Charles Stanley – Soldiers for Christ

 

1 Timothy 6:11-16

In today’s passage, Paul tells a young pastor named Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). But this command isn’t limited to pastors; every believer needs to be a faithful soldier of Christ. That’s because we’re all in a battle—not against people but against spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 6:12).

This war began when Satan and other angels rebelled against God. Then Satan tempted Eve to disobey the Lord as well. As a result of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, the earth was cursed, and the entire human race was corrupted by sin. Ever since that day, the battle for truth and righteousness has raged.

Although we may often feel overwhelmed by temptations and deceptions, Jesus modeled the path to victory when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). He used only one weapon to refute each enticement and falsehood—the Word of God.

This is the same powerful weapon our heavenly Father has given us to fight the good fight. When we view daily battles biblically with full reliance on the trustworthiness and authority of Scripture, we can flee sin, pursue righteousness, and stand firmly for the truths of the faith.

 

Bible in One Year: Isaiah 63-66

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Letting Go

 

Bible in a Year:

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.

Psalm 116:15

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 11:21–36

“Your father is actively dying,” said the hospice nurse. “Actively dying” refers to the final phase of the dying process and was a new term to me, one that felt strangely like traveling down a lonely one-way street. On my dad’s last day, not knowing if he could still hear us, my sister and I sat by his bed. We kissed the top of his beautiful bald head. We whispered God’s promises to him. We sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and quoted the 23rd Psalm. We told him we loved him and thanked him for being our dad. We knew his heart longed to be with Jesus, and we told him he could go. Speaking those words was the first painful step in letting go. A few minutes later, our dad was joyously welcomed into his eternal home.

The final release of a loved one is painful. Even Jesus’ tears flowed when His good friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). But because of God’s promises, we have hope beyond physical death. Psalm 116:15 says that God’s “faithful servants”—those who belong to Him—are “precious” to Him. Though they die, they’ll be alive again.

Jesus promises, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25–26). What comfort it brings to know we’ll be in God’s presence forever.

By:  Cindy Hess Kasper

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Grief Is Great

 

“Please—Mr. Lion—Aslan, Sir?” said Digory working up the courage to ask. “Could you—may I—please, will you give me some magic fruit of this country to make my mother well?”

A child in one of the Narnia books, Digory, at this point in the story, had brought about much disaster for Aslan and his freshly created Narnia. But he had to ask. In fact, he thought for a second that he might attempt to make a deal with Aslan. But quickly Digory realized the Lion was not the sort of person with which one could try to make bargains.

C.S. Lewis then recounts, “Up till then the child had been looking at the lion’s great front feet and the huge claws on them. Now in his despair he looked up at his face. And what he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and wonder of wonders great shining tears stood in the lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the lion must really be sorrier about his mother than he was himself.”(1)

Charles Dickens often spoke of his characters as beloved and “real existences.” I have often wondered if the “safe but never tame” Lion cared for C.S. Lewis half as much as this figure has comforted others. Lewis was a boy about the age of Digory when his mother lay dying of cancer and he was helpless to save her.

“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another…”

The character that fills each of the gospel stories towers above all attempts we have made to describe him. And yet, had we been in charge of writing the story of God becoming human, I doubt it would have been Christ we described. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). He was not the stoic, man of nerves we might have imagined. Nor was he the ever-at-peace teacher we often describe. He was, among other things, a man of sorrows.

If I am honest, there is, for me, immense comfort in a Christ who was not always smiling. As I picture his face set as flint toward Jerusalem, readying himself for the tortuous events of the cross, my fear is unfastened by his fortitude. As I imagine the urgency in his voice as he defended a guilty woman amidst a crowd holding rocks, my shame is undone by his mercy. And as I picture him weeping at the grave of Lazarus, crying out at injustice, sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane, my tears are given depth, maybe even life, by his own cries. We do not grieve alone.

“But you, O God,” cried the psalmist, “do see trouble and grief.” Becoming man, the character of God was not compromised or misrepresented. As the vicarious Son of God knew tears, so the heart of God is one that knows grief. The heart of the Father is one who knows the loss of a child. “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted,” writes the prophet Isaiah. Matthew describes the extent of these words: “Then [Pilate] released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26). Indeed, our grief is great; let us be good to one another.

Perhaps those who mourn are called blessed because they are at this point closest to the deepest wound of the heart of God. Until every tear shall be wiped dry, we have before us the hopeful figure of the Man of Sorrows, who bore on his shoulders our grief and his own. “My son, my daughter, I know.”

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

(1) C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 83.

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Joyce Meyer – Agree with God

 

Again I tell you, if two of you on earth agree (harmonize together, make a symphony together) about whatever [anything and everything] they may ask, it will come to pass and be done for them by My Father in heaven. — Matthew 18:19 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Power Thoughts Devo – by Joyce Meyer

Not only does God have a plan for your life, but the enemy has a plan for you too, and it’s up to you to decide which one you’ll agree and get on board with. I encourage you to choose wisely, because the Bible says when people come into agreement, power increases.

When the devil tries to tell you that you don’t have any future left or you’ve made too many mistakes, you need to say, “God is the God of second chances. I not only have a future, but I’ve got a good future. God has great things ahead for my life.” If the enemy can get you to agree with him, you’ll have what he wants you to have—pain, regret and brokenness—but if you stay in agreement with God, then you’ll have what God wants you to have—life, and life more abundantly (see John 10:10). Who are you going to agree with?

Prayer Starter: Father, I choose to agree with You and Your plan for my life. Thank You for wanting and planning good things for my life, and for helping me recognize and refuse to agree with the lies of the enemy. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – His Mighty Power Within

 

“Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you” (Ephesians 6:10).

When my saintly mother became a Christian at 16, she immediately determined to become a woman of God with the help of the Holy Spirit. She devoted her life to my father and to the rearing of seven children.

Through the years, as I have observed her attitudes and actions closely, I have never seen her do anything that reflected negatively on the Lord.

As a result, my life has been greatly affected in a positive way. There is no question in my mind that everything God has done and ever will do in and through me will be, in no small measure, a result of those unique, godly qualities of my mother, and especially of her prayers.

In today’s world, there often is considerable criticism of a woman who finds her fulfillment as a wife, mother and homemaker, as though such roles are demeaning to the woman. The popular thought is that there is something better, such as a professional career.

I would not minimize the fact that there are gifted women who should be involved in business and professional life, but in most cases this would be a secondary role compared to the privilege of being a mother, especially a godly Christian mother in whose life the fruit of the Spirit is demonstrated.

What I can say about my mother, I believe my sons can say about theirs, for Vonette has demonstrated those same godly, Christlike qualities toward them as a mother – and , as a wife, toward me.

These two examples underscore a wonderful, basic truth of supernatural living: As we continue to live supernaturally, walking in the power and under the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit, the personality and character of Christ become more and more a part of us.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:11-20

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: When I need special strength – whether physical or spiritual – I will claim by faith the Lord’s mighty power within me to meet the need.

 

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Max Lucado – Catalog God’s Goodness

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Short memories harden the heart so make careful note of God’s blessings! Declare with David, “I will daily add praise to praise. I’ll write the book on your righteousness, talk up your salvation the lifelong day, and never run out of good things to write or say” (Psalm 71:14-15 MSG).

Catalog God’s goodnesses. Meditate on them. He has led you and earned your trust. Remember what he’s done for you. And acknowledge what you have done against God. The scripture says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts” (1 John 1:10).  Sin-hoarding stiffens us. Confession softens us. Is your heart hard? Take it to the Father. You’re only a prayer away from tenderness. You live in a hard world but you don’t have to live with a hard heart!

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Denison Forum – Bride’s wedding video cut short by Beirut explosion: Three keys to living in a non-linear world

 

Lebanese bride Israa Seblani stood in a long white gown and veil, smiling and posing for her wedding video, when the scene was shattered by a horrific roar and a shockwave nearly threw her from her feet.

The footage captured the moment on Tuesday when a massive explosion rocked Beirut, killing at least 135 people and injuring more than 5,000.

Seblani, a doctor working in the US, helped check on the injured before fleeing the area to safety. She said later, “What happened during the explosion here—there is no word to explain . . . I was shocked, I was wondering what happened, am I going to die? How am I going to die?”

“There are no words to describe the catastrophe” 

Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, said that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate caused the massive fireball that sent a shockwave across the city. “There are no words to describe the catastrophe that hit Beirut,” he stated.

The Port of Beirut was destroyed. Shop and apartment windows were blown out two miles from where the explosion occurred. Losses are estimated to be between $10 billion and $15 billion.

Protests erupted last night in central Beirut. More than three hundred thousand people—more than 12 percent of the city’s population—are now homeless. Hospitals are overwhelmed with the injured. Images of a shattered city convey just some of the horror.

Why was the ammonium nitrate there? A vessel called the MV Rhosus entered the port at Beirut in 2013 due a lack of seaworthiness and was forbidden from sailing. The ship’s owner abandoned the vessel, and the ammonium nitrate remained in a storage facility in Beirut’s port. Authorities were supposed to dispose of it safely but failed to do so.

Many in Lebanon blame years of mismanagement and corruption by the country’s political leaders. Some speculate that Hezbollah, a radical Shiite organization that controls much of Lebanon and is pledged to the destruction of Israel, was holding on to this material to use against Israel in missiles or bombs.

What “could change life as we know it” 

The explosion in Beirut was two orders of magnitude greater than the most powerful nonnuclear weapon in the US arsenal. This fact leads to another story in the news this week.

Yesterday was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Nine countries currently possess nuclear weapons: the US, Russia, France, China, the UK, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal states that Saudi Arabia may be working with China to join their number.

Some nine thousand nuclear weapons exist; as the Union of Concerned Scientists notes, “the use of even one could change life as we know it.”

A university professor who studies nuclear events warns that “the risk of a nuclear exchange—and its devastating impact on medicine and public health worldwide—has only escalated compared to previous decades.” He adds that “the developing technological sophistication among terrorist groups and the growing global availability and distribution of radioactive materials are also especially worrying.”

“The linear life is dead” 

The tragedy in Beirut and the threat of nuclear annihilation point to the unpredictable and chaotic nature of our fallen world. In Life Is in the Transitions, Bruce Feiler expresses this fact bluntly: “The linear life is dead.” By the “linear life” he means “the idea that life follows a series of carefully calibrated progressions—childhood to young adulthood to middle age to old age; dating to marriage to children to empty nest; low-level job to mid-level job to senior-level job to retirement.”

According to Feiler’s research, this idea “seems preposterously outdated.” He discovered that the average person experiences a life “disruptor” every twelve to eighteen months and a “lifequake” (one big event or multiple disruptors at the same time) three to five times in adulthood.

In addition, he reports, the average worker today will hold twelve different jobs before the age of fifty. Those with higher education can expect to change their jobs fifteen times and alter their skill set three times. The typical job now lasts four years; among those under thirty-five years of age, it drops to three.

To navigate such a chaotic, non-linear world, Feiler believes we need agency (“the belief that you can impact the world around you”), belonging (a community that surrounds and nurtures you), and a cause (“a transcendent commitment beyond yourself that makes your life worthwhile”).

Feiler’s insights are more biblical than he may know.

What should be our “greatest fear”? 

God’s word is replete with promises of agency, the assurance that your Father can use your life to impact your world even in the gravest of circumstances. From Joseph, Peter, and Paul in prison to Daniel in a lions’ den and John on Patmos, God uses us in spite of and often because of our challenges (cf. Philippians 4:6–7, 13).

Our Father also offers us belonging in a community of faith so strong and enduring that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). And he has a cause for us that gives our lives eternal significance (Matthew 28:19–20).

So, admit that you live in Beirut, wherever you live. Pray for those who are suffering and find ways to share with them the hope and community of Christ. Live fully in this day, for it is the only day you have.

And remember: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter” (Francis Chan).

Will your life “really matter” today?

 

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Charles Stanley – Using Spiritual Gifts

 

1 Peter 4:7-11

Any person who belongs to Christ has received a spiritual gift for God’s glory and the good of the church. Serving the Lord is not a suggestion but a command. When we waste the opportunity, we deprive both ourselves and others of the service God intended for us to provide.

In today’s reading, Peter separates the spiritual gifts into two categories: gifts of serving and speaking. However, within these two groups are an endless variety of ways service for Christ is put into action. Even if two believers have the same gifting, they will express it in unique ways—and with different results.

We should remember that though there are a variety of gifts, ministries, and outcomes, the Holy Spirit is the source of them all, and God is the one doing the work (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). For instance, the teaching gift has a wide range of applications. It can be used by one person to instruct toddlers while someone else uses it to teach seminary students. Both uses are essential in God’s eyes and bring Him glory.

God doesn’t rank the spiritual gifts, so never think that yours isn’t important. What He desires is faithfulness in employing it.

 

Bible in One Year: Isaiah 58-62

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — In the Father’s Ways

 

Bible in a Year:

They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

1 Samuel 8:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Samuel 8:1–9

In the 1960s, the bustling community of North Lawndale, on Chicago’s West Side, was a pilot community for interracial living. A handful of middle-class African Americans bought homes there on “contract”—that combined the responsibilities of home ownership with the disadvantages of renting. In a contract sale, the buyer accrued no equity, and if he missed a single payment, he would immediately lose his down payment, all his monthly payments, and the property itself. Unscrupulous sellers sold at inflated prices, then the families were evicted when they missed a payment. Another family would buy on contract, and the cycle fueled by greed just kept going.

Samuel appointed his sons judges over Israel, and they were driven by greed. His sons “did not follow his ways” (1 Samuel 8:3). In contrast to Samuel’s integrity, his sons “turned aside after dishonest gain” and used their position to their own advantage. This unjust behavior displeased the elders of Israel and God, putting in motion a cycle of kings that fills the pages of the Old Testament (vv. 4–5).

To refuse to walk in God’s ways allows room for the perversion of those values, and as a result injustice flourishes. To walk in His ways means honesty and justice are clearly seen not only in our words but in our deeds as well. Those good deeds are never an end in themselves but always that others may see and honor our Father in heaven.

By:  John Blase

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Love and Sorrow Meet

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself, alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

His hour had come. He had walked among them, taught them, performed miraculous signs, and he had loved and cared for them. But now, his hour had come and the cross lay ahead of him. The hour he faced would be filled with trial and suffering: Now, my soul has become troubled and what shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?(1)

Jesus would walk the long, lonely road to the cross. Rather than taking the way of self-preservation, he would offer his life, like a grain of wheat. He would die; he would be buried in the darkness of the earth, but as a result he would bear much fruit. Despite what lay ahead of him, and despite the trouble in his soul, he affirms: For this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name.

Of what was transacted there on that cross, there are many theories.(2) In formal theology, these theories attempt to get at the very nature and the very essence of what Jesus accomplished through his death. For theologians, atonement studies are a fertile field of inquiry because the meaning and impact of the atonement are rich, complex, and paradoxical. One theory, for example, suggests that the atonement stands as the preeminent example of a sacrificial life—an example that followers of Jesus are called to model in their own lives. Other theories argue that the cross is the ultimate symbol of divine love, or that the cross demonstrates God’s divine justice against sin as the violation of his perfect law. Still other theories suggest the cross overcame the forces of sin and evil, restored God’s honor in relation to God’s holiness and righteousness, or served as a substitution for the death we all deserved because of sin.

 

While the nature of the atonement may include a portion of all of these theories, Jesus’s statements as recorded in John’s gospel indicate that his death would be a path to abundant life resulting in the production of much fruit. And in this case, Jesus doesn’t construct a theory of the atonement, but instead chooses an agrarian image to indicate what would be accomplished in the cross. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified… unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Charles Spurgeon, the nineteenth century theologian and preacher, wrote that this passage of Scripture is rich with paradoxical statements describing the nature of atonement:

“[P]aradox is this—that his glory was to come to him through shame…[that] the greatest fulness of our Lord’s glory arises out of his emptying himself, and becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. It is his highest reputation that he made himself of no reputation. His crown derives new luster from his cross….We must never forget this, and if ever we are tempted to merge the crucified Saviour in the coming King we should feel rebuked by the fact that thus we should rob our Lord of his highest honour.”(3)

Spurgeon expands on the paradoxical nature of death bringing forth life. It is only through the cross, just as a kernel of wheat must die in order to produce a harvest, that new life in Christ and reconciliation with God are accomplished. Most powerfully, Spurgeon notes that this teaches us where the vital point of Christianity lies, Christ’s death is the life of his teaching. See here: if Christ’s preaching had been the essential point, or if his example had been the vital point, he could have brought forth fruit and multiplied Christians by his preaching, and by his example. But he declares that, except he shall die, he shall not bring forth fruit.(4)

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Joyce Meyer – Get Your Confidence Back

 

So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. — Genesis 1:27 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Wake Up to the Word – by Joyce Meyer

Have you ever taken time to consider what you think about yourself? Most people haven’t, but it’s an important thing to do. I can remember desperately struggling for many years with my confidence and self-esteem, but when I finally learned to see myself as God does, it revolutionized my life. My father had told me I was no good and would never amount to anything, but God tells me the truth: that I’m His, and through Him I can do greater things than I could ever imagine. And the same is true for you!

It really isn’t what other people think about us that hurts us the most; it’s what we think of ourselves. This is why it’s so important to see yourself through the perspective of God’s Word. He’s created you with unique gifts, talents, and purpose, He paid the highest price (Jesus’ life) to redeem you, and He loves you with an everlasting love. Knowing that, you can truly walk in the confidence that you are a child of God!

Prayer Starter: Father, please help me see myself the way You do. Thank You for seeing me as Your child, and for reminding me of who I am in You when I forget. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Praying in His Will

 

“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14,15 NAS). 

A very dedicated church member, who came to me for counsel concerning her prayer life, said, “I pray all the time, but I don’t seem to get any answers. I have become discouraged and I wonder if God really answers prayer.”

I showed her this wonderful promise and asked, “First of all, do you pray according to the will of God?” This was a new thought to her.

“What do you mean?” she inquired. I explained by reminding her what God’s Word says. How do our requests relate to the Word of God and to the desires which He places in our hearts? As we read in Psalm 37:4, if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our hearts, and in Phillipians 2:13 Paul states that it is God who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. For example, we can always know that we are praying according to the will of God and the Word of God when we pray for the salvation of souls, for God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. We can pray for the maturing of believers because God wants all of us to be conformed to the image of Christ. We can also pray for all the needs of our brothers and sisters materially, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually – because God’s Word promises that He will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

One can know that selfish prayers for “me, myself and only my interests” are not likely to be heard because we are to seek first God’s kingdom.

If we want to receive blessings from God for ourselves, we must forget ourselves and help others find their fulfillment. In the process, God will meet our needs. This does not suggest that we should not give attention to our own needs and to the needs of our loved ones, but rather we are not to seek only that which is for our personal best.

No prayer life can be effective without a thorough knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, the basis from which we can know the will of God and thus pray with assurance that our prayers will be answered.

Bible Reading: I John 3:22-24

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will saturate my mind with the Word of God and seek to know and do His will so that when I pray, my prayers will have ready answers.

 

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Max Lucado – God Is Life Himself

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Life at times appears to fall to pieces. It seems irreparable. But it’s going to be okay! How can you know? Because as John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world!” Those are God’s arms you feel. Trust him. Believe him. Allow the only decision maker in the universe to comfort you. Since he has no needs, you cannot tire him. Since he is without age, you cannot lose him. Since he has no sin, you cannot corrupt him.

Paul said in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” If God can make a billion galaxies, can’t he make good out of our bad and sense out of our faltering lives? Of course he can. He is not just alive, but He is life himself. John 5:26 confirms for us,  “The Father has life in himself.” He is God! And God loves you.

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Denison Forum – Statue of Billy Graham to be installed in US Capitol: The anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and the ultimate solution to the sin of racism

If you’ve been to the US Capitol, you’ll remember its collection of one hundred statues, two from each state of the Union. Some, like Helen Keller and Thomas Edison, are known to us all. Others are less famous nationally.

North Carolina currently honors Charles Brantley Aycock and Zebulon Baird Vance. However, the former was one of the masterminds of an 1898 race riot in which a local government composed of Black Americans was overthrown and replaced by white officials.

In his place, a life-sized statue of Billy Graham will be installed sometime next year. Rev. Graham is one of his home state’s most beloved figures, with two state highways named to honor him. One of Charlotte’s biggest tourist attractions is the library documenting his life and ministry and its grounds that include his gravesite and restored childhood home.

The statue will feature Rev. Graham as he looked in the 1960s, preaching and holding a Bible in one hand. His son, Franklin Graham, said, “My father would be very pleased that people thought of him in this way. But he would want people to give God the glory and not himself.”

Let’s consider the replacement of Aycock’s statue with that of Billy Graham as a parable for our day.

“It gives me a great deal of hope” 

Today is the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law on August 6, 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. It prohibits discriminatory voting practices, enforces the voting rights of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, gives racial minorities the right to vote across the country, outlaws literacy tests, and bars state or local governments from imposing voting qualifications.

The House of Representatives recently approved a measure to rename the legislation after the late Rep. John Lewis (D–Ga.), coinciding with a ceremony honoring him in the US Capitol Rotunda. The House voted by unanimous consent to rename the bill the “John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.”

On March 7, 1965, Lewis led a civil rights march across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, in support of voting rights. He was nearly beaten to death by state troopers wielding clubs and tear gas. At the time, many Black Americans were denied the right to vote in Alabama. In Dallas County, Alabama, for example, where Black Americans made up more than half of the population, just 2 percent were registered voters.

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Charles Stanley – The Holy Spirit’s Gifts

 

1 Corinthians 12:1-31

Look into any healthy church, and you will find believers who are actively serving the Lord as well as some who are not. But Christ’s church was never meant to resemble a sporting event with a few participants on the field and many spectators in the stands. Although some may be uninvolved because of apathy, there are many Christians who just feel inadequate. But a believer’s limitations are no excuse, because God has provided everything we need to serve successfully.

On our own, every one of us is ill-equipped because human strength and talent are insufficient for service to God. Therefore, the Lord has given each of us specific divinely empowered abilities called spiritual gifts to use in doing the work of Christ. We can’t choose for ourselves what our gift will be; this is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit. He alone knows exactly what He wants to accomplish and enables each of us accordingly.

The Spirit’s gifts are to be used for the common good of the church. Though given to us, they’re intended for the benefit of others. Our responsibility is to start serving, and in doing so, we will begin to discover how unified the body of Christ really is.


Bible in One Year:
Isaiah 54-57

 

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Our Daily Bread — Loved, Beautiful, Gifted

 

Bible in a Year:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Romans 8:15–17

Malcolm appeared confident as a teenager. But this confidence was a mask. In truth, a turbulent home left him fearful, desperate for approval, and feeling falsely responsible for his family’s problems. “For as far back as I remember,” he says, “every morning I would go into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and say out loud to myself, ‘You are stupid, you are ugly, and it’s your fault.’”

Malcolm’s self-loathing continued until he was twenty-one, when he had a divine revelation of his identity in Jesus. “I realized that God loved me unconditionally and nothing would ever change that,” he recalls. “I could never embarrass God, and He would never reject me.” In time, Malcolm looked in the mirror and spoke to himself differently. “You are loved, you are beautiful, you are gifted,” he said, “and it’s not your fault.”

Malcolm’s experience illustrates what God’s Spirit does for the believer in Jesus—He frees us from fear by revealing how profoundly loved we are (Romans 8:1538–39), and confirms that we are children of God with all the benefits that status brings (8:16–17; 12:6–8). As a result, we can begin seeing ourselves correctly by having our thinking renewed (12:2–3).

Years later, Malcolm still whispers those words each day, reinforcing who God says he is. In the Father’s eyes he’s loved, beautiful, and gifted. And so are we.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A German in Harlem

 

“Perhaps that Sunday afternoon,” Myles Horton reminisced about his late friend, the German pastor-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “I witnessed a beginning of his identification with the oppressed which played a role in the decision that led to his death.”(1)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer arrived in America in 1930 to study at Union Theological Seminary, but he was less than impressed. He was firmly Lutheran and, with help from Karl Barth, had already begun to reject much of German theology that sought to demythologize and discredit allegedly unsavory elements of the Bible. Now, however, he was dropped into the hub of American theology which took many similar cues and was, lamentably, highly pragmatic, scattered, and less than orthodox. Barth referred to these forms of theology concerning God as merely speaking about humans in a loud voice; Bonhoeffer described it as “no theology” at all.(2)

One can only imagine how the energy of Harlem itself must have filled Bonhoeffer with a feeling of life and vibrancy. This was the era of the Harlem Renaissance, after all. The jazz stylings of Duke Ellington waltzed through the streets where intellectuals, poets, and artists mingled and created new forms of self-expression all their own and for their own.(3) This spirit of rebirth and defiance did not stop at the church doors, either. “[Bonhoeffer] was very emotional and did not hide his feelings, which was extremely rare for him,” Horton wrote. “He said it was the only time he had experienced true religion in the United States, and was convinced that it was only among blacks who were oppressed that there could be any real religion in this country.”(4)

“I heard the gospel preached in the negro churches,” Bonhoeffer effusively proclaimed in 1931.(5) He had come to New York with a growing conviction that the Incarnation was not just about God becoming man to die, but about Christ informing us today how to live. It was in Harlem where he began to see this holistically. The New Testament was written in a context where the church was a marginalized and oftentimes oppressed community. It seems to take something of that mindset to understand it fully. Losing that perspective turns us into spiritual salvationists rather than holistic kingdom gospelists. As the political situation in Bonhoeffer’s native Germany continued to crumble, which would give rise to the reign of the “crazed, cracked Austrian”(6) and his Nazi party, these enfleshed lessons from Harlem of life among the oppressed and marginalized would prove to be foundational in his development of incarnational ethics.(7)

The gospel Bonhoeffer heard was full-throated and full of all of the love, sin, grace, and justice of God that should have been there in the first place. It was not just a gospel that gazed into the sky, but one that was also firmly planted on earth. In his native Germany, theologians had been attempting to erase from the Bible certain embarrassing “earthy” stories, and that trend has continued even to our own day. But to the oppressed who do not have the comfort of comfort itself, there is nothing embarrassing at all about the struggle for a land in Canaan or the violent rescue of an enslaved people from Egypt. Bonhoeffer was gifted a copy of James Weldon Johnson’s Book of American Negro Spirituals by his friend Franklin, and these spirituals would quickly be incorporated into his personal liturgy and even later into the liturgy of his underground seminary at Finkenwalde, alongside old monastic practices and other holy rhythms.(8) One of his favorite songs was the spiritual “Go Down, Moses”:

As Israel stood by the waterside,
Let my people go,
At God’s command it did divide,
Let my people go.
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh: Let my people go.(9)

Bonhoeffer would travel back to New York at the urging of his friends and family to seek safe haven from an increasingly hostile Germany in 1939. He was already well-known as being a resister and trouble-making enemy of the state to Nazi forces and the so-called “Reich Church.”(10) During his first visit to America, he had also toured the south and was appalled at the devastating reality of racial prejudice and injustice. Now, eight years later, he found the country in worse condition. But he also found the Black Church still standing and still singing, a beacon of light and hope and in a dark and hopeless world. His conscience groaned: “I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America,” he wrote to Reinhold Niebuhr.(11) He would have to go back to Germany to live and struggle with his people rather than escaping to comfort and safety. This one final lesson from Harlem sent him back to Germany on one of the last ships that would sail there for years. Just a few weeks after his return, Hitler’s blitzkrieg invaded Poland and hurled the world into its second World War.

Bonhoeffer’s decision to return to Germany was essentially the decision to walk into his own grave—not that he was given one. But this is true discipleship, this is living the gospel holistically. His love of Scripture had taught him that, and his love of African American spirituality in Harlem had showed him that. These lessons are heard in his words and seen in his actions. The Bonhoeffer we know would not have been who he became without Harlem. He no doubt imbibed the words of Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen, who wrote:

How Calvary in Palestine,
Extending down to me and mine,
Was but the first leaf in a line
Of trees on which a Man should swing
World without end, in suffering
For all men’s healing, let me sing.(12)

These stark lessons remain for us today as well. Where are we letting our comfort get in the way of our calling? Where is our safety taking precedence over our sanctification? Where is our security trumping our service? If we are blind to oppression and suffering, we are blind to the call of the holistic gospel to lift up those who are being crushed to the ground. God always responds to cries, and we are told to do likewise. It is a terrifying call, I grant you, and one I often fail in answering. But this is what it ultimately means to be “in the form of Christ” in a world of horrors. “The form of Jesus Christ,” Bonhoeffer reminds us, “alone victoriously encounters the world.”(13)

 

Derek Caldwell is a writer for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

(1) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Barcelona, Berlin, New York: 1928-1931, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 10 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 31.
(2) Ibid., 265.
(3) Bonhoeffer would devour much of this literature himself, such as the work of Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen, along with other African American intellectuals like W. E. B. Du Bois.
(4) Ibid., 31.
(5) Ibid., 315.
(6) Malcolm Muggeridge, “But Not of Christ” in Seeing Through the Eye: Malcolm Muggeridge on Faith, ed. Cecil Kuhne (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005), 29.
(7) Reggie Williams, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Christ,” in Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture, ed. Keith L. Johnson and Timothy Larsen (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2013), 61-62. Also see Reggie Williams, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance (Baylor University Press, 2014).
(8) Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), 233-34.
(9) Interestingly, this is one of several spirituals used by Africans Americans during the era of chattel slavery that would be sung with double meaning. Slaves in the 19th century “sung on one level with intense religious commitment and on another level as a code language to protest slavery and to plan for escape” (Sondra O’Neale, “A Slave’s Subtle War: Phillis Wheatley’s Use of Biblical Myth and Symbol,” Early American Literature 21 (1986): 145). It is this exact song that Harriet Tubman used to identify herself to fellow slaves during her many courageous rescue missions back to the southern United States.
(10) Where children’s baptism services often disgustingly ended with a prayer that “this child will grow up to be like Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler” (Marsh, 283).
(11) Bonhoeffer, Theological Education Underground: 1937-1940, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 15 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012), 210.
(12) Countee Cullen, “The Black Christ by Countee Cullen with Illustrations by Charles Cullen,” University of Missouri Libraries, February 19, 2014. Also, for an interesting look at how different races have depicted the color of Christ in American history, consider Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey’s The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (The University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
(13) Bonhoeffer, Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works – Reader’s Edition (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015), 92.

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http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – At All Times

 

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. — Psalm 34:1 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Trusting God Day by Day – by Joyce Meyer

Right now it seems like everyone around us is living in fear and dread, but as God’s children, we don’t have to. We’re not only free to live differently than the rest of the world, but we should live differently, because when we do, we’re letting our light shine. One way to do this is to simply be as positive as we can in the middle of negative circumstances. The world will notice when we’re stable in every kind of situation. I want to encourage you to make up your mind right now that your external circumstances won’t keep you from facing life with peace and joy. Make a decision not to dread anything you have to do, but to face one task at a time with a thankful attitude.

I never considered driving down the street to get a cup of coffee to be a huge privilege until after I had been hospitalized with breast cancer and had surgery. When I was released, I asked my husband to take me out for coffee and a drive through a local park. It’s amazing how much joy I felt! I was doing a very simple thing that had previously been available to me every day, yet I had never seen it as a blessing.

One day our son went on an outreach with a team of people who visit the homeless each Friday evening. After going to serve there, he was appalled at himself for the things he had murmured about in the past once he saw, by comparison, how other people were living. I’m confident that we’d feel the same way. Those without a place to live would love to have a house to clean, while we dread cleaning ours. They would be so glad to have a car to drive, even an old one, while we complain about needing to wash ours or take it for an oil change.

The point is, we can easily lose sight of how blessed we are, so we need to work at keeping it on our minds by being intentional to thank God at all times for the ways He’s taking care of us.

Prayer Starter: God, please help me to keep the right heart attitude today. Thank You so much for the ways You have and are continuing to take care of me! In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – To Seek and To Save

 

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10, KJV).

The Word of God clearly teaches that He wants His children to live supernaturally, especially in the area of living holy lives and bearing much fruit since that is the reason our Lord Jesus Christ came to this world.

Through the years I have prayed that my life and the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ would be characterized by the supernatural. I have prayed that God would work in and through us in such a mighty way that all who see the results of our efforts would know that God alone was responsible, and give Him all the glory.

Now as I look back – marveling at God’s miraculous working in our behalf – I remember earlier days which were also characterized by praise and glory to God, even though I was not privileged then to speak to millions or even thousands. At one point in our ministry, about the only understanding supportive listener I could find was my wife.

Vonette and I used to live mostly for material pleasures. But soon after our marriage we made a full commitment of our lives to the Lord. Now it is our desire (1) to live holy lives, controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit (2) to be effective witnesses for Christ, and (3) to help fulfill the Great Commission in our generation to the end that we may continue the ministry which our Lord began as He came to “seek and to save the lost.”

Bible Reading: Luke 19:1-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I determine to bring my priorities in line with those of my Lord and Savior, who came to seek and to save the lost and to encourage others to do the same.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Unstoppable Love

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

The Bible says,  “The heavens declare the glory of God!”  Our universe is God’s preeminent missionary.  Doesn’t a painting suggest a painter?  Don’t stars suggest a star maker?   Doesn’t creation imply a creator?

Now look within you.  Look at your sense of right and wrong.  Who told you a moral compass exists?  What is this magnetic pole that pulls the needles on the compass of your conscience if not God?  God did this!  The wonders above and within you testify to his existence.  But God not only made the world, He loves the world.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world!”  Try that on for size!  The one who formed you pulls for you.  Untrumpable power stoked by unstoppable love!

Read more 3:16: The Numbers of Hope

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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