Charles Stanley – The Death of Self

 

Matthew 16:24-26

Jesus Christ was obedient to the point of death (Phil. 2:8). While some Christians may be called upon to give up their life for the glory of God, most believers won’t face martyrdom. The death required of us, however, is no less real. We die to self.

Human beings are an independent lot. We want things our way, in our time, and on our terms. But Jesus said that anyone who wants to be His follower must deny him- or herself (Matt. 16:24).  Of course, that covers obvious issues like sinful habits and evil thoughts. But it also means that in some instances we must decline good things because they come at the wrong time or don’t fit God’s plan.

To an outside observer, the Christian’s commitment to obey must seem strange, especially when hands emptied by self-denial take up a cross instead (v. 24). Sometimes following the Lord involves suffering. What bystanders can’t see or experience is the deep satisfaction believers gain from doing what is right. Jesus once said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). As food is to the body, so obedience is to the soul and spirit. Working for God nourishes, energizes, strengthens, and enlightens—bringing us even more satisfaction than do those things we typically think of as pleasures.

Even when self-denial hurts, obeying God brings joy. Believers who prioritize submission to Him will know what I mean. Contentment is found in drawing close to the Lord, sensing His approval, and looking forward to hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21 NIV).

Bible in One Year: Matthew 19-21

 

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Our Daily Bread — Much More Than Words

 

Read: Romans 8:22–30 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 32–33; Colossians 1

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Romans 8:26

At a dedication ceremony during which a Bible translated into a local African language was presented, the area chief was presented with his own copy. In appreciation, he lifted the Bible to the skies and exclaimed, “Now we know God understands our language! We can read the Bible in our own native mother-tongue.”

No matter our language, our heavenly Father understands it. But often we feel unable to express our deepest longings to Him. The apostle Paul encourages us to pray regardless of how we feel. Paul speaks of our suffering world and our own pain: “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22), and he compares that to the Holy Spirit’s work on our behalf. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness,” he writes. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (v. 26).

God’s Holy Spirit knows us intimately. He knows our longings, our heart-language, and our unspoken words, and He helps us in our communication with God. His Spirit draws us to be transformed into the image of God the Son (v. 29).

Our heavenly Father understands our language and speaks to us through His Word. When we think our prayers are weak or too short, His Holy Spirit helps us by speaking through us to the Father. He yearns for us to talk with Him in prayer.

Thank You, Lord, for understanding my language and innermost longings. When my prayers are weak and dry, bear me up through Your Spirit.

When we feel weak in our prayers, God’s Spirit helps us in ways we can’t imagine.

By Lawrence Darmani

INSIGHT

Our inability to know what to ask for when we pray is part of a bigger story. According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, there’s a lot more we can’t do for ourselves. We also can’t avoid the consequences of our own choices, change our own hearts, make ourselves right with God, or even live up to our own expectations (Romans 4:5; 6:23; 7:18–21). Yet Paul doesn’t leave us helpless and hopeless. He begins and ends chapter 8 showing us how to rise on wings of wonder. Could anything lift us higher than to know that we also can’t do anything that would cause the God who is for us to stop helping and loving us? (vv. 11, 31–39).

Mart DeHaan

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – On Authority, Power, and Influence

What images come to mind in association with the word “authority”?  Typically, I think of government leaders or persons who hold positions of power.  Reading the world headlines, I often hear tales of brutality, betrayal, and oppression by those in “authority.”  There seems to be no end of warlords and despots, brutal dictatorships, and tyrants siphoning the resources of nations to hoard it for their own malevolent use.  These negative images of authority fill those who read about them or who suffer under them with feelings of mistrust and contempt.

The corruption of those in authority seems endemic to those who are entrusted with leadership.  Over one hundred years ago, Lord Acton warned: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men.”(1)  While Lord Acton’s sentiment appears thoroughly pessimistic, the requisite power that comes from being put in a position of authority often tempts the one who leads to use power for selfish gain, often in ways that promote harm, disorder, and injustice.  Given the abuse of authority that seems too often on display, it is no wonder that many feel a wary skepticism towards authority figures and institutions of power.

The attribution of authority applied to Jesus’s teaching ministry might make those who struggle with a more jaded view of authority pay attention; for even someone not familiar with the intricacies of Christian belief or theology would be reticent to compare the authority of Jesus with the way in which authority is often demonstrated in our world today.  Jesus never held political office nor did he have a high-ranking leadership position in the temple or synagogues of his day.  He would ultimately be crucified by those in authority over him.

Instead, authority is attributed to Jesus at the end of a sermon he preached.  The multitudes listening to that sermon “were amazed at his teaching; for he was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”(2) What was it about Jesus that caused such amazement, and that made his teaching authoritative?

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Joyce Meyer – Gods Approval

 

Adapted from the resource The Confident Woman Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
—Galatians 1:10

There is an epidemic of insecurity in our society today. Many people are insecure and feel bad about themselves, which steals their joy and causes major problems in all their relationships.

I know the effect insecurity can have on lives because I experienced it myself. Those who have been hurt badly through abuse or severe rejection, as I have, often seek the approval of others to try to overcome their feelings of rejection and low self-esteem.

They suffer from those feelings and use the addiction of approval to try to remove the pain. They are miserable if anyone seems to not approve of them in any way or for any reason, and they are anxious about the disapproval until they feel they are once again accepted. They may do almost anything to gain the approval they feel they have lost—even things their conscience tells them are wrong.

For example, if a person is met with disapproval when she declines an invitation, she might change her plans and accept the invitation just to gain approval. She compromises herself for the sake of feeling approved.

Prayer Starter: Lord, it’s true that You are the only one whom I need to please. Today, help me to not compromise myself or be a slave to pleasing others, no matter what I feel. I seek Your favor alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Has Not Deserted Me

 

“And He who sent Me is with Me – He has not deserted Me – for I always do those things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29).

If we have a conscience free of offense, and if we have evidence that we please God, it matters little if men oppose us or what others may think of us. “Enoch, before his translation, had this testimony – that he pleased God.”

It would not be fair for you or me to profess ignorance in this matter of pleasing God. If we had never known before, we know now that it comes from doing always those things He commands – which of course are the things that please Him.

Jesus is saying here, among other things, that God is with Him in the working of miracles. Though men had forsaken and rejected Him, yet God stayed by Him and worked in and through Him.

In the same way, God has made it possible for us to please Him by giving us His Holy Spirit to indwell, enable and empower us for service. With the available enablement, we are without excuse in the matter of doing the “greater things” He has promised for those who love and serve Him.

What better goal for today, tomorrow and all our coming days than to seek to please Him?

Bible Reading:John 8:25-28

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: So that Christ might be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death, I will seek to do only those things today which please Him.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Standing On God’s Promises

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

The promises of God work.  They work!  Search until you find covenants that address your needs.  Clutch them as the precious pearls they are.  And when the enemy comes with his lies of doubt and fear, produce the pearl.  Satan will be quickly silenced.  He has no reply for truth.

Russell Kelso Carter committed himself to believe the promises of God in the Bible.  His decision to trust God in the midst of great difficulty gave birth to a hymn that’s still sung today.  My favorite stanza says:

“Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

by the living Word of God I shall prevail,

standing on the promises of God!”

Will you do the same?  Build your life on the promises of God.  Because God’s promises are unbreakable your hope will be unshakable!

Read more Unshakable Hope

 

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

http://www.maxlucado.com

Denison Forum – What Amazon’s empire says about your soul

I haven’t seen this much cardboard since our family moved to Dallas twenty years ago. Like millions of Americans, our home is the regular destination of brown boxes adorned with smiling logos. What was once a simple online bookseller is fast becoming the most ubiquitous company in the world.

CNN Business tells the story of Amazon’s astounding rise to global dominance. The company seemingly sells everything a consumer can buy, from electronic readers to home security systems to groceries. While there are genuine concerns about the demise of traditional retailers, Amazon’s business model is clearly in the ascent.

One sentence explains their success.

What I learned about America in Cuba

Jeff Bezos, now the world’s richest man, told an Economic Club of Washington dinner last September: “The number one thing that has made us successful, by far, is obsessive-compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession over the competitor.”

This is a fascinating window into our culture. Why does such a customer-centric business model work so well? Consider two factors, both of which relate directly to churches today.

One: Americans are conditioned to think like consumers.

As Bezos notes, we will always want low prices, fast delivery, and large selection. And we will reward companies that deliver them to us. Likewise, churches that tell us what we want to hear will gain a hearing today.

I have discovered that it is not so everywhere. In my frequent travels to Cuba, I have witnessed Christians taking stands for Christ that lead to economic deprivation and government oppression. I have met Muslims who converted to Christianity at the risk of their jobs and even their lives. I know of pastors in China who preach the gospel while facing government censure and worse.

Two: Our culture is more cocooned than ever.

Shopping in a mall is a communal experience, as is attending a movie in a theater, a concert in a music hall, and a worship service in a church building.

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