Charles Stanley – Expectation of Suffering

Philippians 1:27-30

One of the greatest gifts we can give new believers is the knowledge of what they can expect in the Christian life. After receiving the forgiveness of sins and being made new creations in Jesus Christ, they might expect that life will be wonderful from that point forward. And indeed, it is because we have the Holy Spirit and Christ’s peace and joy within us. However, there is also the potential for suffering.

Christ saved us from sin, not from trouble. All the pain, suffering, hardship, and problems in the world originated in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve’s transgression. From then on, mankind has lived in a fallen environment and in personal bondage to sin. Christ set us free from the guilt and penalty of our wrongdoing, but He has not exempted us from the pain and trouble that is common to man.

In fact, once we believe in Christ, an additional area of trouble becomes possible in our life: suffering for Christ’s sake. We’d like to think that everyone around us will be just as excited about Jesus’ offer of salvation as we are. But in reality, there are many opponents to the gospel. At times family members may disparage or reject us and people at work make fun of us. In some areas of the world, believers suffer physical and even fatal persecution.

So what are we to do, and how are we to behave? When the world stands against us, we desperately need the fellowship and encouragement of the church. Together, we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel, stand firm in one spirit, and strive together for the faith.

Bible in One Year: Genesis 39-41

 

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Our Daily Bread — Fitting In

Read: Malachi 3:13–18

Bible in a Year: Genesis 29–30; Matthew 9:1–17

Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.—Malachi 3:16

Lee is a diligent and reliable bank employee. Yet he often finds himself sticking out like a sore thumb for living out his faith. This reveals itself in practical ways, such as when he leaves the break room during an inappropriate conversation. At a Bible study, he shared with his friends, “I fear that I’m losing promotion opportunities for not fitting in.”

Believers during the prophet Malachi’s time faced a similar challenge. They had returned from exile and the temple had been rebuilt, but there was skepticism about God’s plan for their future. Some of the Israelites were saying, “It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements . . . ? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it” (Malachi 3:14-15).

How can we stand firm for God in a culture that tells us we will lose out if we don’t blend in? The faithful in Malachi’s time responded to that challenge by meeting with like-minded believers to encourage each other. Malachi shares this important detail with us: “The LORD listened and heard” (v. 16).

God notices and cares for all who fear and honor Him. He doesn’t call us to “fit in” but to draw closer to Him each day as we encourage each other. Let’s stay faithful! —Poh Fang Chia

Lord, help us to keep on encouraging one another to stay faithful to You in this faithless world.

Our faith may be tested so that we may trust God’s faithfulness.

INSIGHT: Malachi’s prophecy is a fitting conclusion to the Old Testament. (Malachi may not have been his actual name since it means “My messenger,” which is more a title than a name.) The prophecy challenges Israel’s condition following their return from exile and anticipates their coming Messiah. Chapters 1-2 give a series of rebukes for the waywardness of God’s people, leading to the declaration, “You have wearied the LORD with your words” (2:17). In response to Israel’s spiritual drifting, God reaches out with a promise for their rescue. Malachi 3:1 says, “ ‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the LORD you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.” That messenger was John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus—Israel’s long-hoped-for Messiah (Matthew 11:10). Even when we are faithless, our God is faithful!

How does God’s faithfulness encourage you to be faithful?

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Learning How to Think

There are patterns of thought that come as natural to us as our daily routines. These patterns of thought emerge from constructs and experiences that color and shape the way in which we view the world and they can emerge in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes we simply repeat what we have heard. Mindless phrases spill out of our mouths forming the patterns of response—even when the response is incongruent with the situation. “It is what it is,” we say, when compassionate silence is called for or “Everything has a reason” when faced with inexplicable chaos.

I recognize in my own life how these patterns of thought belie my true way of viewing the world, much to my chagrin. Oftentimes, they reveal callousness to the suffering of others. I’ll tell someone, “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers” as a substitute for tangible assistance. Or my desire to fit every happening into a neat, understandable package compels me to speak when I first should listen.

Regardless of the situation, it seems a sad reality that so often these patterns of thought and action revolve around placing the self at the center of everything. Many function as if the world really does revolve around the immediate and urgent demands of living one’s own life. Everything is simply an incursion into the routine of putting me, myself, and I front and center. I automatically feel offended, for example, when cut off in traffic. I instinctively feel slighted or defensive that my very presence doesn’t delight and soothe the unhappy. I groan at the inconvenience of having to wait in another line and when I finally have my turn, I take offense at the clerk who doesn’t smile at me the way in which I think I deserve.

In his lauded address to graduates of Kenyon College, the late author David Foster Wallace exposed the routines of thought and action that place the self at the center.(1) In his remarks regarding the benefits of a liberal arts education in shaping one’s ability to think, he suggests that it is the “most obvious, important realities that are the hardest to talk about.”(2) In other words, one of those obvious realities is that when left to our own devices humans think and behave in self-centered ways. But it is one of those routines of thought that mostly goes unmentioned. He continues, “The choice is really about what to think about and how we think about it…to have just a little critical awareness….Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.”(3) Rarely, Foster Wallace notes, do we think about how we think because what is revealed is that we are basically selfish in action and thought 99% of the time.

But what if we really made thinking about how we think the routine? Foster Wallace conducts a thought experiment to illustrate how this can be done. What if the car that cuts me off in traffic is not about being in my way or being rude to me, but is a father trying to rush his sick son to the hospital or the doctor and I am in his way? What if the person who is critical of me or sullen towards me has only known criticism and neglect her whole life? What if the grocery bagger is not without social skills, but someone who has had little opportunity, whose parents’ have recently split up, and whose general home life is nothing but misery? How different these situations might look if I took the time to think! Indeed, what if my routine became first thinking of the other person?

One of the beautiful aspects of the Christian story is that we really don’t have to live for ourselves in order to find the good life. In fact, the opposite is true: those who seek to save their lives will lose them. Jesus offered an alternative vision as the one who came to serve. As the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to not merely look out for their own interests, but also to have the interests of others in mind, he looked to the life of Jesus. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself taking the form of a servant and made in the likeness of human beings.”(4) How different the world might look if each day we took time to think about the needs of someone else—even just once per day? In so doing, how might that change the very patterns of thought that conspire to keep us living at the center of our own universe, embittered by all the ways we’ve been slighted?

Foster Wallace concludes his address by telling the Kenyon graduates:

“Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation…. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad of petty and unsexy ways every day.”(3)

In a world that isn’t always sure what it thinks about Christianity, Jesus stands inviting us to encounter a very different kind of kingdom at the center of all creation, a kingdom in which he, the suffering servant, is Lord. In this kingdom marked by his living example of sacrifice and care, it is most freeing to discover you are far from alone.

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

(1) David Foster Wallace, “This is Water,” Commencement Address, Kenyon College Graduation, Kenyon, Ohio, 2005.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – More Than Conquerors

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us].— Romans 8:37

God gives us dreams for the future, but sometimes those dreams can seem impossible. That’s when fear starts to set in.

If you are determined to never give up on your dream, then you have to take chances—you have to be courageous. And you need to understand that courage is not the absence of fear; it is pressing forward when you feel afraid. So when you face situations that threaten or intimidate you, pray for God’s grace to give you boldness and courage so you can move ahead in spite of the feeling of fear.

The spirit of fear will always try to keep you from going forward. The enemy has used fear for centuries to try to stop people, and he is not going to change his strategy now. But you can defeat fear, because you are more than a conqueror through Christ who loves us.

I want to encourage you to be determined to face fear when it comes against you. Stand firm, trusting God and knowing He is always with you.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Be Strong in Character

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2-4).

A friend of mine had been very successful in business, but after he became a Christian everything seemed to go wrong. Problem after problem seemed to plague him. Yet he never seemed to be discouraged or defeated.

As we counseled together, he assured me that there was no unconfessed sin in his life. So I rejoiced with him that God was preparing him for a very important responsibility in His kingdom. That is exactly what happened. He is now the director of a very fruitful ministry for our Lord. The problems and testing served to help equip him to be a better ambassador for Christ.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your life – physical illness, loss of loved ones, financial adversity – remember the above admonition from God’s Word. Be happy, knowing that God will work in your life to accomplish His holy purpose.

You can decide how you will respond to problems and temptations – you can either become critical and cynical, or as an act of the will, by faith, you can choose to believe that our sovereign, loving God is allowing this to happen in your life for your own good and for His glory.

Even the hairs of your head are numbered. “His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, KJV). He is tender, loving and compassionate, concerned about your every need.

Bible Reading: James 1:5-12

Today’s Action Point: When difficulties and temptations enter into my life I will – as an act of the will, by faith in God’s faithfulness to His promises – rejoice and be glad, knowing that He is always with me and will never forsake me. As I trust Him and obey Him, he will supernaturally turn tragedy to triumph, and He will change heartache and sorrow to joy and rejoicing. I will trust Him in the darkest night of circumstances.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Sleeping Trouble

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Millions of Americans have trouble sleeping!  You may be one of them. Only one other living creature has as much trouble resting as we do.  They are woolly, simpleminded, and slow…sheep. Sheep can’t sleep!  For sheep to sleep, everything must be just right. No predators. No tension in the flock.  Sheep need help.  They need a shepherd to lead them and help them lie down in green pastures. Without a shepherd, they cannot rest.

Without a shepherd, neither can we!  Psalm 23:2 says, “He, (the Shepherd) makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”  Who’s the active one?  Who’s in charge? The Shepherd!  With our eyes on the Shepherd, we’ll get some sleep. Isaiah 26:3 reminds us of the promise,  “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.”

Read more Traveling Light

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Robin Roberts: My sister saved my life

Sally-Ann Roberts has worked for a New Orleans television station for forty years, twenty-six of them as co-anchor of its morning show. She will be retiring next month. Why is this story making national news?

Because her sister is Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts. And because, as Robin explained, “the only reason I’m here living, is she was my bone marrow donor.” When Robin was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder in 2012, her sister’s sacrifice saved her life.

In other words, Robin Roberts is alive because her healthy sister made Robin’s problem her problem.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reports that every day, the number of people in the world living in extreme poverty goes down by 217,000. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity; 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water. In another fifteen years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will mostly be gone.

Since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, breastfeeding promotion, diarrhea treatment, and other simple steps. These remarkable advances were facilitated by people who did not have the problem they set out to solve.

In other news, a sophomore basketball player at the University of Texas is generating headlines today, not for what he has done on the court but for what he must now do off it. Andrew Jones has been diagnosed with leukemia and has begun treatment.

His jersey now occupies a spot on the Texas bench. A halftime video offered tributes from nearly every UT team. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins have voiced their encouragement.

None of them has Andrew Jones’s disease, but he has their support.

The trust revolution

Who Can You Trust? is an illuminating new book by Oxford scholar Rachel Botsman. Her research documents the breakdown of institutional trust in our culture.

Recent years have seen an inequality of accountability as corporate leaders have failed their constituents but been rewarded with lucrative buyout packages. Political leaders have faced little accountability for their personal and leadership failings.

The digital age has made it easier than ever to voice allegations against those in power. Social media enables us to confine our news to sources with which we agree.

The results are startling.

In the 1970s, according to Gallup surveys, 70 percent of Americans believed they could trust key institutions to do the right thing most of the time. In 2016, such confidence had fallen to 32 percent. Trust in Congress fell from 49 to 9 percent. Trust in the church fell from 65 to 41 percent.

Millennials are the most dubious. According to a 2015 Harvard study, 86 percent distrust financial institutions. Three in four “sometimes or never” trust the federal government to do the right thing; 88 percent “sometimes or never” trust the media.

At the same time, we are learning to trust strangers in entirely new ways. We rent homes on Airbnb; we arrange transportation on Uber; we buy products on Amazon.

But before we engage in such digital transactions, we check the reviews. Airbnb properties and guests are rated, as are Uber drivers and passengers. Products on Amazon get “stars” and voluminous consumer reports.

According to Botsman, the key trust indicators are competence, reliability, and honesty.

Anne Frank was right

What does this “trust revolution” mean for those of us who seek to change our culture for Christ?

Ezra 9 finds the Jewish people back home from exile in Babylon. However, many have intermarried with Gentiles in the land. Ezra, their spiritual leader, must now respond to their grievous sin.

Here’s how his prayer begins: “O my God, I am ashamed to blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens” (v. 6). Even though he committed none of these sins personally, he identified with his people. Their failures became his failures. Years later, Nehemiah confessed the sins of the nation by expressing the same solidarity with his people (Nehemiah 1:6–7).

The old truism is true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If we make the problems of society our problems, we earn the right to share our solutions.

Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, followers of Jesus should be especially competent, reliable, and honest. Because we serve a sinless Savior, we should be sacrificial in addressing problems that we do not face personally.

And because tomorrow is promised to no one, we should find a need to meet today. Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

 

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