Tag Archives: theology

Leaning on the Lord – Charles Stanley

 

Acts 9:1-20

God is calling us—His children—to take certain risks. He wants us to stop playing it safe and to step out in obedience. While doing so creates uncertainty in our lives, there are some things of which we can be confident.

• We will be challenged. Whether it’s because of complex relationships, hard work, or situations requiring greater faith, God will stretch us. As we take risks, we may feel doubt, indecision, and fear. Or, we might think we’re incapable or inadequate. These aren’t reasons to refuse God’s assignment; they are opportunities to trust the Lord.

• We can count on God’s presence. It is impossible for believers to live a single day without the presence of God. (Heb. 13:5) The relationship we have with Him through Jesus Christ is permanent. Our Father’s love for us is deep and abiding, and His promises are sure. When He calls us to venture outside our “comfort zone,” we can obey because He’s right there at our side.

• The Holy Spirit’s enabling power is ours. The Spirit of God lives within each believer and gives us the divine strength to be victorious. When we falter, He strengthens us. When we stumble, He steadies us. And when we fall, He picks us up.

What is God asking of you that poses a challenge? Remember that when He says to step out amidst uncertainty and take risks, we can rely on His presence and His power to equip us. If you’ve said yes to the challenge, then you’ve become a risk-taker for God!

Our Daily Bread — Rescued

 

1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 20-25

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. —Acts 16:31

Manuel Gonzalez was the first rescue worker to reach the 33 miners trapped for 69 days in a Chilean mine explosion in 2010. At great risk to his own life, he went underground more than 2,000 feet to bring the trapped men back to the surface. The world watched in amazement as one by one each miner was rescued and transported to freedom.

The Bible tells us of an even more amazing rescue. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, all of mankind is trapped in sin (Gen. 2:17; 3:6,19; Rom. 5:12). Unable to break free, everyone faces certain death—physically and eternally. But God has provided a Rescuer—Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Everyone who accepts the free gift of salvation offered through His death and resurrection is freed from sin’s grip and its resulting death penalty (Rom. 5:8-11; 10:9-11; Eph. 2:1-10).

Jesus Christ is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). He was the first to be raised from the dead, never to die again. Likewise, all will be given life who put their faith in Christ (Rom. 8:11).

Are you still trapped in your sins? Accept Jesus’ gift of salvation and enjoy the freedom of life in Christ and eternity with Him (Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13). —C. P. Hia

Thinking It Over

What keeps you from calling out to God for spiritual

rescue? Do you fear that you are too bad for God’s

grace? Read and think about Romans 3:23-26.

Through His cross, Jesus rescues and redeems.

Making History – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

If you are familiar with the writing of the new atheists, you will notice that they often portray history as if there is an ancient and on-going war raging between science and religion. Why is it that such simplistic ways of viewing the past can become so prevalent?(1) One theory is advanced by Christian Smith in his book Moral Believing Animals. He argues that one of the central, fundamental motivations for human action is the locating of life within a larger external moral order, which in turn dictates a person’s sense of identity and the way in which they act. He claims that, whether or not they realize it, “all human persons, no matter how well educated, how scientific, how knowledgeable, are, at bottom, believers.”(2)

He suggests this is because “human knowledge has no common, indubitable foundation,”and therefore the way people choose to live and the knowledge they accumulate is all founded upon basic assumptions and beliefs that cannot themselves be empirically verified.(3) This includes the Enlightenment ideas of foundationalist knowledge, the autonomously choosing individual and even universal rationality itself, which he argues “always and only operates in the context of the particular moral orders that define and orient reason in particular directions.”(4)

In order to make sense of life, he suggests that all individuals perceive the world according to an all-embracing narrative, in which factual information about different events and people is woven into a storyline that makes an overall point. The Scientific Enlightenment Narrative, for example, is one that has been popularized by the new atheists:

“For most of human history, people have lived in the darkness of ignorance and tradition, driven by fear, believing in superstitions. Priest and Lords preyed on such ignorance, and life was wearisome and short. Ever so gradually, however, and often at great cost, inventive men have endeavored better to understand the natural world around them. Centuries of such enquiry eventually led to a marvelous Scientific Revolution that radically transformed our methods of understanding nature. What we know now as a result is based on objective observation, empirical fact, and rational analysis. With each passing decade, science reveals increasingly more about the earth, our bodies, our minds. We have come to possess the power to transform nature and ourselves. We can fortify health, relieve suffering, and prolong life. Science is close to understanding the secret of life and maybe eternal life itself. Of course, forces of ignorance, fear, irrationality and blind faith still threaten the progress of science. But they must be resisted at all costs. For unfettered science is our only hope for true Enlightenment and happiness.”(5)

Although this narrative may seem to be the very opposite of a religious worldview, Smith makes the interesting observation that “what is striking about these major Western narrative traditions is how closely their plots parallel and sometimes mimic the Christian narrative.”(6)

They all include a period of darkness followed by redemption, as well as a promise for the future and the identification of potential threats to the desired utopia. He explains that: “So deep did Christianity’s wagon wheels wear into the ground of Western culture and consciousness that nearly every secular wagon that has followed—no matter how determined to travel a different road—has found it nearly impossible not to ride in the same tracks of the faith of old. Such is the power of the moral order in deeply forming culture and story.”(7)

This is a fascinating observation, because it suggests that the Christian way of perceiving the world still informs the worldview of many of those who think they have jettisoned all the remnants of it. He argues that this pervasiveness is not surprising though, as “the human condition and the character of religion quite naturally fit, cohere, complement and reinforce each other,” because they link the narratives with the historical and personal significances at both the individual and collective level.

The fact that the message is so compelling will come as no surprise to Christians, but, above all, Smith’s work illustrates the problem faced by those who insist that they live by science, logic, and empirical evidence, rather than relying on any belief. It also highlights that there is a considerable blind spot in the thinking of many people today, when it comes to appreciating the role religion has played not only in shaping their own ideas, but also in underpinning core aspects of western society. It may be fashionable to dismiss this foundation, but the final word should perhaps be left to the influential German thinker, Jürgen Habermas, who explains that the Judeo-Christian legacy is neither insignificant, nor should it be forgotten:

“For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.”(8)

Simon Wenham is research coordinator for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Europe.

(1) Article adapted from Simon Wenham’s, “Making History: The ‘War’ Between Science and Religion,” Pulse, Issue 8 (Summer 2011), pp. 2-4.

(2) C. Smith, Moral Believing Animals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 54.

(3) Ibid., 154.

(4) Idem.

(5) Ibid., 69.

(6) Ibid., 72.

(7) Idem.

(8) Ibid., 153

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “The Lord our Righteousness.” / Jeremiah 23:6

It will always give a Christian the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace, to  think of the perfect righteousness of Christ. How often are the saints of God  downcast and sad! I do not think they ought to be. I do not think they would  if they could always see their perfection in Christ. There are some who are  always talking about corruption, and the depravity of the heart, and the  innate evil of the soul. This is quite true, but why not go a little further,  and remember that we are “perfect in Christ Jesus.” It is no wonder that those  who are dwelling upon their own corruption should wear such downcast looks;  but surely if we call to mind that “Christ is made unto us righteousness,” we  shall be of good cheer. What though distresses afflict me, though Satan  assault me, though there may be many things to be experienced before I get to  heaven, those are done for me in the covenant of divine grace; there is  nothing wanting in my Lord, Christ hath done it all. On the cross he said, “It  is finished!” and if it be finished, then am I complete in him, and can  rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, “Not having mine own  righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of  Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” You will not find on this  side heaven a holier people than those who receive into their hearts the  doctrine of Christ’s righteousness. When the believer says, “I live on Christ  alone; I rest on him solely for salvation; and I believe that, however  unworthy, I am still saved in Jesus;” then there rises up as a motive of  gratitude this thought–“Shall I not live to Christ? Shall I not love him and  serve him, seeing that I am saved by his merits?” “The love of Christ  constraineth us,” “that they which live should not henceforth live unto  themselves but unto him which died for them.” If saved by imputed  righteousness, we shall greatly value imparted righteousness.

 

Evening  “Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran Cushi.” / 2 Samuel

18:23

Running is not everything, there is much in the way which we select: a swift  foot over hill and down dale will not keep pace with a slower traveller upon  level ground. How is it with my spiritual journey, am I labouring up the hill  of my own works and down into the ravines of my own humiliations and  resolutions, or do I run by the plain way of “Believe and live”? How blessed  is it to wait upon the Lord by faith! The soul runs without weariness, and  walks without fainting, in the way of believing. Christ Jesus is the way of  life, and he is a plain way, a pleasant way, a way suitable for the tottering  feet and feeble knees of trembling sinners: am I found in this way, or am I  hunting after another track such as priestcraft or metaphysics may promise me?  I read of the way of holiness, that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall  not err therein: have I been delivered from proud reason and been brought as a  little child to rest in Jesus’ love and blood? If so, by God’s grace I shall  outrun the strongest runner who chooses any other path. This truth I may  remember to my profit in my daily cares and needs. It will be my wisest course  to go at once to my God, and not to wander in a roundabout manner to this  friend and that. He knows my wants and can relieve them, to whom should I  repair but to himself by the direct appeal of prayer, and the plain argument  of the promise. “Straightforward makes the best runner.” I will not parlay  with the servants, but hasten to their master.

In reading this passage, it strikes me that if men vie with each other in  common matters, and one outruns the other, I ought to be in solemn earnestness  so to run that I may obtain. Lord, help me to gird up the loins of my mind,  and may I press forward towards the mark for the prize of my high calling of  God in Christ Jesus.

Complementing Christ – John MacArthur

 

God exalted Christ “and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).

Here Paul uses a graphic analogy to illustrate the relationship of Christ to the church: He is the head; believers are His body. Paul elaborates that we’re to hold “fast to the head [Christ], from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God” (Col. 2:19; cf. Eph. 4:15-16).

Just as the head controls the human body, so Christ governs His Body, the church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-31). By His Spirit and His Word He supplies all the resources the church needs to function to His glory. In that way He guarantees that His purposes will be fulfilled.

The church is in fact “the fulness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). The implication is that the incomprehensible, all-sufficient, all-powerful, and utterly supreme Christ is in a sense incomplete–not in His nature, but in the degree to which His glory is seen in the world.

A synonym for “fulness” is “complement.” The church was designed to complement Christ. He is the One who fills all in all”–the fullness of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9) and the giver of truth and grace (John 1:16). Yet He chooses to reveal His glory in and through the church. Therefore, until the church is fully glorified, Christ will not be fully complemented.

Does your life complement Christ? Do you “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2:10)? Do you “let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16)? You have every spiritual resource to do so, so don’t let anything hold you back (Heb. 12:1-2)!

Suggestions for Prayer:  Read Psalm 139:23-24 and pray with David that God will search your heart and reveal any sin that might hinder you from complementing Christ today.

For Further Study:  Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-30

What spiritual gifts are mentioned in this passage?

How does Paul deal with the misconception that some gifts are more important than others (see vv. 14-30)?

As a member of Christ’s Body, you are gifted by the Spirit to minister to others. Are you doing so?

 

When We Say Yes – Greg Laurie

 

Then he invited them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.   —Acts 10:23

Sometimes when we share the gospel, people don’t want to hear it. I have had many situations like that when I got up to speak somewhere. I could see it on the faces looking back at me, as if they were saying, “What are you going to tell me?”

But then there are times when people are receptive and responsive and drink in every word.

That is what we find in Acts 10, when Cornelius and his friends and family had gathered to hear Peter speak to them. Peter gave them a classic gospel presentation. He reviewed the life of Jesus (verse 38). He spoke of His death and His resurrection (verses 39–41), telling everyone that He will return as Judge (verse 42). Then Peter offered salvation through Christ. And notice that Peter got the memo about it being for both Jews and non-Jews: “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (verse 43).

This single sermon of Peter’s changed church history. And I find it interesting that it all started in a place called Joppa. Remember Jonah? He was connected to Joppa too. When God told him to take the gospel to the people of Nineveh, Jonah boarded a ship in Joppa that was sailing in the opposite direction.

So Joppa was the place Jonah went to get away from God, but it is also the place where Peter answered God’s call to go to Caesarea and reach some Gentiles.

In contrast to Jonah, who didn’t really want to go to his enemies, we have Peter, who was willing to go. If Peter had said, “Never, Lord!” that could have been the end of it. But he responded to God’s call.

Where is God calling you to go today?

Holiness – Max Lucado

 

John the Baptist would never get hired today. No church would touch him.  He was a public relations disaster.

Mark 1:6 says he “wore clothes of camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey.”

His message was as rough as his dress. A no-nonsense, bare-fisted challenge to repent because God was on His way.  No, John’s style wasn’t smooth. He made few friends and lots of enemies, but what do you know?  He made hundreds of converts. How do you explain it?  It certainly wasn’t his charisma, nor his money or position—for he had neither.  Then what did he have?  One word:  Holiness.

Holiness seeks to be like God. You want to make a difference in your world?  Live a holy life.  Be faithful to your spouse. Pay your bills. Be the employee who does the work and doesn’t complain. Don’t speak one message and live another!  Just be God in your world.

“…as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:15-16)

Taking Risks – Charles Stanley

 

Acts 9:1-20

Many Christians like playing it safe by gathering as many facts as possible, analyzing the options, and making choices in order to be reasonably certain of the outcome. We tend to label risk “undesirable” because it could end up causing loss and heartache; we fear unwanted results as much as we dread missing out on our dreams. But not only that—we are also afraid of looking foolish or incompetent, incurring financial difficulty, or facing physical danger. From a human viewpoint, eliminating uncertainty makes sense.

But what is God’s perspective? Are there times that Christians are to take risks? The answer is a resounding yes, when He is the one asking us to step out of our comfort zone. From the Lord’s viewpoint, there is no uncertainty, because He has control over all things and He will never fail to accomplish His good purposes (Eph. 1:11).

The Bible is full of real people who took risks to obey the Lord. One was Ananias, whom God sent to minister to the newly converted Saul. Ananias risked his reputation and his life to comply. Another was Saul himself, who was told to preach to the Jews the very gospel he and they had so violently opposed. By focusing on God, His character, and His promises, both men obeyed despite uncertainty, doubt, and fear.

Spiritual maturity is hampered when the Christian refuses to obey God. Sometimes that involves leaving what is safe or familiar. What risk is the Lord calling you to take? He understands your wariness, but He’ll never let you down. Step out in obedience, and watch what He does to grow your faith.

Our Daily Bread — Unstoppable

 

Numbers 22:10-34

The Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way. —Numbers 22:31

Under it. Over it. Around it. Through it. Nothing will stop me from doing it.” I often hear people express this kind of attitude when they get an idea or see an opportunity that seems good or profitable. They devote all of their resources to getting it done.

As evidence that this way of thinking may be flawed, I call as my witness a donkey—a donkey belonging to a man named Balaam.

Balaam was offered a profitable assignment from a neighboring king, and he inquired of God for permission to accept it (Num. 22). When God said no, the king’s representatives made a better offer. Thinking God might change His mind, Balaam asked again. God granted permission for Balaam to go with them but with strict conditions. God knew Balaam’s heart and was not pleased with him, so He placed His Angel in the way. Balaam couldn’t see the Angel but his donkey could. When the donkey refused to continue, Balaam became angry with the animal for blocking his progress.

Balaam’s story teaches us that not every obstacle is meant to be overcome. Some are placed by God to keep us from doing something foolish. When our plans are hindered, we shouldn’t assume that it’s Satan trying to stop us. It might be God trying to protect us. —Julie Ackerman Link

Let Your wisdom guide me ever,

For I dare not trust my own;

Lead me, Lord, in tender mercy,

Leave me not to walk alone. —Reed

God is always protecting us— even when we don’t realize we need it.

Worlds Apart – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

Anyone who has ever walked through the halls of the great philosophers, early church leaders, or ancient rhetoricians or ethicists has inevitably stumbled upon the person and work of Augustine of Hippo. In his lifetime, Augustine served as a professor for over a decade, established a school of rhetoric, acted as bishop of Hippo, argued fluently in crucial theological debates, and authored over a hundred separate titles. He was the most quoted theologian throughout the Middle Ages, and is considered a great doctor of the early church. But his theology continued to make an impression on the broader Christian church and later Western thought as well. Augustine is easily considered one of the more influential contributors toward the Western mindset; he was also a favorite theologian among the protestant reformers of the 16th century.

Augustine’s voice was prominent in the development of the church’s theology concerning the validity of the sacraments and the nature of the church itself. The Donatist controversy had raised questions concerning the efficacy of the Lord’s Supper when administered by clergymen who had lapsed in their faith. The Donatists insisted that those who received the right of baptism or the sacrament of communion from a faulted priest were not truly baptized or cleansed through communion. But Augustine argued insistently that the efficacy of the sacraments does not depend upon the human agent who administers them, but rather upon Jesus Christ who instituted them in the first place. Likewise, the holiness of the church is not maintained by the level of virtue among its members, but by the holiness of the one they claim to follow. Quoting the apostle Paul, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Augustine’s theological views arising from the Pelagian controversy were equally influential to the church as we know it. Pelagius was a monk who began teaching that human nature was not corrupted by Adam’s fall, that humanity had no inherent inclination toward evil, but only bad habits that resulted in sin, and that salvation was thus an earned reward. Augustine saw this teaching as incredibly dangerous, unbiblical, and irresponsible. His writings against pelagianism averred the absolute necessity of God’s grace in salvation, the irrefutable evidence of original sin, and the great hope of God’s sovereignty in the work of redemption. He was insistent upon the expectant words of Scripture: “When you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God* made you* alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands.  He set this aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

Today these theological teachings remain significant for a church that is still living within a world wanting to claim full autonomy, disclaim the concept of sin, and undermine the gift of Christ. Like Augustine, we hold fast to a message some do not want to hear—namely, fallen humanity, left to its own devices, is incapable of entering into a relationship with God. Yet, it is from this darkened vantage point that we are able to see the fullness of light because, from here, by the Spirit, we can see that God intervened, coming into our desperation to change the outcome entirely. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are saved. For Augustine in a world of heresy or for Christians today in a sea of pluralism, we see that humanity must depend upon God for salvation and that God alone sufficiently meets our needs. What we cannot do for ourselves, God has accomplished through his Son.

There may seem at first a great gap between Augustine’s world and our own. Perhaps in the end we are not that far apart. Regardless, there is thankfully one who effectively bridges the far greater gap between creation and its Creator.

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 “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.