Charles Stanley – Speaking Through Tragedy

Numbers 21:4-9

Although we never like to admit it, God will at times use hardships, such as tragedy, to shake us out of self-centeredness and other misguided attitudes. Unexpected hardship is often accompanied by a season of intense clarity. The Lord uses it to strip away distractions in order to teach us something meaningful and refocus our minds on Him.

We see this clearly in today’s passage. Here, we find the Israelites complaining. God had directed them to take the long way out of Mount Hor to avoid the Edomites. However, the people became impatient because of the lengthier journey and then began to grumble and complain about Moses and God Himself. They had turned their minds away from the Lord, who therefore needed to capture their attention once again.

It is interesting that God decided not to do so through blessing or a great miraculous sign. After all, the Israelites had seen Him move in this way time and time again. Instead, God sent poisonous snakes into the camp, causing the death of many.

What was the response of those who witnessed this? They immediately confessed their sin and asked Moses to intercede for them to the Lord. Though it was a costly lesson for their community, this act got their attention.

Speaking through tragedy is an intensely personal way in which God communicates with His people. While we cannot presume to know what He’s trying to tell others through their heartaches, we should meet our own hardships by looking for His divine purpose and instruction.

Bible in One Year: Matthew 13-15

 

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Our Daily Bread — Grasping the Cross

Read: Philippians 3:7-12

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 28-29; Philippians 3

Not that I have . . . already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. —Philippians 3:12

In 1856, Charles Spurgeon, the great London preacher, founded the Pastors’ College to train men for the Christian ministry. It was renamed Spurgeon’s College in 1923. Today’s college crest shows a hand grasping a cross and the Latin words, Et Teneo, Et Teneor, which means, “I hold and am held.” In his autobiography, Spurgeon wrote, “This is our College motto. We . . . hold forth the Cross of Christ with a bold hand . . . because that Cross holds us fast by its attractive power. Our desire is that every man may both hold the Truth, and be held by it; especially the truth of Christ crucified.”

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he expressed this truth as the bedrock of his life. “Not that I have . . . already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). As followers of Jesus, we extend the message of the cross to others as Jesus holds us fast in His grace and power. “I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

Our Lord holds us in His grip of love each day—and we hold out His message of love to others. —David McCasland

Lord Jesus, Your cross is the focal point of history and the turning point of our lives. Hold us tightly as we cling to Your cross and extend your love to others.

We hold to the cross of Christ and are held by it.

INSIGHT: Driven, disciplined, and focused might be accurate adjectives to describe Paul’s zeal in persecuting the church before he came to Christ. But when Paul met Jesus on the Damascus Road, his life took a decided turn (Acts 9). Paul was now called to be an apostle, and many marveled that he preached the gospel he once sought to destroy. The man who had been driven by self-righteousness now preached grace-righteousness.  Dennis Fisher

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Inexhaustible Inspiration

On February 23, 1685, the man whose music would forever inspire the world was born in Halle, Germany—ironically, to parents who would have seen him become a lawyer. But George Frideric Handel would quickly grow to be a famed composer and beloved musician.

By the time he reached his twenties, Handel was the talk of all England and Italy. Queen Anne had him commissioned as official composer of music for state occasions. Seats at his performances were often fought over, and his fame was quickly spreading throughout the world.

But the glory soon passed. Audiences dropped off; his popularity was eclipsed by newer talent. Financial ruin, failed productions, and festering stress took their toll on the musical giant. Weary from the strain of overwork and disappointment, Handel suffered an attack of a paralytic disorder that left his right arm crippled. At 52, the once famed musician was now seen as invalid and obsolete. “Handel’s great days are over,” wrote Frederick the Great, “his inspiration is exhausted.”

But sounds of the harpsichord soon reported otherwise. Not long after Handel withdrew to recuperate, his fingers were moved to play again and the artist set out to compose. Nonetheless, his next two operas were altogether unsuccessful. A charity concert he had promised to conduct in Dublin had become his only prospect for work. Yet, given a manuscript that included the opening lines from Isaiah 40, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” Handel was stirred to write.

On August 22, 1741, at the lowest ebb of his career, George Handel enclosed himself in a room and set to composing Messiah. The entire oratorio was sketched and scored within three weeks. And on April 13th, 1742, the first audience in history resounded in applause to the stirring music of Messiah, conducted by Handel himself.

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – The Prerequisite for Cleansing

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Continuous confession characterizes Christians.

Yesterday we learned that the only condition for receiving God’s gracious forgiveness is to “walk in the light”—in other words, to be a true Christian (1 John 1:7). At first glance, today’s verse appears to contradict that truth by adding a condition—namely, confession of sin. Such is not the case, however. First John 1:9 could be translated, “If we are the ones confessing our sins, He is forgiving us.” This verse looks at salvation from man’s perspective and defines Christians as those who are continually confessing their sins. Confession, like saving faith, is not a one-time act but a continuous pattern throughout our lives.

What is confession? The Greek word means “to say the same thing.” Confession, then, is agreeing with God about our sin. Confession affirms that God is just when He chastens us for our sins. It also restores us to the place of His blessing—something He is always “faithful” to do. Proverbs 28:13 reinforces that truth, promising that “he who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”

Some may question how a holy God can be “righteous” and still forgive sins. John has already answered that by noting in verse 7 that forgiveness comes through the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul declares that “God displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith . . . for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26).

True confession involves sorrow because sin has offended God (2 Cor. 7:10)—not mere remorse because of its negative consequences in one’s life (as was the case with Saul [1 Sam. 15:24] and Judas [Matt. 27:3]). It also involves repentance—turning away from sin and no longer embracing it (cf. Acts 19:18-19; 1 Thess. 1:9).

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Wisdom Hunters – Evil for Good 

The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. Revelation 11:10

Sometimes we receive the opposite of what we expect, as when our good deeds encounter an evil reaction. Some we have served seem to have forgotten our faithfulness, and gratitude has faded from their memory. They forgot the fruit from our labors, and it has become all about what might inconvenience them. You were there for them at their point of need but now in your need, they reject your request. It seems like a cruel joke. How could they forget your love and loyalty?

So what do you do when you are repaid evil for good? What is your prayerful response?

The only prophet an unbelieving world likes is a dead prophet, so for three and a half days contempt is shown for the two bold witnesses of Christ by leaving their corpses in the street—unburied—an insult to God and His spokesmen. A celebration breaks out in honor of the anti-Christ who has temporarily quieted the pesky and persistent voices of truth. This occasion for rejoicing during the tribulation is an aberration—not seen before or after. God eventually makes right the shamelessness of evil’s ugly acts in His sight.

“It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good” (1 Samuel 25:21).

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Today’s Turning Point with David Jeremiah – Praise Times Thirteen

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 150:6

Recommended Reading

Psalm 150

The book of Psalms ends on a climactic note of joyful praise in Psalm 150. In only six verses, this psalm answers one question after another involving praise and worship. In fact, the word “praise” occurs thirteen times in Psalm 150. The first verse tells us what we are to do. We’re to “Praise the Lord.” In the original Hebrew, it’s literally: Hallelu Yah or Praise Yahweh.

Verse 1 also tells us where to praise: “Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament!” Praise is the unifying activity that links together heaven and earth.

Verse 2 tells us why to praise God: “Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!” And verses 3-5 provide the how of praise – “with the sound of the trumpet… the lute and harp… the timbrel and dance… stringed instruments and flutes… loud cymbals… clashing cymbals.”

Verse 6 ends with the question of who should praise God: “Everything that has breath.” What joy we have as believers in Christ—praising Him today, tomorrow, and forever!

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! / O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!

Joachim Neander

Read-Thru-the-Bible

Matthew 14–17

 

http://www.davidjeremiah.org/

Joyce Meyer – Good Words

Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord.- Ephesians 5:19

The King James Version translates today’s verse: Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. I like to apply this Scripture both ways. The way I speak to myself is important, and the way I speak to others is important, too.

It is easy to fall into the trap of talking about negative things, problems, disappointments, and struggles. But none of that helps us stay filled with the Sprit and none of that reflects what the Holy Spirit wants to speak to us because He is not negative in any way. Even when He speaks to us about a problem, He speaks to bring a solution; and when He speaks to us about difficult situations, He does so to bring us comfort and strength. The more we think and talk about our problems, the weaker we become, but we are strengthened as we talk and think about Jesus and His promises to us.

Life is not always easy; we all face difficulties at times. God has filled us with His Spirit to enable us to do difficult things with ease. When you are going through a hard time, keep your ear tuned in to the voice of God. Speak the positive things God says to you through His Word and through the voice of His Spirit in your heart. We all feed on our own words so it is very important to speak good words that are full of life.

From the book Hearing from God Each Morning: 365 Daily Devotions by Joyce Meyer.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Girlfriends in God – Enough with Fear!

Today’s Truth

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

Friend to Friend

Recently I experienced a flare up of my old Lyme symptoms. One doctor told me years ago that I no longer deal with an active disease, just the residual effects of the disease. I have daily joint pain and occasional neurological flare-ups. I’ve come a long way in my healing and health since those sick years, and my struggle through that valley has left a lasting imprint on my heart.

On one hand, I took countless spoils from that battle. My trust in God has deepened over time. I now understand how fragile and fleeting this life can be. I’m quicker to see things from an eternal perspective.

However, I also carry with me the baggage of fear.

Crawling through that valley, battling sickness and the financial hardship that accompanied it, all while trying to care for three little boys, sent me in a tailspin of fear from time to time. Even now, with my kids grown and a full plate of ministry duties, I pick up fear when remnants from my past reappear.

Can you relate?

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Bread of Life

“Jesus replied, ‘I am the Bread of Life. No one coming to Me will ever be hungry again. Those believing in Me shall never thirst'” (John 6:35).

What would it be like never to be hungry – never to be thirsty?

Even in affluent America, you and I – and perhaps most people – have felt pangs of hunger and thirst, if only for a brief period. Jesus is telling us here that, spiritually speaking, we need never be hungry or thirsty again.

But how is that possible?

As the bread of life – the support of spiritual life – His doctrines give life and peace to the soul.

In Eastern countries, especially, there are vast deserts and often a great lack of water. By nature, the soul is like a traveler wandering through such a desert. Thirsting for happiness, seeking it everywhere and finding it not, he looks in all directions and tries all objects – in vain.

St. Augustine expressed this hunger for God in the following prayer, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Continue reading Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Bread of Life

Ray Stedman – God’s Servants

Read: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7

Paul is writing of the true view of ministry and ministers, and he does not mean by ministers only the apostles, or only a select group called the clergy, the pastors. This is a devilish idea that has possessed the church. It sees the clergy as different people, with a special pipeline to God. That idea is never found in Scripture. No, in Scripture all Christians are in the ministry, everyone without exception. All are given gifts by the Spirit. All are expected to have a function, a service that God uses. It does not have to be in the meeting of the church. It is out in the world, anywhere you are.

But how are we to view one another? As big shots striving to see who can get the most recognition, as dignitaries with special dress to indicate our rank and style of life? Are we to be the heavies, the bosses, the brass? No, Paul says we are servants; that is all. Everyone, servants of Christ. That is the highest rank possible in the church, and everybody has it to start with. Therefore, there is no need for competition or rivalry in any sense at all. We are all servants of Christ. Jesus himself told us what our attitude is to be: The Son of Man, he said, came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and give himself a ransom for many, (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45 KJV). Now that is serving, it is not being ministered unto.

How do you think of yourself when you come to church? What is your reason for coming to church? Is it to be ministered unto? Do you judge the purpose of our assembly together in order that you might have a blessing, or is it that you might be a blessing? The attitude of a servant is always, What can I do for another? In the process you will find yourself abundantly ministered unto. But we hear so much of this cult of the self-life today that insists that everything has to meet my needs. That is pre-eminent. Now that is the world’s thinking, isn’t it? The apostle is telling us that this thinking will be nothing but trouble in the church; it creates divisions and factions. We must come to see each other as servants of Christ, mutually living and ministering to one another as God gives opportunity to do. This is what the Lord Himself demonstrated for us. Are we in competition? No, says Paul, we’re in cooperation. I planted; Apollos watered; but God gave the growth. We are doing different things, but we need both of them.

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Words of Hope – Daily Devotional – A Raging Fury Remembered

Read: Acts 26:1-18

I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (v. 9)

Paul never stopped hoping for his release, even as he is bounced from corrupt Felix to feckless Festus and then from Festus to visiting dignitary Agrippa. Paul’s speech of self-defense before Agrippa clearly shows the causal connection between the account of his life, conversion, and subsequent ministry. As we’ll see tomorrow, even Agrippa was not immune to its power.

What strikes me about the speech, though, is its great humility. In verses 8-11, Paul lists those features of his own past that made him almost exactly like his accusers. Out of misguided zeal he too locked Christians up in prison, voted to give them the death penalty, and attacked others in the synagogues. Paul also “persecuted them even in foreign cities”—like the city in which Paul was making this very speech.

Self-righteousness is a continuing temptation for every Christian. It’s especially tempting for the unjustly accused, as Paul was. Paul’s example reminds us how it’s best avoided: by remembering and owning up to your own personal worst. Only when we remember the criminality of our own hearts can we remember and love wrongdoers without condescension.

Prayer:

Lord, you are absolute, but human innocence is relative. Help us to remember that we have all sinned, and that you want for all the same deliverance you gave to Paul on the Damascus road.

Author: Phil Christman

 

https://woh.org/

Greg Laurie – Sticking Together

Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. —Mark 10:9

When I was a kid, I would build models. However, I was really bad at it, because I would get glue everywhere. So when I decided to build a model as an adult, I thought I would be so much better at it. But I discovered that I was as bad as I always had been. Glue was everywhere.

Then I discovered superglue. It sounded so simple. Only a couple drops here and there would hold things together. But then I got it on my fingers, which the instructions warn against. So my thumb and index finger were stuck together for a while.

When Genesis 2:24 (KJV) uses the word “cleave” to describe the relationship between a husband and a wife, it uses a Hebrew term that speaks of adhering to or sticking together. It is to be attached by some strong tie. The verb suggests a determined action. So it is not that a husband and wife are stuck together, but they are sticking together. They are holding on to one another. There is nothing passive about it.

When we come to the New Testament use of the word, it is a term that means to cement together and stick like glue, so the two cannot be separated without serious damage to both.

This involves constant communication before marriage and during the marriage. In a poll that was taken among people who were divorced, 86 percent cited deficient communication as the number one reason for the breakup of the marriage. There was a communication breakdown.

Every marriage will have its conflicts, and couples need to learn how to resolve this. Cleaving together means putting the needs of your mate above your own. And as Ruth Graham once said, “A successful marriage is made up of two good forgivers.”

 

https://www.harvest.org/

Kids 4 Truth International – The LORD Is Everlasting Strength

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Have you ever seen an evergreen tree? If you have seen a Christmas tree, or a cyprus tree, or a pine tree, or a cedar tree, then – yes! You have seen an evergreen tree! “Evergreen” trees are called that because they stay green throughout the year, even though other trees change with the changing seasons.

The Bible tells us many times that God is an everlasting Person with everlasting character traits. Like the word “evergreen,” the word “everlasting” has the idea of continuing on and on and on forever. But God is even longer-lasting than an evergreen tree. Even the oldest and strongest and greenest of trees had to have had a beginning. Trees have to grow out of seeds, and one day, they will die off or be cut down. God has always been – He had no beginning. And He always will be! He will never end.

Since God Himself is everlasting, everything about Him is everlasting, too. His grace and His mercy are everlasting. His incredible power is everlasting. And in the verses above (Isaiah 26:3-4), the prophet Isaiah teaches us that God’s strength is everlasting, too. Isaiah says that God IS everlasting strength. He would not be the LORD if He were not everlastingly strong!

Is your strength everlasting? No! No human being could say that he or she has everlasting strength. Even the healthiest and strongest of people eventually get tired or worn out. We have limitations because we have to sleep and eat and exercise in order to keep up our strength, and we can be injured or cut down by diseases. None of those things can limit God. He is almighty. He is all-powerful. And His might and power are everlasting.

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The Navigators – Jerry Bridges – Holiness Day by Day Devotional – Destined for Glory

Today’s Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:17

“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

Paul wrote that our sufferings produce perseverance, which in turn produces character (Romans 5:3-4), and James said that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, which leads to maturity (James 1:2-5). Our ultimate hope, though, is not in maturity of character in this life, as valuable as that is, but in the perfection of character in eternity. John wrote, “When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, NIV). The often painful process of being transformed into his likeness will be over. We shall be completely conformed to the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, NIV). I visualize in my mind a pair of old-fashioned balance scales. Paul first puts all our sufferings, heartaches, disappointments—all our adversities of whatever kind from whatever source—onto one side of the balance scales. Then he puts on the other side the glory that will be revealed in us. As we watch, the scales do not balance, but completely bottom out on the side of the glory that will be revealed in us.

This is not to say that our present hardships are not painful. We see from Hebrews 12:11 that they are indeed painful, and we all know this to some degree from experience. But we need to learn to look by faith beyond the present pain to the eternal glory that will be revealed in us.

The God who disciplines us will also glorify us.

 

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The Navigators – Leroy Eims – Daily Discipleship Devotional – God’s Great Mercy

Today’s Scripture: Jonah 1-4

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.” – Luke 18:11

When God told Jonah to go to the great and wicked city of Nineveh and preach to the people, Jonah headed in the opposite direction. Why did he do that? Jonah 4:2 says, “That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

It seems that if Jonah had believed God was going to be harsh and unmerciful, he would have been delighted to go to Nineveh and preach. Jonah wanted this bloodthirsty nation to get what he thought it deserved. But God’s mercy extended far beyond the borders of Israel, and Jonah knew it!

I was in a church once where all the people had a similar heritage and shared the same theological persuasion. They had a very comfortable fellowship, a good preacher, and everything was great. Then their pastor heard Dawson Trotman speak on the need to reach out to the lost. He began urging people to invite nonChristians into their homes and into the church to win them to Christ, but they were too wrapped up with “enjoying the Lord” inside their own congregation.

Christian, are you afraid God wants to use you in the lives of people you think deserve judgment? Afraid God wants you to show kindness where you would rather show resentment and spite? As we have received forgiveness in Christ, let us become His messengers of mercy to others.

Prayer

Lord, keep me from being self-centered. Amen.

To Ponder

Our resistance to being equipped to witness grieves the Holy Spirit.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE LORD IS GOOD

Read 1 PETER 2:1–3

Babies love to put everything in their mouths—toys, books, even their own feet! As they are just becoming aware of their senses, babies use their sense of taste to explore the world around them. In addition, a baby’s mouth has more nerve endings per square inch than any other body part, so mouthing objects is the best way for a baby to discover how things feel. This normal developmental milestone usually ends by age three.

Scripture uses the metaphor of taste often to describe our experience of God. The psalmist says, “Taste and see that LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8), and “How sweet are your words to my taste” (Ps. 119:103). The prophet Ezekiel was instructed to eat the scroll of the Lord (Ezek. 3:3), an image repeated in Revelation 10:10. And the book of Hebrews also describes tasting the goodness of God (Heb. 6:4–5). Taste indicates an intimate experience beyond the senses of seeing or hearing.

Peter says that we have had that kind of experience with God’s goodness! We can attest, in a deep and powerful way, that His love and salvation transform and sustain us. These first verses of chapter 2 are connected to Peter’s exhortation in the previous chapter about how we relate to God and others. God’s goodness to us should motivate us to reject habits and practices that destroy community. This list—malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander— describes the deadly poison that can infect relationships when we are seeking our own status and advantage (v. 1).

Instead, we should imbibe “pure spiritual milk” (v. 2). The contrast here is between purity and deceit and between nourishment and destruction. We have already tasted God’s goodness, and now we should continue to drink from His wells of truth so that we can thrive in community and grow in grace.

APPLY THE WORD

Sins like envy and deceit can creep into our lives quietly. We resent the gifts or success of others; we try to present ourselves as better than we are. Proper humility is key: we must remember that our salvation depends on God’s goodness to us, not on our own status. Ask God to root out these sins and give you a renewed taste for His good gifts.

 

http://www.todayintheword.org

Denison Forum – ‘THIS STORM WILL KILL YOU’

“This storm will kill you.” That’s how Florida Gov. Rick Scott described Hurricane Matthew as he warned residents to flee the strongest storm system to threaten the US in a decade.

The western eyewall of the hurricane brushed by Cape Canaveral this morning, producing wind gusts of 115 mph. More than 300,000 people are already without power across the state of Florida. Officials are predicting that power will eventually be lost to 2.5 million as further “catastrophic damage” is expected.

Forecasters warn that this storm could be “unlike any hurricane in the modern era.” About 3.1 million people are under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders in three states. Some areas in the hurricane’s path could be uninhabitable for weeks or months to come.

The region has instituted the largest mandatory evacuation since Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. However, the storm surge is expected to be much larger than the New Jersey shore saw during that tragedy. As the hurricane continues to hug the coast through Saturday, the National Weather Service warns that Matthew could deliver “the strongest, most destructive winds anyone in parts of the northeast Florida coast and Georgia coast has seen in their lifetime.” Catastrophic flooding is predicted as well.

How should we respond today?

One: Obviously, we need to pray.

Pray right now for God to move Hurricane Matthew out into the sea and to protect those in its path. The psalmist said of God, “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:29). Ask him to do the same with this storm and to help those facing its devastating power.

Continue reading Denison Forum – ‘THIS STORM WILL KILL YOU’