Charles Stanley – Getting Your Life Back on Course

Charles Stanley

Hebrews 12:1-3

Do you ever feel as if your life has gone a bit off course? Maybe you were making your way just fine, but all of a sudden, you weren’t sure which way to turn. Now and again, all of us face circumstances when our spiritual sense of direction seems unclear. Fortunately, though, Hebrews 12:1-3 lays out a clear plan for getting back on track after we’ve made some missteps.

First, we’re to “lay aside every encumbrance.” Here, encumbrance literally means “weight.” In other words, we should remove anything from our life that is weighing us down. Stress, guilt, fear, shame, and regret are just a few of the burdens that can break our backs as we strive to move forward in the Lord. We will simply never go far when we’re dragging around so much baggage.

Second, we are to lay aside “the sin which so easily entangles us.” Have you ever felt completely powerless because of your sin? When left unattended, it grows like a wild vine. Sin may start small but can completely overtake you unless it’s rooted out early.

Third, we are to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” That means we should stay focused, and if we fall, get back up and carry on. With the determination of an Olympic athlete, we press on with our eyes on the goal, despite the obstacles and distractions.

Even when we feel lost, we can be sure God has a specific plan for our life. He knows where we’ve been, He knows where we are, and He knows where we’re going. The course has been laid before us, and Jesus stands waiting at the finish line.

Our Daily Bread — The Night No One Came

Our Daily Bread

Matthew 6:1-7

Do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. —Matthew 6:1

One winter night composer Johann Sebastian Bach was scheduled to debut a new composition. He arrived at the church expecting it to be full. Instead, he learned that no one had come. Without missing a beat, Bach told his musicians that they would still perform as planned. They took their places, Bach raised his baton, and soon the empty church was filled with magnificent music.

This story made me do some soul-searching. Would I write if God were my only audience? How would my writing be different?

New writers are often advised to visualize one person they are writing to as a way of staying focused. I do this when I write devotionals; I try to keep readers in mind because I want to say something they will want to read and that will help them on their spiritual journey.

I doubt that the “devotional writer” David, whose psalms we turn to for comfort and encouragement, had “readers” in mind. The only audience he had in mind was God.

Whether our “deeds,” mentioned in Matthew 6, are works of art or acts of service, we should keep in mind that they’re really between us and God. Whether or not anyone else sees does not matter. He is our audience. —Julie Ackerman Link

That my ways might show forth Your glory,

That You, dear Lord, greatly deserve!

With Your precious blood You’ve redeemed me—

In all my days, You I would serve! —Somerville

Serve for an audience of one.

Bible in a year: Genesis 16-17; Matthew 5:27-48

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Waiting for Light

Ravi Z

In ancient cities, sentinels kept vigil on the city walls throughout the night. Long, difficult hours of waiting and watching characterized the sentinel’s evenings. The watcher’s role was well understood as vital for the protection of the city and the welfare of its citizens. Morning, nonetheless, meant great relief, both for the watchmen who kept vigil throughout the darkness and for the city within the walls.

Making use of this laden imagery, biblical writers often juxtaposed the role of watchman waiting for morning and the work of the prophet. Through long, dark hours of slavery and exile, stubbornness and despair, the prophets kept watch, calling out injustices, calling forth awareness, peace, and repentance. Jeremiah cried out, “This is what the LORD says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.’” Isaiah expanded the imagery of the sentinel’s watch even further, suggesting watchful eyes throughout the kingdom of God, servants who hold vigil day and night, watching for light even when presently surrounded by darkness. “Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion.”(1)

An old man in Jerusalem named Simeon was one such sentinel. All that is known of him is that he was righteous and devout, and looked forward to the consolation of his broken land. Led by the Spirit one day, he went to the temple to offer the customary sacrifice, when he noticed an infant in the arms of a young, peasant woman. Taking the baby in his arms, he began to sing:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,

according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.”(2)

A watchman who had kept vigil through long years of darkness, Simeon sees the infant Jesus in plain sight and uses the language of a slave who has been freed. There is a sense of immediacy and relief, as if the light of morning has finally arrived after years of shadow and night, and he is at last free to leave his post.

Today is Epiphany, the historical Christian feast day that celebrates the arrival of the magi to the birthplace of Jesus, and it tells a similar story. Matthew describes a vigilant scene not unlike that of Simeon at the temple or sentinels on the city wall. Astrologers from the east followed a lone star through a great expanse of darkness to come upon a newborn king. Their watchful journey took years. It impelled further darkness as Herod’s jealousy reared an evil demand for the murder of infant boys throughout Bethlehem. It was a solitary journey, disregarded by the masses and wrought with difficulty. But the light was real and relieving. “Nations shall come to your light,” sang the prophet of this child, “and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:3).

With those who first watched and waited for God to step from the heavens and into our darkness, the feast of Epiphany is a reminder that ours is still a world straining in shadow, with our glimpses of light, waiting. Like those who first journeyed to set their eyes on the child, we move through long nights, at times finding ourselves out of place, in the dark, straining to see more. The Christian story is a declaration that Jesus transforms this watching and waiting, our lives and our deaths, bringing light where death stings, where tears discourage, and darkness haunts. “I wait for the Lord,” sang the psalmist, “my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” The night is surely long, but what if the light is real?

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

(1) cf. Jeremiah 6:16-17, Isaiah 52:8.

(2) Story told in Luke 2:26-32

Alistair Begg – “Lord, Grant Me Divine Communion”

Alistair Begg

Now the hand of the Lord had been upon me the evening before . . .

Ezekiel 33:22

In the matter of judgment this may be the case, and if so, let me consider the reason for such a visitation and accept it as from His hand. I am not the only one who is chastened in the night season; let me cheerfully submit to the affliction and carefully endeavor to profit by it.

But the hand of the Lord may also be felt in another manner, strengthening the soul and lifting the spirit upward toward eternal things. O that I may in this sense feel the Lord dealing with me! A sense of the divine presence and indwelling bears the soul toward heaven as upon the wings of eagles.

At such times we are full to the brim with spiritual joy, and forget the cares and sorrows of earth; the invisible is near, and the visible loses its power over us. Servant-body waits at the foot of the hill, and the master-spirit worships upon the summit in the presence of the Lord. O that a hallowed season of divine communion may be granted to me this evening! The Lord knows that I need it very greatly.

My graces languish, my corruptions rage, my faith is weak, my devotion is cold; all these are reasons why His healing hand should be laid upon me. His hand can cool the heat of my burning brow and calm the turmoil of my palpitating heart. That glorious right hand that molded the world can renew my mind; the unwearied hand that bears the earth’s huge pillars can sustain my spirit; the loving hand that encloses all the saints can cherish me; and the mighty hand that breaks in pieces the enemy can subdue my sins.

Why should I not feel that hand touching me this evening? Come, my soul, address God with the potent plea that Jesus’ hands were pierced for your redemption, and you shall surely feel that same hand upon you that once touched Daniel and set him upon his knees that he might see visions of God.

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – Life for a look

CharlesSpurgeon

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.” Isaiah 45:22

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 26:1-29

Six years ago, today, as nearly as possible at this very hour of the day, I was “in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity,” but had yet, by divine grace, been led to feel the bitterness of that bondage, and to cry out by reason of the soreness of its slavery. Seeking rest, and finding none, I stepped within the house of God, and sat there, afraid to look upward, lest I should be utterly cut off, and lest his fierce wrath should consume me. The minister rose in his pulpit, and, as I have done this morning, read this text—“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” I looked that moment; the grace of faith was vouchsafed to me in the self-same instant; and now I think I can say with truth:

“E’er since by faith I saw the stream His flowing wounds supply,

Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall be till I die.”

I shall never forget that day, while memory holds its place; nor can I help repeating this text, whenever I remember that hour when first I knew the Lord. How strangely gracious! How wonderfully and marvellously kind, that he who heard these words so little time ago for his own soul’s profit, should now address you from the same text, in the full and confident hope that some poor sinner may hear the glad tidings of salvation for himself also, and may today, on this 6th of January, be “turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.”

For meditation: Even if you cannot pinpoint an exact time or place, can you recall your conversion when the Lord Jesus Christ became real to you and you trusted him to be your Saviour? If you can, are the memories of that great event still as precious as they should be? If you have no such memories, Spurgeon, though dead, speaks to you today. Read again his testimony, obey his text and look to his Saviour so that you too may be saved.

Sermon no. 60

6 January (1856)

John MacArthur – Identifying with Christ

John MacArthur

“God…has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3, emphasis added).

Many people mistakenly believe that one’s religious preference is irrelevant because all religions eventually lead to the same spiritual destination.

Such thinking is sheer folly, however, because Scripture declares that no one comes to God apart from Jesus (John 14:6). He is the only source of salvation (Acts 4:12) and the only One powerful enough to redeem us and hold us secure forever (John 10:28).

Every Christian shares a common supernatural union with Christ. Paul said, “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17). We are in Him and He is in us. His life flows through us by His Spirit, who indwells us (Rom. 8:9).

As a non-Christian, you were in bondage to evil (Rom. 3:10-12), enslaved to the will of Satan (1 John 5:19), under divine wrath (Rom. 1:18), spiritually dead (Eph. 4:17-18), and without hope (Eph. 2:12). But at the moment of your salvation a dramatic change took place. You became a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), alive in Him (Eph. 2:5), enslaved to God (Rom. 6:22), and a recipient of divine grace (Eph. 2:8). You were delivered out of the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). You now possess His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) and share in His eternal inheritance (Rom. 8:16-17).

All those blessings–and many more–are yours because you are in Christ. What a staggering reality! In a sense what He is, you are. What He has, you have. Where He is, you are.

When the Father sees you, He sees you in Christ and blesses you accordingly. When others see you, do they see Christ in 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).

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for His marvelous grace in taking you from spiritual death to spiritual life in Christ.

Ask Him for wisdom and discernment to live this day for His good pleasure.

For Further Study:

Read the book of Ephesians, noting every occurrence of the phrase “in Christ.”

What has God accomplished in Christ?

What blessings are yours in Christ?

Joyce Meyer – Start With What You Have

Joyce meyer

Do not say to your neighbor, Go, and come again; and tomorrow I will give it. —Proverbs 3:28

We can have good intentions and still be disobedient. Procrastination is very deceptive.

We don’t see it as disobedience because we intend to obey God; it is just that we are going to do it when— when we have more money, when we are not so busy, as soon as Christmas is over, after we get the kids in school this year, as soon as vacation is over, etc.

There is no point in praying for God to give you more money so you can be a blessing to others if you are not being a blessing with what you already have. Don’t believe Satan’s lies that you have nothing to give. Even if it is only a pack of gum or a ballpoint pen, start using what you have to bless others.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Strong Love Is the Proof

dr_bright

“And so I am giving a new commandment to you now – love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are My disciples” (John 13:34,35).

A Navajo Indian woman who had been healed of a serious ailment by a missionary doctor was greatly impressed by the love he manifested.

“If Jesus is anything like the doctor,” she said, “I can trust Him forever.”

The doctor was a living example of the above promise. When Jesus spoke these words, the entire known world was filled with hate, war and fear. The Jews and the Gentiles hated each other. The Greeks and the Romans hated each other.

But with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the day of Pentecost came a breath of heavenly love. Those who received Jesus, the incarnation of love, into their lives and who chose to obey His command began to love one another. The pagan world looked on in amazement and said of the believers, “How they love one another!”

Within a few years following this command to love one another, the gospel had spread like a prairie fire throughout the known world. The miracle of God’s love, His supernatural agape, had captivated multitudes throughout the decadent, wicked Roman Empire.

Tragically, today one seldom hears “How they love one another!” about Christians. Instead there is far too much suspicion, jealousy, criticism and conflict between Christians, churches and denominations. The unbelieving world often laughs at our publicized conflicts.

But those individuals who do demonstrate this supernatural love are usually warmly received by nonbelievers as well as believers. The churches that obey our Lord’s command to “love one another” usually are filled to overflowing and are making a great impact for good and for the glory of God. They represent a highly desirable alternative to secular society.

How does one love supernaturally? By faith. God’s Word commands us to love (John 13:34,35). God’s Word promises that He will enable us to do what He commands us to do (John 5:14,15).

Bible Reading: 1 John 3:14-19

Today’s Action Point: Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I will by faith love others and thus prove that I am a true disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Fair Play

ppt_seal01

Imagine an invincible sword – one never to be beaten. Sound like a fantasy-based video game? It’s actually from the annals of history. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Boris Onischenko held just such a sword. After registering unbelievable hits in each of his fencing matches, an opponent called foul play. Onischenko was fencing with a tampered sword wired with an electronic device to register a hit…even when he hadn’t touched his opponent! He was expelled from the games and stripped of his medals.

The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:17

The apostle Paul shares in today’s verse about a similar sword, one that will win in any spiritual battle – only this one is fair play. The Word of God is just such a weapon…and while hiding it in your heart will help you live an upright life (Psalm 119:11), God’s Word can actually be used defensively in the ultimate battle: Jesus used the sword of the spirit in His temptation with the devil, saying, “It is written…” then quoted scripture.

You’ve been given a formidable weapon. Ask God to give both you and the Christians in political office wisdom as you use His Word to arm for battle.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 4:1-11

Greg Laurie – By Faith We walk by faith, not by sight. —2 Corinthians 5:7

greglaurie

The inspired writers of Scripture did not use the phrase walk by faith in a random way. Those three words are there for a purpose. Notice that the Bible doesn’t tell us to sprint by faith; it tells us to walk by faith. To walk speaks of continual, regulated motion. The Bible says Enoch walked with God. Many believers have their bursts of energy. For a few months, they run. Then they collapse for a while. They need to learn what it is to walk with God.

Of course, most of us like things fast. We have microwave dinners, e-mail, cell phones, and instant messaging. We have so much technology to make our lives a little easier and, most importantly, faster. Then, when we come to the Christian life, we say, “All right, what’s the angle? What’s the shortcut?”

Here it is: “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). It’s a day-by-day process.

We are always looking for the angle, for the inside track. But it’s very simple. The Bible declares that the just shall live by faith — not by feeling, not by emotion, not by fear, not by worries — by faith.

I know sometimes that it seems like nothing is happening in terms of our spiritual growth. There are times when we don’t really feel like we are changing, because as we look at ourselves every day, we don’t necessarily see any changes. But as we are walking by faith day by day, month by month, and year by year, we are being transformed.

Colossians 2:6 tells us, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”

 

Max Lucado – Sacred Delight

Max Lucado

He should have been miserable.  He should have been bitter. He had every right to be a pot of boiling anger. But he wasn’t. Jesus embodied a stubborn joy!

What is this stubborn joy?  This bird that sings while it’s still dark?  What is the source of this peace that defies pain? I call it sacred delight. What is sacred is God’s!  And this joy is God’s.

Sacred delight is good news coming through the back door of your heart.  It’s the too-good-to-be-true coming true. It’s having God as your lawyer, your dad, your biggest fan, and your best friend.  It’s hope where you least expected it—a flower in life’s sidewalk.

It is sacred because only God can grant it. It is a delight because it thrills. It can’t be stolen.  It can’t be predicted. It is God’s sacred delight!

The Applause of Heaven