Charles Stanley – When Burdens Seem Unbearable

 

Psalm 13:1-6

Which is more influential in your life—circumstances or your perspective? Although we may long for a pleasant life filled with abundance, comfort, and good experiences, the reality is that we live in a fallen world. Almost nothing is as it should be, but the way we perceive life’s hardships and burdens depends largely on our perspective.

For example, when we are overburdened, the world might look dark even when the sun is shining. The birds may be singing, but all we hear are the sorrowful cries of our own heart. The burdens seem so overwhelming that we may even distance ourselves from others, yet that only encourages us to dwell even more on our problems and leads us further into despair.

But when we open the book of Psalms, the words penetrate our bleak circumstances, inviting us to draw near and find rest in the Lord. How gracious of Him to give us this amazing book of comfort. But greater still are the lessons we learn from it.

In today’s psalm, David is weighed down with burdens. He asks, “How long?” Have you ever felt like that? He describes his troubles and pleads for an answer, but by the end of the psalm, his perspective shifts when he remembers that God is trustworthy.

If you feel as if you’re bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders, stop and look up to your heavenly Father. Remember a time in the past when God carried you through hard circumstances, and rejoice in His steadfast faithfulness. He didn’t fail you then, and He will not fail you now.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 39-43

 

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Our Daily Bread — Blessing in the Mess

 

Read: Genesis 28:10–22 | Bible in a Year: Nehemiah 10–11; Acts 4:1–22

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I got myself into this mess, so I’d better get myself out, I sometimes find myself thinking.  Although I believe in a God of grace, I’m still prone to act as if His help is available only when I deserve it.

God’s first encounter with Jacob is a beautiful illustration of how untrue this is.

Jacob had spent a lifetime trying to alter his destiny. He’d been born second at a time when firstborn sons typically received their father’s blessing—believed to guarantee future prosperity.

So Jacob decided to do whatever it would take to get his father’s blessing anyway. Eventually, he succeeded—through deceit—obtaining the blessing intended for his brother (Genesis 27:19–29).

But the price was a divided family, as Jacob fled from his furious brother (vv. 41–43). As night descended (28:11), Jacob must have felt as far from a life of blessing as ever.

But it was there, leaving behind a trail of deception, that Jacob met God. God showed him he didn’t need desperate schemes to be blessed; he already was. His destiny—a purpose far greater than material prosperity (v. 14)—was held securely by the One who would never leave him (v. 15).

It was a lesson Jacob would spend his whole life learning.

And so will we. No matter how many regrets we carry or how distant God seems, He is still there—gently guiding us out of our mess into His blessing.

Lord, so often we feel trapped by our mistakes, thinking there’s no future left for us. Remind us that you are the God of Jacob, the God who will never give up on Your purposes for us.

God never gives up on His love and purposes for our lives.

By Monica Brands

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Like a Letter

The question is asked with both biting sarcasm and pained lament: Why isn’t God clearer? Why the complicated hunt for answers? Why not a God with far more interest in direct communication? Such questions are perhaps further disquieted by those who seem to claim precisely this experience—hearing God as surely as in a letter, as directly as any other conversation.

It also used to bother me that I couldn’t give an exact date for my conversion. I can’t describe the moment when I finally bowed and admitted God was God. The lack of anything precise to claim as my own troubled me particularly when it was my turn to speak in a room of believers with specific dates and encounters to tell—and the expectation that I could tell likewise. I’ve since learned that conversion is more than one moment of waking—even for those who indeed have one moment that stands out among all others. But I’ve also come to love the diversity of means and ways God appears before a life—gently beckoning one to follow, pursuing over a lifetime the one lost or running, dramatically opening the eyes of another in an instant.

But could this broadened picture itself not be direct communication from God? The apostle Paul describes the converted one “like a letter from Christ… written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”(1) In this description, we discover conversion is inherently personal—a letter from creator to creature, written not in ink but in God, not on paper or tablet, but on living flesh, through the vicariously human Son of God. Accordingly, there are as many stories of God drawing near a life as there are words one could put in a personal letter. Like Paul, I have come to expect and to admire the compilation. Some will speak of waking to God’s truth gradually; others will describe being moved nearly to blindness as they encounter Christ more fully than they have eyes yet to see.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Like a Letter

Joyce Meyer – Are You Not Worth Much More Than They?

 

“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow [seed] nor reap [the harvest] nor gather [the crops] into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they?” — Matthew 6:26

Adapted from the resource New Day New You Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

It might do all of us good to spend some time watching birds. That’s what our Lord told us to do. If not every day, then at least every now and then we need to take the time to observe and remind ourselves how well our feathered friends are cared for. They literally do not know where their next meal is coming from, yet, I have personally never seen a bird sitting on a tree branch having a nervous breakdown due to worry.

The Master’s point here is really very simple: “Are you not worth more than a bird?” Even though you may be wrestling with a poor self-image, surely you can believe that you are more valuable than a bird, and look how well your heavenly Father takes care of them.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for reminding me that when life is overwhelming or I’m tempted to worry, I have tremendous value in Your eyes, and You’ll never let me down. Help me to be mindful that You will always love me, provide for me, and take care of every need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Gave His Son

 

“Since He did not spare even His own Son for us but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also surely give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32).

George was very faithful in his Christian walk. In fact, he had a little black book in which he recorded all of his activities for each day. These included daily devotions, note-taking, verses to be memorized, appointments to be kept and every activity of his life. Outwardly he seemed so perfect that I, as a young Christian, wanted to be like him. Then one day he had a nervous breakdown. As he told me later, the last thing he did before he went to the hospital was to throw away his little black book and tell his wife he never wanted to see it again. Without realizing it, he had become very legalistic in his relationship with God rather than accepting, by faith, what God had already done for him. while in the hospital he began to recall some of the thousands of verses which he had memorized through the years. It was then that he relaxed enough to allow the Holy Spirit to illumine his mind to comprehend the importance of living by faith.

As Paul writes to the Galatians in the third chapter: “What magician has hypnotized you and cast an evil spell upon you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death as clearly as though I had waved a placard before you with a picture on it of Christ dying on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by trying to keep the Jewish laws? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you heard about Christ and trusted Him to save you. Then, have you gone completely crazy? For if trying to obey the Jewish laws never gave you spiritual life in the first place, why do you think that trying to obey them now will make you stronger Christians?”

I ask you again: Does God give you the power of the Holy Spirit as a result of your trying to obey His laws? No, of course not. He gives that power when you believe in Christ and fully trust Him. The greatest heresy of the Christian life is legalism; and yet, it inevitably seems to attract dedicated, committed Christians. They are happy to accept salvation as a gift of God by faith. But like the Galatians, they insist on earning their way thereafter.

We must never forget that salvation is a gift of God which we receive by faith. Nothing can be earned. If we believe God, we will want to work to please Him, not to earn His favor.

Bible Reading:Romans 8:33-39

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will invite the Holy Spirit to protect me from becoming legalistic in my walk with Christ. Having received salvation by faith, I shall claim each day’s blessings by faith as I live the supernatural life.

 

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Max Lucado -Examine Your Gifts

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Be careful!  In a desire to be great, one might cease being any good. Not every teacher is equipped to be a principal.  Not every carpenter has the skill to head a crew. Not every musician should conduct an orchestra.  A promotion might promote a person right out of their sweet spot.  For the love of more, a person might lose their purpose. Greed makes a poor job counselor.

Examine your gifts; know your strengths. Romans 12:3 says, “Have a sane estimate of your capabilities.”  Proverbs 15:16 says, “It is better to have little with fear for the LORD than to have great treasure with turmoil.”  So, don’t let the itch for things or the ear for applause derail you from your God-intended design!

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Denison Forum – Jeff Sessions and Romans 13: Should Christians always obey the government?

 

I don’t remember the last time a biblical citation generated so many headlines.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sought to defend the Trump administration’s immigration policies, especially with regard to separating families. At one point, he stated, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”

His citation set off a firestorm of debate in the culture and among Christians.

My purpose today is not to discuss the multitude of ways Romans 13 has been interpreted through history. Rather, it is to consider the larger question: When should Christians obey or disobey the government?

Obeying the state

God’s word consistently calls us to obey and support our governing authorities.

Paul urged that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

His instruction to Christians living in Rome was clear: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1-2).

The apostle then stated that “the authorities are ministers of God” (v. 6) and urged his readers: “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (v. 7).

Peter added: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14).

It would seem clear, then, that Christians are to submit to the authority of the government, seeing its exercise of power as God’s will for us. However, there’s more to the story.

Choosing civil disobedience

In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching the gospel by the Sanhedrin, the highest authority in Judaism. Their response: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (vv. 19-20).

After Peter was arrested again for preaching the gospel, he was again bold in his civil disobedience: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). His faithfulness to God led to his martyrdom by Rome. Paul suffered a similar fate: imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:6) and execution.

And so, two apostles who counseled Christians to obey the state were executed because they would not obey the state.

Theirs are not the only such stories in Scripture.

In Daniel 3, the Babylonian king erected a golden image and required all people to worship it. The Jewish exiles Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego testified before the idolatrous king: “We will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (v. 18). You know what happened to them.

Three chapters later, Daniel refused to pray to the Persian king and was thrown into the lions’ den as a result.

In Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” He agreed with St. Augustine, who claimed that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

John R. W. Stott was one of the most respected evangelical theologians of the twentieth century. In his commentary on Romans 13, he asks:

“Granted that the authority of the rulers is derived from God, what happens if they abuse it, if they reverse their God-given duty, commending those who do evil and punishing those who do good? Does the requirement to submit still stand in such a morally perverse situation? No. The principle is clear. We are to submit right up to the point where obedience to the state would entail disobedience to God. But if the state commands what God forbids, or forbids what God commands, then our plain Christian duty is to resist, not to submit, to disobey the state in order to obey God.”

Citizens of two countries

You and I are citizens of two countries. We live in a secular nation with secular leaders we are to support and obey. But we also live in a spiritual society with an omnipotent King whose authority is supreme (Psalm 2:10-11).

Jesus taught us to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

But when we are forced to choose, we must obey our highest authority.

Peter encouraged us to “show proper respect to everyone.” What does this entail? “Love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17 NIV). We are to love each other, and we are to honor our secular leaders. But we are to fear only God.

On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued the first formal proclamation of Thanksgiving in the United States. He stated: “It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”

Let’s do our duty today

 

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