the dead.”

Here is our message to lost humanity: Christ died. He rose. He can forgive you of your sin. That is the message we have to share.

Max Lucado – Nothing But the Truth

 

A woman stands before judge and jury, places one hand on the Bible and the other in the air, and makes a pledge.

For the next few minutes, with God as her helper, she will “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  She is a witness.  Her job is to tell the truth. Leave it to legal counsel to interpret. Leave it to the jury to resolve. Leave it to the judge to apply.  But the witness? The witness speaks the truth.

The Christian, too, is a witness.  We are called to tell the truth. The Bible is present, the watching world is the jury, and we are the primary witnesses. We are called to testify; to tell what we have seen and heard. Our task is not to whitewash or bloat the truth. Our task is to tell the truth.  Period.

Charles Stanley – Telling It like It Is

 

John 9:13-25

The blind man was willing to answer questions about his healing, regardless of who was asking. Responses to his testimony varied. The neighbors argued over the genuineness of his story and demanded to know how he came to see. The man explained what had happened, with no embellishments: he’d met a man named Jesus, who gave him some instructions. When he obeyed, he was healed. Though the neighbors couldn’t deny what had happened, they had trouble accepting the account, because they could not understand it. The world still does the same thing—what they can’t explain, they try to deny.

The Pharisees also questioned how he had received his sight. Again the man reported, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see” (John 9:15). These leaders refused to believe him because they didn’t want to accept the One responsible for the healing. When they questioned the man a second time, he simply repeated his testimony: “I was blind, now I see” (v. 25). Again they rejected his words, because they refused to change their beliefs. Many people reject God’s truth and instead cling to their own interpretation of the facts.

A third response is seen in the man’s parents, whom the Pharisees asked to verify his testimony. They refused because they were afraid of the authorities. Fear of someone’s reaction can keep us from speaking about our transformed life.

Next time you have an opportunity to talk about the Lord, share something that has changed since you met Him. Say, “I was ___ , and now I am ___ because of Jesus.”

Our Daily Bread — Fantastic Offers

 

1 Peter 1:3-9

[God’s] abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. —1 Peter 1:3

I am amazed at the unbelievable offers that flood my e-mail box every day. Recently, I added up the offers of free money that came to me in a week, and my “take” totaled $26 million. But each of those offers was a fraud. Every one—from a $1 million prize to a $7 million offer—was nothing but a lie sent by unscrupulous people to squeeze money from me.

We’re all vulnerable to fantastic offers—to scams that in reality pay off with nothing but trouble. We are offered false hope that ends in dashed dreams.

There is one offer, however, that is genuine, though fantastic beyond belief. It’s the offer God makes to us—salvation through faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). It is an offer that cost Him greatly—and we get the benefits. The book of Romans tells us, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (4:25 NIV).

By saying yes to salvation, we can have hope (Titus 1:2), peace (Rom. 5:1), forgiveness (Eph. 1:7), incomparable riches (2:7), and redemption (4:30). This is the real deal. Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees it. —Dave Branon

Amazing love! How can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

—John Wesley. © 1951 Singspiration

Our salvation was infinitely costly to God, but it is absolutely free to us.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – What Is Fair?

 

“Instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest forever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic” rails Ivan Karamazov against God in Dostoyevsky’s classic work The Brothers Karamazov.(1) Those who encounter—or are encountered by—the parables and stories of Jesus often feel a similar sentiment. For the parables of Jesus are often exceptional in upsetting religious sensibilities, are sometimes vague, and are many times enigmatic in their detail and content.

The parable of the laborers, as told in Matthew’s gospel, serves as a case in point. A landowner hires laborers to work in his vineyard. They are hired throughout the work day and all the workers agree to the wage of a denarius for a day’s work. The enigmatic and exceptional punch line to this story occurs when those who are hired at the very end of the day—in the last hour—are paid the same wage as those who worked all day long. The long-suffering laborers cry out, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.” Those workers that were hired first are not paid any additional wage. The first are not first, in this story. Instead, the landowner replies with a radical reversal: The last shall be first, and the first last.

Not only is the conclusion to this story exceptional and enigmatic, it also seems wholly unfair. For how could those who worked so little be paid the full day’s wage? Yet, this upending of any sense of fairness is a recurring theme in other parables of Jesus as well. Indeed, the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, while a familiar story for many, functions in a similar manner and upsets all expectations of what is fair and right, just as in the parable of the laborers. A careful reading presents an extravagant display of grace towards all wayward sons and daughters, even as it illuminates a human frugality with grace.

Jesus presented this story as a crowd of tax-collectors, sinners, and religious leaders gathered around him. All who listened had a vested interest in what Jesus might say. Some hoped for grace, while others clamored for judgment. “A certain man had two sons,” Jesus begins. The younger of the man’s two sons insists on having his share of the inheritance, which the father grants though the request violated the Jewish custom that allotted a third of the inheritance to the youngest son upon the death of the father.(1) With wasteful extravagance, the son squanders this inheritance and finds himself desperately poor, living among pigs, ravenous for the pods on which they feed. “But when he came to his senses” the text tells us, he reasons that even his father’s hired men have plenty to eat. Hoping to be accepted as a mere slave, he makes his way home. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him.

The Pharisees in the crowd might have gasped at this statement. How could the father extend such grace towards a son so wasteful and wanton? Yet, this father is the true prodigal, extending grace in an extravagant way. His prodigal heart compels him to keep looking for his son—he saw him while he was still a long way off. And despite being disowned by his son, the father feels compassion for him. With wasteful abandon, he runs to his son to embrace him and welcome him home. The father orders a grand party for this son who has been found, “who was dead and has begun to live.”

The older brother in Jesus’s story provocatively gives voice to a deep sense of outrage.(2) In many ways, his complaint intones the same complaint of the laborers in the vineyard. “For so many years, I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours… But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots; you killed the fattened calf for him.”  We can hear the implicit cry, “It’s not fair!” The text then tells us that the older son was not willing to join the celebration. He will not hear the entreaty of his gracious father both to come into the celebration and to recognize that “all that is mine is yours.” Thus again, the last shall be first, and the first last.

While not vague in their detail or content, these two parables of Jesus are both exceptional and enigmatic. If we are honest, they disrupt our sense of righteousness and our sense of fairness. Both portraits of the prodigal father and of the landowner present the radical fairness of God. God lavishes grace freely on those we often deem the least deserving. But perhaps we feel the exceptional and enigmatic aspects of these parables most keenly when it is we who are seeing ourselves beyond the need of grace.

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

(1) Cited in Mary Gordon, Reading Jesus: A Writer’s Encounter with the Gospels (New York: Pantheon, 2009), x.

(2) Fred Craddock, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 187.

Alistair Begg – Are You a Grumbler?

 

And all the people of Israel grumbled. Numbers 14:2

There are grumblers among Christians now, just as there were in the camp of Israel of old. There are those who, when punished, cry out against the affliction. They ask, “Why am I afflicted? What have I done to be chastened in this manner?”

A word with you, grumbler! Why should you grumble against the dealings of your heavenly Father? Can He treat you more severely than you deserve? Consider what a rebel you once were, but He has pardoned you! Surely, if He in His wisdom considers it necessary to chasten you, you should not complain. After all, are you punished as severely as your sins deserve? Consider the corruption that is in your heart, and then will you wonder that so much of the rod is necessary to root it out? Weigh yourself, and discern how much dross is mingled with your gold; and do you think the fire is too hot to purge away the amount of dross you have? Doesn’t your proud rebellious spirit prove that your heart is not thoroughly sanctified? Aren’t those grumbling words contrary to the holy, submissive nature of God’s children? Isn’t the correction necessary?

But if you will grumble against the chastening, pay attention, for it will go hard with grumblers. God always chastises His children twice if they do not respond properly the first time. But know this–“He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” All His corrections are sent in love, to purify you and to draw you nearer to Himself. Surely it must help you to bear the chastening with submission if you are able to recognize your Father’s hand. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” “. . . nor grumble the way some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”