Charles Stanley – Watching God Work

 

Ephesians 3:14-21

We have the privilege of serving a God who does abundantly more than we can imagine. Most Christians go through their daily life with no real awareness that the Lord is at work. However, He is active all the time, orchestrating circumstances, listening to the prayers of His children, and working through His followers to serve others. God is at work in the life of each believer so that He will receive glory and honor.

It is important that Christians learn to see God at work. To do that, we first need to observe how He worked in the lives of men and women in Scripture. It is also essential for us to listen for what He is saying to our heart. If we think that the Lord has never spoken to us, then either we have not been listening, or we do not really expect an answer from Him at all.

To listen and learn, we must have a right relationship with the Lord—this means confessing our sins and choosing to serve Him. We cannot see God at work if we are not prayerful people. Prayer centers our attention on Him. That focus opens us to the fact that we are loved enough to receive direction from our Father.

Frequently though, the problem is that we do not receive guidance according to our schedule. Our heavenly Father may work over long periods of time, so we must learn to practice patience. A human parent needs at least 18 years to teach a child how to function appropriately in the world. How much longer must it take God to achieve His goal of conforming us to the image of His Son?

Bible in One Year: 2 Thessalonians 1-3

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Overcoming Fear

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Hosea 9–11
  • Revelation 3

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 20:7

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Samuel 17:4–7, 45–50

Fear ruled a man’s life for thirty-two years. Afraid of being caught for his crimes, he hid at his sister’s farmhouse, going nowhere and visiting no one, even missing his mother’s funeral. When he was sixty-four, he learned that no charges had ever been filed against him. The man was free to resume a normal life. Yes, the threat of punishment was real, but he allowed the fear of it to control him.

Likewise, fear ruled the Israelites when the Philistines challenged them at the Valley of Elah. The threat was real. Their enemy Goliath was 9 feet 9 inches tall and his body armor alone weighed 125 pounds (1 Samuel 17:4–5). For forty days, every morning and evening, Goliath challenged the Israelite army to fight him. But no one dared come forward. No one until David visited the battle lines. He heard and saw the taunting, and volunteered to fight Goliath.

While everyone in the Israelite army thought Goliath was too big to fight, David the shepherd boy knew he wasn’t too big for God. He said, “the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s” (v. 47).

When we’re gripped by fear, let’s follow David’s example and fix our eyes on God to gain a right perspective of the problem. The threat may be real, but the One who is with us and for us is bigger than that which is against us.

By: Albert Lee

Reflect & Pray

What giant battle are you facing that’s crippling you in fear? How can you intentionally fix your eyes on the living God?

Thank You, God, that You’re bigger than any other giant in my life. I trust You.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Voice in the Wilderness

 

Amidst all the twinkling lights, decorations, gleeful holiday carols, festive parties, and holiday sales, a more somber spirit resides in many homes. There is weeping and mourning for lost loved ones. There is loneliness and despair on the margins of every celebration. There are cries for justice that go up and interrupt the mainstream revelry and festivity that is the Christmas season.

Traditionally, the season that precedes Christmas, the Advent season, is a somber season. It is a season that calls for repentance and reflection. For during the Advent season, another voice from the margins of society calls for repentance, righteousness, and justice. It is the voice of John the Baptizer crying out from the wilderness.

John’s voice, often forgotten in our hurried, holiday preparations, is crucial to our understanding of this season. His is such a crucial message that all four gospel writers include aspects of John’s story. Mark, in particular, begins his gospel this way: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY; THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT” (Mark 1:1-3).

For the writer of Mark’s Gospel, the beginning of the gospel is not a birth narrative, as in Matthew and Luke, but the one who proclaims the Messiah; proclaims his Advent, and proclaims the Advent of his kingdom. Advent, like John the Baptist, calls for preparation, for reflection, and for repentance in preparation for the coming of God’s anointed one. For all who would declare Jesus the Messiah, preparation involves aligning lives with the values of his kingdom.

Luke’s Gospel continues where Mark begins by providing the most detailed portrait of John’s wilderness preaching and message. Here the reader learns of the kingdom values. John exhorts his audience: “Therefore, bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.’ And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:8-9). As Luke’s narrative continues, three groups come to John asking him what they should do to prepare for the King and his kingdom, and avoid this terrible and awesome fate. John tells those who have an abundance to share food and clothing with those who have none; he exhorts tax collectors to exercise fair business practices, and he tells soldiers not to take money by force, accuse anyone falsely, and to be content with their wages.(1)

I was surprised, as I read John’s exhortations, at the immense practicality of repentance. To bear good fruit involves the treatment of others, generosity, fair measures, the proper use of wealth and resources, and a sense of contentment. This seems a timely word today, as mistreatment of others, perpetual cycles of violence, fear, and the temptation to hoard resources tempts us to turn this season of repentance into an empty celebration of materialism and mindless consumption.

Instead, I wonder if Advent preparations can be practical provisions—bringing forth fruit “in keeping with repentance”? As repentance has its way—literally understood as “turning around” or “turning toward”—might there be a turning away from that diminishes life, and turn toward the One to whom John pointed—One who provides fullness of life? The life that if offered by Jesus can then be poured out as blessing for others.

John’s message of repentance is the “beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” And his call during the Advent season is a call to join him in the margins. As I listen again to John’s voice in this season of preparation and repentance, I hear his prophetic call to me; he calls me out of my busyness, my own preoccupation with comfort, and my own self-interested desires. He calls to me to “bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance.” Through the din of the all the other voices, I strain to hear his voice calling to me from the wilderness.

 

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

 

(1) See Luke 3:1-14; See also Mark 12:28-31 and Matthew 22:34-40.

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Joyce Meyer – Mountains into Molehills

 

For who are you, O great mountain [of human obstacles]? Before Zerubbabel [who with Joshua had led the return of the exiles from Babylon and was undertaking the rebuilding of the temple, before him] you shall become a plain [a mere molehill]! And he shall bring forth the finishing gable stone [of the new temple] with loud shoutings of the people, crying, Grace, grace to it! — Zechariah 4:7 (AMPC)

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

The Samaritans who came against the Israelites as they were building the temple of the Lord had become like a mountain of human obstacles, frustrating them and preventing them from doing what God had commanded them to do.

That may be the situation in which you find yourself right now as you read these words. You may feel that the Lord has told you to do something but that the enemy has thrown up a mountain in your path to frustrate you and prevent you from carrying out the Lord’s will. If so, I know just how you feel because that is exactly the way I used to feel.

The problem is one of perspective. In this passage the Lord tells Zechariah that the problem facing the Israelites, although it may appear to be a mountain, is actually a molehill.

How would you like for all your mountains to become molehills? They can, if you will do what God is saying here and look not at the problems but at the Lord and His power. If God has told you to do something, it is certainly His will that you not only begin but that you also finish it.

Prayer Starter: Father, I thank You that You are greater than every obstacle in my life. Please help me to keep my eyes on You and never give up on seeing Your will come to pass in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A Place of Rest

 

“So there is a full complete rest still waiting for the people of God. Christ has already entered there. He is resting from His work, just as God did after the creation. Let us do our best to go into that place of rest, too, being careful not to disobey God as the children of Israel did, thus failing to get in” (Hebrews 4:9-11).

A Christian leader was asked: “How do you handle the incredible pressure of your schedule – speaking, writing, giving leadership to a great movement that touches the lives of millions of people around the world? How do you do it? You must carry a tremendous load!”

The inquirer was surprised at the response. “No, quite honestly I don’t carry the load. I’m not under any pressure. I made a great discovery, probably the greatest discovery that a Christian can make. In the Christian life there is a place of rest which one enters by faith and obedience. No matter how great the pressure, or how terrible the testing, the supernatural resources of God sustain, empower, bless and encourage us and our Lord carries the load and fights for us.”

Though few Christians ever enter into this rest, it is available to all believers. When the Israelites were on their way to the promised land, God had already prepared the hearts of the inhabitants, filling them with fear. There is reason to believe that they would have capitulated readily. But when the twelve spies returned after forty days of checking out the land, ten of them reported, “There are giants in the land, and we felt like grasshoppers in their sight.” Only Joshua and Caleb said, “Let’s go in and take the land. God has withdrawn His blessing from the people and He will fight for us.”

But three million Israelites agreed with the majority report, and as a result, wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Why did it take so long for them to enter the land God had already given them? Because, as recorded in verse 2, they failed to mix the promises of God with faith.

Why does the average Christian not enter into a place of rest with God – that supernatural life which produces an abundance of fruit? Because he fails to mix the promises of God with faith. That is what this book, Promises, is all about – to remind us daily of our heritage as children of God and to show us how we can draw upon the mighty, inexhaustible resources of deity to live the supernatural life. Are you experiencing the life of the Spirit? Have you entered into God’s rest? If not, you can begin to do so now.

Bible Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: As an act of faith and obedience, I will enter that place of rest and I will encourage every believer with whom I have contact today to join me in the adventure.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – A Wild Roller Coaster Ride

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

If life was just simpler, we reason.  More predictable!  But it isn’t.  Life is like a wild roller coaster ride of hairpin curves and diving dips.

Don’t we all live with a fear of the unknown?  The eerie inconsistency that keeps us living on the edge of our chairs?  And yet it’s that inconsistency in which God had his finest hour.  Never did what is right involve itself so intimately with what is wrong.

God on a cross.  Humanity at its worst.  Divinity at its best!  God doesn’t gasp in amazement at the depth of our faith or the depth of our failures.  He knows the condition of the world and he loves it just the same.  Just when we find a place where God would never be, like a cross— we look again and there he is…in the flesh! Inconsistent surprises.  Maybe the next time a surprise comes your way, you’ll see God in the middle of it.

Read more No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross

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Denison Forum – The latest on impeachment: How and why to trust the sovereignty of God

The House Judiciary Committee appears likely to adopt two articles of impeachment today and send them to the full House of Representatives, where they may be voted upon as early as next week. If the House approves the articles by a simple majority (which seems very likely, given its Democratic majority), they are then sent to the Senate for a trial.

For the Senate to convict the president and remove him from office requires a two-thirds supermajority vote of those present. Given the Republican majority in the Senate, this seems very unlikely.

Meanwhile, a new poll reports that 50 percent of Americans say President Trump should not be impeached and removed from office, while 45 percent think he should be.

Ours is not the only government in turmoil.

British citizens have begun voting today in parliamentary elections that are likely to decide whether the world’s fifth-largest economy leaves the European Union next month or moves toward another EU referendum. An exit poll will be published when polls close at 10 p.m. (4 p.m. in Dallas) and may indicate the winner.

The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a vote yesterday to dissolve itself and hold an election on March 2, 2020. This sends Israelis to ballot boxes for the third time after both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz failed in their attempts to form a governing coalition.

Watching the Baylor/OU game

Last weekend, I watched on television as Baylor played Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game. I had to leave the game for a while, so I recorded it. Oklahoma was leading 10–0 at the time and the game looked like it was going to become a blowout.

When I returned, I checked the score online to see if I wanted to keep watching. I learned that Baylor was now leading 13–10 at halftime. I then watched the rest of the half, but I already knew its outcome.

You and I are playing a game whose score has already been decided. As my college professor noted, Christians can summarize the Book of Revelation in two words: “We win.” But the plays that make up that final score are nonetheless vital.

And the fact that God knows the future does not mean that he necessarily determines it.

The Lord sees tomorrow more clearly than we see today (Isaiah 46:10). He can see on Thursday what you will have for dinner on Friday. But watching and determining are not always the same thing. If I could watch you read this Daily Article, that fact would not mean that I forced you to read it.

God’s sovereignty does not negate our freedom. Scripture repeatedly calls us to exercise our free will in ways that honor the Lord and obey his will (cf. Matthew 7:21; John 14:21; 2 Timothy 2:15).

Here’s what God’s sovereignty does mean: his ultimate purpose will always be fulfilled. Lawmakers in Washington can debate the future of the president and voters in Great Britain and Israel can elect a prime minister, but no one can depose the King of the universe.

“In all your ways acknowledge him”

In these days of political turmoil, it may be instructive to remember an earlier leadership transition. 1 Chronicles 10 records the death of King Saul by his own hand after his forces were defeated by the Philistines (v. 4).

But the Chronicler made certain we understood the larger forces at work: “Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (vv. 13–14).

Saul chose to end his life, but that choice was consistent with God’s sovereign judgment on Saul’s choice to trust a medium rather than God’s sovereign will. What “mediums” do we trust today?

The familiar invitation of Proverbs 3 still stands: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (vv. 5–6, my italics). Our society understands trusting God with some of your heart in some of your ways, especially those that are private and “religious.” But those who seek the will of God and trust the sovereignty of God in all their ways are unique in our secular culture.

And they are uniquely blessed and used by their sovereign Lord.

“There is only one relationship that matters”

I have been reading Oswald Chambers’ classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, every morning for three decades. Across all those years, one paragraph especially stands out for me.

In the November 30 reading, Chambers states: “There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfil His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purpose, and yours may be that life.”

Will God “fulfill His purpose through your life” today?

 

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Charles Stanley – How God Works

 

2 Peter 3:9-18

God is at work everywhere. In the very first verse of the Bible, He is creating the heavens and earth. In the last verses of Revelation, He is calling people to be saved. Throughout Scripture and in the world today, the Lord is active in the lives of believers and unbelievers, although in very different ways.

We will be able to see God move in our life if we understand how He works—and He operates in both dramatic and seemingly insignificant ways. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, everyone could see by his face that he’d had a dramatic encounter with God. In contrast, Joseph entered Potiphar’s household as a slave. That may seem like an inconsequential situation in an incredible life, but it was important to God’s plan for Joseph.

In a similar way, God’s work in us always has purpose. Our life may seem routine, but God is busy every day conforming us to Christ’s likeness. He may allow circumstances we dislike, but those situations accomplish His goal. And we can see from examples like Gideon and Samson that He works differently with each person.

However God chooses to work in our life, we must trust Him. For instance, the Lord promised Abraham a son but silently waited 25 years to honor His vow. What appears slow to us is not slow to God. He is working out the perfect timing of events. Our patience to wait on Him demonstrates our trust, which is rewarded when we come ever closer to God’s goal: to become more like Jesus.

Bible in One Year: 1 Thessalonians 1-5

 

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Our Daily Bread — Canceled Debts

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Hosea 5–8
  • Revelation 2

The Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed.

Deuteronomy 15:2

 

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Deuteronomy 15:1–8

In 2009, Los Angeles County stopped charging families for the costs of their children’s incarceration. Though no new fees were charged, those with unpaid fees from before the change in policy were still required to settle their debt. Then in 2018 the county canceled all outstanding financial obligations.

For some families, canceling the debt aided greatly in their struggle to survive; no longer having liens on their property or wages being garnished meant they were better able to put food on the table. It was for this kind of hardship that God called for debts to be forgiven every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:2). He didn’t want people to be crippled forever by them.

Because the Israelites were forbidden to charge interest on a loan to fellow Israelites (Exodus 22:25), their motives for lending to a neighbor weren’t to make a profit, but rather to help those who were enduring hard times, perhaps due to a bad harvest. Debts were to be freely forgiven every seven years. As a result, there would be less poverty among the people (Deuteronomy 15:4).

Today, believers in Jesus aren’t bound by these laws. But God might occasionally prompt us to forgive a debt so those who’ve been struggling can begin afresh as contributing members of society. When we show such mercy and generosity to others, we lift up God’s character and give people hope.

By: Kirsten Holmberg

Reflect & Pray

How have your “debts” been forgiven? Who can you lift up by forgiving a debt owed or a wrong done to you?

Jesus, thank You for caring about the financial burdens we carry.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Ordinary and Extraordinary

For those who are well-familiar with the Christmas narrative from the Gospel of Luke, the inherent strangeness to the story may be missed. When read without either an over-familiarity or a commercialized sentimentality, the Lukan account of God’s advent into the world is fairly extraordinary. I am struck by the way Luke juxtaposes the announcement of the King of Israel—”For to you is born this day in the city of David the Savior who is Christ the Lord”—with the sign of his advent: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”(1) The God of the universe would be set in a lowly manger, a feed trough for animals. he would be clothed, not in purple finery, but in woven, cloth strips.

Luke’s narrative highlights what seem to be the most ordinary and the most mundane details of Jesus’s birth for many modern readers. And yet, these seemingly ordinary details highlight a God who chooses to display divine glory in the commonplace birth of a human child. The gospel writer’s utter preoccupation with ordinary details reveals the belief that coming of the Messiah and his kingdom would look very different from the kingdom that was expected. And this was extraordinary.

The Bible indicates a long silence of God from speaking directly to the people—a silence that must have seemed an eternity. But out of the silence of that quiet night, the angel spoke and announced what the people of Israel had all hoped for: God is near, the gospel proclaims, born in the same city as your great king of old, King David! The people now would look upon the new David, their new deliverer, who would be their Messiah. The prophet Micah announced this special context as well: “As for you, Bethlehem, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you one will go forth for me to be ruler in Israel. His going forth is from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Out of the silent sky came the news that surpassed all news. The Messiah had come and the world would never be the same again, for a king had been born this day in the city of David—Christ the Lord!

Yet, this king would not be born in an expected palace or even into the household of a priest, like John the Baptist, for example. The glorious place of Israel’s new king would be different than expected: “And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” Born this day, in the city of David is your Christ, your Messiah. And guess what? You’ll find him in a manger, which is the feeding trough for ordinary farm animals. Who would believe this report? How could the Messiah come with such vulnerability and poverty?

 

But the manger would prove to be his palace, and the first subjects of the kingdom would not be the influential or the powerful, not the righteous or the rulers. In fact, only a few people actually hear the news. After the silence of ages, God does not come with a shout, but like a whisper into the ears of a few select, uninfluential individuals. God comes as a crying baby needing the comfort and succor of human parents.

Mary, a young girl as yet unmarried, would be the first recipient of this good news. She was young and insignificant, and this announcement of an illegitimate and unexplained pregnancy wouldn’t help her place in that society. The announcement also comes to shepherds—the least influential in that society—young boys, out in the fields, far from their towns and villages, tending to the family sheep. The glory of Israel is revealed to those most would deem inglorious. Israel’s new king is born to a young, unmarried girl, in a town not her home, placed in a manger with animals as the initial witnesses to the birth. The heavenly announcement is made only to a group of poor, unnoticed shepherds.

Unveiling the glory of God through humble means and ordinary details is a point Luke’s gospel highlights in portraying a kingdom that would upend many cherished expectations. The Almighty God, who created heaven and earth, who created the shepherds and the animals, Mary and Joseph, was the same God who chose to be glorified in human flesh as the baby Jesus. In the dependence and vulnerability of an infant, God’s glory is revealed. Humble circumstances with unremarkable witnesses reveal the greatness and glory of God. Humility, from the very beginning, is one of the hallmarks of Jesus’s Kingdom. Dr. James Denison elaborates on these extraordinary circumstances: “As a young child, [Jesus] was celebrated by foreign Magi, not of his own people. He spent his public ministry touching lepers, welcoming Gentiles and prostitutes, discipling tax collectors and other despised people, and offering the gospel to all who would receive it. His birth proved the words: ‘God so loved the world that God gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but receive eternal life.’”(2)

In a world that confuses glory with glitter, glamour, power, and prestige, would we see God’s glory in this seemingly inglorious package—cradled in a feed-trough, presented to peasants, and announced to the least and the last? For all who would wonder at this kind of birth, this kind of king, and this kind of God, they are welcomed to draw closer to the manger and the stable.

 

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

 

(1) Luke 2:11-12.
(2) James Denison, blog entry, 2007.

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Joyce Meyer – Fickle Feelings

 

So, then those who are living the life of the flesh [catering to the appetites and impulses of their carnal nature] cannot please or satisfy God, or be acceptable to Him. — Romans 8:8 (AMPC)

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

When we follow the ever-changing impulses of our carnal nature, it is not pleasing or acceptable to God, because He has a much better life in mind for us. We all have times when emotions change without warning, and it is important that we learn how to handle ourselves in times like that. If we merely follow our feelings, we will surely end up making decisions and taking actions that we will regret later on.

Recently, Dave and I had several people to our house for a party, and I was energetic and felt great. The next day, for no apparent reason, I woke up feeling dull-headed and a bit down emotionally. Why? What is wrong with me? Those are the first questions I asked myself. I didn’t get an answer, so I had to make a choice. Should I continue to try to figure out my odd mood and get more and more confused, or should I pray, asking God to reveal anything He wants me to see and go on about the business of the day, asking God to help me live beyond my feelings?

I have learned over the years that being a stable, consistent person requires that I own my feelings instead of letting them own me. In other words, I may have them, but I cannot let them control me. Feelings are fickle. They change frequently and often without any notice. Sometimes we understand why, but much of the time we don’t.

Our physical condition can affect emotions. Consider things like: Did I get enough sleep? or Did I eat something that made me feel bad? or Is it allergy season? Our spiritual condition can also cause mood fluctuation: Have I spent enough time with God? Do I have hidden sin that needs to be dealt with? Is God chastising me about something?

I recommend praying first to see if God reveals anything, and if He doesn’t, then remain steady in the storm. Don’t try excessively to figure out your feelings, because it will get you more and more focused on them. Trust God, use extra self-control, and very soon you will feel better.

Prayer Starter: Father, I desire to be stable emotionally at all times. Help me stay steady when my emotions fluctuate. I want to live a life that is pleasing to You at all times, and I trust You to continue teaching me in this area. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Teach You Much

 

“But when the Father sends the Comforter instead of Me – and by the Comforter I mean the Holy Spirit – He will teach you much, as well as remind you of everything I myself have told you” (John 14:26).

Some years ago, at one of our week-long Lay Institutes for Evangelism, attended by more than 4,000 trainees, I gave a message on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Afterward, a missionary who had just retired after 20 years of service in Africa came to see me. He was very excited as he came to share how, during that meeting, he had finally found what he had sought throughout his entire Christian life.

“Today, as you spoke,” he said, “I was filled with the Spirit. For 20 years I have tried to serve God on the mission field, but I have served Him in the energy of the flesh and have had very little results. Now, though I have retired and returned to America, I want to go back to Africa.

“This time, I want to concentrate on working just with missionaries, because I know from experience that many of them are still searching for what I have sought all these years. The most important message I can take to them is how they can be filled with the Holy Spirit by faith.

“I want to teach them what you taught me so that they, in turn, will be able to teach the Africans how they too can be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. J. Edwin Orr, a leading authority on spiritual revival, describes the Holy Spirit as “the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Christ. He is the Lord of the harvest, supreme in revival, evangelism and missionary endeavor.”

“Without His consent, plans are bound to fail. It behooves us as Christians to fit our tactical operations into the plan of His strategy, which is the reviving of the church and the evangelization of the world.”

Bible Reading: John 14:13-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will look to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit for the spiritual lessons I need to learn today and claim His power to serve the Lord Jesus Christ supernaturally.

 

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Max Lucado – Acceptance and Forgiveness

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

It doesn’t matter what I do—it’s never enough.  I’ll never meet their expectations!

Ever caught yourself using these unhealthy expectations?  Your brother made an A in chemistry, and we know you’ll do just as well!  or…  If you had a better job we could afford that house! Expectations.  They create conditional love.  I love you, but I’ll love you more if…

Jesus expects that we leave everything, deny all, and follow Him.  The difference?  Jesus’ expectations come with two important companions:  forgiveness and acceptance.  No strings.  No hidden agendas.  Jesus’ love for us is up front and clear.  His sacrifice was not dependent upon our performance.  “I love you,” He says, in spite of your failures.  One step behind the expectations of Christ comes his forgiveness.  Expectations!  With acceptance and forgiveness, they can bring out the best!

Read more No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross

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Denison Forum – The most popular Bible verse for 2019: The peace of God requires the power of God

 

What would you guess might be the most popular Bible verse, according to YouVersion’s 400 million users?

Philippians 4:6 is the answer. The verse says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

What does its popularity say about us?

Volcano burns honeymooning couple

The day’s news seldom lacks for “anxious” headlines. For instance, a Virginia couple on their honeymoon in New Zealand were severely burned by the volcanic eruption on Monday that killed at least six people. Twenty-five people are currently hospitalized in critical condition.

A three-year-old boy whose mother was strolling him through a Manhattan crosswalk was struck and killed by a truck Monday, shortly after the two had finished eating breakfast at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. And six people were killed in a shootout in New Jersey yesterday, including a police officer, two suspects, and three civilians. The dead officer was Detective Joseph Seals, age forty, who was married with five children.

Tragedy makes the news daily, but we face more systemic issues as well. For example, a new study shows that death rates are increasing for middle-aged Americans of all racial and ethnic groups. Suicide, drug overdoses, and alcoholism are the main causes, but heart disease, stroke, and other medical conditions are contributors as well.

Clergy are certainly not immune. For instance, a mental health summit for pastors was held last Friday at Wheaton College. About four hundred ministry leaders filled a sold-out auditorium; the event was live-streamed to seventy-seven churches around the world. It responded to a recent report that about half of all Protestant pastors feel as though the demands of ministry are more than they can handle; 54 percent find their role to be frequently overwhelming.

US Catholic priests are likewise dealing with stress, burnout, depression, and substance abuse issues. An escalating shortage of priests is exacerbating demands on Catholic clergy as well.

“The Lord is at hand”

Where can we find peace in such perilous times? Yesterday, we discussed the urgency of seeking to live by the word of God. Today, we’ll focus on seeking the help of God to obey the word of God and experience the peace of God.

Like every word in God’s word, our favorite verse for the year has a context. In the Greek, Philippians 4:6 actually continues a sentence Paul began in the previous verse: “The Lord is at hand.” The phrase means that God “is present in this time and place.”

This restates Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), as well as our Father’s assurance, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10). As a result, Paul’s thought continues, we can choose to “not be anxious about anything.”

However, the fact of God’s empowering presence does not mean that we have no responsibility in advancing his kingdom.

“Valiant men” were “expert in war” but “cried out to God”

In 1 Chronicles 5, we read that “the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war” (v. 18). Unsurprisingly, when they “waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphis, and Nodab” (v. 19), “they prevailed over them” (v. 20a). Here we see the importance of developing our skills until we are “expert” in them.

But the rest of the verse gives the underlying reason for their victory: “For they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him” (v. 20b). As we give God our best minds and skills, he uses us to do more than we could do without him.

We find this divine-human partnership at work all through Scripture.

Moses was skilled in Egyptian culture, then God used his courageous leadership (Acts 7:22). David was a brilliant warrior, theologian, musician, and statesman who depended deeply on God’s strength (Psalm 25:5). Daniel was a skilled scholar (Daniel 1:20), but also a fervent intercessor (Daniel 6:10). Paul was trained by the most acclaimed scholar in Judaism (Acts 22:3), but he knew he could do all things only “through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

“This small way that leads to real peace and joy”

As we work, God works. As we give God our best and trust him for his best, we experience his power and know his peace.

Christmas illustrates our theme. Micah 5 contains the famous prediction that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of “one who is to be ruler in Israel” (v. 2). But two verses later, we learn how the Messiah would fulfill this calling: “He shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD” (v. 4).

As a result, “he shall be their peace” (v. 5). The peace of God comes to those who depend upon the power of God.

Henri Nouwen: “It is hard to believe that God would reveal his divine presence to us in the self-emptying, humble way of the man from Nazareth. So much in me seeks influence, power, success, and popularity. But the way of Jesus is the way of hiddenness, powerlessness, and littleness. It does not seem a very appealing way. Yet when I enter into true, deep communion with Jesus, I will find that it is this small way that leads to real peace and joy.”

Will others find the “peace and joy” of Jesus in you today?

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/

Charles Stanley – Conviction Versus Condemnation

 

Romans 8:1-2

Our heavenly Father desires that we walk closely with Him. To help us, the Holy Spirit guides us on the right path and redirects us when we are headed in the wrong direction. In other words, He convicts us when we are in danger of straying.

Conviction is God’s loving hand steering us back to the path that leads to life. To better understand the concept, picture a parent whose toddler begins to chase a ball into a busy street. The youngster has only one desire at that moment: to retrieve the toy. The parent, however, would be negligent if he or she did not stop the child.

We, like the toddler in this example, view our life from a limited perspective. If our heavenly Father stops us from achieving a desire, it seems frustrating. But we must remember that the Almighty is acting out of His love for us.

Conviction begins even before salvation. The Holy Spirit reveals our wrongs to help us recognize that we need forgiveness. When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and choose to follow Him, we are born again. Only then are we free from the penalty of sin. At the same time, we are still human and will make some poor choices. So, even after we are His children, God continues to redirect us.

Conviction is different from condemnation. Remember that “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). So though believers at times will sin, they are justified by Christ’s sacrifice and free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

Bible in One Year: Philippians 1-4

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Our Guiding Light

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Daniel 11–12
  • Jude

You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

2 Samuel 22:29

Today’s Scripture & Insight:2 Samuel 22:26–30

At a museum, I lingered near a display of ancient lamps. A sign revealed they were from Israel. Decorated with carved designs, these oval-shaped clay vessels had two openings—one for fuel, and one for a wick. Although the Israelites commonly used them in wall alcoves, each was small enough to fit in the palm of a person’s hand.

Perhaps a little light like this inspired King David to write a praise song in which he said, “You Lord are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (2 Samuel 22:29). David sang these words after God gave him victory in battle. Rivals from both inside and outside his own nation had been stalking him, intending to kill him. Because of his relationship with God, David didn’t cower in the shadows. He moved forward into enemy confrontations with the confidence that comes from God’s presence. With God helping him, he could see things clearly so he could make good decisions for himself, his troops, and his nation.

The darkness David mentioned in his song likely involved fear of weakness, defeat, and death. Many of us live with similar worries, which produce anxiety and stress. When the darkness presses in on us, we can find peace because we know God is with us too. The divine flame of the Holy Spirit lives in us to light our path until we meet Jesus face to face.

By: Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Reflect & Pray

Why can you trust God to help you with your fears? What can you do to seek God’s guidance in your life?

God, please assure me of Your presence when I’m afraid. Help me to remember that You’ve defeated spiritual darkness through Your death and resurrection.

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Lion in the Manger

It is a strange story. There were shepherds living out in the fields, protecting their sheep from predators in the night. An angel appeared to them, not the sort of modern sentiment, but a terrifying wall of light that told them not to be afraid. A baby had been born, and they could find him wrapped up and resting in a feeding trough. To a group of outsiders, God offered the first birth announcement. To a peasant mother outside of Bethlehem, the Son of God was born.

If we take a step back from the familiar dance and rush of Christmas and consider the story the Church around the world is really waiting for, we may well be thrown off our usual Christmas kilter. This is not really the innocuous historical narrative we imagine. This is not a dull or domesticated story. The bright lights and colors of ad campaigns and Christmas pageantry can easily paint over the stark scenery of a story that startled history itself. Who imagined God coming as a child, a God stepping into our world through an animal stall and into the unlikely arms of an unwed mother? Who can understand that story?

Yet even long before these strange additions to the story of this God among his people, the prophets were asking similar questions: “Who has understood the mind of the LORD?”(1) This God who moves among people, touching all of life and history is certainly not the quiet and tame being we often imagine. God’s movement isn’t predictable. God’s stories are not the kind of stories we would write if the telling were up to us. God’s thoughts are the sort of thoughts that expose deception and obliterate darkness, that overshadow souls and rewrite stories.

It is the same with the child born in a stable two thousand years ago. The infant the world vaguely remembers lying peacefully in a homey manger with cattle lowing nearby did not take long to fulfill the words spoken to his young parents weeks after his birth: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”(2) The old man’s words to Mary are definitely not the sort of thing a stranger typically says to a young mother holding the hopes and fears of a new baby. Is this the child we are anticipating this Advent?

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Lion in the Manger

Joyce Meyer – Just Give It Time

 

…let me know Your ways so that I may know You [becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with You…. — Exodus 33:13 (AMP)

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

When you spend time with God, it becomes evident. You become calmer; you’re easier to get along with; you are more joyful; and you remain stable in every situation. Spending quality time with God is an investment that yields rich benefits. You begin to understand what He likes and what offends Him. As with any friend, the more time you spend with God, the more like Him you become.

Spending time with God causes you to become more sensitive to the love He wants to demonstrate to you and to others through you. Your conscience alerts you to His will when you’re talking to someone in a way that does not please Him. Your heart grieves when He grieves, and you quickly pray, “Oh, God, I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” You soon want to apologize to the person you have offended and discover that saying, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you” isn’t so difficult after all.

Moses enjoyed a deep level of intimacy with God, and He desired for God to bless His people. When God told Moses he had found favor in His eyes (see Exodus 33:12), Moses understood that God was telling him he could ask for anything his heart desired.

Moses responded by saying that he simply wanted to become more intimately acquainted with God and that he wanted God to bless the people he was responsible to lead. Moses had seen God perform history’s most magnificent miracles, yet what he wanted most of all was to know God intimately.

I pray that knowing God is the desire of your heart, just as it was for Moses. You can know Him and hear His voice as clearly and as intimately as you want to. All it takes is spending time with Him.

Prayer Starter: Father, I want to know You more intimately. Please help me to invest in my relationship with You. Help me to take the necessary time to grow closer to You each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Another Comforter

 

“If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:15,16, KJV).

Some time ago, a young businessman came to see me. He was very eager to be a man of God. He wanted to know the fullness of the Holy Spirit in his life, but he said that every time he got on his knees to pray, all he could see was the merchandise he had stolen from his employer.

“God doesn’t hear my prayers,” he lamented. “I feel miserable and don’t know what to do.”

I suggested he confess his sin to his employer and make restitution.

“I don’t have the money to pay for the merchandise I have stolen,” he said. “What should I do? I’m afraid to tell my employer what I have done. I’m sure he will fire me, and he could send me to jail.”

“The Holy Spirit is convicting you,” I told him. “You can never experience the fullness of God’s Spirit and you’ll never be a man of God or have your prayers answered until you deal with this sin. You must trust the Lord to help you make restitution.”

So the next day he went to his employer, confessed he had stolen the merchandise and offered to make restitution. The employer received him warmly and understanding. He suggested that my friend pay a certain amount each month out of his salary until the debt was paid, which he was more than happy to do. He came immediately to tell me what had happened.

“Now God is hearing my prayers,” he said. “Now I know I am filled with the Holy Spirit. My heart is filled with joy and praise to God.”

Bible Reading: John 14:22-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will remain sensitive and alert for any unconfessed sin that might grieve or quench the indwelling Holy Spirit and hinder His working in and through me, robbing me of the supernatural life which God has commanded and enabled me to live, if only I will trust and obey Him.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Hello, Contentment

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

No cell phone?  No computer?  You’re kidding right?   “Not now, thank you, I’ve too much to do,” we say.  It’s crazy, since the reason we kill ourselves today is because we think it will make us content tomorrow!

But a funny thing happened on the way to the rat race that made me slip into neutral. My infant daughter had a stomach ache.  Mom was out so it fell to Daddy to pick her up. I started trying to do things with one hand and hold her with the other.  You’re smiling….you’ve tried that too?

I sat down, held her tight little tummy against my chest.  She began to relax.  Her little ear was right on top of my heart and she fell asleep.  She’ll never remember that moment, and I’ll never forget it!  “Good-by schedule,” I said.  “See you later, routine.  Hello, contentment.  Come on in!”

Read more No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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