Charles Stanley –Abraham’s Test

 

Genesis 22:1-24

Abraham faced one of the greatest tests of obedience recorded in the Bible: God asked him to slay his son as an offering. It’s hard to imagine the confusion and pain this request must have caused. However, Abraham obeyed the Lord willingly and promptly. His response teaches us some important lessons about yielding to the Lord.

Obedience often collides with reason. After telling Abraham he’d have descendants too numerous to count, God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, who was to be the father of the promised line. Despite the strangeness of the command, Abraham trusted God to keep His word and so set out to obey (Heb. 11:18-19).

Obedience means leaving the consequences to God. Abraham had no idea how the promise could be fulfilled if Isaac was dead. But his words and actions indicate he believed in divine sovereignty. When Abraham took the boy to Mount Moriah, he told his servants, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (Gen. 22:5). He didn’t say, “I will return” but expressed that both would come back. Abraham went to the holy place as instructed. At the same time, he fully expected that the Lord would somehow restore Isaac in order to keep His pledge. God fulfilled His promise by pro viding a ram in the boy’s place (Gen. 22:13-14).

The Lord already knows how His children will respond to tests of obedience. He challenges people because He wants them to know the truth about how well they submit. A believer’s willingness to obey (or disobey) reveals the state of his or her commitment to God.

Bible in One Year: Leviticus 11-13

 

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Our Daily Bread — What’s the Occasion?

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:9–17

Bible in a Year: Exodus 29–30; Matthew 21:23–46

Everything God does will endure forever.—Ecclesiastes 3:14

Four-year-old Asher’s gleeful face peeked out from beneath his favorite hooded sweatshirt. His alligator-head hooded sweatshirt, complete with plush jaws that seemed to swallow his head! His mom’s heart sank. She wanted the family to make a good impression as they visited a family they hadn’t seen in a long time.

“Oh, Hon,” she said, “that may not be appropriate for the occasion.”

“Of course it is!” Asher protested brightly.

“Hmm, and what occasion might that be?” she asked. Asher replied, “You know. Life!” He got to wear the shirt.

That joyful boy already grasps the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:12—“There is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” Ecclesiastes can seem depressing and is often misunderstood because it’s written from a human perspective, not God’s. The writer, King Solomon, asked, “What do workers gain from their toil?” (v. 9). Yet throughout the book we catch glimpses of hope. Solomon also wrote: “That each of [us] may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all [our] toil—this is the gift of God” (v. 13).

We serve a God who gives us good things to enjoy. Everything He does “will endure forever” (v. 14). As we acknowledge Him and follow His loving commands, He infuses our lives with purpose, meaning, and joy. —Tim Gustafson

Restore to us childlike joy that appreciates Your good gifts.

The Lord who made you wants you to make Him the center of your life.

INSIGHT: Ecclesiastes fits in a larger Ancient Near Eastern literary category called Wisdom Literature. Wisdom Literature uses stories, poetry, proverbial sayings, and songs to convey wisdom about God and the world. The brutal honesty and chronic despair in Ecclesiastes is typical of Wisdom Literature and gives us a clear vision of the writer’s purpose. What may seem like a disconnect with the rest of Scripture is actually an attempt to present the wisdom of living in the moment, enjoying the small joys of life, and relying on the power, presence, and goodness of God to sustain us in a fallen and broken world. Even in the harshness of this life, there is hope. God can and does give meaning and purpose to the meaninglessness that surrounds us. Dennis Moles

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Stepping into the Reality of Suffering

I recently sat across from a woman I wanted to adopt as a kind of nonna.(1) Originally from Croatia, she spoke with a soft accent and combination of wisdom and kindness. In observing my 5-year-old son with me, she noted, “He has a high sense of injustice.” I nodded in agreement. My little guy has begun that tortured engagement with life—the wrestling of desire to shield our eyes from sorrow with the opportunity to see our part in the larger broken story around us and participate in facets of restoration.

Years ago it was in a broken place where I met Annie. I was nervous as I walked through the streets of Amsterdam’s famous red light district, so different from anything I had seen before. About four hundred windows line cobblestone streets, a person behind each one. There are women of all ages, transgender and transvestite workers as well. Organized by nationality, it is a market of sorts, where the commodity for sale is the body of another. I was with the director of Scharlaken Koord, a Dutch organization that offers assistance to women working in prostitution.

I realized my nervousness was a reflection of my own insecurity. Truth be told, sex workers represented something threatening to me—a reminder of the enough I might never be, a kind of desirable I couldn’t compete with, a kind betrayal I did not want to know. But when we talked with them, I saw them as women. They were girls I would want to be friends with, and what was alike far surpassed our differences. To be sure, if the same things that happened to them had happened to me, I would be standing on their side of the window. They were human beings trying to survive their own choices and those made for them, just like the rest of us.

So it was with Annie. She shared her story with us: a handsome Dutch man often traveled through the airport she worked at in a distant Asian country. He began to bring gifts each time he passed through—attention and interest too. Soon he proposed to her. Her family advised she would be foolish to give up such an opportunity; she would have a much better life than what could be afforded at home. The two married and Annie went to live in his home country with apprehension and hope. Upon arrival, he confiscated her passport, explained he now owned her, and put her up for sale behind a window. She tried to resist, but he only laughed. She didn’t have her documents. She didn’t know the language. Where would she go? Realizing he was right, she succumbed to beatings and abuse and ultimately performed as required.

When Annie learned she was pregnant, she was grateful for this reminder of life inside of her. But after several intentional blows to her belly by her husband, she miscarried. Later came the day she learned her mother had died. Well over her capacity to hold the injustice, Annie spilled over with regret and rage. Only because he was tired of her and had gotten what he wanted, her husband returned the passport and bid her good riddance.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Stepping into the Reality of Suffering

Joyce Meyer – Receiving Forgiveness

 

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]. —1 John 1:9

Many years ago when I was first developing my relationship with the Lord, each night I would beg His forgiveness for my past sins. One evening as I knelt beside my bed, I heard the Lord say to me, “Joyce, I forgave you the first time you asked, but you have not received My gift of forgiveness because you have not forgiven yourself.”

Have you received God’s gift of forgiveness? If you have not, and you are ready to do so, ask the Lord to forgive you for all your sins right now. Then pray this aloud:

Lord, I receive forgiveness for (name the sin), in Christ Jesus. I forgive myself and accept your gift of forgiveness as my own. I believe that you remove the sin from me completely, putting it at a distance where it can never be found again—as far as the east is from the west. And I believe, Lord, that you remember it no more.

You will find that speaking aloud is often helpful to you because by doing so you are declaring your stand upon God’s Word. The devil cannot read your mind, but he does understand your words. Declare before all the principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness (see Ephesians 6:12) that Christ has set you free and that you intend to walk in that freedom.

When you speak, sound as though you mean it! If the devil tries to bring that sin to your mind again in the form of guilt and condemnation, repeat your declaration, telling him: “I was forgiven for that sin! It has been taken care of—therefore, I take no care for it.”

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

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Using Our Abilities

“Why is it that He gives us these special abilities to do certain things best? It is that God’s people will be equipped to do better work for Him, building up the church, the body of Christ, to a position of strength and maturity; until finally we all believe alike about our salvation and about our Savior, God’s Son, and all become full-grown in the Lord – yes, to the point of being filled full with Christ” (Ephesians 4:12,13).

We would be poor stewards if we ignored the special abilities the Holy Spirit has given to us.

We must use our abilities to glorify Christ, not to glorify ourselves, or some other person, or even to glorify the gift itself.

Peter says, “Are you called to preach? Then preach as though God Himself were speaking through you” (1 Peter 4:11). Do you possess musical ability? Share it with the rest of Christ’s family. Peter goes on, “Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies, so that God will be glorified through Jesus Christ – to Him be glory and praise forever and ever.”

We have the obligation to use our God-given abilities in a scriptural manner to help equip others for Christian service. The apostle Paul writes that spiritual gifts are given “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, NAS).

In order to live supernaturally, it is important for us always to exercise our abilities in the power and control of the Holy Spirit – never through our own fleshly efforts.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:11-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: My motivation for using my spiritual gift(s) and abilities will be solely to glorify Christ through helping to equip other members of His body to be more effective and fruitful for Him.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – But God Said…

 

No words written on paper will ever sustain you like the promises of God. Do you know them?

To the bereaved, God promises: “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NIV).

To the besieged, God promises: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19 NIV).

To the sick, God promises: “The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.” (Psalm 41:3 NIV)

To the sinner: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When fears surface, respond with this thought: But God said. . .When doubts arise, But God said. . .When guilt overwhelms you, But God said. . . Search the Scriptures for promises like a miner digging for gold. Once you find a nugget, grasp it. Trust it. There is no greater treasure!

From God is With You Every Day

 

http://www.maxlucado.com

Denison Forum – Boston bombing survivor to wed rescuer

On April 15, 2013, Roseann Sdoia watched the Red Sox play at Fenway Park and then went to Boylston Street to watch the Boston Marathon. Two bombs exploded. She was just steps from the second blast and lost her right leg. Fireman Mike Materia comforted her on the ride to Massachusetts General Hospital in a police vehicle. “He’s seen me on my worst day,” she says.

Now they’re engaged to be married.

Air National Guard Sgt. Matthew Noll returned last Monday from a seven-month deployment overseas. Here’s what made his return so emotional: he was reunited with his family at the Boston Celtics game that night. The video brought tears to my eyes.

We can all use good news in the news.

CNN is reporting this morning that two corrections department workers are being held hostage by inmates at a Delaware prison. Violence erupted last night at UC Berkeley hours before a political commentator was scheduled to speak. According to today’s Wall Street Journal, the White House has put Iran “on notice” after its missile launch.

What can we learn from the challenges of our day? Here’s an important life principle: failure is necessary to success.

This headline in Quartz caught my eye: “The experience CEOs want to see in every new hire.” I expected to read about drive, giftedness, and creativity. Instead, I learned about the value of failure. One CEO says, “I ask the question: tell me about when you failed.” Another notes that failure “makes you an executive of some substance.” Richard Branson: “It is only through failure that we learn.”

The best way to deal with problems is to trust them to God’s redemptive purpose. The wicked anti-Semite Haman plotted a holocaust in Persia that became the holy day of Purim (Esther 9). After rising from an Egyptian prison to Pharaoh’s palace, Joseph could say to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Paul’s imprisonment led to preaching before kings (Acts 26).

In each case, good did not just redeem evil—it required it. Without the test, there could have been no triumph. A mountain climber needs a mountain from which he could fall; a swimmer needs a lake in which she could drown; a sailor needs an ocean in which he could sink.

God uses sin to show us our need of grace. He uses pain to show us our need of a Great Physician. Oswald Chambers: “The one passion of Paul’s life was to proclaim the Gospel of God. He welcomed heartbreaks, disillusionments, tribulation, for one reason only, because these things kept him in unmoved devotion to the Gospel of God.”

Where have you fallen? Would you ask God to redeem your failure by drawing you to his transforming grace?

Rhonda Mawhood Lee is an Episcopal minister and very gifted writer. Her latest column is titled, “How I learned to love and raise the child from my husband’s affair.” The daughter she describes has been an instrument of healing for Rev. Lee’s marriage and a great blessing to her life.

A lesson she learned in suffering she now expresses in joy: “Love is the most powerful thing there is.” If you’ll trust your failure to God’s grace, you’ll agree.
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