Charles Stanley – The Landmine of Discouragement

Charles Stanley

Psalm 42:5-8

There are people who suffer the effects of discouragement for years. They don’t know how to repair the damage caused by this devastating landmine. How does this loss of confidence and optimism originate?

Disappointment is our emotional response to a failed expectation. When we refuse to recognize and deal with the failure, that negative reaction can fester—then we can slip into discouragement. Disappointments are inevitable, but believers don’t have to be in bondage to discouragement.

We all periodically face difficulties that make us feel weak. Discouragement, however, like a drive through a dark tunnel, should be temporary: after a short while, we should come out on the other side. I have experienced situations in which I was very discouraged for a season. On occasion, I have had to get on my knees during the night to cry out to God for encouragement. After asking Him for a change in attitude and help in laying down my burden, I have been able to get back to sleep.

In order to gain victory, we must first look within ourselves. We need to admit our specific discouragement as well as the unresolved conflicts in our heart. Identifying the root cause of our disheartened feelings allows us to work through them. Most importantly, we must turn to God. As long as we are talking about our hurt, suffering, embarrassment, or shattered dreams, we will wallow in despair. But the moment we lift our heads and say “Father,” we take our first step out of discouragement.

 

Our Daily Bread — The Wonder Of The Cross

Our Daily Bread

Hebrews 12:1-4

[Look] unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. —Hebrews 12:2

While visiting Australia, I had the opportunity on a particularly clear night to see the Southern Cross. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, this constellation is one of the most distinctive. Mariners and navigators began relying on it as early as the 15th century for direction and navigation through the seas. Although relatively small, it is visible throughout most of the year. The Southern Cross was so vivid on that dark night that even I could pick it out of the bundle of stars. It was truly a magnificent sight!

The Scriptures tell us of an even more magnificent cross—the cross of Christ. When we look at the stars, we see the handiwork of the Creator; but when we look at the cross, we see the Creator dying for His creation. Hebrews 12:2 calls us to “[look] unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The wonder of Calvary’s cross is that while we were still in our sins, our Savior died for us (Rom. 5:8). Those who place their trust in Christ are now reconciled to God, and He navigates them through life (2 Cor. 1:8-10).

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the greatest of all wonders! —Bill Crowder

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride. —Watts

Christ’s cross provides the only safe crossing into eternity.

Bible in a year: Exodus 16-18; Matthew 18:1-20

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Personal Choices

Ravi Z

There are some stories that move us whether we hear them at five or fifty-five. The 1965 release of the first Peanuts movie, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was instantly loved by adults and children alike. But it almost did not make it past the television executives who hated it. The movie was criticized for everything from being too contemporary in music, to being too religious in tone. But audiences everywhere confidently disagreed. Having aired every year since its debut in 1965, it is now the longest-running cartoon special in history.

One of my predictably favorite scenes finds Charlie Brown on a hunt for the perfect “great big, shiny, aluminum tree—maybe even a pink one” as instructed by Lucy for their Christmas pageant. At the tree lot, Charlie Brown walks through row after row of flashing, shiny spectacles of color, trying his best to choose well and please his friends. But then he sees a small, natural tree, nearly overshadowed by the flash and glitter of the rest. It is pitiful and loosing needles, but it is the only real tree on the lot. In a moment of confidence, Charlie Brown chooses the unlikely sapling over all the others (and is thus the target of laughter and mockery by all).

Even as children, we seem to know intuitively that there is something remarkable—perhaps something even sacred—about being selected long before we understand the implications of choice at all. That someone saw anything worth choosing in this sickly little tree is a turn in the plot that quiets us. Charlie Brown claims the unlikely, pathetic tree as his own, and there is a part of us that feels claimed too.

The Christian story of God among the world is filled with the language of claiming and calling, gathering and choosing. Yet, stripped of the story and its characters, these words often offend us. We speak of the injustice of a God who claims anyone, who shows signs of favoritism, or calls anyone particularly. We forget what we felt deeply as children—namely, that being claimed among a group of the prettiest and the smartest and the fastest is not about deserving it at all.

In a country of wealth and grandeur, the people of Israel were slaves who were exploited and abused. They were overshadowed, inconsequential, and cast aside, not unlike the tiny tree in the vast lot of color. But God came near and claimed an unlikely people, picking them up, giving them a name, collecting them like a hen gathers her chicks. The book of Deuteronomy recounts the fledging relationship: “For the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance. In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye” (32:9-10).

God’s gathering of the Israelites was not based on prerequisites. Yet it was far from passive and unfeeling, emerging from God’s love, mercy, and wisdom. The prophets would later describe it as the selection of a bride for a bridegroom, and Jesus would later describe himself as the bridegroom who came even closer to beckon that bride to his side. God’s own are referred to as the “apple of his eye,” an expression reserved for those who are most endeared to us. The original Hebrew for the expression can be literally translated as “little person of the eye.” The idiom is surprisingly close to the Latin “pupilla,” from which we get the word pupil. The word means “little doll,” and was applied to the dark center of the eye because of the tiny image of oneself that appears when looking into someone’s eyes. In these words, it is if God expresses, “If you get close enough, you will see that it is you who is held in my eyes.” God’s claiming, in other words, is inherently personal; and the story of the Incarnation is further a claim that God would gather every chick, every creature, every soul as a hen would gather her young.

What we often forget is that our own choices are inherently the same. A spirituality based on preference fails to consider the one it rejects, which is particularly ironic when it rejects due to a distaste of exclusivity. If God comes near enough to choose a forgotten nation, to gather the unlikely, to love them out of no merit of their own, and to give them his name regardless, can we not consider this God behind all of the things we have to say about religion and exclusivity? If God comes even nearer, sending a vulnerable son to reach a dejected people, to cleanse them and claim them out of no doing of their own, and to give them his grace regardless, will we not consider the one we reject when we accuse him of injustice, tyranny, or favoritism? For meanwhile, and regardless, the incarnate God of the Christian story continues to give the weak, the unwise, and the forgotten a new place and name: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”

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

Alistair Begg – The Exercise of Three Powers

Alistair Begg

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Luke 2:19

There was an exercise, on the part of this blessed woman, of three powers of her being: her memory–she kept all these things; her affections–she kept them in her heart; her intellect–she pondered them; so memory, affection, and understanding were all exercised about the things that she had heard.

Beloved, remember what you have heard of your Lord Jesus and what He has done for you; make your heart the golden pot of manna to preserve the memorial of the heavenly bread whereon you have fed in days gone by. Let your memory treasure up everything about Christ that you have either felt or known or believed, and then let your fond affections hold Him fast forevermore.

Love the person of your Lord! Bring forth the alabaster box of your heart, even though it be broken, and let all the precious ointment of your affection come streaming onto His pierced feet. Let your intellect be exercised concerning the Lord Jesus. Meditate upon what you read. Stop not at the surface; dive into the depths. Be not as the swallow, which touches the brook with her wing, but as the fish, which penetrates the lowest wave.

Abide with your Lord: Let Him not be to you as a wayfaring man who tarries for a night, but constrain Him, saying, “Stay with us . . . the day is now far spent.”1 Hold Him, and do not let Him go. The word ponder means to weigh. Make ready the balances of judgment. Oh, but where are the scales that can weigh the Lord Christ? “He takes up the coastlands like fine dust”–who shall take Him up? He weighs “the mountains in scales”–in what scales shall we weigh Him?2 If your understanding cannot comprehend, let your affections apprehend; and if your spirit cannot compass the Lord Jesus in the grasp of understanding, let it embrace Him in the arms of affection.

1Luke 24:29

2Isaiah 40:15, 12

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The Christ of Patmos

CharlesSpurgeon

“… one like unto the Son of man,… His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow… And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” Revelation 1:12-18

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 22:41-46

“His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow.” When the Church described him in the Canticles she said “His locks are bushy and black as a raven’s.” How do we understand this apparent discrepancy? My brethren, the Church in the Canticles looked forward, she looked forward to days and ages that were to come, and she perceived his perpetual youth; she pictured him as one who would never grow old, whose hair would ever have the blackness of youth. And do we not bless God that her view of him was true? We can say of Jesus, “Thou hast the dew of thy youth;” but the Church of to-day looks backward to his work as complete; we see him now as the ancient of eternal days. We believe that he is not the Christ of 1800 years ago merely, but, before the day-star knew its place, he was one with the Eternal Father. When we see in the picture his head and his hair white as snow, we understand the antiquity of his reign. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” When all these things were not, when the old mountains had not lifted their hoary heads into the clouds, when the yet more hoary sea had never roared in tempest; ere the lamps of heaven had been lit, when God dwelt alone in his immensity, and the unnavigated waves of ether, if there were such, had never been fanned by the wings of seraphim, and the solemnity of silence had never been startled by the song of cherubim, Jesus was of old in eternity with God. We know how he was despised and rejected of men, but we understand, too, what he meant when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” We know how he who died, when but a little more than thirty years of age, was verily the Father of the everlasting ages, having neither beginning of days nor end of years.

For meditation: Glory in the paradoxes of Christ—seen as old, yet young; God and man; A.D. yet B.C.; David’s Son, yet David’s Lord; a Shepherd, yet a Lamb; the Master, yet a Servant; the Great High Priest, yet the Sacrifice; the Immortal who died and rose again!

Sermon no. 357

27 January (1861)

John MacArthur – Trusting in God’s Power

John MacArthur

“I pray that … you may know … the surpassing greatness of [God’s] power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:18-19).

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer:

Pray for greater spiritual enlightenment and a clearer understanding of your security in Christ. Nothing will rob you of your assurance quicker than unconfessed sin. If that has happened to you, confess it immediately and turn from it. Then ask God to restore to you the joy of your salvation.

For Further Study:

Read 1 Chronicles 29:11-13

What prerogatives did David attribute to God (vv.11-12)?

What was David’s response to God’s power (v.13)?

 

Joyce Meyer – Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, Nobody

Joyce meyer

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. —James 4:17, NIV

Years ago I heard a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

I once read about a shocking incident that shows the principles of this story at work—tragically—in real life. In 1964 Catherine Genovese was stabbed to death over a period of 35 minutes while 38 neighbors watched. Their reaction was described as cold and uncaring, a result of urban apathy and alienation. Later, research by Latane and Darley revealed that no one had helped simply because there were so many observers. The observers looked to one another for guidance on what to do. Since no one was doing anything, they determined that no one should be doing anything.

People are less likely to receive help in time of need as the number of by-standers increases. A student appearing to have an epileptic seizure was helped 85 percent of the time when only one bystander was present, but when several people were standing by and watching he received help only 31 percent of the time.

This study proves that the more people do nothing, the more people will do nothing, but if even a small group of committed people will begin to reach out to others with care and love, smiles and compliments, appreciation and respect, the movement can and will grow.

We are affected by the actions of people around us. We look to one another for direction, often without even knowing it. Most people will agree with the majority even if they really don’t agree.

If, as Christians, we want to demonstrate love to the world around us, we must become examples to others instead of merely following the crowd.

Love OthersToday: When you have the ability to help someone, don’t assume somebody else will do it. Do it yourself.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright

dr_brightHe Orders Your Steps

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:23, KJV).

Miriam Booth – a beautiful, brilliant, cultured woman – daughter of the Salvation Army founder, began her Christian work with great promise. She had unusual success. Before long, however, disease struck her and brought her to the point of death. A friend visiting her one day said it seemed a pity that a woman so capable should be hindered by illness from doing the Lord’s work. “It is great to do the Lord’s work,” she replied with gentle grace, “but it is greater to do the Lord’s will.”

Are you looking for direction, for purpose, for meaning to your life?

The psalmist wanted to make it very plain that the person who is “good,” the one who is clothed with the righteousness, the goodness of Christ, can have the absolute assurance that His steps, one by one, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, are ordered by the Lord (planned and directed by Him).

That wonderful truth is made even more meaningful by the reminder that our “stops” as well are directed by the Lord. He knows when we need to slow down, to wait on Him. As a Christian leader once said, after several weeks of being bedridden: “I needed to be flat on my back so that the only way I could look was up.”

Finding the will of God has been difficult for many people – for most of us at one time or another. But the truth remains that He promises to give wisdom to any who ask, and we have that privilege when we belong to Him by virtue of having received the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.

If you are facing a crossroad in your life, wait on Him and avoid the usual rush to a decision that might be disastrous. “He is faithful who promised.” Depend upon Him to make the way clear as you lay the decision prayerfully before Him.

Bible Reading: Isaiah 58:9-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: When I need wisdom for a specific decision today, I will breathe an earnest prayer for direction. Then I will thank God for the clear leading which He promises and for enabling me to continue living the supernatural life, as He directs my steps.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Dig Deeper

ppt_seal01

Almost everyone loves a good story. Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing has capitalized on that fact. To date, the Chicken Soup series of over 200 titles has sold more than 112 million copies, some translated into more than 40 languages. These true stories, written by everyday people, aim to inspire, encourage and provide hope.

And he began to speak to them in parables.

Mark 12:1

Jesus knew the advantages of telling stories. Stories entertain, stimulate deep thinking and incite decisions. Christ teaching with parables also fulfilled prophecy (Matthew 13:35). And by the Savior sidestepping straightforward speech, it made it more difficult for the Jewish religious leaders of the day to accuse him. What could they charge Him of when He talked about wineskins, finding pearls and building houses?

Are you willing to dig deeper into the parables and what they mean to you? Jesus often said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15) Take a fresh look at the Lord’s parables. What do they say to you for how you want to live out this New Year? Then pray for the leaders and citizens of this country to have “ears to hear” what the Spirit is speaking to them.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 13:18-23

 

 

Greg Laurie – Priorities

greglaurie

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. —Matthew 6:33

A man was out driving in the country during a heavy rainstorm when he came across an old farmer who was surveying the ruins of his barn. He pulled over and asked the farmer what happened.

“Roof fell in,” the farmer replied. “What happened with it? Why did it fall in?” asked the stranger.

“It leaked so long, it just finally rotted through,” the farmer said. “Why in the world didn’t you fix it before it rotted through?”

“Well, sir,” said the farmer, “I just got around to it. When the weather was good, there wasn’t a need for it. And when it rained, it was just too wet to work on.”

Isn’t it amazing that when you want to do something you somehow manage to find the time, no matter how busy you are? But when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, suddenly there is just no room in the schedule.

This can happen when it comes to the Christian life as well. If we are serving God only when it’s convenient, then we are settling for second best. If we make time for the things of God only when something better doesn’t come along first, then we are missing out on what God wants to do in our lives.

How much better it is to make time for the things of God — to put the things of God above everything else. How much better it is to get your priorities right. Instead of making excuses, make time for the Lord. It is not only the simple way to live, but it is also the best way.

Max Lucado – King of the Mountain

Max Lucado

King of the Mountain!  Remember playing that game as a kid? The object is to push, claw, and climb until you get to the top. Once there, you fight to hold your position. Don’t even think about sitting down. Forget enjoying the view. Slack up and you’ll be slapped down. And then you’ll have to start all over again.

As grown-ups we still play King of the Mountain, but now the stakes are higher.  The push for power has come to shove. And most of us are either pushing or being pushed.

I might point out the difference between a passion for excellence and a passion for power. The desire for excellence is a gift of God.  It’s characterized by respect for quality, a yearning to use God’s gifts in a way that pleases him. The quest for excellence is a mark of maturity. But the quest for power— it’s childish!

By the way, you don’t have to play King of the Mountain.

From The Applause of Heaven