Charles Stanley – The Passion to Serve Him

 

2 Corinthians 11:22-31

In today’s passage, Paul’s description of his suffering is remarkable in two ways. First of all, he had obviously faced considerable torment for his faith. Second, he refused to whine or seek pity—if this was the price for passionately serving Christ, Paul was willing to pay. In our own faith walk, we can learn from the apostle’s commitment.

We serve according to God’s will, not our own. On the road to Damascus, Jesus said to Paul, “It will be told you what you must do” (Acts 9:6). We are to seek the Lord’s direction and timing instead of choosing the ministry that seems best to us. Committing to do whatever He asks requires courage, but anything less amounts to putting limitations on our obedience.

We serve according to our gifts, not our talents. A spiritual gift is the special endowment God gives us to serve where He calls. Talents may be useful in His work, but His gifts equip us for success. Natural skill wasn’t what made Paul a powerful preacher. In fact, he spoke of the uselessness of his abilities and pedigree in comparison with knowing and serving Christ (Phil. 3:4-9).

We are to serve with a focus on God, not on the work. Paul excelled at remaining Christ-centered, but this is where many people fall short. We get caught up in scheduling, responsibility, and accolades, which can make us lose sight of the true purpose: reaching the needy and those who need Christ.

Doing “church work” can stroke the ego but drain the body. If we keep focused and serve out of our gifts, service will be satisfying, even when it is hard or painful.

Bible in One Year: Leviticus 18-20

 

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Our Daily Bread — In All Circumstances

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

Bible in a Year: Exodus 34–35; Matthew 22:23–46

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.—1 Thessalonians 5:18

In our suburb we complain about the constant power outages. They can hit three times in a week and last up to twenty-four hours, plunging the neighborhood into darkness. The inconvenience is hard to bear when we cannot use basic household appliances.

Our Christian neighbor often asks, “Is this also something to thank God for?” She is referring to 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We always say, “Yes, of course, we thank God in all things.” But the half-hearted manner in which we say it is contradicted by our grumbling every time the power goes off.

One day, however, our belief in thanking God in all circumstances took on new meaning. I returned from work to find our neighbor visibly shaken as she cried, “Thank Jesus the power was off. My house would have burned down, and my family and I would have perished!”

A refuse-collection truck had hit the electricity pole in front of her house and brought down the high-tension cables right over several houses. Had there been power in the cables, fatalities would have been likely.

The difficult circumstances we face can make it hard to say, “Thanks, Lord.” We can be thankful to our God who sees in every situation an opportunity for us to trust Him—whether or not we see His purpose. —Lawrence Darmani

Father, we honor You with our words, but so often our actions reveal that our hearts don’t trust You. Help us to see You at work in every circumstance, no matter how difficult.

By God’s grace we can be thankful in all things.

INSIGHT: In the final instructions of his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul culminates the theme of living out our faith. In addition to his challenge to be thankful in everything, we see a rapid-fire series of challenges (5:16-22): “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances . . . . Do not quench the Spirit. . . . hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” This could feel intimidating if we were expected to accomplish this on our own, but God has given us the Holy Spirit. The challenge that undergirds all the others is “Do not quench the Spirit.” Instead of resisting (“quenching”) the Spirit’s help, as we yield to His control and guidance in our lives He equips us to live out our faith. For more on the work of the Spirit, check out the Discovery Series booklet How Can I Be Filled with the Spirit? at discoveryseries.org/q0301. Bill Crowder

 

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Joyce Meyer – Known by Our Fruit

[Jesus said] Either make the tree sound (healthy and good), and its fruit sound (healthy and good), or make the tree rotten (diseased and bad), and its fruit rotten (diseased and bad); for the tree is known and recognized and judged by its fruit. You offspring of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil (wicked)? For out of the fullness (the overflow, the superabundance) of the heart the mouth speaks.—Matthew 12:33-34

A woman I’ll call Dorothy knew more about the church and every member and visitor than anyone else did. She was fairly well-known as the church gossip. “One thing about her,” a friend said, “she’s not prejudiced; she talks about everyone,” and he laughed. He also added, “She’ll probably get into heaven, but God may have to cut off her tongue first.”

One day as I stood near the front door, I heard Dorothy telling several people about one of the deacons, “But it isn’t up to me to judge him,” she said. The venom poured from her mouth, and she went on to mention several others. Of course, she was critical of each one.

I listened to her and realized something. She was only speaking from what was already inside her heart. That’s obvious, but I grasped something else. Dorothy was so critical of herself, so filled with disgust for herself, how could she speak well of others?

Too often people make promises that they’ll speak better of others and gossip less. They really try, but nothing ever changes. This is because they are trying to change their words without changing their thoughts. That’s a bad solution, because they start at the wrong end. What they need to do is look inward, asking, What is going on inside of me?

“For out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks,” Jesus said. As I considered those words, I felt a deep compassion for Dorothy. She had allowed Satan to fill her mind with critical, harsh thoughts. She didn’t speak much about herself, but I’m sure she was totally critical of herself as well as other people, and when she spoke, the evil words came out of her mouth.

Continue reading Joyce Meyer – Known by Our Fruit

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Underneath: Everlasting Arms

“The eternal God is your Refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He thrusts out your enemies before you…” (Deuteronomy 33-27, LB).”…with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:8, KJV).

Susan was broken-hearted. She had just lost her first child at birth. The trauma of that experience had affected her relationship with her husband and with everyone else around her. She had become cynical and moody. She blamed God for what had happened and said, “I hate Him. Why would this happen to me? Where was God when I was going through the birth pangs, the excruciating pain of giving birth to a stillborn child? Why didn’t He give me a healthy baby?”

I was reminded of a statement that I had heard in response to a similar anguished plea: “Where was God when I lost my son?”

The answer: “Where He was when His own Son died on the cross for our sins.”

We do not understand the mystery of why God allows tragedy, heartache and sorrow, but we do know that those who trust the eternal God as their refuge will experience the reality of His promise that “underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Sometime later I talked with a godly Christian leader whose son had just taken his own life. Of course this man and his wife were devastated. Their hearts were broken. But what a difference in their reaction. Even through his tears this great Christian was saying, “I know I can trust God. He is a loving God. He is my refuge, and I feel His strength and compassion and care for me and my loved ones. My wife and I and all of our family are rededicating ourselves to Him as an expression of our love and confidence in His trustworthiness.”

Bible Reading: Psalm 91:1-7

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: As an expression of my confidence in God and His love and faithfulness I will make a special effort to visualize those everlasting arms of love spread out beneath me, ready for any fall I may take, like a giant net below a trapeze artist. That will give me courage in the face of every obstacle and assurance despite my weaknesses.

 

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Max Lucado – What You Needed Most

 

God is enough. Isn’t this the message of Moses and Joshua and the journey to the Promised Land? Who opened the Jordan River? Who led the people across on dry ground? Who appeared to encourage Joshua? Who brought down the Jericho walls? Who fought for and delivered the people? God!

He cared for his people. Even in the wilderness they never went without provision. He gave them not just food but clothing and good health. Moses once reminded the Hebrews, “Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years” (Deuteronomy 8:4 NIV).

The following phrases were never heard in the wilderness: Oh, bummer, my robe has another rip in it…or…. Hey, new sandals. Where did you get them? There was no want for food; no need for clothing. God provided for them. And God has promised to provide you.

From God is With You Every Day

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Wisdom Hunters – Faith Versus Fear 

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

Fear is a formidable foe of faith. It lurks about, looking for ways to lead us into distrust of our Lord. Fear is subtle with its sneak attacks on our attitude and bold in its frontal barrage on our beliefs. Fear always fights back, even when we extinguish it for a time with our total trust in God.  And it doesn’t let up until we get to heaven. Fear is like fire ants.  You can eliminate their unholy mound with a powder-like deterrent, but they regroup and rebuild nearby.

Trust in the Lord is the terminator of fear, but fear seems to recreate itself with whatever appendage of doubt is left. It grows within the next uncertain circumstance that comes our way. Fear thinks it has us in check on the chessboard of our life, but the truth is that Jesus checkmated fear on the cross. Now it is up to us to appropriate His triumph by trusting in God.

There are many times when we are in transition from fear to faith. It’s in the transition of trust in God that our cares co-mingle with Christ’s care. There is a holy tension that transpires in our transition into trust. It is in this dawn of trust that light gradually overcomes darkness. Faith dissolves doubts as the sun drives away the mist. Your mind may be a little murky, but you renew your thinking (Romans 12:2) with the truth that God is ever present. Your confidence may be crumbling, but you keep your eyes on your Savior. Your prayers may be clumsy, but you still cling to Christ. Your relationships may be reluctant, but you rely on the Lord. Use this transition from fear to faith to grow your mercy and compassion. Indeed, doubting can drive us to God, and grows us into more patient and humble human beings. It strengthens our trust and makes us hold faster to heaven. Hope trusts in this transition from fear to faith.

Moreover, mortal man has not made a permanent impression on the saints of God. Immortal and Almighty God is your new insignia. Embedded on the coins of your character is the faith-filled inscription, “In God I Trust.” Followers of Jesus have the eternal seal of their Savior as their newfound identity (Ephesians 4:30). Do not allow the patterns of your old life to feed any fading fears in your new one (Romans 6:6). The fears of your proud past have been replaced with faith, love, and hope in your humble here and now. Faith has banished fear.

Therefore, you can continually celebrate. Praise points you to Providence. After all, it’s all about Him. This is why faith brings forth praise. When you trust, you can’t help but sing from your soul. Indeed, faith in the Lord facilitates praise and is a product of praise. It is in our praise of God that our fears fade and our faith flourishes. So praise Him, trust Him, and fear no one. No one can take from you what you have already given to Him. Faith is a fear-killer; it overcomes.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, all I need is You, keep my faith in You and my focus on You.

Application: What fear do I need to release to Christ and rest in His reassuring presence?

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE U-TURN EFFECTS OF THE GOSPEL

Read GALATIANS 1:18–24

Following his conversion, Paul’s life took a complete U-turn. His beliefs and values were flipped on their heads. He had been eager to persecute Christians; now he was one. He had opposed the gospel as heresy; now he preached it. He had believed fervently in the Mosaic Law and his own righteousness; now he trusted wholeheartedly in God’s grace and Christ’s righteousness. All he once relied upon and prized he now called “garbage,” a vehement term which can also be translated “dung” or worse (Acts 9:19–31; Phil. 3:4–14).

In today’s reading, Paul continued to share his testimony with the Galatians in order to validate his credentials as an apostle and to give God glory for the gospel’s transforming power in his life (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3–8). His testimony implied an argument he makes explicit later— that it makes no sense whatsoever for gospel believers to go back to an old life or former ways of living.

After three years in Arabia, Paul finally did go to Jerusalem, where he met privately with Peter and James (vv. 18– 20). If this is the visit recorded in Acts 9:26–30, as seems likely, then it was Barnabas who introduced them. In any case, Peter received Paul as an equal, recognizing the truth of his gospel and the fact that he had received it directly from Christ.

Paul then continued his evangelistic ministry in Syria and Cilicia, an area in modern-day Turkey and Lebanon that included his hometown of Tarsus (vv. 21–24). He didn’t narrate the details of his missionary endeavors there because his main purpose in this passage was to vigorously defend his truthfulness and apostolic credentials. Nonetheless, his ministry was successful and people praised God for it. For Paul, the bottom line was always that God’s name be glorified.

APPLY THE WORD

What have been the effects of the gospel on your life? If you did a dramatic U-turn to follow Christ, give thanks today! If you’ve been a believer most of your life, consider what kind of person you might be without the gospel and then give thanks! As you continue to grow more like Christ, what effects will the gospel have on your future? Again, give thanks!

 

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