Have you ever evaluated your level of commitment to our heavenly Father? Sadly, many Christians have entered the door of salvation and settled down into their pew, expecting nothing more. But Christ wants us to make a deliberate decision to let Him be the Lord of our life. This requires the surrender of all our rights and recognition that He’s the one who plots the course. Our responsibility is simply to follow.
However, our natural tendency is to limit the areas where we allow God access. The day you trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, did you keep the title deed for your life? Have you drawn a circle indicating, “This is the area in which I will serve You, Lord, but don’t ask me to go any farther”? If so, you’ve failed to recognize that when Jesus granted you forgiveness from sin, He also purchased you for Himself. All that you are and have belongs to Him. It’s the height of pride to assume authority over that which no longer belongs to you.
When the Lord challenges us to do something beyond our self-determined boundaries, He is calling us to a higher level of commitment. No matter how dedicated we may be at present, none of us have yet “arrived.” Each challenge is an opportunity to hand Christ full authority over every aspect of life.
You are only as committed as you are obedient to whatever God is asking of you at any given moment. If you’ve posted a “no trespassing” sign anywhere in your life, now is the time to take it down. As Christ’s blood-bought possessions, we are His—not only by purchase but also by His sacrificial love.
Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 34-36
Read: Acts 7:54–8:2
Bible in a Year: Proverbs 1–2; 1 Corinthians 16
Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.—Acts 8:2
In 2002, a few months after my sister Martha and her husband, Jim, died in an accident, a friend invited me to a “Growing Through Grief” workshop at our church. I reluctantly agreed to attend the first session but had no intention of going back. To my surprise, I discovered a caring community of people trying to come to grips with a significant loss in their lives by seeking the help of God and others. It drew me back week after week as I worked toward acceptance and peace through the process of sharing our grief together.
Like the sudden loss of a loved one or friend, the death of Stephen, a dynamic witness for Jesus, brought shock and sorrow to those in the early church (Acts 7:57–60). In the face of persecution, “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him” (8:2). These men of faith did two things together: They buried Stephen, an act of finality and loss. And they mourned deeply for him, a shared expression of their sorrow.
As followers of Jesus, we need not mourn our losses alone. In sincerity and love we can reach out to others who are hurting, and in humility we can accept the concern of those who stand beside us.
As we grieve together, we can grow in understanding and in the peace that is ours through Jesus Christ, who knows our deepest sorrow. —David C. McCasland
Father in heaven, help us to “mourn with those who mourn” and grow together in Your healing love.
The ministry of mourning with others helps bring healing to our hearts.
INSIGHT: Stephen was part of a group of men, known to be full of wisdom and the Spirit, selected to work together to meet the needs of others in the church. This text raises some interesting questions. Was Stephen alone in front of the members of the Sanhedrin? Where was the rest of the group? Where were they when he was being stoned?
While those who mourned and buried Stephen had the physical shoulders of others to cry on, Stephen wasn’t alone either—he was comforted and supported by Jesus Himself: “ ‘Look,’ [Stephen] said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ ” (7:56). Stephen was granted a vision of Jesus at the moment of his greatest need of support.
Jesus will never leave us alone and we have the privilege of being Jesus to those around us. Who needs your support today? J.R. Hudberg
I wrote one of the last sections of the book Why Suffering? on a plane flight from London to New York.(1) As I came through security at Heathrow Airport, I had about an hour until my departure, and I had it in mind to find a quiet spot and make a start on the writing I had planned.
As I began to walk toward the departure gates, a small sign for the “Multi-Faith Prayer Room” caught my eye, and instantaneously—though I have never before had an urge to visit an airport prayer room—I felt this conviction that there was someone in that room whom I was supposed to talk with. It was as if someone had just told me, “There is someone waiting to speak with you there,” even though I had not audibly heard those words.
I did an about-face and walked a good distance away from my departure gate to the arrivals terminal where the prayer room was located. When I walked in, there was one man in the room, sitting in a corner on the floor. He appeared to be about my age. When he saw me looking around the prayer room, he asked, “Are you religious?” We began speaking about what it means to be religious, and he soon shared with me that he was going through the worst suffering of his life.
The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity], to proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound].
— Luke 4:18-19 (AMPC)
I come from a background of abuse and was raised in a dysfunctional home. My childhood was filled with fear and torment.
As a young adult trying to live for Christ and follow the Christian lifestyle, I believed that my future would always be marred by my past. I thought, How can anyone who has the kind of past I do ever be really all right? It’s impossible!
But Jesus said, The Spirit of the Lord is on me…He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners… Jesus came to open the prison doors and set the captives free.
I couldn’t make any progress until I realized that God wanted to release me from the prison of my past. I had to believe that neither my past nor my present determined my future, unless I let it. I had to let God miraculously set me free.
You may have had a miserable past that continues to affect your present in negative and depressing ways. But I say to you boldly, your future doesn’t have to be determined by your past or your present! Let God break off the chains of your past.
“For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39, KJV).
More than anything else, I was drawn to Christ because of His love for me. The Bible says that Christ proved His supernatural love for us by coming “to die for us while we were still sinners.”
Because of that great love, which draws me to Him and causes me to want to please Him and to love Him in return, I learned how to love supernaturally. In more than 30 years of counseling thousands of people about interpersonal conflicts, I do not know of a single problem that could not have been resolved if those involved had been willing to accept and respond to God’s love for them, and to love others as an act of the will by faith, as God commands.
Such a statement may sound simplistic and exaggerated, yet I make it after carefully reviewing in my mind all kinds of conflicts between husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbors, friends and enemies.
Think of it! Christ’s forgiveness is so great and compassionate that He will not allow anything or anyone to condemn us or separate us from His supernatural love. Even though He is “holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens,” He still loves and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He gives us absolute assurance that nothing can ever “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Bible Reading: Romans 8:32-37
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I determine to express my gratitude to God for His great love for me by loving Him in return and by loving by faith everyone with whom I have contact today. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will demonstrate that love by gracious acts of the will.
Control freaks are easily frustrated. We can’t take control because control is not ours to take! The Bible has a better idea. Rather than seeking control, relinquish it. Peace is within reach, not for lack of problems, but because of the presence of a sovereign Lord.
Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty, as Paul did. From prison he wrote, “The things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ” (Philippians 1:12-13).
In the innermost of his being, Paul was a man who believed in the steady hand of a good God…protected and preserved by God’s love! He lived beneath the shadow of God’s wings. Do you?
Read more Anxious for Nothing
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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) is an executive order issued by President Obama in 2012 that grants temporary legal status to those brought to the US as children. According to government figures, 787,580 people (known as “Dreamers”) have been approved for the program.
They have been able to obtain driver’s licenses, enroll in college, and secure jobs. They also pay income taxes. The program doesn’t give them a path to become US citizens or even legal permanent residents. But they can apply to defer deportation and legally reside in the US for two years. Then they can apply for renewal. Nearly 800,000 renewals have been approved since the program began.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced that it would rescind the program in six months unless Congress and the president enact a law reviving it. The president believes that such legislation should originate with Congress, not the White House. Officials will no longer accept new applicants to the program, but protections for current DACA recipients remain in effect.