Tag Archives: religion

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning “I know how to abound.” / Philippians 4:12

There are many who know “how to be abased” who have not learned “how to abound.” When they are set upon the top of a pinnacle their heads grow dizzy, and they are ready to fall. The Christian far oftener disgraces his profession in prosperity than in adversity. It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God! Yet this is not a matter of necessity, for the apostle tells us that he knew how to abound. When he had much he knew how to use it. Abundant grace enabled him to bear abundant prosperity. When he had a full sail he was loaded with much ballast, and so floated safely. It needs more than human skill to carry the brimming cup of mortal joy with a steady hand, yet Paul had learned that skill, for he declares, “In all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry.” It is a divine lesson to know how to be full, for the Israelites were full once, but while the flesh was yet in their mouth, the wrath of God came upon them. Many have asked for mercies that they might satisfy their own hearts’ lust. Fulness of bread has often made fulness of blood, and that has brought on wantonness of spirit. When we have much of God’s providential mercies, it often happens that we have but little of God’s grace, and little gratitude for the bounties we have received. We are full and we forget God: satisfied with earth, we are content to do without heaven. Rest assured it is harder to know how to be full than it is to know how to be hungry–so desperate is the tendency of human nature to pride and forgetfulness of God. Take care that you ask in your prayers that God would teach you “how to be full.”

“Let not the gifts thy love bestows

Estrange our hearts from thee.”

 

Evening  “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.” / Isaiah 44:22

Attentively observe the instructive similitude: our sins are like a cloud. As clouds are of many shapes and shades, so are our transgressions. As clouds obscure the light of the sun, and darken the landscape beneath, so do our sins hide from us the light of Jehovah’s face, and cause us to sit in the shadow of death. They are earth-born things, and rise from the miry places of our nature; and when so collected that their measure is full, they threaten us with storm and tempest. Alas! that, unlike clouds, our sins yield us no genial showers, but rather threaten to deluge us with a fiery flood of destruction. O ye black clouds of sin, how can it be fair weather with our souls while ye remain?

Let our joyful eye dwell upon the notable act of divine mercy–“blotting out.” God himself appears upon the scene, and in divine benignity, instead of manifesting his anger, reveals his grace: he at once and forever effectually removes the mischief, not by blowing away the cloud, but by blotting it out from existence once for all. Against the justified man no sin remains, the great transaction of the cross has eternally removed his transgressions from him. On Calvary’s summit the great deed, by which the sin of all the chosen was forever put away, was completely and effectually performed.

Practically let us obey the gracious command, “return unto me.” Why should pardoned sinners live at a distance from their God? If we have been forgiven all our sins, let no legal fear withhold us from the boldest access to our Lord. Let backslidings be bemoaned, but let us not persevere in them. To the greatest possible nearness of communion with the Lord, let us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, strive mightily to return. O Lord, this night restore us!

The Joy of Recollection – John MacArthur

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons for the Storms of Life – Charles Stanley

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-6

The Lord is never taken by surprise. He knows everything we’re going through, and He is orchestrating our circumstances for both our benefit and His glory, according to His good will.

One purpose for hardship is to cleanse us. Because of our own “flesh” nature and the self-absorbed world we live in, it is easy to develop me-centered attitudes, mixed-up priorities, and ungodly habits. The pressures bearing down on us from stormy situations are meant to bring these impurities to our attention and direct us to a place of repentance. Our trials are not intended to sink us but rather to purify and guide us back to the way of godliness.

Another reason for adversity is so we’ll bring comfort to others. God’s work in our lives is not meant solely for us. It is designed to reach a world that doesn’t recognize or acknowledge Him. The Lord uses the pressures we face to equip us for serving others. As we endure suffering, we will learn about God’s sufficiency, His comforting presence, and His provision of strength to help us endure. Our testimony during times of difficulty will be authentic; those to whom we minister will recognize that we know and understand their pain. What credibility would we have with people in crisis if we ourselves never experienced a deep need?

Reflecting on the divine purpose behind our hardships can help us respond to them in a God-honoring way. Take the time to fix your attention on the Lord, and seek to understand what He wants you to learn. His lessons often unfold gradually, but He will be walking by your side the whole way.

Our Daily Bread — Divine Diversions

 

Matthew 1:18-25

And he called His name Jesus. —Matthew 1:25

I tend to get stuck in my ways, so anything that diverts me from my routines and plans can be very annoying. Worse yet, life’s diversions are sometimes unsettling and painful. But God, who said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (Isa. 55:8), knows that He often needs to divert us in order to make more of our lives than we would have if we had stuck to our original plans.

Think of Joseph. God diverted him to Egypt to prepare him to rescue God’s chosen people from starvation. Or of Moses, who was diverted from the luxurious lifestyle of Pharaoh’s house to meet God in the wilderness in preparation to lead God’s people toward the Promised Land. Or of Joseph and Mary to whom the angel announced the most significant diversion of all. Mary would be with child, and this child would be called “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Joseph believed in the bigger purpose that God had for him, surrendered to the diversion, and obediently “called His name Jesus” (v.25). The rest is wonderful history!

We can trust God’s greater plans as He does His far better work in the history of our lives. —Joe Stowell

Lord, teach us to be willing to adjust our plans to

conform to Yours. You have greater things in store for

us than we could ever dream, so help us to patiently

wait for You to work in the circumstances of our lives.

 

Let God direct—or redirect—your steps.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “And David enquired of the Lord.” / 2 Samuel 5:23

When David made this enquiry he had just fought the Philistines, and gained a signal victory. The Philistines came up in great hosts, but, by the help of God, David had easily put them to flight. Note, however, that when they came a second time, David did not go up to fight them without enquiring of the Lord. Once he had been victorious, and he might have said, as many have in other cases, “I shall be victorious again; I may rest quite sure that if I have conquered once I shall triumph yet again. Wherefore should I tarry to seek at the Lord’s hands?” Not so, David. He had gained one battle by the strength of the Lord; he would not venture upon another until he had ensured the same. He enquired, “Shall I go up against them?” He waited until God’s sign was given. Learn from David to take no step without God. Christian, if thou wouldst know the path of duty, take God for thy compass; if thou wouldst steer thy ship through the dark billows, put the tiller into the hand of the Almighty. Many a rock might be escaped, if we would let our Father take the helm; many a shoal or quicksand we might well avoid, if we would leave to his sovereign will to choose and to command. The Puritan said, “As sure as ever a Christian carves for himself, he’ll cut his own fingers;” this is a great truth. Said another old divine, “He that goes before the cloud of God’s providence goes on a fool’s errand;” and so he does. We must mark God’s providence leading us; and if providence tarries, tarry till providence comes. He who goes before providence, will be very glad to run back again. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go,” is God’s promise to his people. Let us, then, take all our perplexities to him, and say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Leave not thy chamber this morning without enquiring of the Lord.

 

 

Evening  “Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil [or, the evil one].” /

Luke 11:4

What we are taught to seek or shun in prayer, we should equally pursue or avoid in action. Very earnestly, therefore, should we avoid temptation, seeking to walk so guardedly in the path of obedience, that we may never tempt the devil to tempt us. We are not to enter the thicket in search of the lion. Dearly might we pay for such presumption. This lion may cross our path or leap upon us from the thicket, but we have nothing to do with hunting him. He that meeteth with him, even though he winneth the day, will find it a stern struggle. Let the Christian pray that he may be spared the encounter. Our Saviour, who had experience of what temptation meant, thus earnestly admonished his disciples–“Pray that ye enter not into temptation.”

But let us do as we will, we shall be tempted; hence the prayer “deliver us from evil.” God had one Son without sin; but he has no son without temptation. The natural man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, and the Christian man is born to temptation just as certainly. We must be always on our watch against Satan, because, like a thief, he gives no intimation of his approach. Believers who have had experience of the ways of Satan, know that there are certain seasons when he will most probably make an attack, just as at certain seasons bleak winds may be expected; thus the Christian is put on a double guard by fear of danger, and the danger is averted by preparing to meet it. Prevention is better than cure: it is better to be so well armed that the devil will not attack you, than to endure the perils of the fight, even though you come off a conqueror. Pray this evening first that you may not be tempted, and next that if temptation be permitted, you may be delivered from the evil one.

The Joy of God’s Peace – John MacArthur

 

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:2).

Paul’s wonderful benediction for grace and peace was ever on his heart. He offered it in each of his epistles and expounded on it throughout his writings.

Grace is the outpouring of God’s goodness and mercy on undeserving mankind. Every benefit and provision you receive is by God’s grace. That’s why Peter called it “the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet. 1:10). Just as your trials are manifold or multifaceted, so God’s multifaceted and all-sufficient grace is correspondingly available to sustain you.

Peace, as used in Philippians 1:2, speaks of the calmness and absence of strife characteristic of one in whom God’s grace is at work. The New Testament also links it to mercy, hope, joy, and love. To experience those graces is to experience true peace.

It is said that when Bible translators were seeking a word or phrase for “peace” in the language of the Chol Indians of South Mexico, they discovered that the words for “a quiet heart” gave just the meaning they were looking for. That’s an appropriate parallel because peace guards the soul against anxiety and strife, granting solace and harmony.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul says to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Although “grace to you and peace” was a common greeting in the early church, it was an uncommon experience in the unbelieving world. The same is true today because only those who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ receive grace and peace.

Are you experiencing God’s peace? Remember, nothing you face today is beyond the purview of God’s all- sufficient grace and surpassing peace.

Suggestions for Prayer:  Read Ephesians 2:14-18 and praise God for Christ, who is your peace, and for His gracious work on your behalf.

For Further Study:   What is the first step to acquiring peace (John 16:33; 1 Pet. 5:14)?

What does the God of peace desire to accomplish within you (1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20-21)?

Just Like Us! – Greg Laurie

 

We tend to put on pedestals the first-century believers and, in particular, the apostles.

We imagine them speaking in King James English, perfectly living out God’s commandments and boasting stained-glass lives.

Yet the biblical accounts of their lives give us no such illusions. If we had lived back then and met these men and women, the last thing we would have thought was, I think these people will change their world. They were common, salt-of-the-earth-type individuals.

They had calloused hands and few social graces. We would have considered them uneducated, with a limited knowledge of the world.

They had no money and undefined leadership structures. I doubt we would have bet too much on their future.

But something happens to a person when he witnesses the glory of Jesus. The sight has a way of changing one’s perspective. It certainly had a dramatic impact on these men and women.

 

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it’s a thoroughly honest book. When it describes those whom God used, it presents them with shortcomings and all. That is one of the reasons I so appreciate the Bible. It gives hope to people like me, who so often fall short. We think, If God can use someone like that, then maybe there is hope for me. And that is precisely the point. God recorded even the embarrassing and unsavory aspects of His dealings with His people, so we can understand that He wants to work through us despite our weakness.

God’s Purposes in Our Difficulties – Charles Stanley

 

Romans 8:28-29

If we could choose the number of difficulties we would face in a month, most of us would pick zero. Yet the Lord sees value in troublesome times. Through His mighty power, He uses trials to achieve His plans.

One of God’s purposes for us is a growing intimacy in our relationship with Him. But He knows we struggle to put Him first over our own interests. Many of us place higher priority on family and friends than on companionship with God. For others, finances, the workplace, or even pleasures interfere. When the Lord sees our attention is drifting away from Him, He might use hardships to draw us back so that we’ll give Him His proper place.

Another reason God allows difficulties is to conform us to the image of Jesus. Pain is a tool that brings areas of ungodliness to the surface; God also uses it to sift, shape, and prune us. The sanctification process—the building of Christlike character into our lives—starts at salvation and ends with our last breath.

A third aim for stressful circumstances is to reveal true convictions. Our faith is tested in tough times. It’s easy to say, “God is good” when things are peaceful. But when everything goes awry, what do we believe about Him? At such times, do our words and actions reveal an attitude of trust?

King David endured many heartaches—a disintegrating family, personal attacks, and betrayal by those close to Him. But through trials, he gained deeper intimacy with God, stronger faith, and more godly character. Won’t you let the Lord use your present situation to accomplish His good purpose?

Our Daily Bread — Mysterious Truth

 

John 17:20-26

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. —Psalm 116:15

Sometimes when the infinite God conveys His thoughts to finite man, mystery is the result. For example, there’s a profound verse in the book of Psalms that seems to present more questions than answers: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants” (116:15 niv).

I shake my head and wonder how that can be. I see things with earthbound eyes, and I have a tough time seeing what is “precious” about the fact that our daughter was taken in a car accident at the age of 17—or that any of us have lost cherished loved ones.

We begin to unwrap the mystery, though, when we consider that what is precious to the Lord is not confined to earthly blessings. This verse examines a heaven-based perspective. For instance, I know from Psalm 139:16 that Melissa’s arrival in God’s heaven was expected. God was looking for her arrival, and it was precious in His eyes. And think about this: Imagine the Father’s joy when He welcomes His children home and sees their absolute ecstasy in being face to face with His Son (see John 17:24).

When death comes for the follower of Christ, God opens His arms to welcome that person into His presence. Even through our tears, we can see how precious that is in God’s eyes. —Dave Branon

Lord, when sorrow grips our hearts as we think about

the death of one close to us, remind us of the joy You are

experiencing as our loved one enjoys the pleasures of

heaven. Please allow that to give us hope and comfort.

 

A sunset in one land is a sunrise in another.

“Life Is Sweet” – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters depicts a senior devil who is training a junior devil to intercept a man on the verge of becoming a Christian. The young devil is to deter the man from God, or “the Enemy.” The junior devil tries his best to distract his subject, but after a few weeks returns unsuccessful. The frustrated young devil cannot explain what went wrong, but notes that the man did two simple things each day. Every morning he would get up and go for a long walk, thoroughly enjoying the air, the scenery, and all in all, the walk itself. Then every evening, at then end of his day, the man would curl up with a good book, thoroughly delighting in that book, the reading, the time itself. To this, the senior devil notes sharply: “This is where you went horribly wrong! You should have put it into his mind that he had to get up in the morning and take that walk for the sake of exercise. It would have become drudgery to him. And you should have gotten him to read the book so that he could quote it to somebody else. It would have become equally uninspiring. You allowed him to enjoy such pure pleasure that the Enemy’s voice became more audible within those experiences. That is where you went wrong.”

What Lewis calls “pure pleasure” is something that often eludes us. Enjoying the current moment for what it is and for all that it offers is easier said than done—particularly in a world where the making and marketing of “desire” is meant to keep us perpetually un-satisfied. Lewis recognizes both the difficulty and the depth of simple enjoyment, an almost sacred quality which brings us within the reach of God’s voice.

The concluding words of the apostle Paul to the Philippian Church speak of a similar mystery. “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things….And the God of peace will be with you.”(1) The Christian imagination is filled with the countercultural hope of a far different desire than the ravenous, unsatisfiable appetite for more. How often do marketers encourage delight as an end in itself? How often do manufacturers claim that we can desire what we already have?

An opening proclamation in many liturgical Christian worship services is that God is the maker of all things, the sheer hope of which calls us to worship. There are times when we are given the mind to truly seize this, where simple enjoyments of truth, of beauty, of excellence whisper of the great mystery that a good God is intimately with us.

Now consider an explanation in stark contrast to the words of Lewis, Paul, and Christian liturgies. “It’s hard for me to enjoy anything because I’m aware how transient things are,” said Woody Allen. “Yes, there are times when you think, ‘My God, life is sweet, it’s nice,’ and thoughts of mortality are in abeyance. You know, watching the Marx Brothers or a Knicks game or listening to great jazz, you get a great feeling of ecstasy… But then it passes, and the dark reality of life starts to creep back in.”(2)

We find in this life undeniable glimpses of sweetness, as Allen describes, glimpses and feelings that tell us there is something wonderful about life itself, something profound, something worth our enjoyment in and of itself. Sometimes these moments come crashing like intoxicating waves over us, other times like good secrets that have crept up on us. But how do you interpret these moments of delight? If life itself is meaningless, quite logically, as Allen concluded, such moments are merely trivial and fleeting interruptions of that dark reality. And sadly, even the sweetest moments then become something like cruel tricks played on us by life itself.

The Christian poses a different means of imagining and participating in the world. Truly, there is much that is bad and seemingly meaningless in the universe; King Solomon called it a meaningless chasing after the wind. Certainly, the world is full of those who point this out as reason for unbelief. But instead, the Christian acknowledges that this is a good world that has gone terribly wrong. It is a good world with palpable memories of what should have been. In this, our moments of wonder are exactly that, moments of wonder, experiences of what was and is and should be, visions of God’s presence among us, rich longings for redemption and what will one day be completely so. This is the startling mystery Christ whispers to us in our delights and voices loudly in our desires of what we already possess and yet desire more: This abundant life of which you have thus far only seen glimpses, will indeed, be fully yours.(3)

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

(1) Philippians 4:8-9.

(2) From “Lowdown Fulfills a Sweet Dream for Allen,” by Fred Kaplan (Boston Globe) printed in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 28 January 2000, Q4.

(3) Cf. Revelation 21:3-6.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning “Thou shalt call his name Jesus.” / Matthew 1:21

When a person is dear, everything connected with him becomes dear for his sake. Thus, so precious is the person of the Lord Jesus in the estimation of all true believers, that everything about him they consider to be inestimable beyond all price. “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia,” said David, as if the very vestments of the Saviour were so sweetened by his person that he could not but love them. Certain it is, that there is not a spot where that hallowed foot hath trodden–there is not a word which those blessed lips have uttered–nor a thought which his loving Word has revealed–which is not to us precious beyond all price. And this is true of the names of Christ–they are all sweet in the believer’s ear. Whether he be called the Husband of the Church, her Bridegroom, her Friend; whether he be styled the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world–the King, the Prophet, or the Priest–every title of our Master–Shiloh, Emmanuel, Wonderful, the Mighty Counsellor–every name is like the honeycomb dropping with honey, and luscious are the drops that distil from it. But if there be one name sweeter than another in the believer’s ear, it is the name of Jesus. Jesus! it is the name which moves the harps of heaven to melody. Jesus! the life of all our joys. If there be one name more charming, more precious than another, it is this name. It is woven into the very warp and woof of our psalmody. Many of our hymns begin with it, and scarcely any, that are good for anything, end without it. It is the sum total of all delights. It is the music with which the bells of heaven ring; a song in a word; an ocean for comprehension, although a drop for brevity; a matchless oratorio in two syllables; a gathering up of the hallelujahs of eternity in five letters.

“Jesus, I love thy charming name,  ‘Tis music to mine ear.”

 

Evening  “He shall save his people from their sins.” / Matthew 1:21

Many persons, if they are asked what they understand by salvation, will reply, “Being saved from hell and taken to heaven.” This is one result of salvation, but it is not one tithe of what is contained in that boon. It is true our Lord Jesus Christ does redeem all his people from the wrath to come; he saves them from the fearful condemnation which their sins had brought upon them; but his triumph is far more complete than this. He saves his people “from their sins.” Oh! sweet deliverance from our worst foes. Where Christ works a saving work, he casts Satan from his throne, and will not let him be master any longer. No man is a true Christian if sin reigns in his mortal body. Sin will be in us–it will never be utterly expelled till the spirit enters glory; but it will never have dominion. There will be a striving for dominion–a lusting against the new law and the new spirit which God has implanted–but sin will never get the upper hand so as to be absolute monarch of our nature. Christ will be Master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. The Lion of the tribe of Judah shall prevail, and the dragon shall be cast out. Professor! is sin subdued in you? If your life is unholy your heart is unchanged, and if your heart is unchanged you are an unsaved person. If the Saviour has not sanctified you, renewed you, given you a hatred of sin and a love of holiness, he has done nothing in you of a saving character. The grace which does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves his people, not in their sins, but from them. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” If not saved from sin, how shall we hope to be counted among his people. Lord, save me now from all evil, and enable me to honour my Saviour.

The Joy of Spiritual Unity – John MacArthur

 

“To the saints . . . including the overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1:1).

Paul’s salutation includes the “overseers and deacons” at Philippi. That probably is not a reference to elders and deacons as we know them, but a general reference to all the Philippian saints, which included spiritual leaders (overseers) and those who followed (servants).

That implies unity and submission within the church, which brings joy to leaders and followers alike. Hebrews 13:17 emphasizes that point: “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

Spiritual leadership is a sacred responsibility. Leaders are to lead, feed, and guard the flock of God, which Christ purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). They are accountable to God Himself for the faithful discharge of their duties.

You have a sacred responsibility as well: to obey and submit to your leaders. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” Paul adds in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, “Appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and . . . esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”

Sadly, our society encourages criticism and mistrust of anyone in authority. Verbal assaults and character assassinations are common. Many within the church have adopted that attitude toward their spiritual leaders, whom they view as functionaries or paid professionals. Consequently many churches today are weak and ineffective from disunity and strife. Many pastors suffer untold grief from disobedient and ungrateful people.

You must never succumb to that mentality. Your leaders deserve your appreciation and esteem not because they are exceptionally talented or have winsome personalities, but because of the sacred work God called them to do.

Your godly attitude toward spiritual leaders will contribute immeasurably to unity and harmony within your church and will allow your leaders to minister with joy, not grief.

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for your spiritual leaders. Pray for them and encourage them often.

For Further Study: Read 1 Corinthians 9:3-14.

What right was Paul discussing?

What illustrations did he use?

Crowded Out – Greg Laurie

 

“The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.”—Luke 8:14

I have always been amazed by weeds. You can take a little flower, plant it in the perfect location, water it, and make sure there are no pests to threaten it. You can do everything possible for that flower, and it will slowly grow. But then, in the same amount of time, some weed springs up from a little crack in the sidewalk, and that weed chokes out the flower.

But the weed doesn’t suddenly burst out of the ground, grab the flower, and start shaking it. The process is gradual. First, there is a flower growing, and then the weed appears. The next day, the weed is a little closer. And on it goes until the weed starts to wrap itself around the flower and choke out its growth.

That is what Jesus was describing in the parable of the sower when He spoke about those who are “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). This is not something that happens overnight; it happens over a period of time.

I also find it interesting that it is the “cares, riches, and pleasures of life” that prevent the seed of God’s Word from maturing and producing fruit. These are not necessarily bad things, in and of themselves. But these are good things that became the most important things and choked out the spiritual things.

This is not a picture of someone who says they don’t want to pray, read the Bible, or go to church. Rather, this represents someone who thinks those are good things to do. But over time, they start losing interest, and the things of this world become more important to them than the things of the next world. And that is what chokes them out spiritually.

Connected But Not Altered – Max Lucado

 

When you give your life to Christ, He moves in, unpacks his bags and is ready to change you into His likeness. So why do I still have the hang-ups of Max?

Part of the answer is in the story of a wealthy but frugal lady living in a small house at the turn of the century. Friends were surprised when she had electricity put in her home. Weeks afterward, a meter reader appeared. “Your meter shows scarcely any usage,” he said. “Are you using your power?”  “Certainly,” she answered.  “Each evening I turn on my lights long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”

She’s tapped into the power but doesn’t use it. Her house is connected but not altered. Don’t we make the same mistake? God is willing to change us into the likeness of the Savior.  Shall we accept His offer?

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19a).

The Rewards of Service – Charles Stanley

 

Hebrews 6:7-12

Someday you and I are going to stand in the presence of the holy Lord, and our life will be reviewed. At that time, our works will be judged, and we will be rewarded accordingly.

That is going to be a very solemn moment because some will suffer heavy loss, while others will receive great reward. I’m not taking about salvation here, because salvation is never a reward for services rendered—it’s simply a gift offered to everyone who receives Jesus as Savior. But rewards are different. They are tied to service.

In the Bible, Jesus had a lot to say about the rewards that we will receive for serving. He also used some very strong words to describe the man who hid his talent instead of working to invest it. In the parable, his master called him a “wicked, lazy slave” and proceeded to take away what had been given earlier (Matt. 25:26).

The Lord also gave us another warning: He cautioned us not to perform Christian service in such a way that others will be certain to notice. When that happens, He says we lose our reward in heaven(6:1-6). Whatever may have been set aside for our benefit will be lost, and our total gain is nothing more than the recognition of others.

The best way to serve is out of love. The better you know God, the more you’ll love Him and desire to serve Him. And the more you want to serve, the more He will honor your service. This leads to even greater love for Him, and the cycle will continue throughout eternity

Our Daily Bread — Stranded

 

Genesis 39:19-23

The Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy. —Genesis 39:21

Traveling by bus from Memphis, Tennessee, to St. Louis, Missouri, typically takes about 6 hours—unless the bus driver leaves you stranded at a gas station. This happened to 45 passengers aboard a bus who waited 8 hours overnight for a replacement driver after the original driver abandoned them. They must have felt frustrated by the delay, anxious about the outcome, and impatient for rescue.

Joseph probably shared those feelings when he landed in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (Gen. 39). Abandoned and forgotten by any human who might help him, he was stranded. Still, “the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor” (v.21). Eventually, the prison warden promoted Joseph to oversee fellow inmates, and whatever Joseph did, “the Lord made it prosper” (v.23). But despite God’s presence and blessing, Joseph remained incarcerated for years.

You may be stranded in a hospital room, a jail cell, a country far from home, or your own inner prison. No matter where you are, or how long you’ve been there, God’s mercy and kindness can reach you. Because He is God Almighty (Ex. 6:3) and present everywhere (Jer. 23:23-24), He can protect, promote, and provide for you when it seems no one else can help. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Dear God, help us to remember

Your presence and power even when

we are not where we want to be in life. Remind us

to reach for You when no one else can reach us.

 

God is present—even when we feel He is absent.

The Pitcher and the Cross – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

The Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering on earth. It is conservatively estimated that around 10 million people will gather in the city of Allahabad in Northern India within a period of 55 days starting Jan 14, 2013. Some even quote a seemingly exaggerated figure of 100 million pilgrims to this religious gathering! The Kumbh Mela (etymologically, “pitcher fair”) takes place every four years in Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik by rotation. This year the festival is very auspicious and is called the Maha (meaning “Super”) Kumbh Mela and happens only once every 144 years. It is estimated that this Kumbh will cost around 210 million dollars (US), but thankfully will also generate approximately 10 times that amount as calculated by India’s Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The media reports that even people from far-flung places are helping to make this event a success. Andrew Turner from Australia along with his wife and children are in Allahabad and are building an 18 by 6 feet boat to ferry devotees from one side of the river to the other—free of charge. “I am living a dream at the moment,” he says. “When I heard that this Kumbh was happening after 144 years, I thought, I will never get a second chance…. I joined the locals and landed in Prayag and walked several kilometers with devotees… The zealous faith snapped my ties with logic and reason. It was mesmerizing.”

Hindu tradition says that there was a war between the gods and the demons over divine nectar and four drops of nectar fell from the pitcher. These fell on four different locations, which overlap the cities where the Kumbh is held. One of those drops fell at Haridwar where the river Ganges flows, while another fell at the Sangam. The Sangam is the confluence of three rivers—the Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythological river Saraswati in Prayag. The other two drops fell at Kshipra in Ujjain and Godawari in Nasik. A dip in these rivers on auspicious dates during the Kumbh is said to rid pilgrims of their sins. There are six such days this year for the Kumbh and the most important day is 10th of February.

The reality of sin is clearly expressed in the Bible. The universality of sin has also been declared in Romans as “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Anyone who reads the newspaper and honestly reflects on it would not be able to deny the reality and universality of sin. Through the ages, humans have tried to rid themselves of sin and its consequences. Religious rituals, idols, journeys, and sacrifices have all tried to assuage and comfort the sinner’s heart, but have been found wanting.

Robert Lowry wrestles with this question in the lyrics of a hymn and arrives at a significantly different answer:

What can wash away my sins,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What can make me whole again,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh precious is the flow,

that makes me white as snow,

No other font I know

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Grace, made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus, is the only font which offers release from the burden of sin and restores our relationship with God. And thankfully, we do not need to snap our ties to logic and reason, but rather embrace an honest and rational examination of evidence. This would lead us to the empty grave of Jesus—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Death no longer has a hold on him and this victory he extends to us: O Death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead frees us not only from the sting of death but also from bondage to sin and our many attempts to assuage it—this, not at any cost to us or anyone else, for God has fully paid the price. Thus, we can confess Jesus as Lord anytime, anywhere, and we will be saved! It makes one gasp in wonder at the overarching simplicity and compelling elegance of the good news.

Cyril Georgeson is a member of the speaking team with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Mumbai, India.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “Arise, and depart.” / Micah 2:10

The hour is approaching when the message will come to us, as it comes to all–“Arise, and go forth from the home in which thou hast dwelt, from the city in which thou hast done thy business, from thy family, from thy friends. Arise, and take thy last journey.” And what know we of the journey? And what know we of the country to which we are bound? A little we have read thereof, and somewhat has been revealed to us by the Spirit; but how little do we know of the realms of the future! We know that there is a black and stormy river called “Death.” God bids us cross it, promising to be with us. And, after death, what cometh? What wonder-world will open upon our astonished sight? What scene of glory will be unfolded to our view? No traveller has ever returned to tell. But we know enough of the heavenly land to make us welcome our summons thither with joy and gladness. The journey of death may be dark, but we may go forth on it fearlessly, knowing that God is with us as we walk through the gloomy valley, and therefore we need fear no evil. We shall be departing from all we have known and loved here, but we shall be going to our Father’s house–to our Father’s home, where Jesus is–to that royal “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” This shall be our last removal, to dwell forever with him we love, in the midst of his people, in the presence of God. Christian, meditate much on heaven, it will help thee to press on, and to forget the toil of the way. This vale of tears is but the pathway to the better country: this world of woe is but the stepping-stone to a world of bliss.

“Prepare us, Lord, by grace divine,

For thy bright courts on high;

Then bid our spirits rise,

and join  The chorus of the sky.”

 

Evening  “And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither.” /

Revelation 11:12

Without considering these words in their prophetical connection, let us regard them as the invitation of our great Forerunner to his sanctified people. In due time there shall be heard “a great voice from heaven” to every believer, saying, “Come up hither.” This should be to the saints the subject of joyful anticipation. Instead of dreading the time when we shall leave this world to go unto the Father, we should be panting for the hour of our emancipation. Our song should be–

“My heart is with him on his throne,

And ill can brook delay;

Each moment listening for the voice,

Rise up and come away.'”

We are not called down to the grave, but up to the skies. Our heaven-born spirits should long for their native air. Yet should the celestial summons be the object of patient waiting. Our God knows best when to bid us “Come up hither.” We must not wish to antedate the period of our departure. I know that strong love will make us cry,

“O Lord of Hosts, the waves divide,

And land us all in heaven;”

but patience must have her perfect work. God ordains with accurate wisdom the most fitting time for the redeemed to abide below. Surely, if there could be regrets in heaven, the saints might mourn that they did not live longer here to do more good. Oh, for more sheaves for my Lord’s garner! more jewels for his crown! But how, unless there be more work? True, there is the other side of it, that, living so briefly, our sins are the fewer; but oh! when we are fully serving God, and he is giving us to scatter precious seed, and reap a hundredfold, we would even say it is well for us to abide where we are. Whether our Master shall say “go,” or “stay,” let us be equally well pleased so long as he indulges us with his presence.

The Joy of Sacrificial Giving – John MacArthur

 

“Saints . . . who are in Philippi” (Phil. 1:1).

Perhaps more than any other New Testament church, the Philippian church was characterized by generous, sacrificial giving. Their support for Paul extended throughout his missionary travels and was a source of great joy to him. In addition to money, they also sent Epaphroditus, a godly man who ministered to Paul during his imprisonment (Phil. 2:25-30; 4:18).

Paul was selective about accepting financial support from churches because he didn’t want to be a burden or have his motives misunderstood. First Corinthians 9:6-14 tells us he had the right to receive support from those he ministered to, but he waived that right so the gospel would not be hindered in any way. In 2 Corinthians 11:9 he says, “When I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone . . . in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so.”

Similarly he wrote to the Thessalonians, “We did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thess. 3:7-9).

In contrast, Paul’s willingness to accept support from the Philippian church speaks of the special trust and affection they shared.

Apparently the Philippians’ generosity was so great, it left them with needs of their own. Paul assured them that their sacrifices were well-pleasing to God and that He would supply all their needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:18- 19).

Like the Philippians, you should be characterized by generous, sacrificial support of those who minister God’s Word to you. Faithful pastors and elders are worthy of such honor (1 Tim. 5:17- 18), and generous giving brings joy to you and to others.

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for those who faithfully minister to you.

Ask for wisdom in how you might best support the financial needs of your church.

For Further Study: Read 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, 2 Corinthians 9:6-14, and 1 Timothy 6:6-9.

What attitudes and principles are reflected in those passages?

How might you incorporate them into your financial practices?

Rocky Road Hearers – Greg Laurie

 

“The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.”

—Luke 8:13

Some people like the idea of having their sin forgiven and going to heaven, but when it comes to Jesus’ command to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow Him, their response is, “Uh, I don’t know. . . . That sounds a little hard. I don’t think I want to do that.” And they turn away.

I believe that if someone professes faith, falls away, and never comes back, it is not an issue of losing their salvation; it is an issue of someone who never was saved to begin with. I base that on 1 John 2:19, which says, “These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.”

However, I do acknowledge that you can make a commitment to Christ, fall away, and return. A prodigal always will come home. But people who leave and never return are not prodigals; they never were believers. Otherwise, they would return.

Maybe it was unbelief that set in and caused them to fall away. Every new believer, especially, will be hit by tests of their faith. And one of the first things the devil whispers in the ear of a brand-new Christian is, Do you really think God saved you? It isn’t real. That whole Christianity thing isn’t real.

But the assurance of our salvation is not based on our emotions; it is based on what God’s Word has to say. Our confidence should be in Christ Himself. And when we build our foundation on Him, we will be able to weather any storm.