Our Daily Bread — Guiding Light

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 143–145; 1 Corinthians 14:21–40

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Genesis 1:1–5

The restaurant was lovely but dark. Only one small candle flickered on every table. To create light, diners used their smartphones to read their menus, look to their tablemates, and even to see what they were eating.

Finally, a patron quietly pushed back his chair, walked over to a waiter, and asked a simple question. “Could you turn on the lights?” Before long, a warm ceiling light flashed on and the room erupted with applause. But also with laughter. And happy chatter. And thank-yous. My friend’s husband turned off his phone, picked up his utensils, and spoke for us all. “Let there be light! Now, let’s eat!”

Our gloomy evening turned festive with the flick of a switch. But how much more important to know the real source of true light. God Himself spoke those astonishing words, “Let there be light,” on the first day when He created the universe, “and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Then “God saw that the light was good” (v. 4).

Light expresses God’s great love for us. His light points us to Jesus, “the light of the world” (John 8:12), who guides us from the gloom of sin. Walking in His light, we find the bright path to a life that glorifies the Son. He is the world’s brightest gift. As He shines, may we walk His way.

By:  Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray

In what situation do you need Christ’s light to shine? When has His light guided you?

Loving God, we thank You for Jesus, the Light of the World, and the guiding light of His great love.

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Shape of Affection

 

In a study included in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine children were shown to overwhelmingly prefer the taste of food that comes in McDonald’s wrappers. The study had preschoolers sample identical foods in packaging from McDonald’s and in matched, but unbranded, packaging. The kids were then asked if the food tasted the same or if one tasted better. The unmarked foods lost the taste test every time. Even apple juice, carrots, and milk tasted better to the kids when taken from the familiar wrappings of the Golden Arches. “This study demonstrates simply and elegantly that advertising literally brainwashes young children into a baseless preference for certain food products,” said a physician from Yale’s School of Medicine. “Children, it seems, literally do judge a food by its cover. And they prefer the cover they know.”(1)

The science of advertising is often about convincing the world that books can and should be judged by their covers. These kids were not merely saying they preferred the taste of McDonald’s food. They actually believed the chicken nugget they thought was from McDonald’s tasted better than an identical nugget. From an early age and on through adulthood, branding is directive in telling us what we think and feel, who we are, what we love, what matters.

 

But lest we blame television and marketing entirely for the wiles of brand recognition, we should recall that advertisers continue to have employment simply because it works. That is, long before marketers were encouraging customers to judge by image, wrapping, and cover, we were judging by these methods anyway. When the ancient Samuel was looking for the person God would ordain as king, he had a particular image in mind. In fact, when he first laid eyes on Eliab, Samuel thought confidently that this was the one God had chosen. But on the contrary, God said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”(2)

The study with the preschoolers is startling because adults can see clearly that a carrot in a McDonald’s bag is still inherently a carrot. Yet how often are we, too, blindsided by mere wrappings, the cultural repetitions that mold us, the images and liturgies that shape our affections? Is the mistake of a child in believing the food tastes better in a yellow wrapper really any different than our own believing we are better people dressed with the right credentials, covered by the latest fashion, repeating the right belief-systems? Covered in whatever comforts us or completely stripped of our many wrappings, we are the same people underneath.

But according to one ancient writer, there is one exception. The Apostle Paul writes of a kind of clothing that changes the one inside them. “[F]or all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(3) Clothed in the righteousness of the man Jesus, a person is wrapped in the identity of the human Son of God. They are given new packaging, new life, new robes worn only by Christ, and thus, like him, they are made most truly human.

Unlike the catch and costliness of well-marketed wrappings, the robes he describes are free. The beautiful and difficult word of Christianity is that Christ requires only that we come without costume or pretense. The many robes we collect, the covers with which we judge the world, we must be willing to give him. He takes from tired shoulders robes of self-importance and false security. He tears from determined grasps those garments of self-pity and shame. And then he clothes the needful soul with garments of salvation, arrays us in robes of righteousness, gives us the hopeful liturgy of his presence, and reminds us that we wear his holy name from the inside out.

 

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

 

(1) “Foods Tastes Better With McDonald’s Logo, Kids Say,” Forbes, August 6, 2007.
(2) 1 Samuel 16:7.
(2) Galatians 3:27-28.

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Joyce Meyer – Come Closer!

 

Come close to God…and He will come close to you. — James 4:8 (AMP)

Adapted from the resource Hearing from God Each Morning Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Not everyone is willing to pay the price required to be close to God. Not everyone is willing to simply take the time required or make the investments needed for spiritual growth. God doesn’t ask for all of our time. He certainly wants us to do things we don’t consider “spiritual.” He designed us with bodies, souls (minds, wills, and emotions), and spirits, and He expects us to take care of all these areas.

Exercising our bodies and caring for our souls takes time and effort. Our emotions need to be ministered to; we need to have fun and be entertained, and we need to enjoy being with other people. Our minds need to grow and be renewed daily. In addition, we have a spiritual nature that needs attention. To stay balanced and healthy, we must take time to take care of our entire being.

I believe the whole issue of intimacy with God is a matter of time. We say we don’t have time to seek God, but the truth is that we take time to do the things that are most important to us. Even though we all have to fight distractions every day, if knowing God and hearing from Him is important to us, then we will find time to do it. Don’t try to work God into your schedule, but instead work your schedule around time with Him.

Getting to know God is a long-term investment, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get instant results. Be determined to honor Him with your time, and you will reap the benefits.

Prayer Starter: Father, I can’t live without You. Help me to put You first in my life and take the time to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Blessed are the Humble

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

A young Christian leader, who was probably more impressed with himself than he should have been, shared with me one day how he had difficulty in being humble about all of his talent. He was a better than average speaker and a reasonably gifted singer, he had a good mind and personality, and in his heart of hearts he knew that as a Christian he should be humble.

He said, “I spend many hours on my knees asking God to make me humble.” I responded, “I can save you a lot of prayer time in that regard if you are interested.” He assured me that he was. Whereupon I explained to him that every gift he possessed – personality, good mind, his ability to sing, speak, and other qualities – were all gifts of God and could be taken from him at any moment by a brain tumor or a car accident or plane crash or any of a thousand different things. Furthermore I reminded him that Scripture admonishes us to humble ourselves.

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart,” Andrew Murray said. “It is to have no trouble. It is never to be fretted or irritated or sore or disappointed. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed hope in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness when all around and above is trouble.”

Few Christians achieve such high standards, nevertheless it is an objective toward which we all should strive as long as we live, following the example of our Lord recorded in Philippians, chapter 2.

To be poor in spirit implies not only that we have a humble opinion of ourselves, but also that we recognize that we are sinners and have no righteousness of our own; that we are willing to be saved only by the grace and mercy of God; that we are willing to serve where God places us, to bear the burdens He allows and to stay in His hands and admit that we deserve no favor from Him.

As commonly interpreted, the word “blessed” means “happy.” You and I are assured of happiness when we are making conscious strides toward humility. All of this becomes possible as we yield to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit.

Bible Reading: Matthew 5:17-20

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With the help of the Holy Spirit I will consciously humble myself, asking Him to enable me to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and my neighbor as myself as an act of humility and as a major factor in achieving the supernatural life.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Doing Good Does Good for the Doer

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Doing good does good for the doer.  Research bears this out.  When volunteers were put in a functional MRI scanner and were told they would be giving some of their money to charity, the areas of their brains associated with pleasure— like food and sex— lit up like Christmas trees. Giving to others triggers dopamine.  Perhaps that could be a new fund-raising slogan?

In another study a team of social psychologists distilled happiness factors into eight common denominators.  Two of the first three involve helping others.  Happy, contented people “devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.”  And “they are often the first to offer a helping hand to co-workers and passers-by.”  Seeking joy?  Do good for someone else.

Read more How Happiness Happens – Finding Lasting Joy in a world of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Hurricane Dorian and the Hunkerdown Hideaway: Offering an ‘ablation’ to God

 

Hurricane Dorian turned north overnight and is about one hundred miles off of Florida’s east coast this morning. At least seven people were killed in the Bahamas; dozens are still being rescued from floodwaters.

The Category 2 storm, with winds of 110 mph, is lashing central Florida’s east coast today. Flash floods and a life-threatening storm surge are expected. More than two million people in Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina have been warned to evacuate.

Not everyone is leaving, however. Employees of the Hunkerdown Hideaway in downtown Cocoa Beach, Florida, vow to remain open “till the police shut us down.” Some say that the expense of evacuating and the income they would miss make leaving almost impossible for them.

Their dilemma could be solved if they knew where (or if) the hurricane would strike land. It’s an astounding fact in our day of remarkable technological sophistication that such vital and practical information is unavailable to those who need it most.

How many people work for the National Weather Service?

Our problem is not that our best people aren’t doing their best. The National Weather Service employs 2,600 operational meteorologists and hydrologists; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2019 budget exceeds $5 billion.

And yet, using the most advanced technology in history, our best meteorological scientists are still unable to predict the precise path of a hurricane. The consequences of this fact are staggering.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates government costs for hurricanes at $28 billion a year. Coastal shoreline counties generate 40 percent of America’s jobs and are responsible for 46 percent of our gross domestic product.

Clearly, our best experts are doing all they can. But their limits show us our own.

“Life has never been normal”

Researchers predict that cancer will become the leading cause of death in the US by next year. And yet the National Cancer Institute’s budget for this year is $5.74 billion. As the father of a cancer survivor and the son of a cancer victim, I wish it were more.

My point is that disasters and diseases demonstrate the finitude of fallen humans.

We can do so much more in the world than ever before. For instance, distributing this article without email would require $90,000 in postage and would render today’s column outdated by the time it arrived in your physical mailbox.

But the issues that matter most are beyond our capacity to influence or even predict. I don’t know if I’ll be alive to write Thursday’s Daily Article; you don’t know if you’ll be alive to read it if I do.

In this sense, the unpredictability and devastation of Hurricane Dorian is nothing new on our fallen planet. What C. S. Lewis said of war can be said of a hurricane: It “creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. . . . We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life.’ Life has never been normal.”

“The wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

When we face a foe stronger than we are, it’s wise to trust in a power stronger than it is.

Scripture says of the Lord: “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth” (Jeremiah 10:12–13).

When Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’” here’s what happened: “The wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39). The God who parted the Red Sea and stopped the flooded Jordan River is more powerful than Dorian or any other disaster.

Of course, it’s human nature to ask why this omnipotent God didn’t stop Dorian from devastating the Bahamas. When our son was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I asked the Lord why he didn’t answer my daily prayers for Ryan’s health. Eventually, I came to peace with the fact we discussed yesterday: my fallen mind cannot comprehend God’s “higher” thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8–9), so turning from my Father when I need him most only makes suffering worse.

For today, let’s consider that the unpredictability and danger of natural disasters and diseases should remind us daily of our frailty and limitations. The more advanced our technology becomes, the more tempting our hubris.

“Living your life as an offering of thanksgiving”

What Hurricane Dorian does this week is beyond our control. But how we respond to that fact is not.

When we remember that this world is not our home and that all we “own” actually belongs to the One who made it, we are free to live for heaven on earth and trust the results to our Father.

Curtis Almquist of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist offers this advice: “All the things which you could call your ‘possessions’—both the tangible and the intangible—give them up. I’m not saying to disregard or devalue them; quite to the contrary, I’m speaking of ‘giving them up’ like an offering, acknowledging to God how God has acknowledged you in them. In the ancient vocabulary of the church, this is called ‘an ablation,’ living your life as an offering of thanksgiving.”

Will you offer your ablation to God today?

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/

Charles Stanley – Who Is Jesus?

 

John 1:1-5

We know that most people have some inaccurate perceptions of Jesus, but this is also a problem in the church today. A survey called “The State of Theology” asked professing evangelical Christians about their beliefs, and the answers were a mixture of truth and error. For instance, 97 percent do hold the belief that there is one true God in three persons—Father, Son, and Spirit. However, 78 percent erroneously believe that Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.

Our salvation is dependent on following the One whom God sent to redeem us. Therefore, we must be certain we’re trusting in the only true Savior—Jesus—as He has revealed Himself in the Bible. In today’s passage, the apostle John describes Him as “the Word” and lists five attributes.

Jesus is eternal. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1-5). Jesus didn’t come into existence when He was conceived and then born as a baby. He existed before time even began.

He is God. “The Word was God” (v. 1). He has always been and will never cease being divine.

He is with God (John 1:1-2). The Son and the Father, along with the Holy Spirit, have always existed eternally as separate persons while being one in nature.

Jesus is the Creator. “All things came into being through Him” (John 1:3). In fact, nothing came into existence apart from Him.

In Him is life (John 1:4). Jesus is the source of all life, both temporal and eternal.

Is this the Jesus you’ve trusted for your salvation? Though He became a man, we must never cease to recognize and worship Him as the Son of God.

Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 23-25

 

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Our Daily Bread — It’s Slippery Out Here!

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 140–142; 1 Corinthians 14:1–20

Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil.

Psalm 141:4

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 141

Years ago, when I was learning to ski, I followed my son Josh down what appeared to be a gentle slope. With my eyes on him I failed to notice he turned down the steepest hill on the mountain, and I found myself careening down the slope, completely out of control. I cratered, of course.

Psalm 141 shows how we can easily find ourselves slipping down sin’s slope. Prayer is one of the ways we stay alert to those slopes: “Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil” (v. 4) is a plea that echoes the Lord’s Prayer almost exactly: “Lead [me] not into temptation, but deliver [me] from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). In His goodness, God hears and answers this prayer.

And then I find in this psalm another agent of grace: a faithful friend. “Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it” (Psalm 141:5). Temptations are subtle. We’re not always aware that we’re going wrong. A true friend can be objective. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6 nkjv). It’s hard to accept rebuke, but if we see the wounding as a “kindness” it can become an anointing that puts us back on the path of obedience.

May we be open to truth from a trusted friend and rely on God through prayer.

By:  David H. Roper

Reflect & Pray

What slippery slopes do you gravitate toward? In what ways can you set a guard over your heart?

Father, please keep my feet from straying. Help me to listen to You and good friends.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Space for Sorrow

 

As a young girl, one of my favorite bible stories was the epic encounter between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. With David meets Goliath odds, Elijah faces off against 450 prophets of Baal in a contest pitting the God of Israel against the Canaanite god Baal. Which deity would answer the prayers of the respective prophets to consume the altar sacrifice?

This is an incident filled with dramatic tension and awesome displays of power. The Lord answers Elijah with fire from heaven that not only consumes the sacrifice, but also licks up every last drop of water poured out from not one, but four pitchers of water. The story ends with the destruction of the prophets of Baal and the peoples’ declaration that the Lord is God.

Now, as a grownup, I still love this story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, but not for the reasons I loved it as a young girl. Instead, I love what seems to be an anti-climactic postscript to the story. Despite seeing the glory and power of God on display in such dramatic fashion, and winning a great victory, Elijah falls into what could likely be called depression. Threatened by Queen Jezebel, he runs for his life into the wilderness. There, under a lone broom tree, he prays to God to take his life, not once but two times. As one commentator notes, “Those who have suffered mental anguish in their lives know all too well the depths to which Elijah has descended. He (and they) has entered the deep spots in the psychological ocean, and then has found a narrow slit in the ocean floor, a Marianas Trench of the soul, where he descends further still into the inky abyss. All he can think of is his desire to die.”(2)

As one reading this story, this is a surprising turn of events. How could Elijah feel this way? After all, didn’t he just see God mightily answer his prayer? One might expect a God who would reproach Elijah for feeling so badly, for his lack of faith, for his despair. And yet, the narrative offers no exhortation or chastening. Instead, an angelic messenger is touching Elijah, urging him to eat bread and water prepared for him by a heavenly servant. Indeed, the angel comes again and feeds Elijah a second time urging him: “Arise, eat for the journey is too great for you.”

Given God’s firey display from heaven in the encounter with the prophets of Baal, the reader might expect another dramatic display from God. And indeed, as Elijah waits on Mount Horeb, the Mountain of God, he experiences a strong wind, and a mighty earthquake, and then a consuming fire. But with each of these cataclysms the narrator repeats a refrain: The Lord was not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire. Instead, the Lord comes to Elijah in a gentle blowing. God meets Elijah at the very place of his despair, not with correction or reprimand, not with a “buck up and get going” or a “keep your chin up” but with a grace as gentle as a soft breeze.

Like Elijah, there may be days when we feel at the height of heights, assured of all answers, victorious in our daily battles, maybe even confident of God’s saving activity all around. But there are also days when we need permission to feel badly. Despair is our only friend and the obstacles and challenges of life conspire against faith, hope, and love. It is deeply encouraging to see that, even in this place, God draws near with gentleness.

The gentleness of God on display in Elijah’s dark depression is the same God sung about in one of Israel’s ancient psalms:

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I make my bed in the nether world,
behold you are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
even there your hand will lead me and your right hand will lay hold of me.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Space for Sorrow

Joyce Meyer – Praise Your Way to Victory

 

And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. — 2 Chronicles 20:15

Adapted from the resource Ending Your Day Right Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

If life sometimes seems to be a battle that causes you to feel upset and fearful, you’ll be glad to know you were not meant to fight the battle alone. The Bible says the battle is God’s.

God never loses a battle. And when you work with Him according to His plan, you won’t either.

During trying times, do you worry or worship? Praise and worship should not be limited to a few minutes in church. If you’re not worshiping at home on a regular basis, you may feel like the victim instead of the victor.

But God’s Word clearly details the Holy Ghost-anointed battle plan to combat every challenge you face. When you begin to substitute praise for petition and worship for worry, God will move on your behalf.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for always being with me. Please help me to praise and worship You in the midst of life’s “battles” and keep my eyes focused on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Not by the Law

 

“Now do you see it? No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what the law commands. For the more we know of God’s laws, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying them: His laws serve only to make us see that we are sinners. But now God has shown us a different way to heaven – not by ‘being good enough’ and trying to keep His laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says He will accept and acquit us – declare us ‘not guilty’ – if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we can all be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like. Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; yet now God declares us ‘not guilty’ of offending Him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in His kindness freely takes away our sins” (Romans 3:20-24).

One of my greatest concerns through the years, especially for those who are involved in Christian ministry around the world, has been the problem of legalism. In my opinion, legalism is the greatest heresy of Christianity. The reason legalism is so dangerous is that it is extremely subtle in its appeal. It is attractive even to the most sincere Christians, who are genuinely seeking to please God by determining to be “good enough” and to “earn God’s favor” through the good works of their self-effort.

How often there has been a tendency to forget “the just shall live by faith,” and “without faith it is impossible to please God.” There is a strong tendency to work hard in the flesh in order to please God. But if we trust Jesus Christ to take away such sins in our lives, He is faithful to do so, as He promised.

Bible Reading: Romans 3:25-31

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will remind myself often that the law is merely a way to show me that I am a sinner. By faith, I will trust Christ and accept His grace and forgiveness. By faith, I will draw upon the mighty resources of God to live the supernatural life, which is my heritage in Christ.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Changing Doors

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

As one Harvard professor said, “We think money will bring lots of happiness for a long time, yet actually it brings a little happiness for a short time.”   We’ve all seen happy peasants and miserable millionaires, right?

There is another option.  It requires no credit card, monthly mortgage, or stroke of fortune.  It demands no airline tickets or hotel reservations.  Age, ethnicity, and gender are not factors.  You don’t have to change jobs, change cities, change looks, or change neighborhoods.  But you might need to change doors.

The motto on the front door says “Happiness happens when you get.” The sign on the lesser-used back door counters “Happiness happens when you give.”  Doing good does good for the doer.

Read more How Happiness Happens – In this book Max shares the unexpected path to a lasting happiness, one that produces reliable joy in any season of life. Based on the teachings of Jesus and backed by modern research, How Happiness Happens presents a surprising but practical way of living that will change you from the inside out.

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – ‘Things like this happen all over planet Earth all the time’: The key to optimism in hard times

 

“This is Odessa, Texas. Things like this don’t happen here. This is small-town Texas.”

This is what Senior Pastor Del Traffanstedt told his congregation Sunday morning after a shooter killed seven people and injured twenty-two in his community. His church is within sight of the movie theater where the violent chase ended.

Then the pastor added: “The reality is, things like this happen all over planet Earth all the time.”

The latest on Dorian

The apparent randomness of the attack in West Texas underscores the threat it represents. It seems that anyone, anywhere, can be a victim of violence.

The same is true of natural disasters. As of this morning, Hurricane Dorian has killed at least five people in the Bahamas and left countless people homeless. The National Hurricane Center warns that the storm will get “dangerously close” to the Florida coast late today through Wednesday and will threaten Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina by Thursday.

In other news, a dive boat caught fire off the Southern California coast Monday morning, leaving at least twenty-five people dead and nine others missing. A twenty-seven-year-old minor-league catcher for the Detroit Tigers died yesterday from injuries sustained in a skateboarding crash.

A five-year-old girl was killed in Brooklyn when a decorative stone fence fell on her. Earlier this summer, a fifteen-year-old Tennessee girl was killed on a church mission trip in Mexico when a tree fell on her group’s van.

Why do optimistic people live longer?

You and I can neither predict nor control the future, but we can control how we respond to its unpredictability. Our response, in turn, plays a pivotal role in our personal future.

A new study suggests that people who tend to be optimistic are likelier than others to live to be eighty-five years old or more. Researchers from Boston University and Harvard found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11–15 percent longer lifespan.

How can we become more optimistic? A clinical health psychologist explained that she works with patients to “uncover systems of beliefs and assumptions people are making about themselves in their lives” so they can “begin to change those.”

When we begin making optimistic assumptions, our attitudes toward our experiences become more positive, our stress levels respond, and our physical health can improve as well. In other words, when we choose to view life positively, life often responds in kind.

The key to relational truth

This psychological principle also holds true spiritually.

When tragedy strikes, it’s human nature to cry with Christ from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). We want God to explain his ways so we can decide whether or not to trust him with our pain.

But what if we cannot experience his help until we trust his heart?

Relational truth must be chosen to be experienced. You cannot prove you should get married until you get married. You cannot prove you’ll recover from surgery until you trust the surgeon.

You should examine the evidence, but then you must step beyond the evidence into a relationship that becomes self-validating.

“Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small”

So it is with God. He wants us to develop and use our intellectual capacities as fully as possible (cf. 2 Peter 1:5; Matthew 22:37). But when it comes to understanding the mind of God, he tells us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Our finite, fallen minds may not be able to comprehend his perfect will until we are with him in heaven (1 Corinthians 13:12).

And as long as we hold our Father at arm’s length while we wait for explanations that may not help us, we forfeit the mercy that will.

President John F. Kennedy kept on his desk a block of wood inscribed with the words, “O God, Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.” They were adapted from this poem by Winfred Ernest Garrison:

Thy sea, O God, so great,
My boat so small.
It cannot be that any happy fate
Will me befall
Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me
Through the consuming vastness of the sea.

Thy winds, O God, so strong,
So slight my sail.
How could I curb and bit them on the long
And saltry trail,
Unless Thy love were mightier than the wrath
Of all the tempests that beset my path?

Thy world, O God, so fierce,
And I so frail.
Yet, though its arrows threaten oft to pierce
My fragile mail,
Cities of refuge rise where dangers cease,
Sweet silences abound, and all is peace.

Will you trust your boat to your Lord today?

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/

Charles Stanley – Principle or Preference?

 

Daniel 1

Imagine driving down a gravel road on a dark, rainy night. Even the light from your headlights seems to be swallowed by the blackness as you struggle to avoid veering off the road. Now consider what a difference it would make if there were yellow lines down the middle and white ones along the sides. You’d know exactly where on the road you’re supposed to be.

These two scenarios represent the difference between a life based on preferences and one guided by scriptural principles. Preferences fluctuate with the circumstances. When this is the basis for our decision making, the result is confusion, stress, and possibly danger as we wander through life. In contrast, principles are God’s unchanging truths, which keep us on the path of His will and protect us from spiritual danger and deception.

Daniel is an example of a young man who lived by principles. When he realized there was a line he couldn’t cross without disobeying the Lord, he stood fast and trusted God instead of conforming to the pagan world around him. Daniel chose not to eat food that had been sacrificed to Babylonian idols, and he left the consequences of his obedience to the Lord.

There are two main reasons we sometimes rely on preference-based decision making: Either we want to fit in, or we want to avoid the negative consequences that could come as a result of obeying the Lord. Yet to go this route will leave us in darkness, swerving dangerously through life. Safety and security can be found only in obedience to God’s principles, which are like bright white lines on the road keeping us in the center of His will.

Bible in One Year: Lamentations 3-5

 

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Our Daily Bread — Another Chance

 

Bible in a Year :Psalm 119:89–176; 1 Corinthians 8

Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!

Micah 7:19 nlt

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Micah 7:1–3, 18–20

At the Second Chance Bike Shop near our neighborhood, volunteers rebuild cast-off bicycles and donate them to needy kids. Shop founder Ernie Clark also donates bikes to needy adults, including the homeless, the disabled, and military veterans struggling to make it in civilian life. Not only do the bicycles get a second chance but sometimes the recipients get a new start too. One veteran used his new bike to get to a job interview.

Second chances can transform a person’s life, especially when the second chance comes from God. The prophet Micah extoled such grace during a time the nation of Israel groveled in bribery, fraud, and other despicable sins. As Micah lamented, “The godly people have all disappeared; not one honest person is left on the earth” (Micah 7:2 nlt).

God would rightly punish evil, Micah knew. But being loving, He would give those who repented another chance. Humbled by such love, Micah asked, “Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people?” (v. 18 nlt).

We too can rejoice that God doesn’t abandon us because of our sins if we ask for forgiveness. As Micah declared of God, “Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” (v. 19 nlt). God’s love gives second chances to all who seek Him.

By:  Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray

What sin will you repent of and gain a second chance from our loving God?

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us the grace of second chances.

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God of Possibility

“Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing.”(1) So begins Nicholas Carr’s well-circulated 2008 essay, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” His Atlantic article describes the shifting of his own thought patterns; how he once could delve easily into long bouts of prose, but now finds his mind trailing off after skimming only a few pages. As a writer he is the first to applaud the instant wonders of Google searches, information-trails, and hyperlinks ad infinitum. He just wonders aloud about the cost.

University of Virginia English professor Mark Edmundson is another voice attempting to articulate the current cultural ecosystem, and the minds, souls, and relationships it cultivates. In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education he attempts to describe the turbo-charged orientation of his students to life around them. “They want to study, travel, make friends, make more friends, read everything (superfast), take in all the movies, listen to every hot band, keep up with everyone they’ve ever known… They live to multiply possibilities. They’re enemies of closure… [They] want to take eight classes a term, major promiscuously, have a semester abroad at three different colleges, [and] connect with every likely person who has a page on Facebook.”(2) Edmundson argues that for all the virtues of a generation that lives the possibilities of life so fully, there are detriments to the mind that perpetually seeks more and other options. For many, the moment of maximum pleasure is no longer “the moment of closure, where you sealed the deal,” but rather, “the moment when the choices had been multiplied to the highest sum…the moment of maximum promise.”

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Joyce Meyer – Healthy Roots Develop Fruit

 

May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love. — Ephesians 3:17 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Power Thoughts Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

When you become a student of God’s Word, you begin to desire a change in your behavior. But so often, as soon as you deal with one bad behavior, another immediately pops up to replace it. Why? Because bad fruit comes from a bad root.

For example, as long as we feel bad about ourselves, we will produce bad fruit of some kind. It might be anger, insecurity, fear, or indecision. But it will show up in our behavior. We must deal with the root of the problem. No matter how good things look outwardly, if they are not right on the inside, sooner or later it will be revealed on the outside.

Your worth and value are not based on outward things; they are based on God’s love for you. Receive His love, learn to love and value yourself, and you will begin to produce better fruit in your life.

Prayer Starter: Father, please help me to have a greater understanding of Your love. Help me to see myself the way You see me and receive my worth and value from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Anyone Who Calls 

 

“Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

I have been privileged to counsel personally thousands of people – men, women, young people, children – about their spiritual needs. The experiences that remain uppermost in my heart and mind have a direct bearing on this verse.

Helping people to see their truly desperate plight outside of saving faith in Jesus Christ is sometimes difficult, but what a reward awaits those who become aware of their condition. No matter what their background – criminal, alcoholic, self-righteous, or whatever – uninformed people need to recognize the fact that they are lost without Christ.

Accomplishing that purpose is a long step toward their genuine conversion, for I have heard many thousands come to the place where they do indeed “call upon the name of the Lord” and they are saved.

If you can help your loved one, neighbor or friend – or even a total stranger – to become sufficiently alarmed about their eternal welfare that they call on the name of the Lord, you have come a long way toward bringing that person to Christ in a saving relationship.

Some people are bothered by the simplicity of the gospel. I am grateful that it is so simple that anyone can understand, believe, and receive. The promise of this verse is emphatic: “Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Let’s believe and share it.

Bible Reading: Romans 10:14-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will not let the utter simplicity of the gospel keep me from sharing the Good News that we need only call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – The Great Gospel of God

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

No one knows me, we think.  People know my name, but not my heart.  They know my face but not my feelings.  I have a social security number, but not a soul mate.  No one really knows me.

The response of heaven is that God does!  Prophets weren’t enough.  Apostles wouldn’t do and angels won’t suffice.  God sent more than miracles and messages.  He sent himself; he sent his Son. In God’s great gospel, he not only sends, he becomes. He lives with us… as one of us.  He knows our hurt.  He knows our hunger.  He knows betrayal.  Most of all, he knows our sins.  He knows them better than you do.  He knows their price because he paid it.  “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).  God knows you!

Read more Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – High school renovated to protect against mass shootings: The safest way to a joyful future

 

Here’s a sign of the times: a high school in western Michigan has been renovated to protect against a mass shooting.

The design takes a cue from World War I trenches that were dug in zigzag patterns so the enemy could not shoot in a straight line down the trench. In a similar fashion, the Michigan school added curved hallways to reduce a gunman’s range, barriers to provide cover and egress, and classrooms that can lock on demand and hide students in the corner, out of a killer’s sight.

In related news, a school district in Colorado has provided buckets and cat litter for teachers to have on hand in case children need to relieve themselves during a prolonged active-shooter lockdown. The district has also supplied sharpies for writing the time tourniquets were applied.

“The greatest catastrophe since the dawn of civilization”

It is obviously important to do what we can to minimize tragedies before they strike. But there’s only so much we can do to prepare for the unpredictable.

Nature is a regular threat. For instance, lightning struck a tree at the Tour Championship in Atlanta Saturday. The tree exploded, injuring six spectators with debris.

The New York Times reports that an eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would produce a toxic ash cloud that would reach both coasts. It would destroy crops, ruin power lines and electrical transformers, block sunlight, plunge global temperatures, and cause farming to collapse. In short, according to a group of researchers, such an eruption would be “the greatest catastrophe since the dawn of civilization.”

An asteroid missed our planet last week but was undetected by astronomers until it passed us. A study shows that shark attacks in major metropolitan areas have doubled in the last twenty years. And Brazilian troops have been enlisted to fight unprecedented wildfires in the Amazon.

Teenager exposes hundreds to measles at Disneyland

Diseases make the news regularly as well.

Continue reading Denison Forum – High school renovated to protect against mass shootings: The safest way to a joyful future

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