Charles Stanley – Beware of Spiritual Swindlers

 

Matthew 7:15-23

Physical safety is a Natural concern for people today because the world is filled with instability, global conflicts, and terrorist attacks. We should rightly be concerned about protecting our community, yet when it comes to spiritual safety, churches often neglect protection against people who undermine our faith. Jesus called them wolves in sheep’s clothing and issued some stern warnings to alert us.

These wolves are false teachers and prophets who appear to be genuine spiritual guides but are actually full of schemes to advance their own agenda. They look and sound good, but inside they are consumed with lust and greed. None of this is apparent right away because they preach a fine gospel in a most compelling manner. Gradually, however, they blend inaccuracy with facts, and at this point, people seem to forget that truth mixed with error is no longer truth but has become deception. You can recognize these folks in a number of ways. Jesus said they would bear fruit that would eventually reveal their true character.

  • They subtly question the Bible’s authority and relevance for today.
    • Little is said about living a holy life or obeying the whole counsel of God.
    • Obedience to the Lord is equated with living the way you desire.
    •.The welfare of the sheep concerns them less than having followers.

This is a wake-up call for anyone snoozing in the pews. We can’t afford to believe everything we hear. Follow the example of the Bereans, who were commended for using Scripture to evaluate whatever was taught (Acts 17:11).

Bible in One Year: Psalm 90-94

 

http://www.intouch.org/

 

Our Daily Bread — Ring in a Dumpster

 

Read: Matthew 13:44–46 | Bible in a Year: Job 11–13; Acts 9:1–21

Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

In college, I woke up one morning to find Carol, my roommate, in a panic. Her signet ring was missing. We searched everywhere. The next morning we found ourselves picking through a dumpster.

I ripped open a trash bag. “You’re so dedicated to finding this!”

“I’m not losing a two-hundred-dollar ring!” she exclaimed.

Carol’s determination reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven, which “is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). Certain things are worth going great lengths to find.

Throughout the Bible, God promises that those who seek Him will find Him. In Deuteronomy, He explained to the Israelites that they would find Him when they turned from their sin and sought Him with all their hearts (4:28–29). In the book of 2 Chronicles, King Asa gained encouragement from a similar promise (15:2). And in Jeremiah, God gave the same promise to the exiles, saying He would bring them back from captivity (29:13–14).

If we seek God, through His Word, worship, and in our daily lives, we will find Him. Over time, we’ll know Him on a deeper level. That will be even better than the sweet moment when Carol pulled her ring out of that trash bag!

Lord, help me to seek You with all my heart.

To find God, we must be willing to seek Him.

 

By Julie Schwab

INSIGHT

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” You’ve probably heard that line used to pressure you to do something or buy any number of things that failed to live up to the hype. But in the case of the kingdom of God, the claims Jesus makes about it in Matthew 13 are actually true.

In this chapter, Jesus repeatedly emphasizes how seeing and living in the new reality of His kingdom isn’t natural. In fact, God’s kingdom is so countercultural that Jesus describes it as “yeast” (v. 33), which in Scripture is typically seen as a symbol of corruption and evil (Hosea 7:4; Matthew 16:6, 11; 1 Corinthians 5:6–13). Jesus’s shocking use of this word would be similar to saying that the kingdom is like a virus or like saying, “It ruins everything.”

And that’s exactly Jesus’s point. Truly experiencing His kingdom will not be comfortable or easy for any of us. It’ll ruin everything!—all our plans, all our assumptions, all our comfort. But it’s more than worth it. It’s the treasure that’s infinitely precious, the source of endless joy (Matthew 13:44–46).

Monica Brands

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Alienation and Embrace

Vincenzo Ricardo. If that name does not mean much to you, you are not alone. It does not seem to have meant much to anyone else except, perhaps, him who bore it. In fact it was not even his name. His real name was Vincenzo Riccardi, and nobody seemed to get it right after the sensational discovery of his mummified body in Southampton, New York. He had been dead for 13 months, but his television was still on, and his body was propped up in a chair in front of it.(1) The television was his only companion, and though it had much to tell him, it did not care whether he lived or died.

Riccardi’s story raises many unsettling questions. How can a human being vanish for over a year and not be missed by anyone? Where was his family? What about his relatives? Why was the power still on in his house? Whatever the answers are to these and other questions, one thing is clear: Riccardi was a lonely individual whose life can be summed up in one word, alienation. You see, Riccardi was blind, so he never really watched television; he needed this virtual reality to feed his need for real companionship. Moreover, his frequent “outbursts and paranoid behavior” may have played a role in driving people away from him.(2)

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Alienation and Embrace

Joyce Meyer – It Takes a Team

 

Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up.  — Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Adapted from the resource Love Out Loud Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

In 1867, John Roebling had a vision and a passion to do something experts said couldn’t be done: build a bridge from Manhattan to Brook¬lyn, in New York City. No one believed it could be done, but Roebling and his son Washington, a young engineer, persevered.

The Roeblings hired their crew and finally got to work on John’s dream. Only a few months into the project, a worksite accident took John’s life. But the project continued, with Washington as its leader.

Three years later, Washington was severely injured. He was unable to talk, walk, or even move most of his body. But his mind was sharp, and his dream of building the bridge still burned in his heart.

Washington had two things in his favor: one finger that still worked and a wife who loved him. Roebling and his wife figured out a com¬munication system in which he tapped on her arm. For eleven years, Washington tapped out messages and instructions for the bridge, until it was finally complete.

Washington Roebling needed a dependable team of people to achieve his dream. He needed his father, his crew, and his wife. We need other people too; we can love, support, help, and encourage them, and they can do the same for us.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to never underestimate the value of the people You put in my life. Allow me to see who I need to help…and also who I should allow to help me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Strength to the Humble

 

“But He gives us more and more strength to stand against all such evil longings. As the Scripture says, God gives strength to the humble, but sets Himself against the proud and haughty” (James 4:6).

Dr. A. B. Simpson, leader of the Christian and Missionary Alliance at its inception, wisely said years ago.” Humility is not thinking meanly of yourself; it is not thinking of yourself at all.”

Under that rigid definition, not many of us would qualify as being truly humble – nevertheless, the statement contains a great deal of truth, for it is a goal toward which we should all strive.

No real progress is made toward God in any person’s life – believer or unbeliever – without this special characteristic of humility. One proof of that is found in the familiar verse:

“If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV).

Even before we pray, before we seek His face, before we turn from our wicked ways, we must humble ourselves. Why? Because we are in no position to meet any of these other three criteria without first humbling ourselves.

Every Christian who seeks to advance in a holy life must remember well that humility is the most important lesson a believer has to learn. There may be intense consecration, fervent zeal and heavenly experience, yet there also may be an unconscious self-exaltation. True humility must come from God.

Bible Reading:James 4:7-10

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Remembering that pride is the root sin from which all others grow, I will humble myself and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit I will stay so busy helping, praying for and encouraging others that pride cannot take root in my life.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Religious, Yet Lost

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

A person can be religious and yet lost. Attending church won’t make you God’s child. You must accept his offer. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

It makes no sense to seek your God-given strength until you trust in his. “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for” (Ephesians 1:11). Take a few moments and talk to God. Whether you are making a decision or reaffirming an earlier one, talk to your Maker about your eternal life. You might find this prayer helpful: Immanuel, you are with me. You became a person and took on flesh. You became my Savior and took on my sin. I accept your gift. I receive you as my Lord, Savior, and friend. Because of you, I’ll never be alone again!

Read more Cure for the Common Life

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

http://www.maxlucado.com

Denison Forum – Anthony Kennedy’s retirement: “A historic opportunity to reshape the court”

Anthony M. Kennedy announced yesterday that he is retiring from the United States Supreme Court, effective July 31. The Wall Street Journal called him “one of the Supreme Court’s most consequential modern-day justices and author of landmark rulings on gay rights, the death penalty and campaign finance.”

The Journal also noted the significance of Kennedy’s announcement: his decision “hand[ed] President Donald Trump a historic opportunity to reshape the court.”

A remarkable tenure

Anthony Kennedy was born and raised in Sacramento, California. He graduated from Stanford University in 1958 with a BA in political science after spending his senior year at the London School of Economics. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1961, then served a year in the California Army National Guard.

He and his wife, Mary, were married in 1963 and are the parents of two sons and a daughter.

President Reagan nominated him for the Supreme Court in 1987; he was confirmed by the US Senate on a 97–0 vote. He is one of five Catholic justices on the Supreme Court (there have been only thirteen such justices out of 113 in the Court’s history).

Justice Kennedy turns eighty-two on July 23. He is the fourteenth longest-serving justice in the Court’s history.

A divisive ruling

Anthony Kennedy is best known as the “swing vote” on many rulings across his tenure. One biography describes him as “a surprising and unpredictable justice on the Supreme Court, displaying thoughtful independence that at times, fails to reflect any particular ideology.”

Most significantly, he wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 five-to-four ruling guaranteeing the right to same-sex marriage. His vote not only legalized gay marriage in this country—it also opened the way to the escalating conflict between religious freedom and sexual freedom we are witnessing today.

In his opinion, Justice Kennedy stated: “It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

He added: “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

However, the right to “advocate” for biblical marriage is more opposed today than ever before in American history.

Many Americans consider same-sex marriage to be a civil right akin to interracial marriage. Others (myself included) fully support the latter but oppose the former on biblical grounds. Since so many in our culture are biblically illiterate, they seem not to understand that our defense of biblical marriage is motivated by Scripture and religious freedom, not prejudice.

As a result, we are considered just as bigoted as if we opposed interracial marriage or other civil rights.

This conflict has enormous ramifications for churches, religious schools, ministries, and individual Christians. It could threaten nonprofit status, inclusion in the NCAA and similar organizations, and our individual rights to express our religious beliefs publicly.

I consider this issue to be the most significant and ominous cultural conflict of our time.

Dire warnings

Assuming President Trump nominates and the Senate confirms a conservative to replace Justice Kennedy, yesterday’s announcement could prove monumental to our nation’s future. At a campaign rally last night, the president said, “We have to pick [a nominee] that’s going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.”

CNN reports this morning that the president is “poised to change the court in a way that few of his conventional GOP predecessors ever did.” Most significantly, his next nominee could make possible a reversal of Roe v. Wade.

One columnist calls Kennedy’s retirement “devastating for LGBTQ rights.” Another predicted that “the Supreme Court will now fall to chaos.”

Yet another warns that Kennedy’s replacement “will have an opportunity to overrule myriad liberal precedents and reshape constitutional law for decades.” Democratic Party leaders are calling for the Senate to delay confirmation hearings until after the midterm elections.

These reactions show that the confirmation battle over the president’s eventual nominee will be vociferous.

A biblical response

God’s word upholds the sanctity of human life from conception (Psalm 139:13–16) to natural death (Exodus 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Jesus defined marriage as a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:3–9). And our First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion and of speech.

I am praying that Justice Kennedy’s successor will help the Supreme Court defend life and marriage. I am praying that he or she will support our First Amendment freedoms as well.

I am also praying for the well-being of our nation during these divisive days. I am praying for the president to lead with wisdom and grace and for those who participate in the confirmation process to put the American people ahead of personal political agendas.

And I am praying for America’s Christians to set “an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

America is a nation, and all nations are “but men” (Psalm 9:20). What matters most is not what happens on the Supreme Court of the United States but what happens when we stand before the Ultimate Court of the universe (2 Corinthians 5:10). Let’s respond to the political animosity of these days in a way that honors Jesus and draws people to him.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

NOTE: Questions about our faith are common—to skeptics but to Christians as well. We all need clear, biblical responses motivated by grace.

That’s why I wrote my new booklet, Biblical Insight to Tough Questions. I’d like to send it to you to thank you for your gift to help others discern today’s news from a biblical perspective.

I hope the booklet helps you grow in your faith and engage our culture with truth you can trust. To receive your copy, click here.

 

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/