What brings you comfort when you are suffering or going through stressful times? Although well-meaning friends may assure you that everything will be all right, the person who truly comforts is the one who puts an arm around your shoulder and says, “I’m familiar with the pain you are feeling, and I know it hurts.”
Jesus is that kind of comforter for us. He came to earth as a human, experienced pain and suffering, and faced temptation without giving in to sin. He comes alongside to help us by being …
Our Friend. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus isn’t a companion in word only; He demonstrated that He is the best possible friend because He willingly went to the cross to save us from our sins. He sacrificed Himself for us so we could be with Him forever.
Our High Priest. He became the Mediator between holy God and sinful mankind by offering His own blood as a sacrifice to reconcile us to the Father. Now we have immediate access to God in time of need.
Our Intercessor. Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us. We don’t always pray correctly, but what a comfort to know that the One who is perfect speaks to the Father on our behalf.
On whom do you lean during difficult times? Although people may disappoint us with quick-fix responses to our hurt, Jesus Christ understands our pain and offers unlimited compassion and help when we come to Him.
Read: Daniel 4:28–37 | Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 21–22; Luke 18:24–43
My understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High. Daniel 4:34 nkjv
Emergency Services in Carlsbad, California, came to the rescue of a woman with an Australian accent who couldn’t recall who she was. Because she was suffering from amnesia and had no ID with her, she was unable to provide her name or where she had come from. It took the help of doctors and international media to restore her health, tell her story, and reunite her with her family.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, also lost sight of who he was and where he had come from. His “amnesia,” though, was spiritual. In taking credit for the kingdom he’d been given, he forgot that God is the King of Kings, and everything he had was from Him (Daniel 4:17, 28–30).
Father, when we forget who we are, help us to remember where we’ve come from and that we belong to You.
God dramatized the king’s state of mind by driving him into the fields to live with wild animals and graze like a cow (vv. 32–33). Finally, after seven years Nebuchadnezzar looked up to the skies, and his memory of who he was and who had given him his kingdom returned. With his senses restored, he declared, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven” (v. 37).
What about us? Who do we think we are? Where did we come from? Since we are inclined to forget, who can we count on to help us remember but the King of Kings?
Father, we are so inclined to forget who we are, where we’ve come from, and that we belong to You. Help us to remember that in Christ we are Your children—known, loved, gifted, and cared for—now and forever.
The 1748 essay “Of Miracles” by David Hume was influential in leading the charge against the miraculous, thoughts that were later sharpened (though also later recanted) by Antony Flew. Insisting the laws of a natural world incompatible with the supernatural, the new atheists continue to weigh in on the subject today. With them, many Christian philosophers and scientists, who are less willing to define miracle as something that must break the laws of nature, join the conversation with an opposing gusto. Physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne, for instance, suggests that miracles are not violations of the laws of nature but rather “exploration of a new regime of physical experience.”(1)
The possibility or impossibility of the miraculous fills books, debates, and lectures. What it does not fill is that moment when a person finds herself—rationally or otherwise—crying out for intervention, for help and assurance, indeed, for the miraculous. “For most of us” writes C.S. Lewis, “the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.”(2) To this I would simply add that often prayer is both: both the anguished cry of Gethsemane—”please, take this from me”—prayed at the foot of an impossible mountain.
All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. — Proverbs 15:15 AMPC
Shortly after I began to seriously study the Bible, I felt an oppressive atmosphere around me. Everything seemed gloomy—as if something bad was going to happen. It wasn’t anything I could explain, just a vague, dreaded sense of something evil or wrong about to happen.
“Oh, God,” I prayed. “What’s going on? What is this feeling?” I had hardly uttered the question when God spoke to me. “Evil forebodings.” I had to meditate on that for several minutes. I had never heard the phrase before. God had spoken to me, and I stayed quiet before Him so I could hear the answers.
I realized, first of all, that my anxieties weren’t real—that is, they were not based on true circumstances or situations. I was having problems—as most of us do —but they were not as critical as the devil was making it appear. My acceptance of his lies, even though they were vague, was opening the door for the evil forebodings.
I eventually realized that I had lived in the midst of similar gloomy feelings most of my life. I was expecting something bad to happen instead of aggressively expecting something good. I felt a dread, an unexplained anxiety around me. I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific—only that sense of something evil or terrible.
The Living Bible says, “When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong.” That’s how I felt, as if something—maybe everything—was wrong or was about to go wrong.
As previously stated, I realized that for most of my life, I had been miserable because of evil thoughts and anxious forebodings. As I continued to meditate on evil forebodings, God broke through and gave me a clear revelation. I was miserable because my thoughts were miserable—my thoughts were poisoning my outlook. My thoughts robbed me of the ability to enjoy my life.
I should have been saying, “Thank You, God, for today. Thank you for Dave and my children and my friends and all Your blessings.” But, instead of being positive, I found myself even dreading to answer the phone when it rang, for fear it might be bad news.
All of this gloom and doom that surrounded me began in my abusive childhood. I endured a great deal of misery, and most of my life was unhappy and filled with disappointments. I began to live in a vague fear and dread of the future. I had not been taught to let go of what was behind.
I couldn’t rejoice in what I had now and the good things going on in my life. I focused on the past and what might lie ahead—and what lay ahead was usually gloom and doom and chaos because that was what I was expecting.
Satan had built a stronghold in my mind, and I was trapped until I learned I could tear down that negative, evil stronghold by applying God’s Word to my life and circumstances.
I once had a friend whom I’ll call Marlene. She lived in a state of constant chaos. One day she had health problems. The next day Marlene’s son had lost his job, and they were going to have to support him and his family. As soon as that was over, another traumatic situation would erupt.
Marlene was a Christian, but she lived in fear of bad news. Marlene would not have known how to live a life that was not filled with chaos. All of her conversation was negative and gloomy. Even her countenance was sad and gloomy.
I realized that I had started to become like Marlene—I was miserable because I had allowed Satan to rob me of the ability to enjoy my life. It took a while before I was able to be positive most of the time, but little by little, my thinking changed, and so did my life.
I no longer live in evil forebodings, expecting to hear at any moment of a new problem. Now I purposely expect good things to happen in my life. I realize now that I can choose my thoughts. I don’t have to accept Satan’s lies.
Like everyone else, negative things do happen to me from time to time, but I don’t become negative because of them. I remain positive, and that helps me enjoy my life even in the midst of the storms.
Prayer Starter: Father, I thank You for the great future You have planned for me. Please help me to choose positive thoughts that line up with Your Word and expect Your goodness in every area of my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us:…self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23).
Sue insisted that she was Spirit-filled, and she frequently challenged others to be filled with the Spirit. But there was no evidence that the Holy Spirit was in control of her life, because she was completely undisciplined in everything she did. She knew nothing about self-control. She knew all about the Holy Spirit, in her mind, but there was no evidence that He was in her life – and in control of her life.
Dr. Henrietta Mears, as director of Christian education at the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, had one of the greatest spiritual ministries of her time. Hundreds of young men and women became church members and missionaries under her influence. She lived in a palatial home, owned priceless antiques and dressed beautifully. Most people assumed that she was a woman of great wealth. Actually, she was a person of relatively modest means. She simply knew how to take her regular salary, a modest inheritance, plus savings, and maximize them for God’s glory.
For example, she would advise young people, “Do not eat in expensive restaurants where you spend excessively except on rare occasions. Instead, prepare your own lunch, and over a period of a year you can save enough money by not eating out to take a trip around the world and enrich your spirit, your soul and your cultural sensitivities. Or you can use the money you save to buy something which will enhance the beauty of your home or person.”
We see disciplined people all around us in the world. Athletes discipline themselves to strict training, soldiers are drilled in military discipline, artists and writers are disciplined to sharpen their talents through dedicated practice. On the other hand, we also see examples of a lack of discipline in the lives of many people around us.
Whether a person is a Christian or a non-believer, the development of self-control as a quality of character seems to be difficult for most people. Yet we are told in the Bible that the Spirit-filled Christian will exhibit self- control as a part of the fruit of the Spirit.
Bible Reading:I Chronicles 28:9-13
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I acknowledge that to walk in the fullness and control of the Holy Spirit will enable me to demonstrate a life of discipline and self-control. Therefore, by faith, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I shall live a life of discipline and self-control for the glory of God. Self- control is essential for supernatural living.
All people are God’s people—including the small people who sit at our tables. Wise are the parents who regularly give their children back to God.
Parents, we can do this. We can take our parenting fears to Christ. In fact, if we don’t, we’ll take our fears out on our kids! A family with no breathing room suffocates a child. Fear can also create permissive parents who are high on hugs and low on discipline.
How can we avoid the two extremes? We pray. Jesus makes no comments about spanking, sibling rivalry, or schooling. Yet his actions speak volumes about prayer. Each time a parent prays, Christ responds. His message to moms and dads? Bring your children to me. Raise them in a greenhouse of prayer.
Read more Fearless
For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.
Tammie Jo Shults is now famous as the pilot who landed Flight 1380 after an engine exploded in the air. She guided the plane down after a twenty-thousand-foot drop in six minutes, then walked down the aisle hugging passengers. Passengers described her as having “nerves of steel” and being a “true American hero.”
Shults has led the children’s worship program at First Baptist Church of Boerne, Texas. She has also taught Sunday school for children, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults. According to Staci Thompson, a longtime friend and church staff member, the congregation was “impressed” but not “shocked” at Shults’s heroics.
Her courage under fire comes from her training: three decades ago, Shults became one of the first female fighter pilots in the US military. But even more, it comes from her Lord. Thompson says her friend “wants people to know that God was there with her” on Flight 1380 and “that he helped her in getting control of that plane and landing that plane.”
“It was because of him, not her,” Thompson said. “She was just a teammate and a co-captain. He was the captain.” God’s grace was the source of her strength.
Why are stories of grace so appealing to us?
Signals of grace
GQ magazine has placed the Bible on its list of “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.” The more our culture rejects biblical truth, the more it needs biblical truth.
The Colson Center’s John Stonestreet has an article I encourage you to read. It’s on AB 2943, a bill passed by the California Assembly that adds “conversion therapy” to its list of “deceptive business practices” prohibited by state law.
Under the bill, a bookstore could sell Hitler’s Mein Kampf but not a book suggesting that same-gender sexual orientation could or should be altered. David French of the National Review correctly calls this legislation “extraordinarily radical.”
The more bad news we see, the more good news we want to see. But I think there’s something more to the popularity of stories of grace.
Sociologist Peter Berger identified “signals of transcendence” that point us from the temporal to the eternal. Perhaps stories of grace in a world of grief and guilt are such “signals.” They remind us that what matters most in life is that which we cannot earn but only receive.
What do you value most today? I would list my family, friends, and the privilege of this ministry. None were earned—all have been given to me.
All are by grace.
The folly of self-sanctification
In John 10, Jesus described himself as “the door of the sheep” (v. 7), demonstrating that he is the only way to eternal life. But he is also the only way to abundant life: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (v. 10).
“Abundant” translates perisson, a word which can be rendered “extraordinary, above all human means.” The abundant life of Christ is available only from Christ. Nothing we do, no matter how well-intentioned, can do what only God can do.
But we try.
Americans embrace the pioneer spirit, the cultural DNA that rewards hard work, initiative, and self-reliance. Add our fallen desire to be our own god (Genesis 3:5) and our desire to impress others with what we do and have, and you have a recipe for self-sanctification.
But we can no more sanctify ourselves than we can save ourselves. Salvation comes in three tenses: we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. All three depend on the grace of God.
Three reasons to spend time with God
If we cannot sanctify ourselves, why does the Bible call us to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship, solitude, meditation, and all the rest?
One: Spiritual disciplines position us to receive what grace intends to give. Just as you had to open this email or web page to read its content, so you must pray and read Scripture to hear God’s voice.
Two: Spiritual disciplines reinforce our need for God. We pray, read Scripture, and worship because we need what only God can provide. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
Three: Spiritual disciplines invite other people to join us in following Jesus. Our Lord often prayed in the presence of his disciples as a model for them to follow (cf. Luke 11:1). Our public expressions of faith encourage others to trust in our Father.
Grace in three tenses
You have been saved by grace. You are being saved by grace. You will be saved by grace.
Conversely, you become more like Jesus by spending more time with Jesus. What will you do today to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18)?
John Piper: “Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, and eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity.”
Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, includingThe Washington Post,The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt.
He’s always got the new data, featuring irresistible twists:
One in five students use extra money from their student loans to buy digital currencies.
Nearly 8 percent of students would move to North Korea to free themselves of their debt.
Twenty-seven percent would contract the Zika virus to live debt-free.
Drew Cloud’s story was simple: He founded the website, an “independent, authoritative news outlet” covering all things student loans, “after he had difficulty finding the most recent student loan news and information all in one place.”
He became ubiquitous on that topic. But he’s a fiction, the invention of a student-loan refinancing company.
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After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.
Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.
And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with “SLR Editor.” Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention.
Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud “was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the WordPress website.”
Cloud had an elaborate back story. Before being scrubbed from the website, he was described as having “a knack for reporting throughout high school and college where he picked up his topics of choice.” Since graduating from college, the site said, “Drew wanted to funnel his creative energy into an independent, authoritative news outlet covering an exclusive and developing industry.”
Cloud was not the only facade. The website’s affiliation with LendEDU was also not previously disclosed.
In his email, Matherson called The Student Loan Report “very much a side project for our organization.”
He continued: “Our goal, from the beginning, is to create an informative source of news and educational content for consumers. We are not focused on monetizing from Student Loan Report, LLC. As you may have noticed, there are very few advertisements on the website.”
Matherson elaborated: “Our parent company, Shop Tutors, Inc., acquired the online assets of studentloans.net in 2016. The Student Loan Report, LLC is a separate entity. For context, it is very common practice for online media companies to own or acquire additional media assets. Student Loan Report, LLC is a for-profit organization and is paid by some of the companies featured on our website. Student Loan Report, LLC may earn a fee when our readers apply or receive a financial product featured on our website.”
But in 2016, Matherson described the relationship in simpler terms in an email obtained by The Chronicle. In that message, sent to a potential contributor, he wrote, “We have a new project that you might be able to help us with. We are launching a student loan industry news site called Student Loan Report located at studentloans.net.”
A Punch From Mike Tyson
Even without this evidence, close observers would have been able to divine the connection between the two organizations. In 2016, LendEDU and The Student Loan Report posed a series of oddball questions meant to test the lengths to which student borrowers would go to free themselves of debt. About 56 percent of them would take a punch from Mike Tyson, wroteLendEDU.
A few months later, The Student Loan Report issued a report on its own survey asking how far borrowers would go to erase their debt. About 62 percent said they would star in a pornographic film. Forty-three percent said they would hook up with Caitlyn Jenner. The report, issued by Cloud, included a link to a list of student-loan-refinancing companies, LendEDU among them.
Both surveys featured an odd mixture of juvenile and mean-spirited humor. They had another similarity as well: an uncommon typo in the word “meant.” Here’s LendEDU on drug use: “56.14 percent of borrowers would abstain from alcohol and drug use for life, if it mean’t that they would have no more student loan debt.” And The Student Loan Report on a similar topic: “85% of borrowers would give up smoking marijuana for life, if it mean’t that they would have no more student loan debt.”
Cloud may no longer appear on his own site, but his footprint in the wider world remains. He was quoted by a number of media outlets this year in connection with a survey finding by The Student Loan Report that one in five students had used money from their student loans to invest in digital currencies. Experts in the field toldThe Chronicle that the study’s opaque methodology raised concerns.
Cloud has often appeared on financial-advice sites, either as a guest writer or as the subject of an interview. In those cases, he doesn’t mention where he attended college, but he does mention that he, too, had taken out student loans.
When people reached out to Cloud for his expertise on student debt, he often suggested that they refinance their loans.
That’s one of the services offered by LendEDU. Matherson and Matt Lenhard started what would become LendEDU while they were both students at the University of Delaware. The two had originally created a tool that allowed people to book tutors online. But they appeared to spin it into a place from which students can apply for multiple loans.
Today, LendEDU describes itself as “marketplace for private student loans, student loan refinancing, credit cards, and personal loans – among other financial products.”
In a post on the website, Matherson seemed to affirm his commitment to a virtuous way of conducting business.
“We started LendEDU to offer transparency in the student loan market,” he wrote. “Today, we are working to provide transparency to the personal finance industry as a whole.”