Charles Stanley – Spiritual Discouragement

Charles Stanley

Psalm 34:1-8

Discouragement can result from different scenarios, but Satan is the instigator. He will do anything he can to dishearten us and keep our focus on negative things instead of on God.

A subtle form of spiritual discouragement is the idea that we cannot please God. This is a trap of the Devil, and too many Christians are ensnared by it. If we were to write down everything we thought we must do to please God, how long would that list be before it was complete? We would assume we should read the Bible more, pray more, give more, and witness more. We could probably fill up both sides of the paper. Then we would look at our list and realize it’s impossible to accomplish all of it. That’s the trap. What pleases the Lord is our obedience, not our adherence to a long checklist of duties.

Unanswered prayer is another source of discouragement. When we present a request to the Lord, He does not necessarily answer in the manner or timing that would be our preference. When that is the case, we will far too often allow discouragement to creep in, and from there, we might decide to give up on prayer.

Yesterday we saw that focusing on the Lord is essential for breaking the chains of discouragement. When you turn to God, it is also helpful to pray three things aloud. First, thank Him for being with you while you feel disheartened. Second, admit He is in control of your life. And third, acknowledge that He is good and will ultimately work the circumstances for your benefit.

 

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Better Than Planned

Our Daily Bread

Ephesians 5:15-21

Giving thanks always for all things. —Ephesians 5:20

Interruptions are nothing new. Rarely does a day go by as planned.

Life is filled with inconveniences. Our plans are constantly thwarted by forces beyond our control. The list is long and ever-changing: Sickness. Conflict. Traffic jams. Forgetfulness. Appliance malfunctions. Rudeness. Laziness. Impatience. Incompetence.

What we cannot see, however, is the other side of inconvenience. We think it has no purpose other than to discourage us, make life more difficult, and thwart our plans. However, inconvenience could be God’s way of protecting us from some unseen danger, or it could be an opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace and forgiveness. It might be the start of something even better than we had planned. Or it could be a test to see how we respond to adversity. Whatever it is, even though we may not know God’s reason, we can be assured of His motive—to make us more like Jesus and to further His kingdom on earth.

To say that God’s followers throughout history have been “inconvenienced” would be an understatement. But God had a purpose. Knowing this, we can thank Him, being confident that He is giving us an opportunity to redeem the time (Eph. 5:16,20). —Julie Ackerman Link

Lord, so often it’s the little things in life that get

to me, and there seem to be so many of them.

Whenever I’m tempted to lose my temper, blame

someone, or just give up, help me see You.

What happens to us is not nearly as important as what God does in us and through us.

Bible in a year: Exodus 19-20; Matthew 18:21-35

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Sharing Humanity

Ravi Z

During a recent stint on jury duty, I had the unique opportunity to ride to and from the courthouse on public transportation—the Metro bus. I say unique opportunity because public transportation affords one exposure to the wide variety of people who live in the city and who make their way around its bustling streets and byways by taking the bus. In fact, a wide gamut of society rides together crammed on the Metro bus. Business people hurry to get to work, multi-tasking laptop, cellphone, and paper folders full of projects and to do lists. Students rush to get to school sequestering themselves from the world of the bus by burying their heads in books or tuning into their iPods. There are also many homeless individuals who ride the bus in the “free zone” downtown back and forth between stops, affording a movable shelter from the cold.

Sheer observation of this dynamic diversity was often the extent of my thoughts as I rode. One morning, a group of developmentally disabled students from the local high school got on the bus with me. I tried to engage in light conversation with the few who sat down next to me, asking where they were going in the city. One young woman just stared at me blankly; another, perpetually talking about absolutely everything and nothing at the same time tried to engage me, but not with an answer. Two other young men simply looked at me, offered a vacant smile, and then returned to fiddling with objects to keep their hands and minds occupied.

As the bus moved forward towards the next stop with our unique human cargo, I was overcome with emotion. I wasn’t crying because I felt sorry for these disabled students or worried about their quality of lives—although I do and I did that day. I wasn’t overcome as a result of my admiration for the adult workers whose vocation led them to care for these students who are often the least and the last—although I do, and I did. I was overcome with emotion because I suddenly identified with these disabled individuals. Though I appear “able” bodied—of sound mind and well put together—I realized that I am just like they are.

Like these disabled students who are broken in body and mind, I have experienced grief in my life that has left me profoundly broken in spirit. As a result of this experience, there are times that I ramble on filling the air with meaningless pieties or pronouncements. Or I offer nothing but a blank stare when I should offer words of comfort. While my appearance is ordered, I am just as distorted and damaged on the inside, confused, and in need of care and oversight because of my disabilities. Though their eyes are vacant or their tongues loll, though they mumble meaningless phrases or say nothing at all, they are not so different from me nor am I from them.

It was this kind of profound identification with another human being—recognizing that though we appear different on the surface we are related to one another—that prompted Jesus to tell a parable about two debtors. As he was dining with religious leaders, a woman had interrupted their festivities by washing Jesus’s feet with her tears and with the finest perfume. Incensed because of her intrusion and asserting his own self-righteousness as one of the faithful, a religious leader remarked to himself that if Jesus was any sort of a prophet he would know what sort of person this woman is who is touching him and that she was a sinner. In the parable Jesus then tells, a moneylender had two debtors. One owed a large amount of money and the other a small amount. Both debtors were unable to repay their debt. Yet the moneylender graciously forgave both of them their debts. Jesus asked the religious leader, “Which of them therefore will love him more?” The religious leader answered, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

The religious leader answered correctly; yet did he understand that he was a debtor in need of forgiveness? Did he understand that he was just like the sinful woman who anointed Jesus feet with her tears and with the finest perfume? We are not told. But later we are given another story of a religious leader and a tax collector who go to the temple to pray. The religious leader thanks God that he is not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. The tax collector will not even lift his eyes, but beats his breast and cries out, “Have mercy on me, the sinner.” Jesus argues that it is this man who goes down to his house justified rather than the one who believes himself to be religious.(1)

It is so easy, if one counts oneself among the ‘faithful’—regardless of religious affiliation or tradition—to cease understanding that one needs the same mercy as the poorest soul or vilest offender. Just as I was reminded of the true state of my soul as I was encountered by the profoundly disabled students, so these stories of Jesus remind those with ears to hear of our shared identity and our profound need. We share a need for mercy just as we share DNA.

Margaret Manning is a member of the writing and speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) See both stories in Luke 7:40-50; 18:9-14.

 

 

Alistair Begg – Glorify and Praise God

Alistair Begg

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Luke 2:20

What was the subject of their praise? They praised God for what they had heard–for the good tidings of great joy that a Savior was born unto them. Let us copy them; let us also raise a song of thanksgiving that we have heard of Jesus and His salvation.

They also praised God for what they had seen. There is the sweetest music–what we have experienced, what we have felt within, what we have made our own. It is not enough to hear about Jesus: Mere hearing may tune the harp, but the fingers of living faith must create the music. If you have seen Jesus with the God-giving sight of faith, suffer no cobwebs to linger among the harp-strings, but loud with the praise of sovereign grace, awake your psaltery and harp.

One point for which they praised God was the agreement between what they had heard and what they had seen. Observe the last sentence–“as it had been told them.” Have you not found the Gospel to be in yourselves just what the Bible said it would be? Jesus said He would give you rest–have you not enjoyed the sweetest peace in Him?

He said you would have joy and comfort and life through believing in Him–have you not received all these? Are not His ways ways of pleasantness, and His paths paths of peace? Surely you can say with the queen of Sheba, “The half was not told me.”1

I have found Christ more sweet than His servants ever said He was. I looked upon His likeness as they painted it, but it was a mere daub compared with Himself; for the King in His beauty outshines all imaginable loveliness. Surely what we have “seen” keeps pace with, no, far exceeds what we have “heard.” Let us, then, glorify and praise God for a Savior so precious and so satisfying.

11 Kings 10:7

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The kingly priesthood of the saints

CharlesSpurgeon

“And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:10

Suggested Further Reading: Mark 14:32-42

Jesus said, “I will take the cup of salvation;” and he did take it—the cup of our deliverance. Bitter were its drops; gall lay in its depths; there were groans, and sighs, and tears, within the red mixture; but he took it all, and drank it to its dregs, and swallowed all the awful draught. All was gone. He drank the cup of salvation, and he ate the bread of affliction. See him, as he drinks the cup in Gethsemane, when the fluid of that cup did mingle with his blood, and make each drop a scalding poison. Mark how the hot feet of pain did travel down his veins. See how each nerve is twisted and contorted with his agony. Behold his brow covered with sweat; witness the agonies as they follow each other into the very depths of his soul. Speak, you lost, and tell what hell’s torment means; but you cannot tell what the torments of Gethsemane were. Oh! the deep unutterable! There was a depth which couched beneath, when our Redeemer bowed his head, when he placed himself between the upper and nether millstones of his Father’s vengeance, and when his whole soul was ground to powder. Ah! that wrestling God-man—that suffering man of Gethsemane! Weep o’er, saints—weep o’er him; when you see him rising from that prayer in the garden, marching forth to his cross; when you picture him hanging on his cross four long hours in the scorching sun, overwhelmed by his Father’s passing wrath—when you see his side streaming with gore—when ye hear his death-shriek, “It is finished,”—and see his lips all parched, and moistened by nothing save the vinegar and the gall,—ah! then prostrate yourselves before that cross, bow down before that sufferer, and say, “Thou hast made us—thou hast made us what we are; we are nothing without thee.”

For meditation: Creating us could not have been easier for God—it took just a word. (Genesis 1:26,27). Making us right with himself could not have given him more trouble. The work of salvation was terribly hard for the Lord Jesus Christ, but he completed it. It would have been absolutely impossible for us.

Sermon no. 10

28 January (1855)

John MacArthur – Striving According to God’s Power

John MacArthur

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer:

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

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

For Further Study:

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

 

Joyce Meyer – And God Said . . . And It Was So

Joyce meyer

And God said, Let us make man in our image. . . . So God created man in his own image. —Genesis1:26 –27 KJV

According to Genesis, God created everything we see with words! He called them into being:

“And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. . . .

“And God said, Let there be a firmament [the expanse of the sky] in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters [below] from the waters [above]. . . .

“And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be collected into one place [of standing], and let the dry land appear. And it was so” (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9).

Everything God said came to pass, and you are created in God’s image, and your words also have power. Your words can call things into being, so use them wisely! Speak in agreement with and believe in God’s plan for your life, and you will see it come to pass.

Power Thought: My words have the power to create my reality.

 

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Can Be Sure This Is God’s Will

dr_bright

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, KJV).

“Always give thanks for everything?” my friend Jim remarked with impatience bordering on anger. “How can I give thanks to God when my wife is dying of cancer? I would be a fool, and besides I don’t feel thankful. My heart is breaking. I can’t stand to see her suffer any more.”

Jim was a Christian, but he had not yet learned how to appropriate the supernatural resources of God by faith. He had not heard that the Holy Spirit produces the supernatural, spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He did not know that the Holy Spirit was ready and eager to lift his load, fill his heart with peace and enable him to demonstrate a thankful attitude, even in times of heartache, sorrow and disappointment.

About the same time, I had a call from a beloved friend and fellow staff member, Bob. “I’m calling to ask for your prayers,” he said. “My wife has an inoperable brain tumor, but we are trusting the Lord for a miracle. We are both thanking God, for we know He makes no mistakes and we are ready for whatever happens.”

Bob and Alice were controlled by the Holy Spirit, responding as Spirit-filled persons are equipped to respond. Though God did not heal Alice’s ailing body, He performed a greater miracle by providing the supernatural resources which enabled Bob and Alice to praise and give thanks to God as a powerful testimony of His love and grace in their behalf.

Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:11-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that “all things work together for good to those who love God” – and that includes me – I determine through the enabling of the Holy Spirit to obey God today as an expression of faith by thanking Him in everything and for everything.

 

 

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – First Priority

ppt_seal01

George Mueller, a Christian evangelist, devoted his life to the care of over 10,000 orphans. He built several homes and established 117 schools, yet he never went into debt. How did he do this? He relied on God and prayed first for all of the needs of his ministry. On one occasion, 300 children were ready for their day, but there was no food for breakfast. Mr. Mueller had the children sit at the table to pray. As they finished, a baker knocked at the door and provided bread. Then a milkman whose cart had broken down knocked and provided fresh milk because it was going to spoil. Mueller was a true example of praying first to have a successful ministry.

We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

Acts 6:4

In today’s scripture, the apostles committed to make prayer their first priority. They knew nothing they attempted would be successful without dependence upon God.

As you work towards whatever ministry you are called to, don’t do it in your own strength. Pray first so the power of God might be manifested in your actions. Then intercede for the nation’s leaders to genuinely commit themselves to prayer as they lead the country.

Recommended Reading: I Timothy 2:1-8

 

Greg Laurie – Chasing Sardines

greglaurie

Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, ll your soul, and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

—Matthew 22:37–39

Some years ago, three hundred whales were found marooned on a beach. Scientists speculated that the whales had been chasing sardines and became trapped in shallow water when the tide went out. Now, that’s an amazing thing. By chasing little sardines, these gigantic creatures were ultimately led to their doom.

Many people waste their lives chasing sardines, so to speak. They major on the minors and have no clear focus or objective in mind. But God tells us what should be the primary goal of every Christian. If we can get our priorities straight in this area, everything else will come together. In fact, if we can get these two principles operative in our lives, then all the commandments of God will become a natural outflow of our commitment to Him. What are these principles? One, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NLT), and two, “Love your neighbor as yourself ” (verse 39, NLT).

When Jesus spoke these words, He was identifying what should be the focus of every person. Essentially, He was saying that love is the basis for all obedience. If you really love God, then you will naturally want to do the things that please Him.

It has been said that if you aim at nothing, you are bound to hit it. What is your highest priority in life? What are your goals? We all channel our energies and passions and thoughts toward something in life. What is it for you?

Max Lucado – One of a Kind

Max Lucado

I have a sweater I never wear. It’s too small.  Some of the buttons are missing, the thread is frazzled.  I should throw it away. I’ll never wear it again. Logic says to clear out the space, get rid of the sweater. But love won’t let me.

What’s unusual about it? It wasn’t produced on an assembly line. It’s the creation of a devoted mother expressing her love. That sweater is unique. It’s one of a kind.  It can’t be replaced. And although the sweater has lost all of its use, it’s lost none of its value.

That must have been what the psalmist had in mind when he wrote, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). You were knitted together. You aren’t an accident. You weren’t mass-produced. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on this earth by the Master Craftsman.

From The Applause of Heaven