Charles Stanley – The Believer’s Valley Experiences

 

Psalm 23:1-6

Today’s passage is probably the most beloved psalm in the Bible. It’s filled with comforting descriptions of green pastures, still waters, a banquet table, and an overflowing cup, all of which point to restoration and God’s abundant goodness and mercy.

But right in the middle of the psalm is “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). We may be tempted to think this verse doesn’t fit the context, but it actually conveys a core truth about the believer’s life: Although our Shepherd constantly guides and cares for us, we will experience periods of hardship, suffering, and darkness. It’s just part of living in a fallen world.

However, God gives us amazing promises in the midst of the dark valleys. We never walk through them alone, because the Lord promises to be with us. Even when we can’t feel His presence, He is there. And His Word is our primary means of comfort—nowhere else can we find the relief we seek. All our coping methods will leave us empty, but the truths of Scripture assure us of God’s love and strength, which enable us to endure and even grow through difficult experiences.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus protects and guides His lambs through every trial. Even in dark valleys, we cannot be snatched from Him (John 10:29). His rod beats away predators trying to drag off one of the flock, and His staff’s crooked neck pulls a wandering sheep back from danger.

If you’re presently traveling through a dark valley, remember that the Lord is with you. His goodness and mercy are still following you because your Shepherd never forsakes His beloved lambs.

Bible in One Year: Numbers 20-22

 

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Our Daily Bread — Sinking into Grace

 

Bible in a Year:Leviticus 17–18; Matthew 27:27–50

[God] grants sleep to those he loves.

Psalm 127:2

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 127:1-2

Finally, on January 8, 1964, seventeen-year-old Randy Gardner did something he hadn’t done for eleven days and twenty-five minutes: he nodded off to sleep. He wanted to beat the Guinness Book World Record for how long a human could stay awake. By drinking soft drinks and hitting the basketball court and bowling alley, Gardner rebuffed sleep for a week and a half. Before finally collapsing, his sense of taste, smell, and hearing went haywire. Decades later, Gardner suffered from severe bouts of insomnia. He set the record but also confirmed the obvious: sleep is essential.

Many of us struggle to get a decent night’s rest. Unlike Gardner who deprived himself intentionally, we might suffer sleeplessness for a number of reasons—including a mountain of anxieties: the fear of all we need to accomplish, the dread of others’ expectations, the distress of living at a frantic pace. Sometimes it’s hard for us to turn off the fear and relax.

The psalmist tells us that “unless the Lord builds the house,” we labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). Our “toiling” and our relentless efforts are useless unless God provides what we need. Thankfully, God does provide what we need. He “grants sleep to those he loves” (v. 2). And God’s love extends to all of us. He invites us to release our anxieties to Him and sink into His rest, into His grace.

By Winn Collier

Today’s Reflection

God, I’m so anxious. I churn inside. Would You help me trust You with my night, with my day, with my life?

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Estranged

In the eyes of an eight-year-old, the most wonderful thing about Lake Michigan was grandpa’s boat. Sailing was a love of his and I was a glad participant. A particularly rare treat was spending the night on the boat, gently being rocked to sleep by the bobbing waves and steady clanking of metal against mast. My grandpa tried to show me the Milky Way, directing my eyes by way of the North Star. He told us the meaning of the boat’s name, a word that sounded funny at the time. “Nomad,” he said, “is the word for a wanderer, a drifting, homeless traveler.” Feeling like the darkened sky could swallow me up in seconds, under the stars, I felt the same.

One of the things I am comforted by in the Christian religion is the insistence that I am a wanderer, a stranger in a foreign and yet familiar land. “Hear my prayer, O LORD,” pleads the psalmist, “and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears. For I am your passing guest, an alien, like all my forebears.” In the book of Hebrews, amongst the testimonies of those who have lived and died, we are told that besides having in common a life of faith, these men and women had in common the suspicion that they were people living as aliens, journeying toward the very God who makes home home. “All these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth.”(1)

In his book Reaching Out, author Henri Nouwen defines a stranger as someone who is “estranged from their own past, culture and country, from their neighbors, friends and family, from their deepest self and from God.”(2) There are perhaps few of us who cannot find ourselves within that definition in some way each day. At the sound of breaking news, in the silence of anguished prayer, in the distraction that consumes years, there is a sense of alienation that wells up within us. Longing for promises in the distance, we wait estranged and encouraged by the hope that all is not yet as it will be.

Along the road to Emmaus, Jesus walked with two of his disciples who did not recognize him. On their way, the disciples talked about the events that gripped them with confusion and sorrow: their crucified leader, their lost hope, the ‘idle tale’ of an empty tomb. The one who traveled with them talked about the Scriptures, explaining events and promises down the centuries from Moses to the prophets. When they arrived, they invited him in to have a meal with them, and as he broke the bread, their eyes were opened: This stranger who walked with them was the one they knew. Home was once again in their midst.

On this road, there are always parts of ourselves that wander off with guilt or resentment, or get stuck somewhere on a tangent. But there is a great difference between wandering like a nomadic soul and walking as a stranger heightened by the hope that going home is a lifelong journey walked in thankful awareness of life with the Spirit. Often we are aware how long is the journey and how trying the conversations that must be had along the way. But we may find ourselves encouraged by fellow strangers in our midst. In the form of a tired traveler, Christ came to show us how to be human, how to find ourselves home again. As a stranger in a foreign land, salvation came searching for all who find themselves estranged.

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

(1) cf. Psalm 39:12, Hebrews 11:13.

(2) Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out (New York: Doubleday, 1986), 49.

 

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Joyce Meyer – Take a Laugh Break

 

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” — Psalm 126:2

Adapted from the resource My Time with God Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

We need to laugh more. It is good for the soul and adds health to our body. One of the reasons we may not laugh more is because we think too much about things that have no ability to bring joy.

Thinking of what I have lost in life is not a joy-bringer, but thinking about what God has done for me and His promise to do even more does bring joy.

Thinking about the people who have hurt us in life is not a joy-bringing thought, but thinking about the grace God has given us to forgive and trust Him for vindication makes us want to laugh (at least it does me).

God often reminds me to laugh more. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get too serious and I need to have a “laugh break.” There are lots of things to laugh at or about if we will just take the time to do it.

I believe laughter is much more important than we may realize. We aren’t too old or too busy, nor do we have too many problems to laugh! Start paying attention to how much you laugh and try to do it as often as possible.

Prayer Starter: Father, I believe You gave me the ability to laugh for a reason, and I want to take advantage of all the benefits of laughter. Help me take every opportunity to laugh and to make others laugh too. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Reap in Joy

 

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5,6 KJV).

How long has it been since you have shed tears of compassion over those who do not know our Savior as you pray for their salvation? Is God using you to introduce others to Christ? Is your church a center of spiritual harvest? If not, it is likely that you and other members of your church are shedding few tears over the lost.

It is a promise of God that when we go forth with a burdened heart sharing the precious seed of the Word of God, proclaiming that most joyful news ever announced, we can be absolutely assured – beyond a shadow of doubt – that we shall reap the harvests and, in the process, experience the supernatural joy that comes to those who are obedient to God.

It is a divine formula. But where does that burden and compassion for the souls of men originate? In the heart of God. And it is only as men are controlled and impowered by the Holy Spirit of God that there can be that compassion. It is not something that we can work up, not something that we can create in the energy of the flesh, but it is a result of walking in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit, with minds and hearts saturated with the Word of God.

The Old Testament references to sowing are often accompanied by sorrow and anxiety, evidenced by the tears to which the psalmist refers. As a result, the time of reaping is one of inexpressible joy.

Bible Reading:Proverbs 11:27-31

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will ask the Holy Spirit of God who dwells within me to give me a greater burden of the souls of those around me, so that I may indeed weep genuine tears of compassion as I go forth sowing precious seed. I know that I shall reap abundantly and, in the process, experience the joy which comes to those who obey God by weeping, sowing and reaping.

 

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Max Lucado – The Unending Presence of God

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

In the Bible, 2 Corinthians 6:1 says that we are “God’s fellow workers.” Rather than report to God, we work with God.  We are always in the presence of God.  There is never a non-sacred moment!

Is it possible to live—minute by minute—in the presence of God?  Jesus enjoyed unbroken communion with God, and God wants that same abiding intimacy with you and me.  He wants to be as close to us as a branch is to a vine.  You know it’s impossible to tell where one starts and the other ends.  What good news! We are NEVER away from God!  And he is NEVER away from us!  As we search the Bible, we realize that unbroken communion with God is the intent and not the exception.  Within the reach of every Christian is the unending presence of God.

Read more Just Like Jesus

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – President to announce $8 billion for border wall

News broke yesterday afternoon that President Trump will sign a border security compromise package that averts another government shutdown. However, this package does not include all the funds Mr. Trump has requested for continued construction of a barrier along our southern border.

ABC News reports that the president plans to announce today his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from congressional allocations, executive action, and an emergency declaration.

As a nonpartisan ministry, my purpose is not to offer a personal opinion on the political issues involved here. Nor is it to focus on the border wall itself, a subject I addressed recently.

Rather, my goal today is to consider the divisive response to these developments.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders: “The president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country.”

Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer responded: “Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall.”

Being Baptist and working for IBM

There are clearly significant debates dividing Americans today. Many of us are fundamentally opposed on foundational issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia.

Continue reading Denison Forum – President to announce $8 billion for border wall