Tag Archives: religion

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning “When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees,

then thou shalt bestir thyself.” / 2 Samuel 5:24

The members of Christ’s Church should be very prayerful, always seeking the  unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ  may come, and that his “will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven;” but  there are times when God seems especially to favour Zion, such seasons ought  to be to them like “the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.”  We ought then to be doubly prayerful, doubly earnest, wrestling more at the  throne than we have been wont to do. Action should then be prompt and  vigorous. The tide is flowing–now let us pull manfully for the shore. O for  Pentecostal outpourings and Pentecostal labours. Christian, in yourself there  are times “when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry  trees.” You have a peculiar power in prayer; the Spirit of God gives you joy  and gladness; the Scripture is open to you; the promises are applied; you walk  in the light of God’s countenance; you have peculiar freedom and liberty in  devotion, and more closeness of communion with Christ than was your wont. Now,  at such joyous periods when you hear the “sound of a going in the tops of the  mulberry trees,” is the time to bestir yourself; now is the time to get rid of  any evil habit, while God the Spirit helpeth your infirmities. Spread your  sail; but remember what you sometimes sing —

“I can only spread the sail;

Thou! Thou! must breathe the auspicious gale.”

Only be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale for want of  preparation for it. Seek help of God, that you may be more earnest in duty  when made more strong in faith; that you may be more constant in prayer when  you have more liberty at the throne; that you may be more holy in your  conversation whilst you live more closely with Christ.

 

Evening “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” / Ephesians 1:11

When Jesus gave himself for us, he gave us all the rights and privileges which  went with himself; so that now, although as eternal God, he has essential  rights to which no creature may venture to pretend, yet as Jesus, the  Mediator, the federal head of the covenant of grace, he has no heritage apart  from us. All the glorious consequences of his obedience unto death are the  joint riches of all who are in him, and on whose behalf he accomplished the  divine will. See, he enters into glory, but not for himself alone, for it is  written, “Whither the Forerunner is for us entered.” Heb. 6:20. Does he stand  in the presence of God?–“He appears in the presence of God for us.” Heb.  9:24. Consider this, believer. You have no right to heaven in yourself: your  right lies in Christ. If you are pardoned, it is through his blood; if you are  justified, it is through his righteousness; if you are sanctified, it is  because he is made of God unto you sanctification; if you shall be kept from  falling, it will be because you are preserved in Christ Jesus; and if you are  perfected at the last, it will be because you are complete in him. Thus Jesus  is magnified–for all is in him and by him; thus the inheritance is made  certain to us–for it is obtained in him; thus each blessing is the sweeter,  and even heaven itself the brighter, because it is Jesus our Beloved “in whom”  we have obtained all. Where is the man who shall estimate our divine portion?  Weigh the riches of Christ in scales, and his treasure in balances, and then  think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of  Christ’s sea of joy, and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath  prepared for them that love him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ’s  possessions, and then dream of a limit to the fair inheritance of the elect.  “All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.”

Serving the Supreme One – John MacArthur

 

God exalted Christ “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet” (Eph. 1:21-22).

Yesterday we saw that Christ has both an exalted name and an exalted, authoritative position. In verses 21-22 Paul elaborates on the extent of Christ’s authority, which is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.”

“Rule,” “authority,” “power,” and “dominion” are designations for angelic beings, whether good or evil (cf. Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16). In His incarnation Christ was made lower in rank than the angels that He might suffer death on our behalf (Heb. 2:9). Now He has “become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4), and the Father commands all the angels to worship the Son (v. 6).

But Christ’s rule extends far beyond angelic beings. In Ephesians 1:21 the phrase “every name that is named” is a general reference to any form of authority–whether angelic or human, eternal or temporal. Now and forever Christ is the Supreme One! Ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).

The implications of that truth are staggering. For example Christ precedes the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, the heart of Christian evangelism and discipleship, with this significant statement: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

Ultimately your evangelism and discipleship efforts will bear fruit because they are backed by the authority of Christ Himself. Does that encourage you to seize every opportunity to share Christ and His Word with others? It should!

Be faithful today, realizing that you represent the One in whom lies all authority. Nothing can thwart His purposes.

Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to a lost soul or anyone else you can encourage from the Word. Be sensitive to His leading.

For Further Study:  Read Colossians 1:15-23

What was Christ’s role in creation (vv. 15-17)?

What is His role in the church (v. 18)? In salvation (v. 23)?

What place have you given Him in your life?

Go to Them Anyway – Greg Laurie

 

“You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”  —Luke 6:36

Because my mother was married and divorced seven times, I had a ministry of sharing the gospel with her former husbands. I spoke with many of them and had the opportunity to pray with two of them to accept Christ. The first was Oscar Laurie, from whom I received my last name. The other was on his deathbed, and I was able to pray with him only hours before he went into eternity.

But then there was another previous husband of my mother’s that I shared with. Along with my mom, he was an alcoholic, and they would get into horrible fights. One night, he hit her with a little wooden statute, knocked her unconscious, and she almost died. I felt hatred toward this man because of what he had done to my mother.

Fast-forward a number of years. I was preaching in a crusade at the Waikiki Shell, and he was living in Hawaii. I found out where he lived, which was very close to the venue. So I thought I should visit him and invite him to the crusade. I didn’t want to invite him, however, because I honestly didn’t want him to come to Christ. I was still angry with him. However, I recognized I had the wrong attitude, and I decided to make myself go see him.

So I went. And when I saw him, instead of feeling anger and hatred, I felt pity for him. Age had taken its toll, along with his hard drinking and all the rest. I shared the gospel with him and invited him to the crusade, and he politely but firmly refused.

Here is my point: Go to the person that you don’t want to speak to. Go to the person who has hurt you. Go to your enemy with the message of the gospel.

I’ll Take Care of It – Max Lucado

 

We forgive the one-time offenders.  We dismiss the parking place takers, the date breakers.  We can move past the misdemeanors, but the felonies?  The repeat offenders?  Not so much. Vengeance fixes your attention on life’s ugliest moments. Score settling freezes your stare at cruel events.  Is this where you want to look?

A man says, “My ex-wife and I share custody of our kids.  She constantly says negative things about me. She’s destroying my relationship with them.

The woman says, “I want to keep a positive relationship with him for the kids, but it’s so hard to forgive him.”

“I’ll do the judging” says God.  “Don’t insist on getting even.” You have an opportunity to teach your children a valuable lesson in forgiveness.  God dispenses perfect justice.  Have that same attitude Jesus showed in his life and on the cross! “I’ll take care of it” says God!

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  Romans 12:19

Maintaining Joy – Charles Stanley

 

Psalm 40:16

Though some people use the terms happiness and joy interchangeably, there is a vast difference in their meaning. Both cause a pleasant emotional response, but the former relies entirely upon circumstance. As soon as difficulty arises and pain intrudes, a person ceases to be happy. On the other hand, joy is a gift from God that enables believers to find hope and peace—even when life seemingly falls apart.

At times, however, even Christians live joylessly. Sinful behavior, of course, is one reason. But there can be other causes, too, including regret about past failures, fear of future mishaps, or a pattern of discontentment that’s ingrained in one’s personality.

If you are a follower of Jesus but lack gladness, take a moment to remember who Christ is—and who you are in Him. To begin with, you are saved eternally, and your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The love of almighty God is unconditional, and His indwelling Spirit will never abandon you. He understands everything that you face and promises to provide for your needs.

When you stop to consider the amazing blessings that are yours in Christ, gratitude will likely overwhelm you. Sadness concerning circumstances may still endure, but the joy of the Lord will carry you through even the deepest pain.

Through life’s good times and bad, does God’s joy sustain you? Or do trials leave you hopeless and discontented? Our Father offers a higher way of living—not without pain but with strength to endure. Continually remember the vast treasure you have in Him and His promises.

Our Daily Bread — Red Tape

 

Romans 5:1-8

Through [Jesus] also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. —Romans 5:2

The expression “red tape” describes the annoying way that bureaucracy prevents things from getting done. Originally, the phrase referred to the common practice of binding official documents with red ribbon. In the early 1800s, the term was popularized by the writings of Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle, who was protesting governmental foot-dragging. Following the American Civil War, the problem of “red tape” resurfaced as war veterans struggled to receive their benefits. The term denotes frustration and disappointment because of the burdensome hurdles it erects to accomplishing goals.

Bureaucratic red tape is almost legendary, but there is one place in the universe where it’s never an issue—the throne of God. In Romans 5:2, Paul speaks of Christ, “through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” When our hearts are broken or our lives are troubled, there is no red tape hindering our access to God. Jesus Christ has paved the way so that we can have access to enter boldly into the presence of the King of heaven (Heb. 4:16).

Remember, when your heart is hurting, you don’t have to cut through a lot of red tape to present your needs to God. Through Christ, we have full and immediate access. —Bill Crowder

 

Thank You, Father, that access to Your throne

has been secured for us by Jesus Christ. We

know that You will not ignore us. Thank You for

the confidence we can have that You care.

 

God’s throne is always accessible to His children.

World of Violence – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

As is my custom most mornings, I wake up early to take a walk in the still quiet of the day. The morning offers a time for me to pray and to reflect on what is ahead of me that day. But when I returned home on a day not unlike other days and turned on the morning news, the onslaught of violent headlines assaulted my peaceful reflection. In one short broadcast, I learned the details of several horrific stories involving brutal violence. Indeed, watching or listening to any local news station, one finds that the majority of headlines involve mayhem and morbidity. Like it or not, my morning routine is so often upset and unsettled by violence in the news.

Disheartened by the relentless barrage of violent headlines, I am often left wondering why people seem to love violence more than peace. With all the heartache and despair left in the wake of these tragedies, why don’t people seem to tire of violence?

Of course, stories of violence come as no surprise. Assaults and murders are as familiar as any routine. And yet, its occurrence still jars my senses. Somehow, thankfully, I never get used to it, and its commonplace existence does not dull my senses. The familiar reminder of violence calls us all to attention over and over again as a sign and a symbol that something is terribly wrong in this world. Furthermore, when we are honest with ourselves, we come to know rage and hatred that is not just ‘out there’ in a violent world, but near and dear and close to our own hearts. The ancient prophet Jeremiah identified this dark reality: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

While I wish Jeremiah’s indictment was for everyone else out there—the murderous assassin, the violent rapist, or in the polarized political rivals—I know too well the violence within my own heart. I feel the rage like a fever when I am cut off in traffic. I can seethe within when I am patronized or belittled. And why would I wish to recount the careless words spoken in anger leveled against loved ones? Disheartened, I cry out, “Why won’t I tire of violence?”

Jesus, like Jeremiah before him, understood humanity’s violent tendencies. He understood that violence is not something “out there” but something insidious within every human being. He told his followers, “That which proceeds out of a person, that is what defiles her. For from within, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…thefts, murders…deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit…envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). The explosive violence that maims, harms, and kills emerges within each and every one of us.

Jesus didn’t issue these words as an indictment against humanity while hanging from the cross of violence that took his life, but he very well could have. Indeed, his offering of himself and his death on a cross is the very embodiment of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who mistreat you. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. But love your enemies, and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons and daughters of the Most High; for God is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”(1)

Jesus endured the violence that ultimately led to his crucifixion. He endured violence to offer another way in our world of violence. Yet, his way offers a challenge to our everyday embrace of violence in large and small ways. Until I tire of violence, I cannot expect the world to tire of violence. Until I embrace Jesus’s solution to violence, I cannot hope for peace. Yet, since Christ came near and bore our violence, the lion and the lamb can hope for the transformation that is our peace.

Margaret Manning is associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Luke 6:27,28,32,33,35,36.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “The things which are not seen.” / 2 Corinthians 4:18

In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking  forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it be for  hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future  must, after all, be the grand object of the eye of faith. Looking into the  future we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed, the soul made  perfect, and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.  Looking further yet, the believer’s enlightened eye can see death’s river  passed, the gloomy stream forded, and the hills of light attained on which  standeth the celestial city; he seeth himself enter within the pearly gates,  hailed as more than conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the  arms of Jesus, glorified with him, and made to sit together with him on his  throne, even as he has overcome and has sat down with the Father on his  throne. The thought of this future may well relieve the darkness of the past  and the gloom of the present. The joys of heaven will surely compensate for  the sorrows of earth. Hush, hush, my doubts! death is but a narrow stream, and  thou shalt soon have forded it. Time, how short–eternity, how long! Death,  how brief–immortality, how endless! Methinks I even now eat of Eshcol’s  clusters, and sip of the well which is within the gate. The road is so, so  short! I shall soon be there.

“When the world my heart is rending

With its heaviest storm of care,

My glad thoughts to heaven ascending,

Find a refuge from despair.

Faith’s bright vision shall sustain me

Till life’s pilgrimage is past;

Fears may vex and troubles pain me,

I shall reach my home at last.”

 

Evening   “The dove came in to him in the evening.” / Genesis 8:11

Blessed be the Lord for another day of mercy, even though I am now weary with its toils. Unto the preserver of men lift I my song of gratitude. The dove found no rest out of the ark, and therefore returned to it; and my soul has learned yet more fully than ever, this day, that there is no satisfaction to be found in earthly things–God alone can give rest to my spirit. As to my business, my possessions, my family, my attainments, these are all well enough in their way, but they cannot fulfil the desires of my immortal nature. “Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” It was at the still hour, when the gates of the day were closing, that with weary wing the dove came back to the master: O Lord, enable me this evening thus to return to Jesus. She could not endure to spend a night hovering over the restless waste, nor can I bear to be even for another hour away from Jesus, the rest of my heart, the home of my spirit. She did not merely alight upon the roof of the ark, she “came in to him;” even so would my longing spirit look into the secret of the Lord, pierce to the interior of truth, enter into that which is within the veil, and reach to my Beloved in very deed. To Jesus must I come: short of the nearest and dearest intercourse with him my panting spirit cannot stay. Blessed Lord Jesus, be with me, reveal thyself, and abide with me all night, so that when I awake I may be still with thee. I note that the dove brought in her mouth an olive branch plucked off, the memorial of the past day, and a prophecy of the future. Have I no pleasing record to bring home? No pledge and earnest of lovingkindness yet to come? Yes, my Lord, I present thee my grateful acknowledgments for tender mercies which have been new every morning and fresh every evening; and now, I pray thee, put forth thy hand and take thy dove into thy bosom.

Exalting Christ – John MacArthur

 

“[God] seated [Christ] at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph.1:20).

To exalt someone is to elevate that person in status, dignity, power, and honor. As God, Jesus possesses all power and authority and is deserving of all honor and glory. But when He was on earth, most people refused to give Him the glory He deserved. Instead they mocked and eventually murdered Him.

Just prior to His death, Jesus prayed to the Father, “Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5). The Father answered that prayer by giving Him an exalted name and an exalted position.

Paul wrote, “God highly exalted [Christ], and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Farther” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Hebrews 1:3 adds that when Christ had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Old Testament priests didn’t sit down while on duty because their work was never finished. Repeated sacrifices were necessary because of the priest’s own sins and the sins of the people. Christ, on the other hand, made one all-sufficient sacrifice, then sat down. His atoning work was completed.

The “right hand” of God is a metaphor for the highest place of power, prominence, authority, and honor. From that exalted position Christ reigns as the Sovereign Lord of the universe.

There’s one aspect of Christ’s exaltation that we as believers can participate in right now. David said, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Ps. 34:3). Psalm 99:5 adds, “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool.” Be generous in praising Him today, for He is worthy!

Suggestions for Prayer: Read Psalm 34 and exalt the Lord for all the benefits He demonstrates on behalf of His people.

For Further Study: Read Colossians 3:1-4

Describe your position in Christ (vv. 1, 3).

What should be the focus of your life (v. 2)?

When ultimately will God vindicate your faith in Christ (v. 4)?

What must you do to be exalted by God (see James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6)?

For the Sake of the Gospel – Greg Laurie

 

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” —Matthew 5:44

Even in the church today, we can write off a lot of people, sometimes even fellow believers. It seems that sometimes the slogan is, “Us four and no more.” We can divide over minutiae and allow second-tier and third-tier issues to bring unnecessary division in our ranks.

I have had people criticize me for those whom we involve in our Harvest Crusades: “Why do you let that church come? If that church is coming, then our church isn’t going to participate.” Or, “Why did you let that pastor pray at the crusade? I don’t agree with that pastor, because in one of his books, he quoted someone who once had coffee with someone else, and it is guilt by association. I want nothing to do with any of this.”

But I will say, “Look at the essential areas where we are in agreement, and we can get together—even though there are some minor differences—for the sake of the gospel of Christ. That is all I am trying to do.”

If people want to withdraw over that, then I guess that is what will happen. But I am going to keep doing what I do and keep preaching the gospel and trying to get as many people to join me as possible. And I want to join as many others who are doing this too.

Here is the thing: Sometimes there are people we don’t want to bring the gospel to, because if we were honest (we probably would not verbalize it), we don’t want them to come to Christ. But the Bible says we are to love our enemies (see Matthew 5:44).

So here is my suggestion to you: Go to them. Take the message of the gospel to the people who have offended you and hurt you.

Two-Thousand Times More Effective – Max Lucado

 

Two-thousand years ago the disciples of Jesus started a movement that changed the world.  Are we still changing the world?  We can.  We can be two-thousand times more effective—if we only try!

Here’s an example.  There are 145 million orphans worldwide.  Nearly 236 million of us living in the U.S. call ourselves Christian.  From a purely statistical standpoint, by ourselves, we have the wherewithal to house every orphan in the world.  There’s enough food on the planet to feed the hungry!  But the storehouse is locked.

God has given our generation everything we need to alter the course of human suffering. Change must start with us!  With our transformation!  Ours is the wealthiest generation of Christians ever!  We can be more effective—if only we try!

Shattering Fear with Truth – Charles Stanley

 

Joshua 1:6-8

Fear enslaves us. Anxiety can color our entire perspective until we live with a constant sense of unease. But fear does not fit who we are as believers. We are children of the living God, who has promised to care for us and work all things for our good. If we choose to live in tense apprehension, then at the end of our life, we’ll look back and wish we had trusted God more. But instead of living in a way that leads to regret, we can be freed from our fear now.

Identify your specific worries and be willing to deal with them. We cannot begin to understand our anxieties until we recognize the basic root of all fear. Certainly, there are numerous causes of fearful concern—ignorance, an inherited mindset, an overactive imagination—but ultimately the root of all our worry is doubt regarding divine sovereignty. God is in control of all things. We are under His power, provision, and protection every single moment of our life. Fear is shattered on the foundational truth of the Lord’s omnipotent control.

Focus on the Lord instead of on fear. When we understand that we are in the hand of our almighty, all-knowing, loving Father, the choice to refocus on Him becomes easier. But we must make this courageous decision every time we face anxiety.

By far the most powerful way to overcome fear is to meditate on the Word of God. In times of trouble, we must hold fast to the truths of Scripture. The Bible is intended to be an immovable anchor for your life. As God’s thoughts become part of your own thinking, fear will fade and faith will grow.

Our Daily Bread — The Good Old Days

 

READ: Psalm 143:1-6

I remember the days of old. —Psalm 143:5

Sometimes our minds run back through the years and yearn for that better time and place—the “good old days.”

But for some, the past harbors only bitter memories. Deep in the night, they ponder their own failures, disillusionments, and fantasies, and think of the cruel hand life has dealt them.

It’s better to remember the past as David did, by contemplating the good that God has done, to “meditate on all [His] works; . . . muse on the work of [His] hands” (Ps. 143:5). As we call to mind the lovingkindness of the Lord, we can see His blessings through the years. These are the memories that foster the highest good. They evoke a deep longing for more of God and more of His tender care. They transform the past into a place of familiarity and fellowship with our Lord.

I heard a story about an elderly woman who would sit in silence for hours in her rocking chair, hands folded in her lap, eyes gazing off into the far distance. One day her daughter asked, “Mother, what do you think about when you sit there so quietly?” Her mother replied softly with a twinkle in her eye, “That’s just between Jesus and me.”

I pray that our memories and meditations would draw us into His presence. —David Roper

I have promised you My presence

With you everywhere you go;

I will never, never leave you

As you travel here below. —Rose

Fellowship with Christ is the secret of happiness now and forever.

Weak and Strong – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

After fifteen years and nearly 17,000 miles, an unlikely fleet was set to make port on the beaches of Britain. On January 29, 1992, three massive containers on a cargo ship from Hong Kong crashed into the Pacific Ocean during a storm. The containers were filled with brightly colored bathtub toys bound for the United States. Instead, 29,000 little plastic ducks, frogs, beavers, and turtles began a journey that would be carefully monitored by children, oceanographers, and newscasters alike.

After a decade and a half, the tiny bobbing friends have traveled past Japan and back to Alaska, drifted deliberately down the Bering Strait and past the length of Greenland, and carefully floated down the eastern coastline of the United States. They have persevered through storms that would have left boats and crews in dire straits. They patiently endured four years frozen in ice as they crossed the Arctic Ocean. They have arrived at various intervals on various shores, faded and tattered by sun and surf, some with animal bites and barnacles to show for the journey. But each smiling plastic face seems to return with an ironic confession: the smallest vessels on tumultuous seas are not necessarily the most vulnerable.

Life is far more than an attempt to keep our heads above water, and yet at times it feels a suited metaphor. Tossed like tiny rubber ducks in an oceanic bathtub, we hit rocks of fear and anger, are pulled under by currents of despair and disappointment, and are broken at times by the journey. Human fragility is often as startlingly obvious as the image of a bath toy in the Bering Strait. We are at times almost averse to this fragility, whether seen in ourselves or in others. Fighting to keep afloat in an unpredictable sea, we take on distracting cargo and build defensive walls—anything that makes us feel less like tiny vessels lost at sea and more like giant ships passing in the night.

But metaphors of strength can be misleading, and vulnerability is often misunderstood. Though we may be reluctant to hear it, the story of a fragile and fleeting humanity is not always told despairingly. Jesus spoke readily of his own death and wept at the grave of a friend. The apostle Paul spoke of bodies as “jars of clay,” words hastening back the image of powerful King David who lamented that he had become like “broken pottery.” Yet even well beyond these fragile images of humanity, the story of a vulnerable, incarnate God redefines all of our terms. The image of Christ on the Cross turns any understanding of fragility on its head, challenges our discomfort with brokenness, and redirects our associations of weak and strong. In these images is the strange suggestion that the vulnerability of God is far stronger than our greatest images of strength. In his cruciform journey, God uses the weak to shame the strong, a suffering Son to heal the wounds of creation, and the vulnerable image of a broken savior to show the all-surpassing vessel who saves us.

The Christian oddly professes that it is by the Cross which we live, by a seemingly weak vessel that we are brought home. Here, Christ is not an escape raft for the hard realities of this world. On the contrary, he calls to us in our weakness and reminds us that it is not unfamiliar to him. Through tumultuous waters, he beckons us to see there is potential in fragility, meaning in affliction, and life within and beyond the journey that currently consumes us. Something like the image of tiny ducks arriving after an unlikely voyage, the story Jesus tells redirects thoughts on vulnerability, the weak and the strong. And along the way, God is aware of every last and fragile vessel, going after even one that is lost, longing to gather us unto himself like a hen bringing together thousands of little chicks under her wings.

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

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

 

Morning  “Perfect in Christ Jesus.” / Colossians 1:28

Do you not feel in your own soul that perfection is not in you? Does not every

day teach you that? Every tear which trickles from your eye, weeps

“imperfection;” every harsh word which proceeds from your lip, mutters

“imperfection.” You have too frequently had a view of your own heart to dream

for a moment of any perfection in yourself. But amidst this sad consciousness

of imperfection, here is comfort for you–you are “perfect in Christ Jesus.”

In God’s sight, you are “complete in him;” even now you are “accepted in the

Beloved.” But there is a second perfection, yet to be realized, which is sure

to all the seed. Is it not delightful to look forward to the time when every

stain of sin shall be removed from the believer, and he shall be presented

faultless before the throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing? The

Church of Christ then will be so pure, that not even the eye of Omniscience

will see a spot or blemish in her; so holy and so glorious, that Hart did not

go beyond the truth when he said–

“With my Saviour’s garments on,

Holy as the Holy One.”

Then shall we know, and taste, and feel the happiness of this vast but short

sentence, “Complete in Christ.” Not till then shall we fully comprehend the

heights and depths of the salvation of Jesus. Doth not thy heart leap for joy

at the thought of it? Black as thou art, thou shalt be white one day; filthy

as thou art, thou shalt be clean. Oh, it is a marvellous salvation this!

Christ takes a worm and transforms it into an angel; Christ takes a black and

deformed thing and makes it clean and matchless in his glory, peerless in his

beauty, and fit to be the companion of seraphs. O my soul, stand and admire

this blessed truth of perfection in Christ.

 

Evening  “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things

that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” / Luke 2:20

What was the subject of their praise? They praised God for what they had

heard–for the good tidings of great joy that a Saviour was born unto them.

Let us copy them; let us also raise a song of thanksgiving that we have heard

of Jesus and his salvation. They also praised God for what they had seen.

There is the sweetest music–what we have experienced, what we have felt

within, what we have made our own–“the things which we have made touching the

King.” It is not enough to hear about Jesus: mere hearing may tune the harp,

but the fingers of living faith must create the music. If you have seen Jesus

with the God-giving sight of faith, suffer no cobwebs to linger among the harp

strings, but loud to the praise of sovereign grace, awake your psaltery and

harp. One point for which they praised God was the agreement between what they

had heard and what they had seen. Observe the last sentence–“As it was told

unto them.” Have you not found the gospel to be in yourselves just what the

Bible said it would be? Jesus said he would give you rest–have you not

enjoyed the sweetest peace in him? He said you should have joy, and comfort,

and life through believing in him–have you not received all these? Are not

his ways ways of pleasantness, and his paths paths of peace? Surely you can

say with the queen of Sheba, “The half has not been told me.” I have found

Christ more sweet than his servants ever said he was. I looked upon his

likeness as they painted it, but it was a mere daub compared with himself; for

the King in his beauty outshines all imaginable loveliness. Surely what we

have “seen” keeps pace with, nay, far exceeds, what we have “heard.” Let us,

then, glorify and praise God for a Saviour so precious, and so satisfying.

Strength for Today – Greg Laurie

 

As your days, so shall your strength be.

When they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. ♦ Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God! ♦ He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ♦ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ♦ O my soul, march on in strength!

Romans 5:5; Isaiah 49:23; Jeremiah 17:7; Isaiah 26:3–4; Psalm 62:5–6; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 6:17–20

We’re sending a special Harvest edition of Daily Light to those who make a donation to Harvest Ministries during the month of January.

Striving According to God’s Power – John MacArthur

 

“These are in accordance with the working of the strength of [God’s] might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead” (Eph. 1:19-20).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great hope of believers. Because He lives, we will live also (John 14:19). Peter said we have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). We and what we have are protected by God’s power (v. 5).

In Ephesians 1:19-20 Paul draws two comparisons. The first is between the power God demonstrated in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the power He demonstrates on behalf of every believer. That power is described as God’s “working,” “strength,” and “might.” Together those synonyms emphasize the greatness of God’s power, which not only secures our salvation, but also enables us to live godly lives.

The second comparison is between our Lord’s resurrection and ascension, and ours. The grave couldn’t hold Him, nor can it hold us (1 Cor. 15:54-57). Satan himself couldn’t prevent Christ’s exaltation, nor can he prevent us from gaining our eternal inheritance.

In Christ you have all the power you will ever need. For evangelism you have the gospel itself, which “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). For difficult times you have the assurance that the surpassing greatness of God’s power is at work in you (2 Cor. 4:7). For holy living you have God Himself at work in you “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

No matter how weak or ill-equipped you may at times feel, realize God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that [you] ask or think, according to the power that works within [you]” (Eph. 3:20). So keep striving according to that power (Col. 1:29), but do so with the confidence that ultimately God will accomplish His good in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God that He can and will accomplish His purposes in your life (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:24).

Pray for wisdom in how you might best serve Him today.

For Further Study:  Read Psalm 145, noting every mention of God’s power David makes. Allow those examples to fill your heart with confidence and praise.

The Mother-in-Law – Max Lucado

 

Someone once asked me, So what do I do about my mother-in-law?  Let’s just say, she’s taken “critical and judgmental” to a whole new level!

Just saying, “my mother-in-law” gets a chuckle every time.  I wonder if in mother-in-law circles they laugh when they hear “the son-in-law?”  Your mother-in-law may be hard to get along with.  But the fact is, you can’t change her, but you can change the way you see her.

For starters, stop looking at what drives you up the wall. Look for a quality worthy of your attention.  Is she generous?  A great cook?  And pray for her.  It’s hard to stand before God and speak horribly about someone He loves!  You may not change your mother-in-law, but it’ll change your attitude toward her.  Who knows? Maybe she’ll start to change when you start to see her differently!

Escape the Guilt Trap – Dr. Charles Stanley

 

Introduction: How often do you commit a sin, and then fail to find a way to move past the regret and shame you feel? Most people wrestle with guilt from time to time.

The dictionary defines guilt as 1.) “the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law” and 2.) “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.”1 In other words, guilt has two components—the actual offense and the feelings that accompany it.2

A. Handling our Guilt. Once we start to feel remorseful about our wrongdoing, we often fail to respond to our guilt in a healthy manner.

Read Psalm 38:4 and Proverbs 28:17. How does the Bible characterize guilt?

How do you typically handle feelings of guilt?

B. The Purpose of Guilt. Guilt is actually a God-given emotion. It has at least three functions: to prompt us to ask for forgiveness from those we hurt; to motivate us to make restitution whenever we can; and to draw us back to the Lord. In terms of our relationship with the Lord, the solution to guilty feelings is simple.

Read about David’s experience with guilt in Psalm 32:1-6. What did he know about how to handle it?

According to this same passage, how does God respond when we confess our sin and ask Him to remove our guilt?

C. Receiving Forgiveness. Many believers are unable to receive God’s forgiveness due to the emotional programming they’ve received from their upbringing, their church, or their culture. For instance, their parents might have expected them to be perfect, so they have a difficult time accepting ourselves when they make moral mistakes. Or, other authority figures may have emphasized what horrible and shameful children they were when they did anything wrong and refused to comfort the children after disciplining them.

In your experience, when you ask for forgiveness from sin—whether from God or another person—do you typically feel free of guilt? Why or why not?

How can you escape these negative patterns of dealing with guilt? The secret is to train your mind to believe God’s truth—found in His Word—instead of your feelings.

What do Psalm 86:5 and Psalm 65:3 say about God’s willingness to forgive?

Acts 10:43 says everyone who believes in Christ receives forgiveness for his or her sins. How many of our sins are forgiven, according to Colossians 2:13?

If you feel guilty after confessing your sins, you know your feelings are not lining up with God’s truth. Find Scriptures that talk about God’s forgiveness and your righteousness in Christ, such as Colossians 1:21-22. Write them down in a list or on note cards. Then, read through the encouraging verses and dwell on what they mean. Your emotions will eventually follow your thoughts, and you will be free from feeling guilty.

Closing: Christ’s death made a way for you to be completely free from the guilt of sin—not only the offense but also the feelings that accompany it. Admit your guilt to God and those you offended, make restitution when you can, and return to living in a manner that pleases the Lord.

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your amazing grace that covers our sin. We never have to wallow in feelings of guilt. Remind us to turn to You, focusing on the truth in your Word, instead of trusting our emotions. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Footnotes:

1. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

2. This study focuses on how to overcome genuine guilt. False guilt is a feeling of remorse over an imagined offence. If your “offense” doesn’t violate a law of the land, the rules of your workplace or church, or the principles of Scripture, your guilt is false.

Our Daily Bread — The Mark Of Leadership

 

READ: Mark 10:35-45

Whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. —Mark 10:44

While visiting the campus of Purdue University on a frigid winter day, I came upon two young men chipping away thick ice on the sidewalk next to a fraternity house. Thinking they must be underclassmen who had been assigned the tough job by older fraternity brothers, I said, “They didn’t tell you about this when you joined, did they?” One looked up with a smile and said, “Well, we’re both upperclassmen. I’m the fraternity vice-president and my friend here is the president.” I thanked them for their hard work and went on my way having been reminded that serving others is the mark of a true leader.

When two of Jesus’ disciples asked Him for positions of honor in His coming kingdom, the Lord gathered His twelve closest followers and told them, “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44). If there was any doubt about what Jesus meant, He reminded them that He had not come to be served but to serve others and to give His life to ransom them from the power of sin (v.45).

The mark of true, godly leadership is not power and privilege, but humble service. God gives us strength to follow Jesus’ example and to lead His way. —David McCasland

The paths of leadership are trod

By those who humbly walk with God,

Their gracious spirit holds a sway

That makes you want to go their way. —D. DeHaan

A qualified leader is one who has learned to serve.