Charles Stanley – A Real Enemy

 

1 Peter 5:8-10

Let’s play a little game. Imagine that you’re a soldier during wartime. You’ve made it through basic training, mastered the weapons of war, memorized all the relevant warfare strategies, and are heading to battle.

You’ve seen the war in news headlines. Friends of yours have already been deployed. And now that you’re on the front lines, you witness explosions and desolation all around you. Without a doubt, you know that there is an enemy out to destroy you.

Now, imagine a fellow soldier coming to you and saying, “I really don’t believe there’s an enemy out there. I think it’s a myth, or maybe just a metaphor for evil. It isn’t real.”

How ridiculous! Right there in the midst of combat, with fallen comrades and used ammunition littering the battlefield, how could an intelligent person ever fail to acknowledge the presence of the enemy? It is unthinkable.

And yet, this exact situation is taking place in churches all around the world. Despite the evidence of war and regardless of the overtly personal and custom-made nature of the attacks, an astounding number of Christians simply do not believe in the existence of Satan. This is a tragic mistake.

My friend, there is a very real enemy stalking you right now, waiting for the opportunity to destroy you completely. If you want to grow and experience maturity in the Christian life, then you must take this battle seriously.

Are you prepared today? Put on your spiritual armor, and follow the Lord into battle. He’ll be by your side.

Bible in One Year: Mark 13-14

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — From the Heart

Read: Joel 2:12-17

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 53-55; 2 Thessalonians 1

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.—Joel 2:13

In many cultures, loud weeping, wailing, and the tearing of clothing are accepted ways of lamenting personal sorrow or a great national calamity. For the people of Old Testament Israel, similar outward actions expressed deep mourning and repentance for turning away from the Lord.

An outward demonstration of repentance can be a powerful process when it comes from our heart. But without a sincere inward response to God, we may simply be going through the motions, even in our communities of faith.

After a plague of locusts devastated the land of Judah, God, through the prophet Joel, called the people to sincere repentance to avoid His further judgment. “ ‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning’ ” (Joel 2:12).

Then Joel called for a response from deep inside: “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (v. 13). True repentance comes from the heart.

The Lord longs for us to confess our sins to Him and receive His forgiveness so we can love and serve Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Whatever you need to tell the Lord today, just say it—from the heart. —David McCasland

Lord, please give me a heart of repentance to see myself as You do. Give me the grace to respond to Your merciful call for change.

God wants to hear your heart.

INSIGHT: In today’s reading we find remarkable insights on the theme of repentance. Key phrases punctuate this exhortation. “Even now” (Joel 2:12): Despite a pattern of disobedience that has merited the righteous judgment of God, He extends grace to a repentant heart. “Return to me with all your heart” (v. 12): The repentance God is calling for is not lukewarm but rather a full commitment of the heart. “Declare a holy fast” (vv. 15-17): The act of fasting does not carry a meritorious element but is a means of self-denial and sets the foundation for turning from selfishness to God. In the spiritual life of Israel both a national and individual repentance were keenly related. Dennis Fisher

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God in the Pews

Why isn’t God more obvious? This question is often asked in many ways and in many contexts, by people of all levels of faith. When prayers go unanswered, why is God silent? When suffering or tragedy strikes, why would God allow this to happen? Why wouldn’t God want more people to know God’s good news? When all the “evidence” seems to counter the biblical narrative, why doesn’t God just give the world a sign? If God was revealed through many wondrous signs and miracles throughout the Bible, why doesn’t God act that way today? All of these examples get at the same issue: the seeming “hiddenness” of God.

Atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if after death he met God. Russell replied that he would say: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”(1) While many who have found God quite evident would balk at Russell’s audacity, a similar struggle ensued between the psalmist and his hidden God. “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Indeed, the psalmist accuses God of being asleep in these plaintive cries: “Arouse, yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?”(2)

In fact, belief in a God who can be easily found, a God who has acted in time and space, makes the hiddenness of God all the more poignant and perplexing. Theologians have offered many explanations for God’s hiddenness: because God seeks to grow our faith, because our sins and disobedience hide us from God and keep us from seeing God properly, or because God loves us and knows how much and how often we need to “find” God. If we are honest, we are just as likely to hide ourselves from God just as the first humans did in the Garden when God sought after them. Even so we cry out just like Job did and wonder why God stays hidden away in unanswered prayers and difficult circumstances: “Why do you hide your face, and consider me the enemy?”

The hiddenness of God is problematic for theists and atheists alike. And Christians often take for granted the narrative of Scripture which gives witness to God’s revelation. We have the benefit of a book full of God’s speech. God speaks in the wonder and mystery of creation; God speaks through the history of the nation of Israel; God speaks through the very Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ. His life reveals the exact nature of God, and places God’s glory on full display.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God in the Pews

John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Liberty or License?

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16).

Freedom from sin does not mean freedom to sin.

From Paul’s day until now, the gospel of grace has been accused of providing license to sin. If salvation is the gift of God’s grace, legalists argue, wholly apart from human works, what will motivate people to lead holy lives? In the face of such opposition, Paul never gave an inch on the vital issue of salvation by grace—and neither can we. The Bible teaches a salvation that is entirely by God’s free grace through faith and in which human works play no part.

But there is a second way in which the doctrine of salvation by grace may be perverted. Fulfilling the legalists’ fears, some believe that since God’s grace covers all their sins, they can live as they choose. In today’s passage Paul addresses that error.

The very thought of a Christian living in persistent, habitual sin horrified Paul. To the hypothetical question “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Paul responded emphatically, “May it never be!” As in verse 2, the apostle used the strongest form of negation in the Greek language. In our English vernacular, Paul was saying “Ridiculous! Impossible! No way!” He went on to point out the self-evident truth that no one can serve two masters. Everyone is either a servant of sin or a servant of God; there is no third option. And the one to whom people habitually yield their obedience is their real master, no matter what they may claim.

Don’t be deceived by those who claim that since Christians are forgiven, they can therefore sin at will. Such people know nothing of God’s grace, which, far from giving us license to sin, “instruct[s] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His grace, which is always greater than your sin (Rom. 5:20).

For Further Study

Read Joshua 24:14-27; Matthew 4:8-11; and 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9. Spend some time in prayer, asking God to help you renew your commitment to serve Him.

 

http://www.gty.org

Wisdom Hunters – How to Deal with Relational Conflict

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  Matthew 5:9

When I was an elementary school teacher, one of my coworkers received red roses. I asked, “Oooh—who sent you the beautiful flowers?” She sighed. “They’re from my ex-husband. He cheated on me, and I divorced him two years ago. Now he feels bad about what happened, so every Friday for the last two years he’s sent me a dozen red roses.” Disdain filled her eyes.

I was sad for my co-worker, but also for her ex-husband. He had been deceived into sin and I wondered if he hadn’t received Christ’s forgiveness. Perhaps he thought that only his ex-wife’s forgiveness could set him free from his guilt. Romans 12:18 says. . .

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Have you ever had a time when you have sought forgiveness or reconciliation from someone to no avail? There will be times in all of our lives when, even though we have done our “as far as it depends on you” and followed biblical guidelines for peacemaking, that all the roses in the world won’t help. No doubt this can be difficult. When this happens, we must remember our relational knots may stay tangled. You may never understand what happened in your relationship. If the other person left, you may never know why they walked away. But you can experience freedom in your heart, when you are obedient to Christ by following Romans 12:18. You can be at peace with yourself, even if the other party isn’t at peace with you. Restoration can happen in your heart, even if the relationship isn’t what it once was.

Remember Christ doesn’t measure success in results, but in terms of faithful obedience. I encourage you to make it your goal to please Him when you have relational conflict.

Prayer: Lord, please help me to follow your plan for my relationships. When the times come that others don’t want to reconcile or make peace, help me to always do my part and follow your Word. Amen.

Application: Is there someone you need to try to make peace with today? If so, take a first step to do so.

Related Readings: Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14; Galatians 5:22

By Shana Schutte

 

http://www.wisdomhunters.com/

Today’s Turning Point with David Jeremiah – Hoping Versus Knowing

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

Recommended Reading

1 Thessalonians 5:24

A young girl finishes swim practice at 8:00 p.m. on a dark, winter’s night. Standing in front of the swim club building, she waits for her father who has promised to pick her up by 8:15. By the time all other parents, children, and cars have departed, she stands alone, still waiting. An hour later, she sees her father’s car approaching. After explaining he had to change a flat tire, she says, “That’s okay; I knew you’d come.”

That young girl waited without wavering. There is a difference between waiting while hoping a promise will be kept and waiting while knowing a promise will be kept. Waiting while knowing leads to waiting without wavering. A child learns by experience that a parent is trustworthy. And Christians learn about God’s faithfulness the same way. The difference is thousands of years of experience versus a few years. The Bible is a record of God’s faithfulness to His people over millennia.

If you are waiting on God, wait without wavering. He is never late; He always keeps His promises; He is always true to His Word.

The promises of God are nothing more than God’s covenant to be faithful to His people. It is His character that makes these promises valid.

Jerry Bridges

Read-Thru-the-Bible

Mark 12 – 13

 

http://www.davidjeremiah.org/

Joyce Meyer – Shake It Off

Let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight)…and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us- Hebrews 12:1

One of my favorite stories is about a farmer’s donkey that fell into a dry well. The animal cried pitifully for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do for his poor donkey. Finally, he concluded that the well was too deep, and it really needed to be covered up anyway. Besides, the donkey was old, and it would be a lot of trouble to get him out of the pit. The farmer decided that it was not worth trying to retrieve the animal, so he asked his neighbors to help him fill in the well and bury the donkey.

They all grabbed shovels and began to toss dirt into the well. The donkey immediately realized what was happening, and he began to bray horribly. Crying would be our normal response if somebody was mistreating us this badly, so this donkey was responding the same way we would at first, but then he got real quiet. A few shovel loads of dirt later, the farmer looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit the donkey’s back, the donkey would shake it off and step on top of it.

As the neighbors and the farmer continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he continued to shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon the donkey shook off the last shovel full of dirt, took a step up, and walked right out of the well. We can learn from this story. When trouble comes, if we will get still and listen, God will tell us what to do. By the grace and mercy of God, I was able to shake off a lot of things in my life, a lot of hurt feelings, a lot of mistreatment, a lot of abuse, a lot of unfair, unjust, unkind things. Just like the donkey, in order to keep pressing on and have victory in our lives, we are going to have to learn to shake off the troubles that come our way.

From the book New Day, New You by Joyce Meyer.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Girlfriends in God – Possession Obsession

Today’s Truth

Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then He said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’

Luke 12:14-15

Friend to Friend

Oh, it starts innocently enough.

It’s that small (or not so small) obsession with shoes. A little time on Zappos.com never hurt anyone.

Or the collection of books that seems to be growing by the nightstand (because Amazon 1-click makes it just that easy…)

It’s that drawer of gadgets, full of tools that will save you oh-so-much time in the kitchen or at work.

I’ve been there so many times – when I’ve been buying too much. More than I need or could really even use. Amazon becomes dangerous. Going to the mall becomes a mind battle. And don’t even get me started on darkening the doors of a Barnes & Noble. I’ve caught myself too many times in the grips of wanting to have All. The. Things.

This is a familiar place for me. I didn’t recognize it when it all first started to happen, but now I understand the signs: when I feel like I’m not enough, when I feel like I don’t have enough.

And that’s when I truly understand that all the forms of greed: buying too many possessions, not wanting to share with others, not giving money to the poor, are warnings – not just because they hurt others – but because they are truly outward indicators of an inward problem.

Continue reading Girlfriends in God – Possession Obsession

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – His Life in Us

“Jesus said, ‘I will only reveal Myself to those who love Me and obey Me. The Father will love them too, and We will come to them and live with them. Anyone who doesn’t obey Me doesn’t love Me” (John 14:23,24).

Millions of Christians throughout the world profess their love for Christ each week by attending church services, singing songs, studying their Bibles, attending prayer meetings, etc. Yet, all the talk in the world will never convince anyone that you or I truly love the Lord unless we obey His commandments.

How can we know His commandments unless we study His word? When we study His Word, how can we comprehend what He is saying unless the Holy Spirit illumines our minds and teaches us? It is God the Holy Spirit who inspired the writing for His holy Word through holy men. He alone can help us understand the true meaning of the Scripture and enable us to obey His commands.

Thus, the reality of Christ abiding in us is made possible through a supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit who came to glorify Christ and through whose indwelling presence the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to us.

Is Jesus Christ a reality in your life? If not, it is quite likely that you are not demonstrating your love for Him by studying His Word and obeying His commandments.

Bible Reading: John 14:15-22

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With the help of the Holy Spirit who enable me to live the supernatural life, I will endeavor to demonstrate my love for Christ by studying His word and obeying His commandments.

 

http://www.cru.org

Ray Stedman – For Love’s Sake

Read: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that We all possess knowledge. But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 1 Corinthians 8:1

The best meat in Corinth was found right next to the idol temple. In these pagan temples live animals were sacrificed. Like the Jews, they reserved some of this meat for their priests and for public sale. So, the best meat markets in Corinth were right next to an idol temple. Everyone in town knew that if you ate some of that meat you were eating meat that had been offered to an idol. So, the question arose among the Christians: If a Christian eats meat offered to an idol is he somehow participating in the worship of that idol?

A group within the church was saying, Yes, that’s exactly what happens. When these local pagans see a known Christian sitting in the public restaurant next to the temple, enjoying a steak that had been offered to the idol, they will think that person agrees with with the pagan ideas about that idol. As a consequence, that Christian is giving a false testimony; he is not clearly declaring that Christ has replaced all idols. Furthermore, he is causing weak Christians to stumble, ones who might easily be led back into worship of an idol by their actions.

But there was another party that said, No, that’s not true. An idol is nothing but a piece of wood or stone. How can you worship something that really does not exist? How can we deliver people from their idolatrous ways if we act as if there is something to this? It is better that we act according to the knowledge of reality that God has brought us to in Christ. Let’s enjoy our freedom and eat this meat without any question. It is perfectly good meat, and it would be wrong to not use it. So, there was a division within the church.

Paul’s argument is that such problems cannot be solved merely based on, We know such and such and so and so to be true, therefore, we are free to act. No, Paul says, knowledge or doctrine alone is not enough. You need love. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. Love looks at somebody else’s situation, not always one’s own. Knowledge, in other words, is self-centered, but love reaches out to include someone else in your thinking.

Continue reading Ray Stedman – For Love’s Sake

Words of Hope – Daily Devotional – The End of Guilt and Shame

Read: Romans 8:1-11, 28-39

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (v. 1)

We look forward to some endings. For example, we are relieved when we wake up from a bad dream and realize that it’s over and it wasn’t real! Likewise, we may celebrate the end of changing dirty diapers or weeks of physical therapy following a surgery to correct a painful condition. We also celebrate the end of a stressful situation, the end of a project, or the end of a grueling time at work. However, one of the greatest endings we can celebrate is the end of guilt and shame.

Our sin separates us from God. It hurts us and hurts others. It saddens a holy and loving God who wants us to follow him rather than our own selfish pursuits. When we repent of our sin and tell God we are sorry for it, asking him to forgive us through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, we can experience an end to our guilt and shame.

Let us confess our sin and seek God’s forgiving mercy so we can have a fresh start through Jesus. Through Christ Jesus, God restores and takes away our sin and condemnation (see Rom. 8:1, 31-34). When we have sinned against others, confessing that sin and seeking their forgiveness can also bring an end to guilt, shame, and broken relationships. Confessing our sin leads to a welcomed ending!

Prayer:

Merciful God, I’m sorry for my sin. Cleanse me from guilt and take away my shame. I praise you for putting an end to my condemnation. Amen.

Author: Steve Petroelje

 

Greg Laurie – Following the Captain

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken. . . . So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.—Luke 5:9, 11

Peter was a seasoned fisherman. He knew all about the movement of fish. He knew the best time to fish. He knew the right moment to pull the nets in. He was an expert. But one day Jesus showed up and said, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).

Peter had been fishing all night without catching anything. Think about it. If you were a sailor and some guy came along who was neither a sailor nor a fisherman and told you what to do, you might think, Do you really know what you are talking about? Peter was the fisherman. Jesus was effectively the landlubber.

I love Peter’s response. He said, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” (verse 5). By the way, it is implied in the original language that Peter was using a nautical term with Jesus, as if to say, “You are the captain of the boat. You are the admiral here. At Your word, we will do it.”

You probably know the rest of the story. They pulled in so much fish that the boat began to sink under the weight of them. Peter was blown away. Jesus had just invaded Peter’s world in a way he could understand. Peter fell down before Him and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (verse 8). In other words, “Don’t waste your time on me. I’m going to let You down.”

But Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men” (verse 10).

Will you let Jesus be the captain of your boat? He won’t force His way on board. He’s waiting for you to invite Him.

 

https://www.harvest.org/

Kids 4 Truth International – Even the Demons Recognized Christ

“He laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, ‘Thou art Christ the Son of God.’ And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: For they knew that he was Christ.” (Luke 4:40b-41)

Some people think Jesus behaved very mysteriously when He lived on Earth. They think He could have been more clear about Who He was and why exactly He came to Earth. But often, people see only what they want to see. This was true in Bible times, and it is still true today.

Before Jesus died on the cross, He did many supernatural miracles and preached many amazing sermons. People were surprised by Him all the time! The Bible says over and over that the people “marveled” or that they were “astonished” or that they were even speechless! These are all ways of saying that Jesus amazed and surprised crowds of people with His words and His actions.

The Bible also says that many people understood Who Jesus was and believed in Him. But many people did not. They could not seem to understand, or else they did not want to understand. They wanted a glorious king to rescue them from the Roman empire. They wanted a wonderful leader to rule over them and restore them as a nation. They wanted someone around to heal all their diseases and fix all their earthly problems.

Jesus was not here to fix all their earthly problems. If He had come for that reason, He would have fixed all of the sick people and broken situations. Jesus did what He came to do. That is why He told demons not to possess (take hold of) people. If a demon (devil) was bothering someone, and that someone was brought to Jesus, Jesus would tell the demon to get out and go away. Demons are angels who have rebelled against God. So Who created angels? Jesus did. Jesus knew every one of these demons, and they knew exactly Who He was. They were afraid of Him. They wanted Him to leave them alone. And they knew right away that He was GOD.

Continue reading Kids 4 Truth International – Even the Demons Recognized Christ

The Navigators – Jerry Bridges – On a Bad Day

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 9:14

“How much more will the blood of Christ . . . purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

What should we do when we’ve had a “bad” day spiritually, when it seems we’ve done everything wrong and are feeling very guilty? We must go back to the cross and see Jesus there bearing our sins in his own body (1 Peter 2:24). We must by faith appropriate for ourselves the blood of Christ that will cleanse our guilty consciences (Hebrews 9:14).

In a bad-day scenario, we might pray something like this: “Father, I’ve sinned against you. I’ve been negligent in the spiritual disciplines that I know are necessary and helpful for my spiritual growth. I’ve been irritable and impatient toward those around me. I’ve allowed resentful and unkind thoughts to lodge in my mind. I repent of these sins and claim your forgiveness..

You have said you justify the wicked (Romans 4:5). Father, in view of my sins today, I acknowledge that in myself I am wicked. In fact, my problem is not merely the sins I’ve committed, some of which I may not even be aware of, but the fact that my heart is sinful. These sins I’m now so painfully conscious of are merely expressions of my sinful heart. But despite my sinfulness, you have said, ‘there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). Given my acute awareness of my sin, that’s an incredible statement. How can I be without condemnation when I’ve so flagrantly and willfully sinned against you today?

O Father, I know it’s because Jesus bore those sins in his body on the cross. He suffered the punishment I deserve, so I might experience the blessings he deserved. So I come to you, dear Father, in Jesus’ name.” (Excerpt taken from The Discipline of Grace)

 

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The Navigators – Leroy Eims – Daily Discipleship Devotional – Holiness Day by Day Devotional – God in You

Today’s Scripture: 1 Kings 9-11

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. – 2 Corinthians 6:16

The Vietnam War memorial in Washington, D.C., has become one of the most visited and emotional sites in the nation’s capital. What sets it apart from other memorials? Carved into that black granite wall are more than 58,000 names of Americans who gave their lives building a foundation for freedom.

In 1 Kings 9, we find Solomon, having built the temple, now dedicating it to God. Here is God’s response, verse 3: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.”

Solomon built a physical temple, but only God could hallow it and consecrate it to Himself. In the New Testament, God tells us of living temples–the people of God. And only God can sanctify us to Himself. He promises that those whom He sets apart for Himself have His eye, His heart, His love, and His care upon them.

Sanctification begins with God’s call to us in Christ. It is put in motion when we respond by faith and give our lives to Him. And it continues with God’s work of molding us to be more like the person of Jesus Christ. We must dedicate ourselves to Him and cooperate by obeying His commands, but the sanctifying belongs to Him.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Prayer

Lord, when I get discouraged by my inability to be holy, remind me that I can do nothing unless You do it in me. Amen.

To Ponder

Holiness does not come from observing a list of do’s and don’ts; it comes from God’s supernatural work in me as I obey Him.

 

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BreakPoint – Are We Living in the Matrix? Some Scientists Think So

Since Rene Descartes formulated his famous dictum, “I think, therefore I am,” philosophers have been wrestling with the question of how we can know that what we think we know is really real. In the last couple of decades, pop culture has wrestled with that question, as well.

Recall the 1999 movie, “The Matrix,” in which a man discovers his whole life has been lived in a virtual prison that simulates the real world. In the movie, he’s given a choice between two pills—a red one and a blue one. The first will awaken him from the simulation, and the second will lull him back into blissful ignorance. Since then, “choosing the red pill” has become synonymous with throwing off comfortable illusions and confronting reality.

But in many ways, the concept of the Matrix has transcended Hollywood. If you can believe it, the idea that the world around us may not be what it appears has become increasingly popular among scientists, philosophers, and even technology tycoons. And some of these folks are now actively searching for the “red pill” that will wake us from our collective illusion.

The Independent reports that two anonymous Silicon Valley billionaires are pouring money into a project to break us free from a real life Matrix—if we’re living in one, that is. Although the details of this project are unclear, we do know it involves a team of scientists and some of the richest, most influential innovators in America.

This shouldn’t surprise us that much. Those who invent cutting edge products and technologies have long embraced some pretty weird ideas. Take, for instance, PayPal co-founder and “transhumanist” Peter Thiel, who hopes to achieve immortality by “uploading” his consciousness into a computer!

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, thinks we may already be living in a computer. We just don’t know it yet. In a recent interview, he placed the odds that our reality is not the ultimate, “base-level reality” at “billions to one.” In other words, the guy behind today’s top-selling electric cars and best-known private space program is almost certain we’re trapped in the Matrix!

Bizarrely, even the Bank of America has gotten in on the hype, suggesting in a recent report to clients that the chances we’re living in a simulation concocted by highly advanced beings are roughly twenty to fifty percent.

Continue reading BreakPoint – Are We Living in the Matrix? Some Scientists Think So

Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – HUMILITY IN CHURCH RELATIONSHIPS

Read 1 PETER 5:1–5

Stories about clergy abusing power have been all too common in recent years. Leaders across Christian denominations have been charged with sexual abuse of their congregants, including children. Others have used tithes and donations to furnish a lavish lifestyle, with private jets and luxurious mansions. Some develop a cult of personality, requiring church members to follow their every whim and dictate.

These stories are tragic for many reasons, but especially because they illustrate how far we fall from the call of Scripture to be characterized by humility in our relationships with each other. Peter has already described the humility of Jesus as our example for relationships in the home, and now he reminds all of us in the church to embrace humility.

Church leaders are to be “shepherds of God’s flock,” faithfully serving the people entrusted to their spiritual care (v. 2). This was countercultural: leaders of organizations at that time, whether in business or the military or government, were expected to claim the perks of their position and demand subservience from underlings (see Matt. 20:25–27). But leaders in the church should view their position as an opportunity to serve. Rather than pursuing financial gain in this life, their motivation should be pleasing the Lord, “the Chief Shepherd,” to receive “the crown of glory that will never fade away” (v. 4).

Lest members of the church misconstrue this exhortation and conclude that their leaders can be ignored or undermined, Peter also calls them to humility. The church should not be a place where people jockey for power and control. It should be known for love, humility, and hospitality, a place where leaders serve and care for God’s people and where members support and pray for one another.

APPLY THE WORD

Spend time today in prayer for the leaders of your church. They are human, and no doubt flawed. But pray that the Lord will strengthen their focus on the Chief Shepherd and their eternal rewards in order to faithfully care for the church. What are practical ways to encourage them? Can you volunteer to help with a program, or send them a note of appreciation?

 

http://www.todayintheword.org

Denison Forum – HOW SHOULD CHURCHES DEAL WITH GAY MEMBERS? 4 FACTS

How should churches who affirm biblical truth regarding homosexuality handle gay members?

Yesterday I addressed the controversy generated by Watermark Church’s decision to discipline a gay member of its congregation. The continuing debate fostered by this issue shows that it is not limited to one church or to the issue of homosexuality. While I cannot explore this complicated subject fully in a single article, I would like to offer this overview.

One: Church discipline is unpopular.

When the Watermark decision became public, the response was immediate and strongly negative. I heard people ask, “Who do they think they are? What right do they have to judge others?” Such questions are symptomatic of a culture that has defined truth as personal and subjective. Tolerance is the overriding value of our day. As a result, any attempts to hold others accountable for biblical morality will be met with derision.

In his excellent Dallas Morning News column, Watermark Pastor Todd Wagner stated that the church’s decision “has gained much attention online. Some are confused, even hurt and I understand why. The practice of church discipline (which is to say, loving correction) is a process that is unfamiliar to most and because of the harshness of the word ‘discipline’ might even be perceived as unloving, oppressive or archaic.”

Christians who stand for biblical morality can expect opposition to discipline, accountability, or even public statements that conflict with the tolerance ethic of our day.

Two: Church discipline is biblical.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul addressed “sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife” (v. 1). The apostle instructed the congregation to remove the man from its fellowship (v. 5).

Continue reading Denison Forum – HOW SHOULD CHURCHES DEAL WITH GAY MEMBERS? 4 FACTS