Charles Stanley – Test Yourself

 

Hebrews 3:12-19, Hebrews 4:1-2

Many of us love the Bible because it’s filled with words of assurance, promise, and encouragement. However, it also contains warnings that we’d be wise to consider and heed. Like the nation of Israel in the wilderness, the church throughout history has also had some people who were characterized by unbelief.

Jesus said that although many call Him Lord, the proof of salvation is displayed in an obedient life (Matt. 7:13-23). You may have noticed the fruit of salvation—or the lack of it—in your church. Consider the following signs that may indicate a person in need of salvation:

  • They are oftentimes involved in conflict and disunity in the church because they lack the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Sometimes they prefer the spectator role and are reluctant to get involved or make a commitment to a local congregation of believers.
  • If they are serving in the church, they may feel frustrated because they are trying to do the supernatural work of God without the power of His Spirit.
  • They have trouble understanding the Bible but little desire to read it.
  • Because they are resisting the Spirit’s conviction, they are uncomfortable or irritated when the pastor gives an invitation for salvation.

The purpose of God’s warning isn’t to have us judge the salvation of others; rather, He wants us to both examine ourselves and lead people to the truth. The consequences are eternal, so it’s important to do as Scripture says: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Pray that God will enable you to point others to Jesus—and that He’ll help you to grow ever more Christlike.

Bible in One Year: Exodus 1-3

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — The Power of Prayer

 

Read: 1 Samuel 7:7–14

Bible in a Year: Genesis 39–40; Matthew 11

Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us.—1 Samuel 7:8

One day, when I was deeply concerned about the welfare of one close to me, I found encouragement in part of the Old Testament story of Samuel, a wise leader of the Israelites. As I read how Samuel interceded for God’s people as they faced trouble, I strengthened my resolve to pray for the one I loved.

The Israelites faced the threat of the Philistines, who had previously defeated them when God’s people didn’t trust in Him (see 1 Samuel 4). After repenting of their sins, they heard that the Philistines were about to attack. This time, however, they asked Samuel to continue praying for them (7:8), and the Lord answered clearly by throwing their enemy into confusion (v. 10). Though the Philistines may have been mightier than the Israelites, the Lord was the strongest of them all.

When we ache over the challenges facing those we love, and fear the situation won’t change, we may be tempted to believe that the Lord will not act. But we should never underestimate the power of prayer, for our loving God hears our pleas. We don’t know how He will move in response to our petitions, but we know that as our Father He longs for us to embrace His love and to trust in His faithfulness.

Do you have someone you can pray for today? —Amy Boucher Pye

Father God, the way You hear and answer my prayers amazes me. Strengthen my faith, that I will always believe in Your goodness and love.

God hears us when we pray.

INSIGHT: Samuel led his people to worship of the one true God (1 Samuel 7:1-6). Prayer was central to Samuel’s ministry (v. 9); in response to his intercession, God gave the nation victory over the Philistines (vv. 7-13). To commemorate this God-inspired victory, Samuel erected a remembrance stone he called Ebenezer, which means “stone of help.” It can also serve as a reminder to us not to underestimate the power of God to respond to our prayers!

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Outside In

 

Every society has insiders and outsiders. Groups of people or individuals are often defined by those characteristics, beliefs, ethnicities, or behaviors that identify them them as “winners” and “losers.” If one was a Jew in Nazi Germany, for example, she was an “outsider” and branded as such by a yellow Star of David sewn into her garments. If one was a Tutsi in Rwanda in the 90s, he would be forced to use an ID card which specified his ethnic group. In addition, his skin color was a general physical trait that was typically used to designate him an ethnic “outsider.” Recently, in the United States the #MeToo movement gave voice to millions of women around the world who were on the losing end of male abuse of power. These women were kept on the outside and marginalized from career advancement or in personal relationships.

But just who is inside and who is outside in particular cultures is often a matter of perspective. The Amish community intentionally lives as “outsiders” as a witness to the larger, secular culture. Standing outside of mainstream culture is their chosen position. In the community in which I live, tribal tattoos and multiple piercings set one apart as an outsider in the button-down-shirt-world of suits and ties, setting one apart from the rest of society. It seems that the boundaries around who is in and who is out shift and change with the whims of culture and fashion.

Jesus, as presented in the gospel accounts of his life, often blurred the lines between who was inside and who was outside. Indeed, he often suggested in his teaching ministry that those deemed on the outside of his society were actually on the inside. In his “outside-in” perspective, the first would be last, and the last first. Rejecting the rules that kept the poor, the broken, the sick, or the disabled person firmly on the outside, Jesus instead opened-wide his arms and extended the reach of his hospitality far beyond what would have been acceptable in his day.

Yet standing in stark contrast with Jesus’s welcoming reputation is an encounter with an unnamed Syrophoenician woman. According to Mark’s gospel, Jesus is passing through the predominantly Gentile region of Tyre and Sidon when this unnamed, Gentile woman approaches him to ask for healing for her demon-possessed daughter. As a Jewish male, he is an outsider in this Gentile region. Yet, he speaks to her in the voice of a Jewish insider. “It is not good to take the children’s food and give it to the dogs.”(1) In Matthew’s account of this story, this woman’s outsider status is highlighted in even stronger terms. She is a Canaanite woman—a member of the people group Israel was commanded to expel from the land thousands of years earlier.

We who are more familiar with a loving, welcoming Jesus are jarred by his seemingly cruel response. Matthew tells us that the woman was pleading with Jesus to help her, yet “he did not answer her a word.”(2) Is this the same man? How is it that Jesus could ignore her cries for help?

Remarkably, the woman is not deterred by this familiarly abrupt response from an insider. In league with the great negotiators of old—Abraham, who bargained with God over the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; Moses, who bargained with God over destroying the people in the wilderness; and King Hezekiah who bargained for more years to his life—she very cleverly argues: “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Both Matthew and Mark highlight Jesus’s delight at her faithful response. In Mark, Jesus is impressed simply by what she has said; “For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” In Matthew, Jesus acknowledges her faith; “O woman, great is your faith!”

A casual reader may not realize the boldness and courage of this outsider, and the gift of Jesus in giving her a public voice. A Gentile woman alone with a daughter did not hold a good position in first century society. As a Gentile and a woman, she was an ethnic alien invisible to the society, greatly amplified since she was without a man to represent her in the public realm. Yet, this woman stepped beyond the prescribed boundaries to seek out Jesus for the sake of her daughter whom she valued, and Jesus praises her publically for it.

This story of the Syrophoenician woman demonstrates that God’s promise to Abraham overflows to the outside. Her story foreshadows the wind that would blow at Pentecost, a wind that could be heard, but that defied direction. This wind would envelop those kept outside. The Syrophoenician woman understands this better than some in Jesus’s own circles and he gives her the opportunity to educate them: There is an overflow of blessing to one such as me, and it does not involve taking away the portion allotted to the insiders. As Peter declares in his own encounter with the Gentile Cornelius, “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God.”(3)

Beyond this ancient story, we who sometimes feel ourselves as outsiders can take heart. For here, this outsider of outsiders is the recipient of mercy and truth. Jesus brings the outsider inside, he gives the least a voice, he makes blessing overflow. And that is very good news.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the writing and speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) See the full story in Mark 7:24-30. Matthew’s Gospel also records this event. Cf. Matthew 15:21-28.

(2) Matthew 15:23.

(3) Acts 10:34-35.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – The Nature of God’s Love

 

But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace–His undeserved favor and mercy–you have been saved from God’s judgment).— Ephesians 2:4-5

Sometimes, when life gets discouraging, the best thing we can do is remind ourselves of the nature of God’s love.

One of the most beautiful things the Bible says is that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (see Romans 5:8). He did not wait for us to deserve His love. He loves us unconditionally. To be honest, that’s hard for many of us to comprehend because we are so accustomed to having to earn everything in life.

Because of His great, wonderful and intense love for us, God poured His life out for us freely. That is revolutionary love—real, revolutionary love that gives itself away because it can never be satisfied doing anything less.

It is God’s unconditional love that draws us to Him, His amazing grace that erases our sin, and His powerful sacrifice that makes a way for us to enter His presence. His love will never quit, never give up, and never leave you. Whenever you feel down or depressed, remember the great love that God has for you.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Supernatural Power of Praise

 

“With Jesus’ help we will continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by telling others of the glory of His name. Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to Him” (Hebrews 13:15,16).

Sometimes, in my busy schedule which takes me from country to country and continent to continent, my body is weary, my mind is fatigued, and if I am not careful, my heart will grow cold. I have learned to meditate on the many blessings of God and to praise Him as an act of the will. As I do so, my heart begins to warm and I sense the presence of God.

The psalmist often catalogued the blessings of God and found new reason to praise Him. I would like to share with you several reasons why I believe praise of God is so important in the life of the believer.

1) God is truly worthy of praise.

2) Praise draws us closer to God.

3) All who praise God are blessed.

4) Praise is contagious.

5) Satan’s power is broken when we praise God.

6) Praise is a witness to carnal Christians and non-Christians.

7) Praise opens our hearts and minds to receive God’s message.

8) Praise is a form of sacrifice.

9) Praise makes for a more joyful life.

10) Praise enhances human relationships.

11) Praise is a supernatural expression of faith.

A further elaboration of the benefits and power of praise is found in my book Believing God for the Impossible. An entire chapter is devoted to this exciting subject.

With the promise of His blessings, so clearly delineated by the psalmist, comes the privilege and responsibility of offering up sacrifices of praise, and this leads to a supernatural life made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 33:9-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT I will look deliberately today for reasons to praise my heavenly Father, knowing that I will find many. Whether I feel like it or not, I will praise Him throughout the day, seek to do good and to share His love with others, knowing that such sacrifices are pleasing to Him.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Remember the Sabbath

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

When God gave the Ten Commandments, He needed only five English words to condemn adultery; four to denounce thievery and murder.  But when he came to the topic of rest?  Listen to this:

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath Day of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work; you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servants, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day…” (Exodus 20:8-11).

Wow!  One word after another… but still we object. We offer up one reason after another. We don’t like to rest. Please repeat these words after me, “It is not my job to run the world.”  In the long run we will do more by doing less!

Read more Traveling Light

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

http://www.maxlucado.com

Denison Forum – ‘Minnesota Miracle’ leads to ‘incredible Jesus moment’

You never know when Jesus will show up.

Case Keenum‘s professional journey has been challenging. Despite a record-setting career in college, he went undrafted by the NFL. He was eventually signed by Houston, where he went 0–8 as their starting quarterback in 2013. He then played for St. Louis, went back to Houston, and then back to St. Louis.

After stints as their starter, he was benched and then signed a one-year contract to serve as Minnesota’s backup quarterback for 2017. When the starter was injured, he took over in the second week of the season. He led his team to a 13–3 record.

After Sunday’s last-second play that is already being called the Minnesota Miracle, he’s now one game from the Super Bowl. When the game ended, with pandemonium all around, he told a national audience that the miraculous win “probably will go down as the third-best moment of my life.”

What tops this stunning victory? “Giving my life to Jesus Christ and marrying my wife,” Keenum said as the ecstatic crowd roared all around him. One reporter called it an “incredible postgame Jesus moment.”

Four months ago, Case Keenum had no idea he would make national headlines today. But he was ready when his time came.

Is this 1776 or 1789?

The Colson Center’s “BreakPoint” recently asked several Christian leaders to define “challenges facing the church in 2018.” Os Guinness, one of this generation’s most insightful evangelical theologians, offered a response that was so compelling I will reproduce it today in full:

“If we fight the battle at any point except where the battle is really being fought, we might as well not fight. Luther’s famous maxim is urgent for Christians today. The U.S. is experiencing its gravest crisis since the Civil War, but there is no agreement as to what the crux of the battle is. The division in this country is not just between Progressives and Conservatives, ‘coastals’ and ‘heart-landers,’ and ‘globalists’ and ‘nationalists.’ It is between ‘1776,’ and the heirs and allies of the American revolution, where faith and freedom went hand in hand; and ‘1789,’ and the heirs and allies of the thinking of the French revolution, where faith and freedom were mortal enemies.

“The current crisis is a tale of these two revolutions. Both cry ‘freedom,’ but their views of freedom are diametrically opposed. They have different roots (the Bible versus the Enlightenment), different views of human nature (realism versus utopianism), different views of change (incremental versus radical), different views of freedom (the power to do what you ought versus the permission to what you like), different views of government (protective versus Progressive), different views of accountability (‘under God’ versus without God), and different views of righting wrongs (repentance and reconciliation versus reparation and revenge).

“If this is correct, the challenges are plain. The question before America: Is the ‘constitutional Republic’ to be restored or replaced? The question before us as Christians: How do we live and speak so faithfully that we honor our Lord and his ways in response to one of the greatest apologetic challenges and one of the greatest cultural challenges in all history? Now is a time for what Rabbi Heschel called ‘moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.’ All who are Evangelical and unashamed can be confident that the good news is more than sufficient for the gravity of the hour.”

When Jesus is on trial

I am convinced that Guinness is right: there is a massive cultural divide today between Americans who see Christianity as foundational to our past and essential for our future, and Americans who see Christianity as irrelevant, if not dangerous.

You and I are alive “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). It is by divine providence that you were not living in 1818 and that you will not be on this planet in 2218 (if the Lord tarries).

Your Father intended you to follow and serve Jesus in this cultural moment. You have all you need to be faithful to his call. As the saying goes, God equips the called and anoints all he appoints.

One vital aspect of successful witnessing today is doing what Case Keenum did: be ready when your moment comes.

Jesus warned his disciples that they would face persecuting authorities. However, this was to be their posture: “Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19–20).

When we have an opportunity to make public our faith in Jesus, we can feel as though we are a defendant on trial, with the other person as the prosecutor looking for ways to defeat our testimony.

In fact, Jesus is on trial. The Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, while Satan is the prosecutor. The person with whom you are speaking is the jury.

Your job is to go to the stand when the defense attorney calls you and tell what you know as he leads you. You may be the first witness called to the stand, so that you never hear how the jury decides. You may be the last, and thus present when the jury renders a verdict, hopefully for the Defendant. You will probably be somewhere in the middle.

The point: your job is to be ready. Tell what you know when given the opportunity and trust the results to God.

However, our witness is effective only if it is credible. Case Keenum’s priorities are clear: faith, family, football. Are they yours?

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/