Charles Stanley – Conquering Loneliness

 

Psalms 25:15-22

I know the pain of loneliness. I was the only child of a single mother who had to work long hours to support us. My adult life has been marked by periods of emotional isolation as well. However, the Lord has never abandoned me to these feelings.

God desires that all people feel connected to Him and to each other. And in fact, we can be quickly comforted when we respond wisely to loneliness.

The first step is to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But simply believing He exists isn’t enough. The Lord created mankind for fellowship, which is why a relationship with Him gives people a sense of oneness. The love of Christ forces loneliness out of the lives of God’s children.

Second, we must admit that we’re lonely. Some Christians incorrectly think they shouldn’t be susceptible to normal human feelings. But nothing in the Bible says we won’t endure emotional isolation. Not only men like David and Paul but even the Lord Himself knew the ache of feeling deserted (Psalms 25:16; 2 Timothy 4:16; Matthew 26:40; Matthew 27:46).

Finally, we should develop godly friends. These are the Christian brothers and sisters who will laugh, cry, and empathize with us. Above all, believers need friends who will continually point them to God and pray over them.

We can’t deny feelings of loneliness, nor can we run from them. A person who seeks ways to escape such feelings only broadens the gap between the Lord and himself. There is just one way to close the chasm and conquer loneliness—by drawing near to the Lord.

Our Daily Bread — Where Can We Lean?

 

Read: 2 Samuel 9

Bible in a Year: 2 Kings 15-16; John 3:1-18

I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake. —2 Samuel 9:7

“What a wonderful funeral!” Cindy remarked as we walked out. Helen, our friend, had died. And friend after friend celebrated her by sharing stories of her all-around fun behavior. But Helen’s life wasn’t all jokes and laughter. Her nephew spoke of her faith in Jesus and her care for others. She had taken him into her home when he was young and struggling. Now in his twenties, he said of his Aunt Helen, “She was like a mom to me. She never gave up on me in my struggles. I am sure that if it wasn’t for her, I would have lost my faith.” Wow! What an influence! Helen leaned on Jesus and wanted her nephew to trust Him too.

In the Old Testament, we read that King David took a young man named Mephibosheth into his home with the purpose of showing him kindness for the sake of his father, Jonathan (David’s friend who had died; see 2 Sam. 9:1). Years earlier, Mephibosheth had been injured when his nurse dropped him as they fled after the news that his father had been killed (4:4). He was surprised that the king would care for him; he even referred to himself as “a dead dog” (9:8). Yet the king treated him as his own son (9:11).

I’d like to be that kind of person, wouldn’t you? Someone who cares for others and helps them hang on to faith in Jesus even when life looks hopeless. —Anne Cetas

Lord, You showed the ultimate kindness by rescuing us when we were helpless in our sins. May our lives be marked by kindness so that others will see You in us.

God does most of His work for people through people.

INSIGHT: Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, could have been heir to his grandfather’s (King Saul) throne and a potential threat to David’s kingship. But David promised his best friend, Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:42), that he would care for his family. In today’s passage we read how David made good on that promise (2 Sam. 9:9-13).

A Slice of Infinity – Race Matters

 

As a young girl, I had the unique opportunity to travel to South Africa. We stayed for a month in December when I was just five years old. My father’s parents and sister had immigrated to South Africa from Britain, and it was a rare opportunity to travel to see them. I can still remember the excitement of climbing into the Pan Am jet that would take me to what was surely a land full of adventure. The year was 1971.

Never in my young life had I experienced a place so unlike anything I knew. Growing up in the suburban Midwest of the U.S., my world was filled with snow and concrete, winters lasting long into April with rows and rows of houses lined with sidewalks. South Africa, by contrast, was a land of bright sunshine, vast horizons, beautiful ocean beaches, rugged mountains and diverse landscapes: from the dusty Kalahari Desert to the mountainous coast of Cape Town. Every place was a startling, new discovery of sights, smells, and experiences.

One such experience remains with me to this day. Thirsty after an afternoon at a trampoline park with my South African cousins, we went in search of public drinking fountains. Seeing just such an area not too far beyond where my tired legs could carry me, I ran ahead of the others in order to quench my thirst. Just as I leaned over to drink, a hand grabbed my shoulder and a loud, gruff voice told me not to drink from that fountain. It was for ‘coloreds’ only.

This was the first time, as I reflect back on the event, that I realized my skin color determined my standing in relation to others. I was too young and too thirsty to notice the posted placards on the fountains, or, sadly, to notice that there were only whites on all of the beaches where we frolicked as a family, only white diners in the restaurants where we ate, and only whites in most of the areas and venues we visited. In fact, there were posted designations for ‘whites’ and ‘coloreds’ at all the public places where the two groups might meet. I didn’t understand that apartheid, at that time, was the national policy.

For all the contrasts, here was a similarity between my suburban childhood and my visit to South Africa. Where I grew up, there were only two children of color in my elementary school, and one was of Asian heritage. I do not remember any African Americans in the suburban neighborhoods in which I grew up, and there was no racial diversity in my church. This segregation was far less obvious to me than the intentional policies that made up the apartheid system. Yet, hidden or intentional, the effects of a racist system were the same. How could I not conclude, as a young girl, that race determined where one lived, went to school, or worshipped?

A seminary internship working with young children in Atlanta, Georgia afforded me an alternative experience. I would be the only white person in my internship. I was surprised at how readily boundaries seemed to give way to acceptance. I didn’t seem to be as strange to them as they might have been had they visited me in the suburbs of my childhood. Sharing the same curly hair prompted one young girl to ask me if I was a ‘light-skinned black.’ I felt honored that racial differences were not the only thing she saw.

Yet, I would have been blind not to notice that the opportunities afforded to me simply were not available in this place. And while other principalities conspired with racism to decrease opportunity, I knew then that much of what I took for granted did not exist for these young children. A simple, nutritious breakfast—always available to me—consisted of a soda or a bag of tostada chips from the local Taco Bell for many of the kids I met here.

All these experiences—from the suburbs to South Africa to the urban South—reveal aspects of the human tendency to separate and divide. Yet, an alternative narrative is presented in the Christian gospel. The redemption offered in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is universally available. The reconciling work of Jesus Christ did not recognize the typical categories of human division and power but reached out to Jew and Greek, male and female, bond and free persons. The apostle Paul reminded the Ephesians that “you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded… and strangers to the covenants of promise….But now in Christ Jesus you who were formerly far off have been brought near….For Jesus is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the dividing wall.”(1) The human tendency to separate and divide and control could be transformed to a new impulse, where peace and unity are found in Jesus Christ. But is this just something to hope for in an as yet unrealized future?

F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela could not have been more different but they worked together to help end apartheid in South Africa. Even their most significant differences (that went far beyond the color of their skin) did not thwart their work toward a peaceful transition of power—when most thought bloodshed and violence would ensue. Both men understood that unity and peace were not simply a vision of an other-worldly future, but something that could be undertaken even in the very messy, fraught, and difficult world of the here and now. De Klerk has said that “peace does not fare well where poverty and deprivation reign…. Peace is gravely threatened by inter-group fear and envy…. Racial, class, and religious intolerance and prejudice are its mortal enemies. In our quest for peace, we should constantly ask ourselves what we should do to create conditions in which peace can prosper.”(2)

Many can look at the world around them and despair over human differences which feel insurmountable. There is so much that can engender cynicism and a sense of futility. Yet, for those who would seek a different story, there is a house in which tearing down dividing walls that segregate human beings from each other and from God is the only appropriate response. Built upon the foundation that is Christ Jesus, this house has walls of restoration and renewal, forgiveness and reconciliation, generosity and grace. No one is shut out, and all may come in.

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

(1) Ephesians 2:12-14, emphasis mine.

(2) F. W. de Klerk, Acceptance and Nobel Lecture, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1994.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alistair Begg – Humility, Happiness, Holiness

 

I will love him and manifest myself to him.

John 14:21

The Lord Jesus gives special revelations of Himself to His people. Even if Scripture did not declare this, many of the children of God could testify to the truth of it from their own experience. They have had manifestations of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in a peculiar manner, such as no mere reading or hearing could afford.

In the biographies of eminent saints, you will find many instances recorded in which Jesus has been pleased in a very special manner to speak to their souls and to unfold the wonders of His person; in this way their souls have been steeped in happiness, and they have thought themselves to be in heaven. Although they were not there, they were close to the threshold of it–for when Jesus manifests Himself to His people, it is heaven on earth; it is paradise in embryo; it is bliss begun.

Special manifestations of Christ exercise a holy influence on the believer’s heart. One effect will be humility. If a man says, “I have had such-and-such spiritual communications, I am a great man,” he has never had any communion with Jesus at all; for “the LORD regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.”1 He does not need to come near the haughty to know them and will never give them any visits of love. Another effect will be happiness; for in God’s presence there are pleasures forevermore. Holiness will be sure to follow. A man who has no holiness has never had this manifestation. Some men profess a great deal; but we must not believe anyone unless we see that his actions agree with what he says. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked.”2 He will not bestow His favors upon the wicked, for He will neither cast away a perfect man, nor will He respect an evildoer. Thus there will be three effects of nearness to Jesus–humility, happiness, and holiness. May God give them to you, Christian!

1) Psalm 138:6    2) Galations 6:7

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

Charles Spurgeon – A caution to the presumptuous

 

“Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 10:19-25

These strong men sometimes will not use the means of grace, and therefore they fall. There are some persons here, who rarely attend a place of worship; they do not profess to be religious; but I am sure they would be astonished if I were to tell them, that I know some professedly religious people who are accepted in some churches as being true children of God, who yet make it a habit of stopping away from the house of God, because they conceive they are so advanced that they do not want it. You smile at such a thing as that. They boast such deep experience within; they have a volume of sweet sermons at home, and they will stop and read them; they need not go to the house of God, for they are fat and flourishing. They conceit themselves that they have received food enough seven years ago to last them the next ten years. They imagine that old food will feed their souls now. These are your presumptuous men. They are not to be found at the Lord’s table, eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ, in the holy emblems of bread and wine. You do not see them in their closets; you do not find them searching the Scriptures with holy curiosity. They think they stand—they shall never be moved; they fancy that means are intended for weaker Christians; and leaving those means, they fall. They will not have the shoe to put upon the foot, and therefore the flint cuts them; they will not put on the armour, and therefore the enemy wounds them—sometimes well-nigh unto death. In this deep quagmire of neglect of the means, many a proud professor has been smothered.

For meditation: Thomas was absent to his cost (John 20:24,25). Can you always give your “apologies for absence” to the Lord and to your fellow-members with a clear conscience?

Sermon no. 22
12 May (Preached 13 May 1855)

John MacArthur – Playing Second Fiddle (Andrew)

 

The twelve apostles included “Andrew” (Matt. 10:2).

Andrew is a picture of all believers who humbly minister behind the scenes.

It’s been said that no one likes playing second fiddle, but that wasn’t Andrew’s perspective at all. Growing up in the shadow of an aggressive, outspoken brother like Peter would be a challenge for anyone. Even in the biblical record Andrew is known as “Simon Peter’s brother” (e.g., John 1:40). Yet when Andrew met Jesus, his first response was to tell Peter, knowing full well that once Peter became a disciple he probably would run the group. But Andrew was a truly humble man who was more concerned about bringing people to Christ than about who was in charge.

Andrew’s faith and openness prompted him to take advantage of every opportunity to lead others to Christ. He knew that the Lord’s primary mission was to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6), but he led Gentiles as well as Jewish people to Christ (John 12:20-22). He had seen Jesus change water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11), so he knew Jesus could do much with very little. That must have been on his mind when he brought the boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus, knowing it would take a miracle to feed the huge crowd with such a small offering (John 6:8-9).

Tradition tells us that just prior to his death, Andrew preached in a province in which the governor’s wife heard the gospel and was saved. The governor demanded that she reject Christ, but she refused. In anger he had Andrew crucified on an X-shaped cross, on which Andrew hung for two days before dying. Even then his courage didn’t fail. He preached the gospel from that cross—still trying to bring others to Christ.

Andrew symbolizes all those humble, faithful, and courageous Christians who labor behind the scenes. They’re the backbone of every ministry and the ones on whom every leader depends. You might never be a prominent leader like Peter, but you can be a faithful, courageous servant like Andrew.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for all the humble, faithful servants in your church.
  • Ask Him to teach you greater openness and courage so you can serve Him more effectively.

For Further Study

Read Philippians 2:25-30, noting how Epaphroditus ministered to Paul.

Joyce Meyer – Seasons Change

 

He changes the times and the seasons. Daniel 2:21

Years ago, I enjoyed a good job as part of a church staff. I had a thriving ministry, a regular paycheck, and plenty of opportunities what I loved and felt called to do. Then there came a time when spoke to me about leaving that job and taking my ministry “to the north, south, east, and west.” I heard Him say, “This season in your life is complete; I am finished with you in this place.”

In my heart, I knew God had spoken. Nevertheless, I had a mixture of excitement and fear about starting my own ministry. I wanted to venture beyond what I had known to that point, but I was afraid of making a mistake and losing what I had. I wanted to see what God would do, but I was afraid to take such a big step into unknown territory.

Sometimes God gets finished with something and we keep hanging on to it. My spirit wanted to step out, but my flesh wanted to stay. I had a lot of security in the position God was calling me to leave, and I didn’t want to give it up. But, eventually I did obey Him and today I enjoy ministry around the world. Remember that God changes things and when He does we must be willing to follow His leading.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God Meets Our Needs

 

“I have been young and now I am old. And in all my years I have never seen the Lord forsake a man who loves Him; nor have I seen the children of the godly go hungry” (Psalm 37:25). 

Tom had been a humble follower and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ from his youth. He had learned of our Lord at the family altar in his modest home. Through the urging of his father and mother, he mastered and memorized large portions of Scripture. By his teenage years he was preaching, and after a brief time of study in a Bible institute he became an evangelist. His work was largely in the smaller rural churches. His speech was never eloquent nor was he distinguished and cultured in his appearance and demeanor, but he was a man of God. wherever he went, hearts were strangely warmed as he spoke the truths concerning our wonderful Savior.

Now he had reached the ripe age of ninety. His hair was snow white and a bit long, but always neat. His ministry had covered over seventy years, and in that period he had come to know heartache, sorrow, adversity and poverty (especially during the depression years). He had performed many wedding ceremonies, had spent long nights at the bedside of the sick and had preached many funeral sermons. In obedience to his Lord, he had ministered to the widows and orphans, the poor and imprisoned. On this occasion, as he was coming to the climax of a rich and overflowing life, a radiant adventure with God – yes, the supernatural life – he reminisced. As he recalled some of the heartaches and tragedies, he said, “You know, not one single time in all my years have I seen the Lord forsake a man who loved Him, nor have I seen the children of the godly go hungry. Of course, I have seen Christians suffer, and I’ve been with them in their sorrow. But there’s something different about the life of the one who walks with God. There’s serenity, a peace. And then almost miraculously, while the ungodly go hungry, God meets the needs of His children as He promised.

“Yes,” he said in conclusion, “you can trust God and His Word. He never fails to keep His promise.”

Bible Reading: Psalm 37:26-34

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that I can trust God to meet my every need no matter what happens, I shall seek first the kingdom of God. Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I will live a godly life, a supernatural life for the glory of my Savior, and I will tell others how faithful and trustworthy He is.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Nature

 

Since Ian Fleming’s death in 1964, seven other authors have written novels authorized to feature his fictional British Secret Service agent James Bond. How is it possible to faithfully represent a character born out of another person’s imagination? Regardless of the situation, the character must be consistent. For example, James Bond would never wear a bad fitting suit, whether in mortal combat or sitting at the roulette table. It’s not in his nature.

Please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master.

Genesis 24:12

Today’s verse is a prayer by the servant of Abraham. Concerned for his son Isaac to have a proper wife, Abraham sent a trusted servant out to choose a girl with particular qualities. As you can tell by the servant’s prayer, he was intent on keeping his master’s confidence by carrying out his will.

As you go on your way today, remember who you represent and make sure your actions and words are consistent with His character. Pray, too, for America’s leaders to faithfully fulfill their charter. God will hear your prayers, answering in mercy – because that is in His nature.

Recommended Reading: II Peter 1:2-8

Greg Laurie – A Supreme Act of Faith

 

Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did. —Genesis 6:22

Noah’s decision to build an ark required a supreme act of faith. There was no body of water nearby. In fact, it had never rained on Earth before. At that time, God had placed a water canopy over the planet that created a greenhouse effect of sorts. So in one of the greatest acts of faith in human history, Noah cut down his first gopher tree to start building the ark.

It was such a bold act of faith that Noah was memorialized in Hebrews 11, known as the Hall of Faith: “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (verse 7).

This verse gives us a number of important insights into what made Noah tick. First of all, we read that he was “divinely warned.” God spoke to Noah. Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Your faith will grow when you read what the Bible says and then take the next step and put it into action.

We also read that Noah “moved with godly fear.” Noah had a reverence for, or a fear of, the Lord. And a good definition I have heard for the fear of the Lord is “a wholesome dread of displeasing Him.”

Noah’s walk with God caused him to work for God. And one must always precede the other. If you walk with God, you will want to work for God. Works don’t save you; faith does. But if your faith is real, then it will produce works. That is how Noah’s faith worked when God told him to build the ark.

Max Lucado – What Really Matters

 

A man once went to a minister for counseling.

“I’ve lost everything,” he told the minister.

“Oh I’m so sorry to hear you’ve lost your faith,” the minister responded.

“No,” the man corrected him, “I haven’t lost my faith.”

“Well, then I’m sad to hear you’ve lost your character.”

“I didn’t say that,” the man corrected. “I still have my character.”

“I’m so sorry you’ve lost your salvation,” said the minister.

“That’s not what I said,” the man objected.

“You have your faith, your character, and your salvation. Seems to me,” the minister observed, “that you’ve lost none of the things that really matter.”

You and I could pray like the Puritan. He sat down to a meal of bread and water.  He bowed his head and declared, “All this and Jesus, too?” What will you gain with contentment? You may gain joy—and the faith to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want!”

From Traveling Light

 

 

C.S. Lewis Daily – Today’s Reading

 

Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.

Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash- up. Well, go and do it.

From Mere Christianity

Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

Night Light for Couples – Shocking with Kindness

 

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

While standing in line at a grocery store checkout a few years ago, I (jcd) noticed that the elderly woman in front of me had filled her cart with more food than she could pay for. “I just don’t understand where my money is,” she said as she desperately searched the depths of her purse. I whispered to the checker, “Total her bill, then accept whatever money she has, and put the rest on my bill.” I paid an extra eight dollars to make up the difference. The old woman never knew I had helped her, but after she shuffled away, the checker had big tears in her eyes.

“I’ve been doing this work for twenty years,” she said, “and I’ve never seen anyone do something like that before.”

It was no big deal—an insignificant eight dollars—yet kind gestures are so rare today that many people find them shocking. As a husband and wife commissioned to demonstrate God’s compassion to our world, we can make a tremendous impact through simple acts of kindness.

Just between us…

  • What small kindness did I do for you this week that you appreciated?
  • Am I treating you and others around us as kindly as I should?
  • How does “shocking kindness” contribute to our witness for Christ?
  • How can we be shockingly kind more often?

O Lord, Your kindness changed us forever. Your love broke into our lives most unexpectedly. Thank You so much! Empower us to love just like that. Amen.

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