Charles Stanley – Who Do You Say That I Am?

 

Matthew 16:13-18

The question hung in the air like a thick morning fog. Imagine the complete silence and the small crowd around Jesus looking stupefied—too scared or uncertain to speak. They didn’t know what to say in response to the Lord’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15).

Then, as though some invisible hand had flipped a switch, bringing him into perfect awareness, Simon Peter’s head shot up. He looked Jesus in the eye and declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Peter got it right.

Calling Jesus “Christ” and “God’s Son” was a big deal in biblical times. Such a statement led to the death of many brave believers, as the Jewish and Roman authorities persecuted Christians who were willing to take a stand for their faith. Even those who walked side by side with Jesus and excitedly took part in His ministry would be taking a huge risk to call Him “Christ.” So they sometimes remained silent while continuing to work for the kingdom.

Isn’t it interesting that today’s church often has the opposite problem? Many people are quick to exclaim “Jesus is Lord!” but then fail to go about His work and ministry.

Is there a disparity between what you profess with your mouth and what you’re doing for the kingdom? Jesus calls us to be complete in testimony and in deed. If your confession is “Jesus is Lord,” then your life should reflect your bold stance. What can you do today to reveal your faith to others?

Bible in One Year: Zechariah 6-10

 

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Our Daily Bread — Bad Faith, Good Faith

Read: Romans 4:18-25

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 9-10; Ephesians 3

[Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.—Romans 4:20

“You gotta have faith,” people say. But what does that mean? Is any faith good faith?

“Believe in yourself and all that you are,” wrote one positive thinker a century ago. “Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” As nice as that may sound, it falls to pieces when it crashes into reality. We need a faith in something bigger than ourselves.

God promised Abram he would have a multitude of descendants (Gen. 15:4-5), so he faced a huge obstacle—he was old and childless. When he and Sarah got tired of waiting for God to make good on His promise, they tried to overcome that obstacle on their own. As a result, they fractured their family and created a lot of unnecessary dissension (see Gen. 16 and 21:8-21).

Nothing Abraham did in his own strength worked. But ultimately he became known as a man of tremendous faith. Paul wrote of him, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (Rom. 4:18). This faith, said Paul, “was credited to him as righteousness” (v. 22).

Abraham’s faith was in something far bigger than himself—the one and only God. It’s the object of our faith that makes all the difference. —Tim Gustafson

Lord, I want a strong faith in You, not just faith in myself or my abilities or in others. I am nothing without You.

Our faith is good if it’s in the right Person.

INSIGHT: The central theme of Romans is that humanity cannot save itself and that God justifies the sinner by grace through faith in Jesus alone (Rom. 1:16-17). Paul reveals that all people—Jews and Gentiles—are sinners. All have sinned. All stand condemned before our holy God (3:23). Sinners are saved, not by obeying the law, but by God’s actions of justifying the sinner through faith in Jesus (3:22-26). We are justified (declared righteous and made right with God) by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide) and in Christ alone (solus Christus).

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Three-Dimensional Art

An important manuscript long thought lost was rediscovered hiding in a Pennsylvania seminary on a forgotten archival shelf. The recovered manuscript was a working score for a piano version of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Grosse Fuge,” which means “grand fugue.” Apparently, grand is an understatement. The work is known as a monument of classical music and described by historians as a “symphonic poem” or a “leviathan”—an achievement on the scale of the finale of his Ninth Symphony. The work is one of the last pieces Beethoven composed, during the period when he was completely deaf. The markings throughout the manuscript are in the composer’s own hand.

In fact, such markings are a particular trademark of Beethoven, who was known for his near obsessive editing. Unlike Mozart, who typically produced large scores in nearly finished form, Beethoven’s mind was so full of ideas that it was never made up. Never satisfied, he honed his ideas brutally.

A look at the recovered score portrays exactly that. Groups of measures throughout the 80-page manuscript are furiously canceled out with cross-marks. Remnants of red sealing wax, used to adhere long corrections to an already scuffed up page, remain like scars. There are smudges where he rubbed away ink while it was still wet and abrasions where he erased notes with a needle. Dated changes and omissions are scattered throughout the score, many of these markings dating to the final months before his death in 1827.

I believe there is something encouraging about the labored work of a genius. Beethoven wrestled notes onto the page. For him composing music was a messy, physical process. Ink was splattered, wax burned, erasers wore holes in the paper. What started as a clean page became a muddled, textured mess of a masterpiece ever in progress.

At times when I read the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17 I am jarred by the finality of it: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Upon calling on Christ as Lord, the Christian has been made into something new. Before she has even tried to live well, before she has even labored as a disciple, the marred and muddied scene of her hearts has been made abruptly clean and new. The Father has handed us the masterpiece of his Son and told us that when He looks at us He sees perfection.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Three-Dimensional Art

John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Using Spiritual Gifts

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

To be effective, spiritual gifts must be used in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in the power of the flesh.

One of the constant battles all believers face is to avoid ministering their spiritual gifts in the power of the flesh. Even those of us who are called to be preachers (prophets) need to subject our spirits to other mature believers (1 Cor. 14:32). As a pastor, I am not spiritual just because I stand behind a pulpit and preach. Paul instructs us, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let others pass judgment” (1 Cor. 14:29). Those who teach God’s Word are not infallible; therefore, they must allow other qualified believers to verify the truth of what they proclaim.

Whenever Christians rely on their own strength, wisdom, and desire to minister, whatever they accomplish is a mockery and a waste. But whenever they minister by the Spirit’s power, the result is pleasing to God and has lasting value (“gold, silver, precious stones. . . . If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward,” 1 Cor. 3:12, 14). Essentially, all a believer needs to pray is, “Spirit of God, use me,” and divine energy will activate and flow through his or her ministry to fellow believers and unbelievers.

You can use your spiritual gift effectively by faithfully following three basic steps: Pray—continually confess and turn from your sins (1 John 1:9) and ask God to use you in the Holy Spirit’s power. Yield yourself—always determine to live according to God’s will, not the world’s (Rom. 6:16; 12:12). Be filled with the Spirit—let the Spirit control all of your thoughts, decisions, words, and actions. Commit everything to Him, and He will minister through you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Confess any and all times lately that you have counted on your human ability rather than on the Spirit’s power to minister to others.
  • Pray that this week God would give you a clear opportunity to exercise your spiritual gift for His glory.

For Further Study

Read 1 Samuel 15:1-23.

  • In what way did King Saul use his own insight rather than follow God’s command?
  • What can be the consequence of such disobedience (vv. 22-23; see also 1 Sam. 13:8-14)?

 

http://www.gty.org

Today’s Turning Point with David Jeremiah – Rock Piles

I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

Psalm 77:11

Recommended Reading

Joshua 4

Although the tools for capturing memories have increased, we are just as forgetful as the Israelites when it comes to God’s goodness. When the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River with Joshua, they were commanded to pick up rocks from the river bed to create a monument of remembrance. The rocks were a symbol and a tangible reminder of God’s deliverance, power, and compassion.

While we may not hear a voice from heaven commanding us to gather rocks, Scripture urges us to remember the work of God in our lives. We have cameras, journals, and computers at our disposal, and yes, even rocks. When we keep tangible reminders of God’s goodness, we are strengthened to trust God with today and the future. Just as crossing the Jordan was not the final challenge the Israelites faced, we will continue to be faced with difficulty throughout our lives. Instead of being surprised by it, we can gaze at our rocks of remembrance and have confidence that the God who helped us then is the same God of today. He never changes and He delights in strengthening and delivering His people.

Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.

John R. Stott

Read-Thru-the-Bible

Zechariah 11 – 14

http://www.davidjeremiah.org/

Joyce Meyer – Nudged Out of the Nest

As an eagle that stirs up her nest, that flutters over her young, He spread abroad His wings and He took them, He bore them on His pinions.- Deuteronomy 32:11

Baby eagles spend the first three months of their lives in the comfortable nest their parents have prepared. But the eaglets get a big surprise when they are about twelve weeks old. Their mother suddenly begins to throw all of their toys out of the nest.

Next, she begins to pull out all of the comfortable material in the nest—the feathers and the animal fur—and leaves the babies sitting on thorns and sticks. This is what the Bible means when it mentions that the mother eagle “stirs up her nest.” The reason she stirs the nest is that she wants her babies to get out and fly.

Before long, the mother eagle begins to nudge them out of the nest. The little eaglets, who have no idea how to fly, fall through the sky, probably very frightened. Soon, though, they hear a “whoooooooosh” as the mother eagle swoops up under them to catch them. At that point, the mother eagle takes the babies right back up to the nest and then nudges them out again. She keeps repeating the process, over and over again, until they finally understand that they have no choice but to fly.

The mother eagle does this because she loves them and wants them to have the best lives they can possibly have. Most eaglets won’t get out of the nest without this push. Similarly, most of us will also choose comfort over challenge unless we have no choice at all.

Do you feel God is working in your life the same way the mother eagle does with her young? Has He been pulling some of the padding out of your nest so you find yourself sitting on prickly branches? Is He saying to you, “Come on, it is time to fly”? If so, remember the mother eagle’s intentions and know that you can trust God’s good intentions for you.

Trust in Him: Do you feel as if God has pushed you out of your comfortable nest? Trust Him. He isn’t trying to harm you—He’s teaching you to fly!

From the book Trusting God Day by Day by Joyce Meyer.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Girlfriends in God – Blind Ambitions

Today’s Truth

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Friend to Friend

Not too long ago I was sitting in an airport waiting for my delayed flight to board. To pass the time, I was doing something that comes natural to me as a physical therapist—I was analyzing people’s gait (their walking style/posture) as they strolled by. I had just diagnosed a weak left hip muscle in a middle-aged woman when I turned my head to the right to lock my eyes onto my next “patient.” What I found was something quite out of the ordinary. A blind man was walking by, his left arm linked with a sighted man’s right arm. Now, this wasn’t what I found to be curious. What was interesting was that even though the blind man was being led by someone with full sight, he continued to use the walking stick he held in his other hand to methodically sweep the path ahead of him as he walked. Huh. Why was he doing this? Did he not trust his guide to lead him in a clear path or was it done by habit?

While I was considering these two options the Lord leaned into my ear in that moment and said, “This is the way I want you to walk with me, Lisa.” Suddenly I understood. You see, Jesus is the eternally-sighted One. He desires to be my Guide, and in order for this to be accomplished, my arm (life) needs to be linked with His. Once that connection is in place, it becomes my responsibility to navigate the day-to-day jaunts that He has entrusted me to take, all while relying on the mighty support His Arm provides—just as the blind man was doing that day as he made his way through the airport. God does His part, and we must do ours.

Truth be told, I can be blind to the ways of the Lord. There have been times when I’ve un-linked my arm with Christ’s and tried to navigate my life with my own understanding. Sure, I read God’s Word, but then I look forward at the circumstances ahead of me, and I think I’ve got a good handle on things. So, off I go, ambitiously “swinging my stick” side to side while pressing forward. The problem is, at the end of the day, the week, or the month, I’m lost. I’m nowhere near the “gate” the Lord had intended to lead me to.

Continue reading Girlfriends in God – Blind Ambitions

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Helping the Church

“The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

A friend once asked me, “Are all the spiritual gifts for today?” and “How can I discern my spiritual gifts?”

He had been reading a number of books with conflicting views on gifts and had heard sermons – some encouraging him to discover his gifts and others saying the gifts are not for today. He was woefully confused.

I shared with this friend that I have been a Christian for more than 35 years and have known the reality of the fullness of the Spirit for more than 30 years. I explained that I have seen God do remarkable – even miraculous – things in and through my life throughout the years.

Yet, I have not felt the need to “discover” my gifts, because I believe that whatever God calls me to do He will enable me to do if I am willing to trust and obey Him, work hard and discipline myself.

The Holy Spirit obviously controls and distributes all the gifts. So when I am filled, controlled and empowered with the Holy Spirit I possess all of the gifts potentially. God will give me any gifts I need.

I went on to tell my young friend that some of the gifts of the Spirit are supernatural enhancements of abilities common to all men, wisdom for instance. Other gifts, such as healing, are granted by the Holy Spirit to only a select few.

But the gifts differ in another way, too. Some are instantaneous, and others are developmental in nature. Primarily, we need to remember that whatever God calls us to do, He will enable us to do. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13, NAS).

Bible Reading: I Corinthians 12:24-31

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will dwell on God’s ability to do in and through me what ever He calls upon me to do, rather than to spend precious time seeking to discover my spiritual gifts.

 

http://www.cru.org

Ray Stedman – How To Love God?

Read: Romans 8:35-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:35a

How do you love God? You love him by answering this question. Who or what is going to separate us from the love of Christ? Is there any force, anywhere, that can come between you and Jesus? Who can remove us from Christ, once we fully come to him? Paul’s answer is, Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

First, can all the troubles and dangers of life separate us from his love: Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (Romans 8:35b) That is life at its worst. Will that do it? Will hardship do it? That means the tight, narrow places we have to go through sometimes. Will persecution do it? That is hurt deliberately inflicted on us because we are Christians. Will famine, lack of food and money do it? Will nakedness, or lack of clothes? Will danger, or threat to our lives? Will the sword (war, riot, uprising) do it? No, Paul says, In these we are superconquerors. Why? Because rather than dividing us from Christ, they draw us closer to him. They make us cling harder. They scare us and make us run to him. When we are independent and think we can make it on our own, these things strike, and we start whimpering and running for home, and we cling all the closer. We can never be defeated then, so we are more than conquerors.

Continue reading Ray Stedman – How To Love God?

Words of Hope – Daily Devotional – Something Understood

Read: Matthew 13:34-35, 51-52

Have you understood all these things? (v. 51)

The last of George Herbert’s pen pictures is the simplest of all, yet it is as unexpected and as thought-provoking as any. The experience he writes of here is not one that our prayer answering God will give us every time; but as we get to know him better, we may find it happens increasingly often.

Here is the problem: if prayer is “something understood,” why do so many Bible people say to God in bewilderment, “But Lord, I don’t understand”? Here is the answer: they are being trained to trust where they cannot see; to trust that behind the scenes he has everything under control, and is working his purposes out in a way that they can’t yet grasp, but which will turn out to be the best of all ways.

And here is a quote, plus the concluding prayer, from just one more of Herbert’s fellow poets, Richard Trench (another archbishop, like yesterday’s Robert Leighton!). He writes of the times when we kneel to pray in a fog of not-understanding, and then somehow, rising from our knees, we find that “all, the distant and the near, / Stands forth in sunny outline, brave and clear; / We kneel, how weak; we rise, how full of power!” We may not know the answer, but we know the Answer Man.

Here is the poem in its entirety:

Continue reading Words of Hope – Daily Devotional – Something Understood

Greg Laurie – Safe in the Storm

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

—Psalm 46:1

When I was a kid, I attended Southern California Military Academy in Long Beach. We would have mandatory chapel every Sunday. Not being raised in a Christian home, I can recall it was the only time, for the most part, that I was ever in a church service. I remember one of the songs we sang in chapel was “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

At the time, I was experiencing a storm of my own because of the way my mom lived as an alcoholic. I remember singing, “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm is a golden sky and the sweet silver song of the lark. Walk on through the wind. Walk on through the rain.”

The problem was there was no mention of God in those lyrics. As we sang, “Walk on, with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone,” I thought, Who is with me? The lark that we’re singing about? Who is here?

As Christians, we do walk through storms in life. But we can hold our heads up high—not because of some bird singing but because the Lord is with us. He was with me as a little boy, though I hadn’t yet put my faith in Him completely. God was there as I cried out to Him.

We’re safer with Him in a storm than anywhere else without Him. I would rather be with Jesus in a storm than in the plushest, most luxurious place on earth without Him. The Bible tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Sometimes God will calm or even stop the storms, but He is always with us through them.

 

https://www.harvest.org/

Kids 4 Truth International – God Chastens His Children

“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:5-7)

“Joey and Cam, let’s go! We need to head home.” Cam’s mom called, as she wiped ketchup and bits of french fries off of the baby’s fingers and face.

Cam heard her, but he and Joey really wanted to keep playing on the restaurant’s playground for a few more minutes, so they pretended not to hear her. They got “lost” deep inside the maze and climbed backwards up the slides instead of coming out on the ground near her table. Cam did not make eye contact with his mom, but he could hear his little sister starting to get fussy. He did not care. He wanted to keep on playing. So that’s what he and Joey did.

“Cam! Joey! Last call! We are leaving now!” Cam’s mom did not sound too happy.

When they finally got into the van, she turned to the boys and said, “What was that all about at the playground? I know you heard me call the first time. Were you deliberately disobeying?”

The boys looked at one another. Joey nodded slowly, and Cam said a very quiet “Yes, ma’am, we were.”

It was mostly silent in the van until after they had dropped Joey off at his house. Cam’s mom turned to him then and said, “You do realize I’ll have to punish you for deliberate disobedience, don’t you, Cameron?”

“But, Mom, I thought you were done being mad. You didn’t say anything else to Joey!”

“Cam, I don’t have to say anything else to Joey. (Although I am thinking about talking it over with his mom later on.)”

“No fair! Joey did the same thing I did! It might’ve even been his idea! – I don’t even remember exactly, but it probably was Joey’s idea!”

Continue reading Kids 4 Truth International – God Chastens His Children

The Navigators – Jerry Bridges – Holiness Day by Day Devotional – Made Personally

Today’s Scripture: Psalm 72:18

“Blessed be the Lord . . . who alone does wondrous things.”

David said, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, NIV). We might say, “That’s well enough for David; he was handsome, athletic, skilled in war, and a gifted musician. But look at me. I’m very ordinary physically and mentally.” In fact, some people feel they don’t even measure up to ordinary.

I understand people who feel that way. In addition to having hearing and vision disabilities, I’ve never been excited about my physical appearance. But God didn’t give his own Son handsome features in his human body: “he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, NIV). Jesus, at best, was apparently nondescript in his physical appearance. This never bothered him nor interfered with his carrying out his Father’s will.

David praised God not because he was handsome but because God made him. Dwell on that thought: The eternal God, infinite in his wisdom and perfect in his love, personally made you and me. He gave you your body, your mental abilities, and your basic personality because that’s the way he wanted you to be—and he loves you and wants to glorify himself through you.

This is our foundation for self-acceptance. God sovereignly and directly created us to be who we are, disabilities or physical flaws and all. We need to learn to think like George Macdonald, who said, “I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.” (Excerpt taken from Trusting God)

 

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The Navigators – Leroy Eims – Daily Discipleship Devotional – A Leader’s Character

Today’s Scripture: Isaiah 31-35

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:2-3

Books and articles about leadership written by secular writers often differ from biblical principles. All too often, those who teach leadership are concerned primarily with style. Should the leader simply make the decisions and carry them out, or should he consult with the people to get their input before he acts?

The most important issue in leadership is character. It has always seemed to me that leadership style depends on the circumstances. For instance, I like the idea of consulting with people and receiving their wisdom on the subject. Why do solo thinking when one has a whole group of skilled people to draw from? On the other hand, if I’m in an airplane and the cockpit is filling with smoke, the landing gear is stuck, and an engine is out, I don’t want the captain coming back to the passenger section and asking my opinion about what to do. I want him to muster all his expertise, to recall all his training, and to get that airplane safely on the ground. I want him in total control and not asking advice from anybody.

So when the Bible deals with the subject of leadership, it doesn’t dwell on the style of the leader, but on the character of the leader. Notice the words of the prophet in Isaiah 32:1: “See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice.” The leader’s daily walk of righteousness is fundamental. Now look at Isaiah 32:17: “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.”

Prayer

Lord, help me to walk in Your righteousness, so that when I lead, I can do it with quietness and confidence.

To Ponder

In leadership, character is the bottom line.

 

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BreakPoint – Russia: Christians Face Increasing Persecution

We all know about the dire circumstances faced by Christians in the Islamic world. Even the White House has finally called what’s happening to Christians in Iraq and Syria “genocide.”

But there’s another place where religious freedom is under assault: Russia.

This is a surprise to some. After all, post-Soviet Russia takes pride in its Christian heritage. Its president, Vladimir Putin, has positioned himself as a champion of Russian Orthodoxy. His stance on traditional marriage and opposition to homosexual activists has won him praise and admiration from many conservative Christians.

But just ask Donald Ossewaarde if he thinks that Putin and Putin’s Russia are champions of religious freedom. Ossewaarde, a Baptist missionary from the United States, was one of the first people to run afoul of the recently passed “Yarovaya Law.”

The Yarovaya Law, which purports to be a counter-terrorism and public safety measure, prohibits “religious gatherings in unregistered places,” restricts promoting religion on the internet, and makes it easier for Russian officials to deny entry into and departure from the country.

And since the Yarovaya Law places severe restrictions on evangelization (or “proselytizing” as the Russian government sees it), it’s not hard to see how a Baptist missionary might get into trouble.

The law defines “missionary work” as “the activity of a religious association, aimed at disseminating information about its beliefs among people who are not participants (members, followers) in that religious association, with the purpose of involving these people as participants (members, followers).”

Activity that falls under this definition may “only be performed ‘without hindrance’ at [designated] churches and other religious sites . . . [and it is] expressly forbidden to perform missionary activities in private residences.”

Continue reading BreakPoint – Russia: Christians Face Increasing Persecution

Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – FOR THE GOOD OF GOD’S PEOPLE

Read ESTHER 10:1–3

What makes a man great? What distinguishes him from the ordinary? Ralph Waldo Emerson connected greatness to humility: “A great man is always willing to be little.” Winston Churchill observed, “Good and great are seldom in the same man.”

Mordecai, was a man who was not only great but also good. What factors contributed to Mordecai’s success? First, Mordecai was devoted. He took care of his cousin, Esther. He raised her and loved her as his own daughter (2:7). Even when she was grown and entered the king’s palace, he would visit every day to see how she was doing (2:11). He demonstrated his love toward Esther with consistent, unselfish actions.

Second, Mordecai was brave and a person of decisive and courageous action. He uncovered the conspiracy against the king and saved his life (2:23). He learned of Haman’s plot to execute the Jewish people and devised a plan to save them. Third, Mordecai was a person of integrity and humility. Even though he knew the consequences, he refused to bow down to Haman (3:2). When he learned of the fate of his people, he did not sulk privately but put on sackcloth and ashes and mourned at the king’s gate (4:2).

Mordecai earned the respect of the Jewish people and the king because he was caring, decisive, humble, and consistent. He was a man of honor. Esther 10 says King Xerxes left behind a tremendous legacy that included “his acts of power and might.” But those records also featured the “greatness of Mordecai” (v. 2).

God worked through the good lives of Mordecai and Esther for the good of His people. They would not be forgotten.

APPLY THE WORD

How is God working through your life? As we conclude the study of Esther, ask God to use you, as He did Esther and Mordecai, as His faithful servant. Ask Him to humble you, challenge you, and stretch you as you follow Him through the twists and turns of your own life story. Ask Him for the courage to be a great man or woman of God.

 

http://www.todayintheword.org

Denison Forum – ‘BLACK MOON’ FRIDAY: HAS THE APOCALYPSE BEGUN?

Is today the “End of Days”?

Some say it is. We are witnessing a “Black Moon,” which is the second of two new moons in a single month. The phenomenon occurs roughly every thirty-two months, so it’s not all that unusual. However, the first day of September brought a “ring of fire” solar eclipse, with the moon aligned with the sun in such a way that the sun appears as a glowing ring around the moon.

Do these events herald the end of the world? Jesus told us that “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” before he returns (Matthew 24:29). However, in the same verse he also told us that “the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Neither has occurred yet.

When thinking about the Second Coming, it’s best to focus on preparing rather than predicting. Some good news in today’s news makes that point.

You may have seen the now-viral video of Tim Tebow hitting a home run on the first pitch of his first game as a professional baseball player. Meanwhile, Politico is calling two congressmen “Hill’s angels” after they resuscitated a man on Capitol Hill. They found the man lying on the floor of an elevator in the Rayburn House office building and used CPR and a defibrillator to keep him alive until paramedics arrived.

A police detective in Plano, Texas saw a man run out of a convenience store carrying a donation jar full of cash. The detective caught the man and pinned him to the roof of his car. When the man started to break away, the detective yelled for help. A bystander filming the confrontation on his cell phone and another man helped restrain the suspect until the policeman could handcuff him. The detective later treated the men to lunch at a steak restaurant. It cost him almost $100, but he said it was the least he could do.

Continue reading Denison Forum – ‘BLACK MOON’ FRIDAY: HAS THE APOCALYPSE BEGUN?

Charles Stanley – The Value of Obedience

John 14:23

Despite his years of fishing experience, Peter returned from a night’s work with nothing to show for it. The Lord’s request to let the nets down one more time perhaps struck him as unreasonable—after all, Peter and his partners were the professionals. Nevertheless, he complied, and his obedience blessed many.

Scripture demonstrates that divine plans often defy human logic. For instance, who would design a battle strategy that involved only marching and shouting? God told Joshua to conquer Jericho that way, and doing so proved successful (Josh. 6:1-5).

Moses is another example. When he felt unsure about his leadership potential, the Lord gave reassurance in an unusual way—by telling him to throw down his walking stick. When Moses obeyed, God powerfully confirmed His choice of a leader (Ex. 4:1-3).

Our Father may ask us to do something that seems illogical—perhaps to accept more responsibility when we were hoping to reduce our workload, to leave a position that He provided just recently, or to take on an assignment for which we feel ill-equipped. His plan might feel unrealistic in view of our age, stage of life, or health concerns. We must press forward in obedience, regardless of how impractical the request may appear.

To grasp the importance of obeying, think about children receiving instructions from parents or teachers. Careful listening is needed for the task to be done safely and properly. Some steps may seem pointless, but the rationale often becomes clear later. Always make obeying God your priority.

Bible in One Year: Zechariah 1-5

 

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Our Daily Bread — Within a Stone’s Throw

Read: John 7:53-8:11

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 7-8; Ephesians 2

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.—John 8:7

As a group of religious leaders herded an adulterous woman toward Jesus, they couldn’t know they were carrying her within a stone’s throw of grace. Their hope was to discredit Him. If He told them to let the woman go, they could claim He was breaking Mosaic law. But if He condemned her to death, the crowds following Him would have dismissed His words of mercy and grace.

But Jesus turned the tables on the accusers. Scripture says that rather than answering them directly, He started writing on the ground. When the leaders continued to question Him, He invited any of them who had never sinned to throw the first stone, and then He started writing on the ground again. The next time He looked up, all the accusers were gone.

Now the only person who could have thrown a stone—the only sinless one—looked at the woman and gave her mercy. “ ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’ ” (John 8:11).

Whether today finds you needing forgiveness for judging others or desiring assurance that no sin is beyond His grace, be encouraged by this: No one is throwing stones today; go and be changed by God’s mercy. —Randy Kilgore

Father, cleanse me of my judging nature and free me from the bonds of sin. Let me taste Your mercy and then help me to live a changed life.

Tell us your story of how the Lord has shown grace to you at odb.org/story.

We serve a Savior who is eager to forgive.

INSIGHT: In today’s reading, a dramatic scene unfolds. As Jesus taught in the temple courts a woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Him. The legalists wanted to test His response to this flagrant act of sin. They knew the law demanded the death penalty and wanted to place Christ in a double bind between merciful forgiveness and literal obedience to the law. When confronted with this guilty woman, Jesus did the unexpected: He knelt and wrote something in the sand. His statement—“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7)—turned the tide of public opinion. The sinful heart of the accusers caused them to leave one by one.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Portrait of a Soul

In the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde describes an exceptionally handsome young man so captivating that he drew the awe-stricken adulation of a great artist. The artist asked him to be the subject of a portrait for he had never seen a face so attractive and so pure. When the painting was completed, young Dorian became so enraptured by his own looks that he wistfully intoned how wonderful it would be if he could live any way he pleased but that no disfigurement of a lawless lifestyle would mar the picture of his own countenance. If only the portrait would grow old and he himself could remain unscathed by time and way of life. In Faustian style he was willing to trade his soul for that wish.

One day, alone and pensive, Dorian went up to the attic and uncovered the portrait that he had kept hidden for so many years, only to be shocked by what he saw. Horror, hideousness, and blood marred the portrait.

The charade came to an end when the artist himself saw the picture. It told the story. He pled with Dorian to come clean, saying, “Does it not say somewhere, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’?” But in a fit of rage to silence this voice of conscience, Dorian grabbed a knife and killed the artist.

There was now only one thing left for him to do; he took the knife to remove the only visible reminder of his wicked life. But the moment he thrust the blade into the canvas, the portrait returned to its pristine beauty, while Dorian lay stabbed to death on the floor. The ravages that had marred the picture now so disfigured him that even his servants could no longer recognize him.

What a brilliant illustration of how a soul, though invisible, can nonetheless be tarnished. I wonder, if there were to be a portrait of my soul or your soul, how would it best be depicted? Does not the conscience sting, when we think in these terms? Though we have engineered many ways of avoiding physical consequences, how does one cleanse the soul?

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