Charles Stanley – Finding Strength in the Lord

 

Psalm 31

The world does not offer much hope for those in despair, but God does. Long before he was king, David stepped out of God’s will. In order to get beyond Saul’s reach, he sought refuge from the Philistines, and when he returned to the ashes of his city, Ziklag, he was in utter despair. However, David “strengthened himself in the Lord” (1 Sam. 30:6). Though Scripture is not specific about his moment of surrender, I believe he underwent a five-step spiritual process.

First, David repented. Repentance is a change of mind that results in change of conduct. Recognizing his mistake, David chose a new direction. Second, he recalled God’s past faithfulness in hard times. Third, he reflected on heavenly power. He was emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained, but he had been exhausted before and knew God’s strength was sufficient for him. David had recorded accounts of his experiences with the Lord, which made recollecting easier.

Fourth, David remembered God’s promises. His psalms show that he valued assurances of protection, peace, and help during troubles. Fifth, he resolved to trust God rather than give in to the despair that threatened to overwhelm him. In response to David’s faith, God gave him the strength he desperately needed.

If you surrender to God in moments of despair, He will provide what you need, as He did for David. He wants to strengthen His children so they can bear up under the weight of tough circumstances. So yield to Him—at some point, you’ll no doubt look back and mark the day as the beginning of new growth in your faith.

Our Daily Bread — Sharing A Burger

 

 

 

Read: James 2:14-17
Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 15-16; Luke 10:25-42

 

Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. —Hebrews 13:16

Lee Geysbeek of Compassion International told about a woman who had the opportunity to travel to a distant land to visit the child she sponsored. She decided to take the child, who was living in abject poverty, to a restaurant.

The boy ordered a hamburger, and the sponsor ordered a salad. When the food came to the table, the boy, who assuredly had never had such a meal in his life, surveyed the scene. He looked at his huge hamburger and over at his sponsor’s small salad. Then he took his knife and cut the burger in half, offered it to his sponsor, rubbed his tummy, and asked, “Hungry?”

A child who had next to nothing his whole life was willing to share half of what he had with someone he thought might need more. This child can be a good reminder the next time we meet someone in physical, emotional, or spiritual need. As followers of Jesus, our faith in Him should be mirrored through our actions (James 2:17).

We encounter people in need every day. Some around the globe, some simply around the corner. Some in need of a warm meal, others a kind word. What a difference followers of Christ, who have experienced His love, could make by doing good and sharing (Heb. 13:16). —Dave Branon

Today, Lord, help me see beyond my own problems to the needs of others. Guide my hand to give instead of get, to offer instead of ask, and to bless instead of seeking blessings. May Your name be honored.

To be doing good is man’s most glorious task. —Sophocles

INSIGHT: James makes a strong connection here between invisible faith and the visible works that faith produces. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul declares faith to be completely distinct from works. There is no conflict between these two points, however, for Paul agrees with James in Ephesians 2:10, saying, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Paul says that salvation in Christ is rooted in faith apart from works, but that this faith will result in the kind of works for which God has made us in Christ.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – We Must Play

 

In August of 1963, due to his ailing health and increasing responsibilities, C.S. Lewis announced his retirement from Cambridge. His stepson Douglas Gresham and friend Walter Hooper were sent to the university to sort out his affairs and bring home the two thousand or so books that lined the walls of his Magdalene College office. Knowing the house was already filled to its bursting point with books, the pair wondered all the way home where on earth they would find the space to put them. But Lewis had already contrived an intricate plan for their use.

A nurse named Alec had been hired to stay up nights in case Lewis fell ill and needed his assistance. As the men returned with the enormous load of books, Alec was asleep in his room on the ground floor. As the truck pulled into the driveway, Lewis appeared, cautioning them to silence. “Where’ll we store the books?” Hooper whispered, to which Lewis responded with a wink. Carrying each stack with tedious concern so as not to wake the sleeping victim, the three men piled the works around the nurse’s bed, sealing him in a cocoon of manuscript and literature. When they were finished, the books were stacked nearly to the ceiling, filling every square inch of the room where the snoring nurse still slept.

Much to the relief of the anxious culprits who were waiting outside, Alex finally awoke. From within the insulated tomb, first came sounds of bellowing, and finally the tumbling of the great literary wall. An amused nurse emerged from within the wreckage.

The characters in this story are every bit as spirited as some of the playful personalities from Lewis’s imaginary worlds. These are the whimsical scenes—fiction and non-fiction—that seal in my mind the many weighty lessons I have wrought from him. But perhaps namely: Christianity is a religion with room—and reason—for life and laughter.

Much of the thought and work of C.S. Lewis wrestles with the existential evidences of the life-giving presence of God and the winsome invitations around us that beckon us to participate in this life. I am not alone in saying it was Lewis who first taught me to move toward the questions that reappear though we bury them and to at least be honest about the logical outworkings of the philosophies we hold, even loosely. It was Lewis who taught me to search after God with both heart and mind and energy, but with the wonder and imagination of a child who is able to be startled by the very thing she is looking for. A former atheist, Lewis came to believe with everything in him that Christianity gives an explanation—and a face—to the joy we stumble across, joy that “flickers on the razor-edge of the present and is gone.”

On the one hand, if life is but time and happenstance, why do we laugh or wonder, or experience a desire to play, however fleetingly at all? Is the encounter of delight simply the mind’s attempt to distract us from pain? What good is joy, what purpose is humor or laughter or beauty, if life is but a series of instincts to survive and the universe at a cosmic level is meaningless? On the other hand, if we are made in the image of a holy, loving, imaginative God, how wonderful that God has made us with both logic and laughter, with intrinsic worth and immortal wonder.

Nearing the end of one of his most remarkable lectures, in which he spoke hauntingly of the glory of the God and the immortality of the soul made in God’s image, Lewis added a word of warning: “This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously.”(1)

The resurrected, vicariously human Son of God invites us in to such a story, a creator who made us to live fully, coming in person to confront our desolation and to be our consolation, that we might encounter what the very word means. What if the door on which we have been knocking all our lives will one day open at last? Seeking and playing, finding and living may well be among life’s greatest efforts.

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

(1) C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory (New York: Harper, 1980), 46.

(2) Photo by Ben May Media. http://benmaymedia.zenfolio.com/ Used by permission. Bangalore, India. These children were playing a board game at one of Agni Raksha’s’ recovery facilities. Agni Raksha helps burn victims who are burned maliciously – sometimes if a dowry is not paid by a father marrying off his daughter, the husband or mother-in-law will light the girl on fire. Often times when a child sees their mother on fire, they run to try and help them and get severely burned themselves.

Alistair Begg – Comfort on the Hill

 

…the place that is called The Skull. Luke 23:33

The hill of comfort is the hill that is called The Skull or Calvary; the house of consolation is built with the wood of the cross; the temple of heavenly blessing is based upon the riven rock–riven by the spear that pierced His side. No scene in sacred history ever gladdens the soul like Calvary’s tragedy.

Is it not strange, the darkest hour

That ever dawned on sinful earth,

Should touch the heart with softer power,

For comfort, than an angel’s mirth?

That to the Cross the mourner’s eye should turn,

Sooner than where the stars of Bethlehem burn?

Light springs from the midday-midnight of Golgotha, and every herb of the field blooms sweetly beneath the shadow of the once accursed tree. In that place of thirst, grace has dug a fountain that runs continually with water pure as crystal, each drop capable of alleviating the woes of mankind. You who have had your seasons of conflict will confess that it was not at Olivet that you ever found comfort, not on the hill of Sinai, nor on Tabor; but Gethsemane and Golgotha have been a means of comfort to you. The bitter herbs of Gethsemane have often taken away the pains in your life; and the groans of Calvary yield rare and rich comfort.

We never would have known Christ’s love in all its heights and depths if He had not died; nor could we guess the Father’s deep affection if He had not given His Son to die. The common mercies we enjoy all sing of love, just as the seashell, when we put it to our ears, whispers the sounds of the deep sea from which it came; but if we desire to hear the ocean itself, we must not look at everyday blessings, but at the transactions of the crucifixion. If you want to know love, then go afresh to Calvary and see the Man of Sorrows die.

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

 

Charles Spurgeon – The best of masters

 

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” John 14:27

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

It is the same with the world at this day. Everyone greets us in writing with a “Dear sir,” or a “My dear sir,” and concludes with “Yours very truly,” and “Yours sincerely.” We call all “friends,” and if we meet but casually we express the utmost anxiety with regard to one another’s health, and we carefully enquire after each other’s families; when perhaps we shall no sooner have passed by the person than we shall forget his existence, and certainly shall entertain no anxious thoughts with regard to his welfare, nor any loving remembrance of him. The world gives very largely when it gives compliments. Oh, what blessings would descend upon all our heads, if the blessings uttered could be blessings bestowed. Even when the “Good bye” is given, which translated means, “God be with you”—if that could be but true, and if God could be with us, in answer to that prayer, so little understood, how rich might we be! But alas! the way of the world is, “Be ye warmed and filled;” but it has not that which should warm, nor that which should fill. It is a world of words; high-sounding, empty, all-deceiving words. Now this is not so with Christ. If he says “Peace be with you,” his benediction is most true and full of sweet sincerity. He left his own peace in heaven, that he might give the peace which he enjoyed with his Father, to us in this world of sorrow, for thus he puts it, “My peace I give unto you.” Christ, when he blesses, blesses not in word only, but in deed. The lips of truth cannot promise more than the hands of love will surely give. He gives not in compliment. Furthermore, even when the world’s wishes of peace are sincere, what are they but mere wishes?

For meditation: Greetings and best wishes from the lips of a Christian should be modelled on Christ, not the world. Do you go in for the “polite lie” or are your concerns for others genuine (Philippians 2:20; 3 John 2)?

Sermon no. 247
10 April (1859)

John MacArthur – Rejecting Worldly Ambitions

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).

Only Christ can satisfy your deepest needs.

Within every man and woman is a hunger and thirst only God can satisfy. That’s why Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Sadly, most people search for happiness in the wrong places. The prodigal son in Luke 15 is one example. He turned from God to pursue sinful pleasures, but soon discovered that sin cannot satisfy a hungering soul. That’s when he returned to his father’s house, where he was given a great feast—a picture of salvation.

The rich fool in Luke 12 thought that amassing possessions was the key to happiness, saying to himself, “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops? . . . This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (vv. 17- 21). Unlike the prodigal son, the rich fool never turned to God in repentance. Consequently he lost everything.

The rich fool is typical of many people today: they ignore Christ and attempt to fill the void with worldly pleasures. Most are oblivious to the eternal peril that awaits them if they don’t repent.

Those who love God shun worldliness, pursue righteousness, and know the satisfaction that comes from pleasing Him. That’s the essence of the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all [you need] will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Keep that goal uppermost in your mind as you face the challenge of each new day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He satisfies the deepest desires of your heart.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 4:28-37.

  • What was Nebuchadnezzar’s sin?
  • How did God punish Him?
  • How did Nebuchadnezzar respond after being punished?

 

Joyce Meyer – Where’s My Pony?

 

My son, attend to my words; consent and submit to my sayings. Let them not depart from your sight; keep them in the center of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh.   —Proverbs 4:20-22

In these verses, the writer used the words, attend to my words, which is another way of exhorting us to meditate. I love the fact that God not only frequently tells us to meditate—to ponder seriously—His Word, but He frequently promises results. It’s as if God says, “Okay, Joyce, if you meditate, here’s what I’m going to do for you.”

In this passage, the promise is life and health. Isn’t that amazing? It’s even a promise that when you contemplate and brood over the Bible, it will affect your physical body.

We’ve known for a long time that when we fill our minds with healthy, positive thoughts, it affects our body and improves our health. This is just another way of repeating this truth. Or take the opposite viewpoint: Suppose we fill our minds with negative thoughts and remind ourselves how frail we are or how sick we were the day before. We soon become so filled with self-pity and self-defeating thoughts that we get even sicker.

In the previous pages, I’ve already mentioned the idea of prosperity (see Psalm 1 and Joshua 1:8). I believe that by “prosperity,” God means that we’ll be enriched and prosper in every part of our lives. It’s not a promise of more material wealth, but an assurance of being able to enjoy all the wonderful blessings we have.

Recently when I meditated on several passages in the Bible, I realized God was showing me that the Word has hidden treasures in it—powerful, life-giving secrets—which God wants to reveal to us. They are there for those who muse, ponder, and contemplate the Word of God.

What we often forget is that God wants our fellowship, our company, and our time with Him. If we want a deep relationship with our heavenly Father, we have to make quality time for God. I recently heard someone say, “Quality time comes out of quantity times.” In other words, it’s only as we spend time with God on a regular, daily basis that we have those special, life-changing moments. We can’t program them to happen, but if we’re there on a daily basis, God will cause some of those times to be quality times of special blessing.

  1. L. Moody once said that the Bible would keep us from sin, or sin would keep us from the Bible. That’s the principle here. As we concentrate on God’s Word and allow it to fill our thoughts, we will push away all desire to sin or to displease God in any way. We become more deeply rooted in Him. Again, think of it in the negative. When our mind remains focused on our problems all the time, we become consumed with them. If we meditate on what’s wrong with others, we see even more flaws and faults. But when we concentrate on God’s Word, light comes into our souls.

I want to go back one more time to that powerful statement in Philippians 4:8. No matter which translation or paraphrase we read it in, the message is powerful and exactly what we need to do to condition our minds for victory.

Here’s Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

Dear Father in heaven, teach me the blessings of pondering Your Word, of filling my heart and mind with Your spiritual manna. May I grow into maturity and become more and more like Your Son, Jesus. It’s in His name that I pray. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – His Gifts and Powers 

 

“It is the same and only Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each of us should have” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

As I counsel in the area of Christian service, I find much confusion among many Christians regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Believers often are so involved in trying to discover or receive additional spiritual gifts that they are not developing and using their known gifts and abilities to do God’s will.

For this reason, I caution against going to great lengths to discover one’s spiritual gifts. Rather than emphasize gifts, I encourage a person to surrender fully to the lordship of Jesus Christ and appropriate by faith the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Then, by faith and hard work, while depending on the Holy Spirit, a person can set out with determination to accomplish that to which God has called him.

Paul wrote about this important principle in his letter to the Philippians:

“Dearest friends, when I was there with you, you were always so careful to follow my instructions. And now that I am away you must be even more careful to do the good things that result from being saved, obeying God with deep reverence, shrinking back from all that might displease Him….

“For I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power” (Philippians 2:12; 4-13). This, of course, can be done only if a Christian totally submits himself to the lordship of Jesus Christ and the control of the Holy Spirit.

Bible Reading: I Corinthians 12:1-10

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I’ll be more concerned about being yielded to the moment-by-moment direction and control of God’s Holy Spirit than about discovering my spiritual gift(s).

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – With Him

 

When Jesus went into the grave, your sin went with Him (Ephesians 2:2). When He rose, if you believe, your spirit rose with Him (2:5). When He returned to Heaven, spiritually speaking, you are seated with Him in heavenly places (2:6). Now His Spirit lives inside of you (I Corinthians 6:19) and “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)

Made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:5

Until that day, what are believers to do? You are not saved by good works, but you are called to do them (Ephesians 2:8-10). You are to use whatever gift you have to serve others (I Peter 4:10). Consider your skills, talents and resources, and how you can use one of them to help someone this week – not to earn your salvation, but in gratitude for it.

Pray, too, for your leaders and the citizens of this nation to receive the free gift of salvation and do the good works they are called to do.

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-17

Greg Laurie – The Matter of the Heart

 

“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”  —Matthew 15:8

Have you ever found yourself distracted during a time of worship? As you’re singing, maybe you’re thinking, I am so sick of this song. Why are we still singing this song? Or maybe you’re looking around and saying to yourself, I’m more spiritual than anyone here. I’m such an awesome worshiper. Then again, you might be thinking, I wonder what I should eat after church?

During a worship service, it’s possible to have no thought of God whatsoever. But here’s what we need to know: Worship is not an art form; it is a heart form. God looks at what is going on inside. Quoting from Isaiah, Jesus said, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matthew 15:8).

Jesus told the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector who both went to the temple to pray. Tax collectors were despised in the eyes of nearly everyone, while Pharisees were the most religious guys around. Jesus said that the “Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’ ” (Luke 18:11–12).

The tax collector, however, stood at a distance in the temple. He wouldn’t even look up to heaven as he beat his breast and prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

Jesus concluded by saying, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (verse 14). Why? Because his heart was right toward God.

When we worship, let’s do it from our heart. Because the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.

 

Max Lucado – Into His Likeness

 

Strange as it may seem, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that Christians actually have within themselves a portion of the very thoughts and mind of Christ. Strange is the word! If I have the mind of Jesus, why do I still think so much like me? Why do I still have the hang-ups of Max? Why do I still hate traffic jams?

God has ambitious plans for us. The same one who saved your soul longs to remake your heart. His plan is nothing short of a total transformation. Colossians 3:10 reminds us, “You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God.” Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus! Perhaps in seeing him, we will see what we can become.

From Just Like Jesus

Night Light for Couples – A Most Extraordinary Event

A Most Extraordinary Event – by Jo Ann Larsen

Larry and Jo Ann were an ordinary couple. They lived in an ordinary house on an ordinary street. Like any other ordinary couple, they struggled to make ends meet and to do the right things for their children. They were ordinary in yet another way—they had their squabbles.

Much of their conversation concerned what was wrong in their marriage and who was to blame—until one day when a most extraordinary event took place.

“You know, Jo Ann, I’ve got a magic chest of drawers. Every time I open the drawers, they’re full of socks and underwear,” Larry said. “I want to thank you for filling them all these years.”

Jo Ann stared at her husband over the top of her glasses. “What do you want, Larry?”

“Nothing. I just want you to know I appreciate those magic drawers.”

This wasn’t the first time Larry had done something odd, so Jo Ann pushed the incident out of her mind until a few days later.

“Jo Ann, thank you for recording so many correct check numbers in the ledger this month. You put down the right numbers fifteen out of sixteen times. That’s a record.”

Disbelieving what she had heard, Jo Ann looked up from her mending. “Larry, you’re always complaining about my recording the wrong check numbers. Why stop now?”

“No reason. I just wanted you to know I appreciate the effort you’re making.”

Jo Ann shook her head and went back to her mending. “What’s gotten into him?” she mumbled to herself.

Nevertheless, the next day when Jo Ann wrote a check at the grocery store, she glanced at her checkbook to confirm that she had put down the right check number. “Why do I suddenly care about those dumb check numbers?” she asked herself.

She tried to disregard the incident, but Larry’s strange behavior intensified.

“Jo Ann, that was a great dinner,” he said one evening. “I appreciate all your effort. Why, in the past fifteen years I’ll bet you’ve fixed over 14,000 meals for me and the kids.”

Then, “Gee, Jo Ann, the house looks spiffy. You’ve really worked hard to get it looking so good.” And even, “Thanks, Jo Ann, for just being you. I really enjoy your company.”

Jo Ann was growing worried. Where’s the sarcasm, the criticism? she wondered.

Her fears that something peculiar was happening to her husband were confirmed by sixteen‐year‐old Shelly, who complained, “Dad’s gone bonkers, Mom. He just told me I looked nice. Even though I’m wearing all this makeup and these sloppy clothes, he still said it. That’s not Dad, Mom. What’s wrong with him?”

Whatever was wrong, Larry didn’t get over it. Day in and day out he continued focusing on the positive.

Over the weeks, Jo Ann grew more accustomed to her mate’s unusual behavior and occasionally even gave him a grudging “Thank you.” She prided herself on taking it all in stride, until one day something so peculiar happened that she became completely discombobulated.

“I want you to take a break,” Larry said. “I am going to do the dishes. So please take your hands off that frying pan and leave the kitchen.” (Long, long pause.) “Thank you, Larry. Thank you very much!”

Jo Ann’s step was now a little lighter, her self‐confidence higher, and once in a while she hummed. She didn’t seem to have as many blue moods anymore. I rather like Larry’s new behavior, she thought.

That would be the end of the story except one day another most extraordinary event took place. This time it was Jo Ann who spoke.

“Larry,” she said, “I want to thank you for going to work and providing for us all these years. I don’t think I’ve ever told you how much I appreciate it.”

No matter how hard Jo Ann has pushed for an answer, Larry has never revealed the reason for his dramatic change of behavior, and so it will likely remain one of life’s mysteries. But it’s one I’m thankful to live with.

You see, I am Jo Ann.

Looking ahead…

As Larry demonstrated, a little encouragement can transform a marriage. None of us—king or queen, president or business leader, husband, housewife or child—is without the human craving for appreciation. Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” A kind word is like that. It fuels our energy and infuses us with new enthusiasm for facing the challenges life throws our way.

I invite you during this week’s discussion to consider the incredible power of encouragement. As you apply each principle, I think you’ll find that the sun shines a little brighter and your day runs a bit smoother. You might begin by simply telling your partner how much you appreciate having him or her around.

– James C Dobson

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson