Charles Stanley – Ways We Become Old

 

Genesis 47:7-9

Sometimes the best way to understand a concept is by studying its opposite. Yesterday we learned how to stay young while growing old. Today we will take a look at some of the ways that we can age ourselves.

Jacob was a man who made himself old by looking at his circumstances from a negative perspective. Our passage today reveals that he was dissatisfied with his life. Although there are many qualities in Jacob that we can admire, this is not one of them.

Our focus will determine our level of satisfaction in life. Those who stay young in spirit regularly look for evidence of the Almighty in their lives—ways He is working, providing, loving, and guiding. Without this perspective, the pain and problems of life can take center stage, which can easily lead to discouragement and grumbling.

We can also age ourselves by carrying burdens that believers are not meant to bear. Jesus Christ invites the weary and heavy-laden to come to Him and find rest (Matt. 11:28-30). He wants us to get under His yoke and allow Him to carry our load of cares and concerns. Our Savior has a solution for every burden and wants to help us transfer them to Him.

What are you carrying that is aging your body, soul, and spirit? Try Jesus’ solutions: For a bitter, unforgiving spirit, forgive; for guilt, confess; for regret over past sin, believe Christ has already forgiven you; and for anxiety, cast it on God, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Of Death and Sleep

For some, the fear of not being awake is akin to the fear of not being. Public Radio International personality Ira Glass spent a program discussing his own fear of sleep, along with others who find something worrisome in the altered, vulnerable state of slumber:

“I’d lie awake at night scared to go to sleep,” says Glass of himself as a child. “‘Cause sleep seemed no different than death, you know? You were gone. Not moving, not talking, not thinking. Not aware. Not aware. What could be more frightening? What could be bigger?”(1)

Others describe a similar sense of foreboding in the still of night that is irrationally paralyzing for them: a seven year-old trains himself to resist sleep, a young student describes her extensive intake of caffeine and denial. But one man, speaking bluntly of the fear of death in the middle of the night, attests to the altogether rational quality of his fear. “It’s not an irrational fear… You understand that you’re a mortal; your life is going to be over at some point. You’re fighting the worst enemy in the world as you lie there in bed….you’re trying to fight death and there’s no way you can win.”(2)

Glass closes the program with an excerpt of Philip Larkin’s “Aubade,” a poem about waking at 4 a.m. and staring around the bedroom, and seeing “what’s really always there:/ Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,/ Making all thought impossible but how/ And where and when I shall myself die.” Larkin, who died a bleak philosopher at 63, continues:

This is a special way of being afraid

No trick dispels. Religion used to try,

That vast moth-eaten musical brocade

Created to pretend we never die,

And specious stuff that says no rational being

Can fear a thing it cannot feel, not seeing

that this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,

No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,

Nothing to love or link with,

The anaesthetic from which none come round.

Larkin is not the first poet to draw attention to sleep’s grasp of death’s hand, a hand most admit at times fearing, at times simply hoping to outrun. Keats referred to sleep as the “sweet embalmer,” and Donne was convinced that both death and sleep are the same type of action. Glass is right to point to death as the worst enemy of which there is no escape, and sleep, which is similarly unavoidable, is perhaps the disquieting reminder of that which we attempt to deny the rest of the day. For how much of our lives and livelihoods are aimed at outrunning the reality of our deaths? The forces of culture that insist we give up an hour of sleep here or two hours there—the grinding schedules, the unnerving stock piles of e-mail in need of responses, the early-taught/early-learned push for more and more productivity—are part and parcel of the forces that urge us to stop time itself, to live anti-wrinkles, anti-aging, anti-dying. Sleep could well be the daily reminder that some of us need to reclaim the reality of death, the beauty and brevity of life.

This is precisely the rationale with which author and professor Lauren Winner urged the world to sleep more as a means of waking to oft-unchallenged social cues and fears. Writes Winner, “Not only does sleep have evident social consequences, not only would sleeping more make us better neighbors and friends and family members and citizens. Sleeping well may also be part of Christian discipleship, at least in our time and place. It’s not just that a countercultural embrace of sleep bears witness to values higher than ‘the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.’ A night of good sleep—a week, or month, or year of good sleep—also testifies to the basic Christian story of Creation. We are creatures, with bodies that are finite and contingent.”(3) We are, likewise, bodies living within a culture generally terrified of aging, uncomfortable with death, and desperate for our accomplishments to distract us. The demands that our bodies make for sleep is a good reminder that we are mere creatures, that life is to be revered, and death will come.

This is indeed a sobering reminder, but it need not be only a dire reminder. For to admit there is no escaping the enemy of death is not to say we are left without an ally: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, shall live.”(4) The one who made this claim made it knowing that death would come to all of us, but longing to show the world that it is an enemy he would defeat. Perhaps sleep, then, providing a striking image of finite bodies that will lie down and cease to be, can simultaneously provide us a rousing image of bodies that will rise again.

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

(1) Ira Glass, This American Life, 361: “Fear of Sleep” August 8, 2008.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Lauren Winner, Books & Culture, January/February 2006, Vol. 12, No. 1, pg. 7.

(4) John 11:25-26.

Alistair Begg – Our Fault

 

God, our God, shall bless us.Psalm 67:6

It is strange how little use we make of the spiritual blessings that God gives us, but it is even stranger that we make such little use of God Himself. Though He is “our God,” we scarcely give ourselves to Him, and we ask so little of Him.

How seldom do we seek counsel at the hands of the Lord! How often do we go about our business without seeking His guidance! In our troubles how we constantly struggle to bear our burdens ourselves instead of casting them upon the Lord, that He may sustain us! This is not because we may not, for the Lord seems to say, “I am yours, soul; come and make use of Me as you will. You may freely come to My store, and the more you come, the more welcome you will be.”

It is our own fault if we do not enjoy the riches of our God. Since you have such a friend, and He invites you, draw from Him daily. Never be wanting while you have a God to go to; never fear or faint while you have God to help you; go to your treasure and take whatever you need–there is all that you can ever want. Learn the divine skill of making God all things to you. He can supply you with everything; or better still, He can be everything to you.

Let me urge you, then, to make use of your God. Make use of Him in prayer. Go to Him often, because He is your God. Will you fail to use such a great privilege? Run to Him; tell Him all your needs. Use Him constantly by faith at all times. If some dark providence has cast a shadow on you, use God as a sun; if some strong enemy has attacked you, find in Jehovah a shield, for He is a sun and shield to His people. If you have lost your way in the mazes of life, use Him as a guide, for He will direct you. Whatever you are, and wherever you are, remember, God is just what you want and just where you want, and that He can do everything you want.

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

Charles Spurgeon – Gospel missions

 

“And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.” Acts 13:49

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 28:16-20

The claim of authority ensures a degree of progress. How did Mohammed come to have so strong a religion in his time? He was all alone, and he went into the market-place and said, “I have received a revelation from heaven.” He persuaded men to believe it. He said, “I have a revelation from heaven.” People looked at his face; they saw that he looked upon them earnestly as believing what he said, and some five or six of them joined him. Did he prove what he said? Not he. “You must,” he said, “believe what I say, or there is no Paradise for you.” There is a power in that kind of thing, and wherever he went his statement was believed, not on the ground of reasoning, but on his authority, which he declared to be from Allah; and a century later, a thousand sabres had flashed from a thousand sheaths, and his word had been proclaimed through Africa, Turkey, Asia, and even in Spain. The man claimed authority—he claimed divinity; therefore he had power. Take again the increase of Mormonism. What has been its strength? Simply this—the assertion of power from heaven. That claim is made, and the people believe it, and now they have missionaries in almost every country of the habitable globe, and the book of Mormon is translated into many languages. Though there never could be a delusion more transparent, or a counterfeit less skilful, and more lying upon the very surface, yet this simple pretension to power has been the means of carrying power with it. Now, my brethren, we have power; we are God’s ministers; we preach God’s truth; the great Judge of heaven and earth has told us the truth.

For meditation: Christ preached with authority which made men sit up and take notice (Luke 4:31-37). His power has not weakened, but are we limiting him in any way (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4,5)?

Sermon no. 76
27 April (1856)

John MacArthur – Are You Avoiding Persecution?

 

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:10).

If you don’t experience persecution, people probably don’t know you’re a Christian.

I heard of a man who was fearful because he was starting a new job with a group of unbelievers whom he thought might give him a bad time if they found out he was a Christian. After his first day at work his wife asked him how he got along with them. “We got along just fine,” he said. “They never found out I’m a Christian.”

Silence is one way to avoid persecution. Some other ways are to approve of the world’s standards, laugh at its jokes, enjoy its entertainment, and smile when it mocks God. If you never confront sin or tell people Jesus is the only way to heaven, or if your behavior is so worldly no one can distinguish you from unbelievers, you will probably be accepted and won’t feel the heat of persecution. But beware!

Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you. . . . Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory” (Luke 6:26; 9:26). The last thing anyone should want is for Christ to pronounce a curse on them or be ashamed of them. That’s an enormous price to pay for popularity!

If you take a stand for Christ and manifest Beatitude attitudes, you will be in direct opposition to Satan and the evil world system. Eventually you will experience some form of persecution. That has been true from the very beginning of human history, when Abel was murdered by his brother Cain because Cain couldn’t tolerate his righteousness.

You should never fear persecution. God will grant you grace and will never test you beyond what He enables you to endure (1 Cor. 10:13). Nor should you ever compromise biblical truth to avoid persecution. In Philippians 1:29 Paul says that persecution is as much a gift of God as salvation itself. Both identify you as a true believer!

Suggestions for Prayer; Memorize 1 Peter 2:20-21. Ask God to continually grant you the grace to follow Christ’s example when difficulties come your way.

For Further Study; Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, noting the severe persecution Paul endured for Christ’s sake.

Joyce Meyer – Uncommon Wisdom

 

If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Surprisingly, many sophisticated and intelligent people lack wisdom and common sense. Wisdom and common sense are closely linked—wisdom discerns truth in a situation, while common sense provides good judgment regarding what to do about the truth. Wisdom is supernatural—it isn’t taught by men; it is a gift from God.

It is amazing how many people seem to think that common sense is incompatible with being “spiritual.” Spiritual people don’t float around all day on clouds of glory, seeing angels and hearing disembodied voices. You live in a real world with real issues and need real answers. You do the seeking and He does the speaking, but He is the Spirit of Wisdom and will not tell you to do things that are unwise. If you need answers in your life, Wisdom is yours for the asking.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Cleansed From Sin

 

“But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin” (1 John 1:7).

A pastor I know had once delighted in studying and preaching the Word of God. In his earlier days, he had been a real soul-winner, but the time came when he no longer spent time reading and studying the Scriptures. He became critical, discouraged and pessimistic. Finally, his personal life and his family fell apart.

At one point, he told me, he was thinking about committing suicide. He could have been spared all of this heartache, tragedy and sorrow if only he had continued to study the Word of God, to meditate on its truths and to obey its commands.

As someone wisely said, “Sin will keep you from God’s Word, or God’s Word will keep you from sin.”

Many of the problems we experience in the Christian life are self-imposed. They are the result of carelessness in the way we walk. The promises of God are true; you can stake your life on them. The way to supernatural living is to walk with God in the light of His presence.

“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. So if we say we are His friends, but go on living in spiritual darkness and sin, we are lying. But if we are living in the light of God’s presence…then we have wonderful fellowship and joy…” (1 John 1:5-7, LB).

Bible Reading: I John 2:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Claiming the power of the Holy Spirit, I will continue to live in the light of God’s presence and explain to those who walk in darkness how they too can walk in the light of God’s presence and in joyful fellowship with our risen Savior.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Focus Fix

 

Suppose, for a moment, you are the president, and you have made the decision to respond to all your critics. You’ve determined that to protect your character, an immediate rebuttal is required for every lie, allegation and disparaging word. Here is what you are up against: there are 1,700 television stations in the United States; about 14,000 radio stations, and 1,000-plus daily newspapers. If each of them publishes just one criticism of you per week, you would need to address thousands of criticisms every single day…and that’s before you begin tackling the criticism on hundreds of thousands of websites.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:2

It can’t be done, and any good president would not waste his time on it – there are more important things to do. So why do you waste time responding to criticism, trying to get even, or wallowing in the misery others would foist upon you? There are more important things to do…heavenly-focused things.

Today, ask God to help you look beyond the earthly and unimportant to the eternal and the extraordinary. That’s the way you’ll make a difference in your neighborhood, and your nation, today!

Recommended Reading: II Corinthians 4:7-18

Greg Laurie – The Greatest Stories Ever Told

 

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.—2 Timothy 3:16

Martin Luther said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”

The Bible is the most amazing book ever written. It is literally God’s message to us. Technically speaking, the Bible is not one book, but it is actually sixty-six books, written over a 1,500-year span by forty different authors. From kings to peasants, from philosophers to fisherman, from poets to statesmen, each of them were inspired to write down its words.

In fact, the apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20–21). And 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” A better translation of “inspired by God” would be “breathed by God.”

In the pages of the Scriptures, we find the greatest stories ever told. I don’t mean the once-upon-a-time variety, and I don’t mean fairy tales or fables or myths. These stories in the Scriptures are documented historical events. However, the Bible is not merely a historical book, although it is that. The Bible is not just history; it is His story. And you know what? It is your story, too. Because as you look at some of the Bible’s stories, you will find yourself in them.

We read the Bible to know God, and we also read it to get a better understanding of God’s plan for our lives.

Max Lucado – Bring Focus to Your Life

 

Want to bring focus to your life? Do what Jesus did. Go home, love your family, and take care of business! Your first mission field is under your roof. What makes you think they’ll believe you overseas if they don’t believe you across the hall?

But Max, I’m ready to do great things for God. Good, do them at work. Be a good employee. Show up on time with a good attitude. Don’t complain or grumble. Do as Colossians 3:23 says, “Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people.”

Why don’t you take a few moments and evaluate your direction? Ask yourself, “Am I serving God now?” Regardless of what has controlled you in the past—it’s never too late to get your life on course!

From Just Like Jesus