Charles Stanley –Responding to Persecution

 

1 Peter 3:13-18

Persecution has been a common experience in Christianity ever since the apostles first proclaimed the message of salvation. Even in places that have been blessed with a long period of peace and prosperity, there is no guarantee how long that will continue. And though we may never face severe repercussions like imprisonment or death for our beliefs, we’ve probably all felt the sting of rejection or ridicule. Whatever form the harassment may take, we should all be prepared to suffer for Christ.

Peter wrote to a group of believers who were treated harshly because of their faith. His goal was to offer encouragement and a reminder to follow Christ’s example: Though sinless, He suffered in our place to bring us to God. And while the crowd at the cross mocked Him, He never responded harshly. Instead, He patiently suffered in full submission to His Father, “entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).

Without this perspective, we could quickly descend into self-pity or angry resentment when we’re mistreated. But Peter reminds us that we are blessed when we suffer for the sake of righteousness. Not only will we receive a reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12), but we may also have an opportunity to gently and reverently be a witness for Christ.

A wise response to persecution flows from an accurate understanding of God’s ways. Unfair suffering is sometimes a part of His will for us, just as it was for Christ. But we can trust our Father, knowing that He can work every situation for our good and His glory.

Bible in One Year: Numbers 31-32

 

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Our Daily Bread — Better Than a Piñata

Read: Ephesians 2:1–10

Bible in a Year: Leviticus 25; Mark 1:23–45

By grace you have been saved.—Ephesians 2:5

There cannot be a Mexican party without a piñata—a carton or clay container filled with candies and treats. Children strike it with a stick and try to break it, hoping to enjoy its contents.

Monks used the piñatas in the sixteenth century to teach lessons to the indigenous people of Mexico. Piñatas were stars with seven points that represented the seven deadly sins. Beating the piñata showed the struggle against evil, and once the treats inside fell to the ground, people could take them home in remembrance of the rewards of keeping the faith.

But we cannot fight evil on our own. God is not waiting for our efforts so that He will show His mercy. Ephesians teaches that “by grace you have been saved through faith, . . . it is the gift of God” (2:8). We don’t beat sin; Christ has done that.

Children fight for the candies from the piñata, but God’s gifts come to all of us when we believe in Jesus. God “has blessed us . . . with every spiritual blessing” (1:3). We have forgiveness of sins, redemption, adoption, new life, joy, love, and much more. We don’t get these spiritual blessings because we have kept the faith and are strong; we get them because we believe in Jesus. Spiritual blessings come only through grace—undeserved grace! —Keila Ochoa

Thank You for Your mercy, Lord, which is great and free!

We have been saved by grace. Now we enjoy the many blessings that come by grace.

INSIGHT: Today’s reading shows the spiritual condition of those who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. But it also proclaims that new life is freely offered as a remedy to all who believe. In the King James Version, Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” The Greek word translated “quickened” does not appear in the original. However, it appears in verse 5, and many other passages support this concept of quickening or making alive (Col. 2:13; Rom. 6:11-14; 8:10-11). Every member of the human race is dead spiritually and will someday die physically. But through the extraordinary ministry of Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection, all who believe in Him can be “quickened” from death to life. Dennis Fisher

 

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Joyce Meyer – The Holy Spirit Knows What to Do

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth)…. —John 16:13

When God sends His Holy Spirit to work in people’s lives, He condemns sin, not sinners. Throughout His Word, we see clear proof of His love for individuals and His desire to nurture people so they can leave their sin behind and move on in His great plans for their lives. We never need to be afraid to let Him show us and speak to us about what we are doing wrong.

The Holy Spirit lives within us. His job is to lead us, teach us, help us with prayer, comfort us, convict us of sin, and lead us as we fulfill God’s plan for our lives.

We can trust the Holy Spirit because He knows exactly what needs to be done in our lives and the right timing for it. You might say we are broken and He knows how to “fix” us.

I am sure the Holy Spirit is working in and with you on some area of your life just as He is with all of us. I encourage you to submit to Him completely because He knows what He is doing and will do it exactly right. If people try to fix us or we try to fix ourselves, we often only make things worse, but the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. We may not always understand or even like what He is doing, but the end result will be glorious. Relax, enjoy the day, and thank God that He is working in you.

God’s word for you today: Let go, and let God.

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

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Security for the Children

“Reverence for God gives a man deep strength; his children have a place of refuge and security” (Proverbs 14:26).

Mary, the daughter of African missionaries, recalled how her father – the leader of a large missionary thrust – would on occasion call the family together and share something in his life that he felt was not pleasing to God, which he would confess both to the Lord and to his family whenever they happened to be involved.

This he did for at least two reasons: (1) he had a reverential fear of God, a fear that he might grieve or quench the Spirit by acts of disobedience, and (2) he wanted to be an example to his wife and children, not parading as one who was perfect. Like them, he needed to breathe spiritually, exhaling and confessing his sins whenever he became aware of them and inhaling and appropriating the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit by faith so that he could keep walking in the light as God is in the light.

He would then ask other members of the family if they wanted to share anything in their lives that was grieving or quenching the Spirit, so that together they might pray for each other. This, Mary said, was such an encouragement to her and to other members of the family, helping her to have a greater sense of security and feeling of refuge, knowing that her father was a man of God who was honest with the Lord and with his family.

The example of her father and mother had played an important role in inspiring her to become a missionary as well, and now God is using her in a marvelous way for His glory.

In a day when children and young people lack a feeling of security, perhaps more than at any other time in history, it behooves Christian parents to cooperate with God in helping to provide for their families such a sense of security and refuge.

Bible Reading: Proverbs 14:15-21

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will begin to pray regularly that God will grant to me an understanding of His attributes as I study His Word so that I will learn to reverence God and thereby provide refuge and security to those who look to me for leadership.

 

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Wisdom Hunters – How to Become the Greatest 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:13

Why is love the greatest out of three worthy contenders? It is the greatest because it is God, for He is love (1 John 4:8). The apex of God’s attributes is love. This is why you go to God first for love. He is the lover of your soul, and the love of God far exceeds earth’s limited love. This is the reason you look to Jesus as the supreme example of how to love. He says the two greatest commands hinge on love (Matthew 22:37-39). Love is God’s gold standard; it rises above other compelling character traits such as faith and hope. Love is the theme that covers your character, seasons your service for Christ, and flavors your faith. It gives off a sweet aroma through trust, and gives gusto to grace.

Love adds heat to hope, potency to patience, and spice to selflessness. It brings brilliant technicolor to life, in contrast to our otherwise bland black-and-white loveless living. You can serve, provide for your families, cook a meal, feed the poor, attend church, and even worship; but if these lack love, you lose. You lose the blessing of God and you lose heaven’s reward because your motivation was not for your Master, Jesus Christ. Love is the greatest because it aligns your heart with Almighty God and is not lacking.

You are the greatest when you love because it draws attention to Jesus. Hands down, heaven is happiest over your unconditional and relentless love. So meditate on love as you rise in the morning, work during the day, and eat dinner with your family at night. Your spouse longs to be loved; this is their greatest need from you. So love them lavishly in ways they want to be loved. Think often on love, and your actions will begin to follow your thoughts. What drives you? Is it love?

Continue reading Wisdom Hunters – How to Become the Greatest 

Words of Hope – Daily Devotional – Jesus Sees

Read: Luke 7:36-50

Do you see this woman? (v. 44)

Jesus had many encounters with people who were profoundly alone. The woman who washed his feet with her tears, as recorded in Luke 7, is such a person. The Bible doesn’t say what sort of sin she had committed, but she was identified as a sinner. To himself Simon the Pharisee said that if Jesus really were a prophet, he’d know what sort of woman she was, but apparently it didn’t actually take a prophet to figure this out.

Jesus asked Simon an arresting question: “Do you see this woman?” On one level, Simon had obviously seen her because he was complaining about her. But Jesus was asking something else. Not just did you notice her, but did you really see her? Have you comprehended her? Have you thought one bit about her life, her problems, and her realities? For gaining such insight, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says the principle is “to know what we see rather than to see what we know” (The Prophets, xxiv). Jesus’ question is along these lines. Do you actually see this woman?

No matter who you are, no matter what your situation, no matter how alone, lonely, misunderstood, isolated, outcast, or forgotten you feel, Jesus sees and knows you. Yesterday we spoke of how Jesus said, “Get up.” Don’t think for a moment his command is harsh. His voice is filled with compassion, forgiveness, restoration, and healing. He sees you and wants the best for you. —Jeff Munroe

Prayer: We thank you, dear Jesus, for seeing us.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – FREEDOM IN CHRIST

Read GALATIANS 5:1

The lyrics of a popular worship song are rooted in Galatians 5:1: “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free, / No longer to be subject to a yoke of slavery. / So we’re rejoicing in God’s victory, / Our hearts responding to his love. / Jesus, we celebrate your victory. Jesus, we revel in your love. Jesus, we rejoice you’ve set us free. Jesus, your death has brought us life.”

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” This means that freedom is at the heart of the gospel. This is not “freedom” in the contemporary North American sense of self-fulfillment or self-determination, but rather freedom from sin and freedom to obey God. This kind of freedom is the gospel’s purpose! The worst response people can make, then, is to allow themselves to “be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,” be it slavery to sin, legalism, works, false religion, or anything else.

Such teaching is irrational. Why would anyone choose to return to a state of bondage or powerlessness? The idea spits in the face of the gospel.

This verse is the summary and climax to this section of Paul’s argument in Galatians. The gospel must be maintained and defended. To add works or anything else is heretical, because that would mean we’re putting our faith in something other than the person and work of Christ. To do so is to regress from freedom to bondage, from truth to falsehood, from adulthood to childhood, from grace to works, and from salvation to sin.

We have every reason and all power in the Spirit to “stand firm”! This is a key biblical phrase, used throughout Scripture to indicate active faith (see, for example, Ex. 14:13; Isa. 7:9; Matt. 10:22; and 1 Cor. 15:58).

APPLY THE WORD

Paul saw true freedom as being slaves to Christ (Rom. 6:22; 1 Cor. 7:22). An interesting book on this topic is A Better Freedom: Finding Life as Slaves of Christ, by musician and writer Michael Card. He explores biblical passages on this topic and reflects on them in light of the history of slavery in America and contemporary race relations.

 

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