Tag Archives: theology

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.

The Mind of Christ – Max Lucado

 

The heart of Jesus was spiritual. Our hearts seem so far from His.  He is pure.  We are greedy. He is peaceful; we are hassled. He is purposeful; we are distracted. How could we ever hope to have the heart of Jesus?

Ready for a surprise? You already do.  You already have the heart of Christ. Would I kid you?  One of the supreme promises of God is simply this:  if you’ve given your life to Jesus, Jesus has given Himself to you.

The Apostle Paul explains it in 1 Corinthians 2:16: “Strange as it seems, we Christians actually do have within us a portion of the very thoughts and mind of Christ.”

The same one who saved your soul longs to remake your heart. His plan is nothing short of a total transformation. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus. Perhaps in seeing Him, we will see what we can become!

The Key to Servanthood – Charles Stanley

 

John 13:3-16

Many Christians are discontented and unsettled because they fail to understand that true servanthood is more than simply coming to church on Sunday; it involves pouring one’s life into somebody else’s. Jesus demonstrated this when He washed the disciples’ feet in the upper room during the Last Supper.

The Lord’s example shows us that the key is humility. Unless we are willing to stoop low and get dirty in ministering to others, we have missed the point. In addition, a true servant . . .

• Does not wait to be asked. Nobody requested that Jesus go and wash the disciples’ feet. Just as He saw and did what was necessary, a true servant is alert to identify the need and then volunteers to meet it. He will quietly go about his service without looking for recognition or reward. He is satisfied and with the overwhelming joy that comes by simply giving.

• Must learn to receive as well as to give. That is often quite difficult for servants. Jesus told His disciples that unless they allowed Him to wash their feet, they’d have no part with Him. Peter balked because he was too proud to receive such care (v. 8). We must not be so tied to convention or pride that we say no to somebody who lovingly desires to “wash our feet.” If God Himself could take “the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7 niv) and perform a menial task for His disciples, what excuse could we possibly have for not serving others?

As Jesus’ followers, we should look to Him for our example of servanthood.

If God Himself could take “the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7 niv) and perform a menial task for His disciples, what excuse could we possibly come up with for not serving others?

Our Daily Bread — By Our Deeds

 

Matthew 23:23-31

Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right. —Proverbs 20:11

One night a clergyman was walking to church when a thief pulled a gun on him and demanded his money or his life. When he reached in his pocket to hand over his wallet, the robber saw his clerical collar and said: “I see you are a priest. Never mind, you can go.” The clergyman, surprised by the robber’s unexpected act of piety, offered him a candy bar. The robber said, “No thank you. I don’t eat candy during Lent.”

The man had given up candy as a supposed sacrifice for Lent, but his lifestyle of stealing showed his real character! According to the writer of Proverbs, conduct is the best indicator of character. If someone says he is a godly person, his words can only be proven by consistent actions (20:11). This was true of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day as well. He condemned the Pharisees and exposed their sham for professing godliness but denying that profession with sin in their lives (Matt. 23:13-36). Appearances and words are deceiving; behavior is the best judge of character. This applies to all of us.

As followers of Jesus, we demonstrate our love for Him by what we do, not just by what we say. May our devotion to God, because of His love for us, be revealed in our actions today. —Marvin Williams

Spiritual words are mere distractions

If not backed up by our godly actions,

And all our good and beautiful creeds

Are nothing without God-honoring deeds. —Williams

 

Conduct is the best proof of character.

Bread in Hand – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

At the death of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, the world of economics lost one of its most influential thinkers. He is perhaps best known for popularizing the saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” which is now a common English dictum.

Though consumer-trained eyes, we understand this phrase as Friedman intended: Anything billed “free of charge” still has a bill attached. It is both economic theory and lay opinion. Whatever goods and services are provided, someone must pay the cost. Thus, economically, we see that the world of business is first and foremost about profit and market share. And cynically, we suspect that every kind gesture or free gift has a hidden motive, cost, or expectation attached.

It was strange, then, to find myself thinking of “free lunches” as I was approaching the meal Christians call communion, the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist—from the Greek eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving. Could my consumer mindset apply to this table as well? Was this really a free meal? Certainly the compulsion many feel to drudge up a sense of guilt at the table could be one sign of its costliness. Theological instinct immediately recoiled at this thought. Is this Christ’s cost or one we determine ourselves? Inherent in Jesus’s invitation to the table is the very freedom he came to offer: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). And yet, even as we are called to freely come to the meal, to consume Christ himself, are we not asked simply to empty ourselves before the one who calls? Is there a cost to partake of the Bread of Life?

Christ speaks openly that the way of the Cross is costly, but it does not require the kind of transaction consumer-hungry minds are quick to expect. The cost is his, even as he invites us to share in it. As the disciples gathered together in the upper room where they would participate in Jesus’s last supper and the first communion, Jesus told them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). He is both the Bread of Life and the one who paid the cost that it might nourish his table of guests. Our consumption at the table holds a great deal in which to participate.

Unfortunately, we are at times like the poet Alison Luterman who admits it is quite possible not to see the connection between what feeds us and the one who made it possible. She writes eloquently,

“Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones even bruise at too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten—every piece of fruit—had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before?”

Holding the bread of the Lord’s Supper in our hands, we are indeed faced with a costly meal. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).

Stories of hunger and consumption pervade the world around us. The same theme pervades the gospel story, but in a manner that transforms both our hunger and our ideas of what it means to consume. The consumer of Christ is not stockpiling one more product for personal use and fulfillment. Nor does he or she partake of a free service that requires a minimum purchase or a small commitment. Jesus’s words are neither selfish nor small: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (6:56). Those who come to the table cannot consume with the same disconnectedness with which we consume countless meals and materials. We are ushered into a community, an interconnected life, the Body of Christ himself, and it leaves an entirely different imagination of the world in our grasp. The Christian makes the very countercultural claim that one can desire what one already has. Every broken piece of bread represents nothing less than a Person who was broken for us, who gives everything away to present the hungry with an invitation to join him, to taste and see that God is good.

And he calls us to come willing to empty ourselves as completely as he did on the Cross. For the free meal that is offered in remembrance of Jesus overturns our lives as consumers and turns our hunger inside-out. As Augustine imagines the voice on high saying, “I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me. And you will not change me into you, like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me.”(1) Christ is unlike anything else we can consume and desire in this world. For all who are hungry, the Bread of Heaven has come down.

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

(1) Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 124 [Book VII, 16].

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning “Praying always.” / Ephesians 6:18

What multitudes of prayers we have put up from the first moment when we learned to pray. Our first prayer was a prayer for ourselves; we asked that God would have mercy upon us, and blot out our sin. He heard us. But when he had blotted out our sins like a cloud, then we had more prayers for ourselves. We have had to pray for sanctifying grace, for constraining and restraining grace; we have been led to crave for a fresh assurance of faith, for the comfortable application of the promise, for deliverance in the hour of temptation, for help in the time of duty, and for succour in the day of trial. We have been compelled to go to God for our souls, as constant beggars asking for everything. Bear witness, children of God, you have never been able to get anything for your souls elsewhere. All the bread your soul has eaten has come down from heaven, and all the water of which it has drank has flowed from the living rock–Christ Jesus the Lord. Your soul has never grown rich in itself; it has always been a pensioner upon the daily bounty of God; and hence your prayers have ascended to heaven for a range of spiritual mercies all but infinite. Your wants were innumerable, and therefore the supplies have been infinitely great, and your prayers have been as varied as the mercies have been countless. Then have you not cause to say, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication”? For as your prayers have been many, so also have been God’s answers to them. He has heard you in the day of trouble, has strengthened you, and helped you, even when you dishonored him by trembling and doubting at the mercy-seat. Remember this, and let it fill your heart with gratitude to God, who has thus graciously heard your poor weak prayers. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

 

Evening “Pray one for another.” / James 5:16

As an encouragement cheerfully to offer intercessory prayer, remember that such prayer is the sweetest God ever hears, for the prayer of Christ is of this character. In all the incense which our Great High Priest now puts into the golden censer, there is not a single grain for himself. His intercession must be the most acceptable of all supplications–and the more like our prayer is to Christ’s, the sweeter it will be; thus while petitions for ourselves will be accepted, our pleadings for others, having in them more of the fruits of the Spirit, more love, more faith, more brotherly kindness, will be, through the precious merits of Jesus, the sweetest oblation that we can offer to God, the very fat of our sacrifice. Remember, again, that intercessory prayer is exceedingly prevalent. What wonders it has wrought! The Word of God teems with its marvellous deeds. Believer, thou hast a mighty engine in thy hand, use it well, use it constantly, use it with faith, and thou shalt surely be a benefactor to thy brethren. When thou hast the King’s ear, speak to him for the suffering members of his body. When thou art favoured to draw very near to his throne, and the King saith to thee, “Ask, and I will give thee what thou wilt,” let thy petitions be, not for thyself alone, but for the many who need his aid. If thou hast grace at all, and art not an intercessor, that grace must be small as a grain of mustard seed. Thou hast just enough grace to float thy soul clear from the quicksand, but thou hast no deep floods of grace, or else thou wouldst carry in thy joyous bark a weighty cargo of the wants of others, and thou wouldst bring back from thy Lord, for them, rich blessings which but for thee they might not have obtained:–

“Oh, let my hands forget their skill,

My tongue be silent, cold, and still,

This bounding heart forget to beat,

If I forget the mercy-seat!”

The Joy of Sainthood – John MacArthur

 

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1).

Many people think of saints as men and women who are especially holy or who have been canonized by an official church body. Usually only those who have been long dead and have extraordinary religious accomplishments to their credit qualify.

God, however, has a different perspective on sainthood. Paul called the Corinthian believers saints (1 Cor. 1:2) then went on for many chapters correcting their sinful practices. He called the Roman, Ephesian, and Colossian believers saints but they weren’t perfect either.

What then qualifies someone as a saint? The answer is in Philippians 1:1: “To the saints in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added). That’s the criterion. Sainthood is not reserved for the spiritually elite. It belongs to every believer because every believer is in Christ Jesus.

If you love Christ you also are a saint. That might come as a surprise to those who know you best, but it’s true nonetheless!

The hallmark of sainthood is holiness. In fact, the Greek word translated “saints” in Philippians 1:1 (hagios) literally means “holy ones.” It is used throughout the New Testament to speak of anyone or anything that represents God’s holiness: Christ as the Holy One of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father, holy Scriptures, holy angels, holy brethren, and so on.

To God, you are holy and beloved in Christ (Col. 3:12). You have received a saintly calling (1 Cor. 1:2) and a saintly inheritance (Col. 1:12). You have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14), and every other spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3).

With that privilege comes the responsibility of living a holy life. That’s why Scripture admonishes you to present your body as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) and to live in a manner worthy of your saintly status (Eph. 5:3).

The power for godly living is the Holy Spirit, who indwells you. As you yield to Him through prayer and obedience to God’s Word, the characteristics of a true saint become increasingly evident in your life. Make that your commitment today.

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for choosing you as one of His holy ones.

Pray that your life will be a consistent testimony to the reality of true sainthood.

For Further Study:   What are the privileges and responsibilities of saints as outlined

 

No Other Foundation – Greg Laurie

 

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have —Jesus Christ—1 Corinthians 3:11

How is it that someone could appear to be radically converted and so passionate about their new faith and then, without warning, suddenly give up and walk away?

I have met people who were emotional about Jesus and fired up about their faith, only to later fall into gross sin. What happened? I think they really never were rooted in Christ. Some people are just impulsive by nature. They are always into the latest fad. Whatever gets their attention, that is what they want to be into.

Case in point: exercise equipment. Just walk though a neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon when people have their garage doors open. See all of those exercise machines? How many times have you actually seen someone working out on one of them? Instead, there are usually things hanging on them. Someone decided they were going to get into shape, but their enthusiasm didn’t stand the test of time.

That is what happens with some people who make a commitment to Christ. They may be excited in the beginning, but it doesn’t stand the test of time. One possible explanation is they put their faith on the wrong foundation.

Maybe they decided to follow Christ because their friends did. Or maybe they put their faith in a certain church, and they found out that it wasn’t perfect, that it was filled with flawed people like them. Perhaps some pastor didn’t measure up to their expectations. Whatever the problem was, they didn’t build their foundation on Christ. The Bible tells us, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

This is the only foundation that will sustain us as Christians—not a person, not a preacher, not a church, but Jesus Christ.

You Are Tweakable – Max Lucado

 

You aren’t stuck with today’s personality.  You aren’t condemned to “grumpydom.”  You’re tweak-able; changeable. From whence come statements such as, “It’s just my nature to worry,” or. . .“I’ll always be pessimistic, I’m just that way.”  Or. . .“I have a bad temper.  I can’t help the way I react.”  Who says?

Would we make similar statements about our bodies?  “It’s just my nature to have a broken leg. I can’t do anything about it.”  Of course not.  If our bodies malfunction, we seek help.  Shouldn’t we do the same with our hearts?  Shouldn’t we seek aid for our sour attitudes?  Can’t we request treatment for our selfish tirades?  Of course we can.  Jesus can change our hearts.  He wants us to have a heart just like His. Can you imagine a better offer?