Charles Stanley – The Nature of Strength

 

Ephesians 6:10-13

The moment a person receives Christ as Savior, he or she enters a battle. The enemy is determined to destroy believers’ testimonies. But God has supplied a mighty weapon to those who serve Him—His Son’s strength flowing through their life.

Christ’s power is supreme. Satan, with all his demonic forces, can’t throw anything our way to match Jesus’ supernatural strength. Even so, temptations and trials expose weaknesses when most would prefer to appear strong. That is one reason human nature rebels against hardship and tries to avoid it.

God wants Christian soldiers to be armed with the Savior’s might so they can confront life’s difficulties. He promises us strength only when we set down pride and accept that we are too weak for battle (2 Corinthians 12:9). And Jesus’ power is available to every believer right now—a gift the Commander gives His followers so they can endure conflicts victoriously.

The world encourages keeping up the appearance of handling one’s own problems. So Christian soldiers’ marching orders probably seem quite strange to onlookers. However, arrogance does not bring blessing; rather, it causes confusion, distance from the Lord, and ultimately failure. If we desire victory, then we must not follow the worldly strategy of facing the enemy alone.

Until our life is over or Jesus Christ returns, we are locked in a battle with Satan. But we have nothing to fear. When we are totally dependent upon the Lord for His strength, we are filled with supernatural energy and endurance.

Our Daily Bread — Marked By His Name

 

Read: Acts 11:19-26

Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 1-3; John 10:1-23

The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. —Acts 11:26

In July 1860, the world’s first nursing school opened at St. Thomas Hospital in London. Today that school is part of the King’s College, where nursing students are called Nightingales. The school—like modern nursing itself—was established by Florence Nightingale, who revolutionized nursing during the Crimean War. When prospective nurses complete their training, they take the “Nightingale Pledge,” a reflection of her ongoing impact on nursing.

Many people, like Florence Nightingale, have had a significant impact on our world. But no one has had a greater effect than Jesus, whose birth, death, and resurrection have been transforming lives for 2,000 years.

Around the world, Christ’s name marks those who are His followers, going back to the earliest days of the church. “When [Barnabas] had found [Saul], he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

Those who bear Christ’s name identify with Him because we have been changed by His love and grace. We declare to the world that He has made an eternal difference in our lives and we long for that in the hearts of others too. —Bill Crowder

Father, give me the grace and wisdom to honor You. May my life be so marked by the person of Christ that His great name—and salvation—will be embraced by others as well.

Followers of Christ—Christians—are marked by His name.

INSIGHT: Antioch was a significant city for the early church. An assembly of believers was birthed there, and Barnabas (“the son of encouragement”) was sent from Jerusalem to help them (Acts 11:22). Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, stayed with this growing church for a year, which helped prepare him for his role as an apostle.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  For a Despairing Humanity

 

The recognition of one’s humanity can be an uncomfortable pill to swallow. Life’s fragility, life’s impermanence, life’s intertwinement with imperfection and disappointment—bitter medicines are easier to accept. The Romantic poets called it “the burden of full consciousness.” To look closely at humanity can indeed be a realization of dread and despair.

For poet Philip Larkin, to look closely at humanity was to peer into the absurdity of the human existence. Whatever frenetic, cosmic accident that brought about a species so endowed with consciousness, the sting of mortality, incessant fears of failure, and sieges of shame, doubt, and selfishness was, for Larkin, a bitter irony. In a poem titled “The Building,” he describes the human condition as it is revealed in the rooms of a hospital, where one finds “Humans, caught/On ground curiously neutral, homes and names/Suddenly in abeyance; some are young,/ Some old, but most at that vague age that claims/The end of choice, the last of hope; and all/ Here to confess that something has gone wrong./ It must be error of a serious sort,/ For see how many floors it needs, how tall…”(1)

With or without Larkin’s sense of dread, the confession that “something has gone wrong” is often synonymous with the acknowledgment of humanity. “I’m only human,” is a phrase meant to evoke leniency with shortcoming, while “human” itself in Webster’s dictionary is an adjective for imperfection, weakness, fragility. There are of course some religions that stand diametrically opposed to this idea, seeing humanity with limitless potential, humans as pure, the human spirit as divine. In a vein not unlike Larkin’s agnostic dread, the self-deemed new atheists see the cruel realities of time and chance as reason in and of itself to dismiss the rose-colored lenses of God and religion. Yet quite unlike Larkin’s concluding outlook of meaninglessness and despair, they (inexplicably) suggest a rose-colored view of humanity.(2) Still others emphasize the depravity of humanity to such a leveling degree that no person can stand up under the burden of guilt and disgust.

In deep contrast to such severe or optimistic readings, the Christian view of humanity adds a nuanced dimension to the conversation. Christianity admits that while there is indeed an error of a serious sort, the error is not in “humanness” itself. Rather, something has gone wrong. Thus, within our humanity we find the paradox of a deep and sacred honor, and a profound and shameful recognition that we cannot quite access it. Yet our inherent recognition of imperfection is simultaneously an inherent admission that there is indeed such a thing as perfection.

With all of creation, we groan for wholeness, for cancer’s defeat, for tears and injustice to be no more, for our despair as much as our sin to be taken impossibly away.

The Christian’s advantage, then, is not that they find themselves less fallen and closer to said perfection than others, nor that they find in their religion a means of escaping the world of fragility, brokenness, guilt, and error; the Christian’s advantage is that they are able to stand despite their own broken humanity in a fallen world because they stand with the vicariously human Christ.

“[H]umanity’s mystery,” as one writer expounds, “can be explained only in the mystery of the God who became human. If people want to look into their own mystery—the meaning of their pain, of their work, of their suffering, of their hope—let them put themselves next to Christ. If they accomplish what Christ accomplished—doing the Father’s will, filling themselves with the life that Christ gives the world—they are fulfilling themselves as true human beings. If I find, on comparing myself with Christ, that my life is a contrast, the opposite of his, then my life is a disaster. I cannot explain that mystery except by returning to Christ, who gives authentic features to a person who wants to be genuinely human.”(3)

The author of these words was well acquainted with the mysterious paradox of humanness and the God who became human to call the world to authentic humanity. Oscar Romero was a Salvadoran priest who saw the very worst and the weakest of humanity in the corruption, violence, and suffering of a country at war within itself. A witness to ongoing violations of human rights, Romero spoke out on behalf of the poor and the victimized. In both the abused and the abusers, he saw the image of God, glimpses of Christ, and the dire need for his true humanity. Tragically, poignantly, Romero was assassinated in the middle of a church service as he was lifting the broken bread of communion before his congregation. He was shot and killed over the altar, as he offered the hopeful sign of Christ’s genuinely human and wounded body, strength rising out of weakness, a body and broken heart given for our own.

In a world with reason to be despairing of humanity, there is still this jarring image of the perfect human, whose only brokenness was at our own hands. Christ is far more than someone who came to fix what was wrong. He is God’s giving gift of all that is right.

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

(1) Philip Larkin, Collected Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993), 191.

(2) Various Atheist bus campaigns offer well-known examples of this, one a few years ago declaring, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” See Ariane Sherine, “The Atheist Bus Journey,” The Guardian, January 6, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/.

(3) Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), 112.

 

Alistair Begg – Mephibosheth’s Example

 

So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet. 2 Samuel 9:13

Mephibosheth was not an attractive guest at the royal table; yet he had an open invitation because King David could see in his face the features of the beloved Jonathan. Like Mephibosheth, we may exclaim to the King of Glory, “What is Your servant, that You should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” But still the Lord invites us to share intimately with Him, because He sees in our countenances the remembrance of His dearly-beloved Jesus.

It is on account of Jesus that the Lord’s people are dear to God. Such is the love that the Father bears to His only begotten that for His sake He raises His lowly brothers and sisters from poverty and exile to enjoy the king’s court, noble rank, and royal provision. Their deformity shall not rob them of their privileges. Lameness is no bar to sonship; the disabled is as much the heir as if he could run like a gazelle.

Our ability to enter may be impaired but not our right of entry. A king’s table is a noble hiding-place for lame legs, and at the gospel feast we learn to rejoice in infirmities because the power of Christ rests upon us. Yet serious disability may spoil the journey of the best-loved saints. Here is one feasted by David, and yet so lame in both his feet that he could not go up with the king when he fled from the city and was therefore maligned and injured by his servant.

Saints whose faith is weak and whose knowledge is limited are great losers; they are exposed to many enemies and cannot follow the king wherever he goes. This disease is frequently the result of a fall. Bad nursing in their spiritual infancy often causes converts to fall into a despondency from which they never recover, and sin in other cases brings broken bones. Lord, help the lame to leap like the hart, and satisfy all Your people with the bread of Your table!

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

Charles Spurgeon – The eternal name

 

“His name shall endure for ever.” Psalm 72:17

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 23:32-43

Do you see yonder thief hanging upon the cross? Behold the fiends at the foot thereof, with open mouths; charming themselves with the sweet thought, that another soul shall give them meat in hell. Behold the death-bird, fluttering his wings over the poor wretch’s head; vengeance passes by and stamps him for her own; deep on his breast is written “a condemned sinner;” on his brow is the clammy sweat, expressed from him by agony and death. Look in his heart: it is filthy with the crust of years of sin; the smoke of lust is hanging within, in black festoons of darkness; his whole heart is hell condensed. Now, look at him. He is dying. One foot seems to be in hell; the other hangs tottering in life—only kept by a nail. There is a power in Jesus’ eye. That thief looks: he whispers, “Lord, remember me.” Turn your eye again there. Do you see that thief? Where is the clammy sweat? It is there. Where is that horrid anguish? Is it not there? Positively there is a smile upon his lips. The fiends of hell where are they? There are none; but a bright seraph is present, with his wings outspread, and his hands ready to snatch that soul, now a precious jewel, and bear it aloft to the palace of the great King. Look within his heart: it is white with purity. Look at his breast: it is not written “condemned,” but “justified.” Look in the book of life: his name is engraved there. Look on Jesus’ heart: there on one of the precious stones he bears that poor thief’s name. Yes, once more, look! Do you see that bright one amid the glorified, clearer than the sun, and fair as the moon? That is the thief! That is the power of Jesus; and that power shall endure for ever.

For meditation: Jesus has the power to save to the uttermost all who seek God through him (Hebrews 7:25); have you been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20)?

Sermon no. 27
27 May (1855)

John MacArthur – From Terrorism to Discipleship (Simon the Zealot)

 

The twelve apostles included “Simon the Zealot” (Matt. 10:4).

Even people of vastly different backgrounds can minister together for Christ.

During the time between the Old and New Testaments, a fiery revolutionary named Judas Maccabaeus led the Jewish people in a revolt against Greek influences on their nation and religion. The spirit of that movement was captured in this statement from the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees: “Be ye zealous for the law and give your lives for the covenant” (1 Maccabees 2:50). That group of politically-oriented, self-appointed guardians of Judaism later became known as the Zealots.

During the New Testament period, Zealots conducted terrorist activities against Rome in an effort to free Israel from Roman oppression. Their activities finally prompted Rome to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and slaughter people in 985 Galilean towns.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, the few remaining Zealots banded together under the leadership of a man named Eleazar. Their headquarters was at a retreat called Masada. When the Romans laid seige to Masada and the Zealots knew defeat was imminent, they chose to kill their own families and commit suicide themselves rather than face death at the hands of the Romans. It was a tragedy of monumental proportions, but such was the depth of their fiery zeal for Judaism and their hatred for their political enemies.

Before coming to Christ, Simon was a Zealot. Even as a believer, he must have retained much of his zeal, redirecting it in a godly direction. We can only imagine the passion with which he approached the ministry, having finally found a leader and cause that transcended anything Judaism and political activism could ever offer.

It’s amazing to realize that Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax-gatherer ministered together. Under normal circumstances Simon would have killed a traitor like Matthew. But Christ broke through their differences, taught them to love each other, and used them for His glory.

Perhaps you know believers who come from totally different backgrounds than yours. Do you have trouble getting along with any of them? If so, why? How can you begin to mend your differences? Be encouraged by the transformation Christ worked in Simon and Matthew, and follow their example.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for the people in your church, asking the Lord to give everyone a spirit of unity.

For Further Study

According to Romans 12:9-21, what attitudes should you have toward others?

Joyce Meyer – Bless Someone Today

 

In everything I have pointed out to you [by example] that, by working diligently in this manner, we ought to assist the weak, being mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed (makes one happier and more to be envied) to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

To have a healthy love walk today, spend time this morning thinking about what you can do for somebody else. Don’t wait for God to ask you to do something; take the initiative and say, “Okay God, what can I do to be a blessing on Your behalf today?”

The best days you live are the ones you spend loving other people. Choose a particular person, and think about ways to bless him or her. If you don’t know what to do, just listen to what he or she says, and before long you will hear of that individual’s needs.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Wait Patiently and Confidently

 

“But if we must keep trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently” (Romans 8:25).

During my college days, I was not a believer. Only in retrospect can I appreciate in some measure the testimony of one of my professors, who was the head of the education department.

He and his wife were devout Christians. They had a Mongoloid child, whom they took with them wherever they went, and I am sure that their motivation for doing so – at least in part – was to give a testimony of the fruit of the Spirit, patience and love.

They loved the child dearly and felt that God had given them the responsibility and privilege to rear the child personally as a testimony of His grace, rather than placing her in a home for retarded children. The Bible teaches us that God never gives us a responsibility, a load or a burden without also giving us the ability to be victorious.

This professor and his wife bore their tremendous burden with joyful hearts. Wherever they went, they waited on the child, hand and foot. Instead of being embarrassed and humiliated, trying to hide the child in the closet, they unashamedly always took her with them, as a witness for Christ and as an example of His faithfulness and sufficiency.

They demonstrated patience and love by drawing upon the supernatural resources of the Holy Spirit in their close, moment-by-moment walk with God. Because of the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they were able to bear their trials supernaturally without grumbling or complaining. This is not to suggest that every dedicated Christian couple would be led of God to respond in the same way under similar circumstances. In their case, their lives communicated patience.

Bible Reading: Romans 8:18-24

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that God’s Holy Spirit indwells me and enables me to live supernaturally, I will claim by faith the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) with special emphasis on patience for today and every day.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Boldly Go

 

Perhaps there is a place to which you’ve sworn you will never return: a job where you were unappreciated; a relationship that ended in disaster; or a neighborhood in which something tragic happened to you. Maybe you’ve said, “I’ll never go there again.”

God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here am I.”

Genesis 46:2

The Old Testament patriarch Jacob had resolved never to go to Egypt – he was afraid of the place. His grandfather Abraham had gone there, out of necessity in a time of famine, and it proved to be disastrous. God had specifically told Jacob’s father, Isaac, not to go down to Egypt. And on top of all that, Jacob was elderly and feeble, in no condition to make the long trip from his home. But God told him to go, and he said: “Here am I.” The Lord knew all about Jacob’s fears, but told him that He would go with him.

Set aside your fears today and simply tell God, “Here am I.” You will not change your destiny or the future for America by living in a mythical comfort zone – but you can go boldly wherever he may lead with the knowledge that He will always go with you.

Recommended Reading: Deuteronomy 31:1-8

Greg Laurie – Leave It in God’s Hands

 

Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. —Genesis 13:11

Sometimes people who have less are more materialistic than those who have a lot. I have met people who have a lot and are very generous. They don’t let everyone know all the things they do for others; they just do them quietly. They are thankful for what God has blessed them with. They help others.

I also know others who don’t have as much, but all they think about is getting more stuff. They dream about stuff. That is where their heart is. And it is all about the heart.

Abraham had a lot of stuff, but his heart was right with God. His nephew Lot had a lot of stuff too, but all he seemed to care about was getting more stuff. The Bible tells us “the land was not able to support them” (Genesis 13:6), and strife developed between the herdsmen who worked for Abraham and the herdsmen who worked for Lot. A separation needed to be made because Abraham and Lot were going in two different directions. It was a problem of the heart.

So Abraham gave his nephew a choice. He basically said, “You go wherever you want, and I will go in the opposite direction. I don’t want to fight with you anymore. Let’s make a decision.”

By not making a choice, Abraham was in effect making a profound choice. He was choosing to give Lot the best choice. Abraham decided to leave the outcome to God. He left it up to the Lord. That is because Abraham was a peacemaker and not a troublemaker.

Maybe you have been tempted to compromise in a certain area, but you have decided to do what is right and to live a life of integrity. Leave it in the hands of God. You will never regret it.

Max Lucado – The Good Shepherd

 

If the Gospels teach us anything, they teach us that Jesus is a Good Shepherd. In John 10:11, Jesus announces, “The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” Didn’t Jesus spread the oil of prevention on his disciples? He prayed for them. He equipped them. He revealed to them the secrets of the parables. He calmed their fears. Because he was a good shepherd, he protected them…and protected them against disappointments.

Jesus tends to his sheep. And he will tend to you. Go to him. Others may guide us to God. Others may help us understand God. But no one can do the work of God, for only God can heal. Psalm 147:3 promises God “heals the brokenhearted.” Your first step? Go to God. Then bow before God. Trust in Him. Go. Bow. Trust! Worth a try, don’t you think?

From Traveling Light

Night Light for Couples – Stay the Course

 

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

I f we believe that the eternal souls of our children hang in the balance, why would we take a casual approach to parenting? If our eyes are fully opened to this awesome assignment, why would we ignore and neglect so great an opportunity? The Good News provides the only satisfactory explanation for why we’re here and where we’re going. When we accept our spiritual responsibility as parents, our entire family is likely to follow our example into eternity: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

Are you the parents of young children or a houseful of teenagers? We understand how difficult it is for you to keep this eternal perspective in mind as you race through your days. We encourage you not to let yourselves become discouraged with the responsibility of parenting. Yes, it is incredibly difficult, and at times you’ll feel like throwing in the towel. But we beg you to stay the course! Get on your knees before the Lord and ask for His strength and wisdom. Finish the job to which He has called you!

There is no more important task in this life.

Just between us…

  • Can we be more intentional in introducing our children to Jesus Christ?
  • How can we keep eternal priorities foremost in our minds?
  • Is there a pressing need we can pray about together tonight?

Lord, nothing will count more in eternity than that we’ve been faithful parents who have helped usher our children into Your presence. Give us strength and wisdom for this task. By Your Spirit, draw our children to You. Amen.

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