Charles Stanley – You Must Be Born Again

 

John 3:1-16

Life is like a ladder we climb until we die. It would be a shame if we simply stopped and never progressed. But it could be utterly disastrous if we placed our ladder against the wrong wall and after a lifetime of climbing discovered that we had wasted all the years given to us.

This may have been how Nicodemus felt after talking to Jesus. He’d climbed to the top rung of religious success in Judaism and was known as “the teacher of Israel” (John 3:10). Yet Jesus told him the only way he would see the kingdom of God was to be born again. All his good works, extensive knowledge, and great accomplishments were worthless. Nicodemus realized immediately that just as he had done nothing to bring about his first birth, he could do nothing to be born again. His hopes for eternal life were dashed.

Before Nicodemus was ready to hear the good news, he had to be emptied of all his self-confidence and accomplishments in order to see his need for a Savior. His ladder came crashing down, and he had to start afresh with a new birth of the Spirit if he hoped to gain the kingdom of heaven.

Where have you placed your ladder? Has God ever emptied you so He can fill you up again? Although there’s nothing you can do to be born again—no good works or religious service—there is something you can believe. God wants you to glimpse His holiness and realize how far you are from His perfect standard. Then, if you come broken and contrite to Jesus, believing His death paid your sin debt, you’ll be born again and will someday see the kingdom of heaven.

Bible in One Year: Daniel 3-4

 

http://www.intouch.org/

 

Our Daily Bread — What’s in a Name?

 

Read: Matthew 1:18–25 | Bible in a Year: Proverbs 16–18; 2 Corinthians 6

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:21

“Gip” Hardin, a Methodist preacher, named his son after the famous preacher John Wesley, reflecting Gip’s hopes and aspirations for his baby boy. John Wesley Hardin, however, tragically chose a different path than his ministry-minded namesake. Claiming to have killed forty-two men, Hardin became one of the most notorious gunfighters and outlaws of the American West of the late 1800s.

In the Bible, as in many cultures today, names hold special significance. Announcing the birth of God’s Son, an angel instructed Joseph to name Mary’s child “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The meaning of Jesus’s name—“Jehovah saves”—confirmed His mission to save from sin.

Unlike Hardin, Jesus completely and thoroughly lived up to His name. Through His death and resurrection, He accomplished His mission of rescue. John affirmed the life-giving power of Jesus’s name, saying, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The book of Acts invites everyone to trust Him, for, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

All who call on Jesus’s matchless name in faith can experience for themselves the forgiveness and hope He provides. Have you called on His name?

Thank You, Father, for providing salvation through Your Son, Jesus. I love You.

Jesus’s name is also His mission—to seek and to save that which was lost.

By Bill Crowder

INSIGHT

In the Bible, people’s names often end up calling attention to their failures. For example, at birth Samson’s parents gave him a name that meant “like the sun.” By the time he died, his name reminds us of one who lived a dark and troubled life.

The names of God remind us of one whose character never fails. He is named, described, and remembered not only as the self-existent one (Exodus 3:14), but as the all-powerful Creator (Genesis 1:1), the Lord who provides (22:13–14), the Lord who gives peace (Judges 6:24), the Lord who is present (Ezekiel 48:35), and ultimately, the God and Father of our Savior (Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3).

Mart DeHaan

 

 

http://www.odb.org

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Ingesting Stories

 

For most of us, the study of doctrine is best left to academics and theologians.  Terms used in doctrinal formulations like supralapsarian, infralapsarian, incompatiblism, predestination, or compatibalism either leave us tongue-tied, confused, or totally disinterested. If we wonder at all, we wonder what doctrine has to do with our day-to-day lives, especially as we struggle with terms we don’t understand and principles we find hard to practice.  If we’re honest, reading and studying theology is something most of us would like to avoid, just as we’d like to avoid a root canal.

Historically, of course, the formation of Christian doctrine served to tell the story of the gospel.  Doctrines are composed of the central tenets of belief, so an understanding of doctrine shapes what Christians think about our faith.  But how many Christians have really taken the time to think through the implication(s) or application(s) of doctrine to the living out of our lives?  In other words, is a belief something we only think in our heads?  Or is a belief something we demonstrate in our lives?  More important, if what we think in our heads has no bearing over the ways in which we live in this world, do we truly believe?

I was forced to think about these questions, as I studied the doctrine of the Incarnation. By its very nature, the doctrine of the Incarnation is application-oriented since it deals with the belief that in Jesus Christ the whole fullness of God dwelt bodily.  The more I thought about the Incarnation,the more I realized that doctrine needs to be similarly incarnational.  Doctrine must be “enfleshed” in our very beings, just as our skin encases our bones and organs.

Another way of thinking about incarnational doctrine is to think about eating.  Food sustains our very being and fuels us for living. In the same way, as we digest ideas, they should emerge as a part of ourvery being, just as food nourishes and sustains us by being incorporated into our cells, tissue, and organs.  Infact, being intentional about the implications of the Incarnation can help our understanding of the true nature of doctrine—as lived belief.

Of course the preeminent example of incarnation is in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. But incarnational doctrine begins all the way back in the Old Testament.  God comes to be with his people in their wilderness wanderings as a pillar of fire and a cloud.  God “dwells” among the people in the Ark of the Covenant, and then in the Tabernacle.  Later, the Temple became the incarnational focal point of God’s presence with God’s people.

Other vivid and concrete images of incarnation occur in the lives of the Hebrew prophets.  In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet is told “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll and go, speak to the house of Israel” (cf. Ezekiel 2:9-3:3). This scroll is not just any scroll.  It is the book of the Law,the Scriptures, the teachings and the doctrines of belief that guided the nation in its worship of God.  Ronald Rolheiser suggests a profound incarnational application for this image: “The idea is that they should digest the word and turn it into their own flesh so that people will be able to see the word of God in a living body rather than on a dead parchment….We have to digest something and turn it, physically, into the flesh of our own bodies so it becomes part of what we look like.  If we would do this with the word of God, others would not have to [only] read the Bible to see what God is like,they would need only to look at our faces and our lives to see God.”(1)

Could it be that we could so imbibe and ingest doctrine a the beautiful teachings that come from God’s word into our lives, that they would radiate from our faces?  That the way we lived, spoke, acted—even our very countenance—would give witness to the truth of God’s word?  This is incarnation application.  We incarnate God’s word, God’s truth and love, as our lives bear witness to Him.  Doctrine is lived out, and our beliefs are enfleshed in our deeds and our actions, and even in our words.  As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the word of God wherever you go, even use words, if necessary.”(2)

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

(1) Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing: The Search for Christian Spirituality (New York: DoubledayBooks, 1999), 102.

(2) Ibid., 82.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – Learning to Cope with Criticism

 

Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer. — Romans 12:12 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource The Power of Being Thankful Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

No matter what we do in life, at some point in time we will all face a level of criticism. But it is possible to learn how to cope with criticism and not let it affect your life.

We can be grateful for the example the apostle Paul set for us. Paul experienced criticism often, but he said that he was not concerned about the judgment of others. He knew he was in God’s hands and that in the end he would stand before God and give an account of himself and his life. He would not stand before any man to be judged (see 1 Corinthians 4:3–4).

You may not always do everything right, but God sees your heart. If you’re attempting to live for God and looking for ways to love others, God is pleased (see Matthew 22:37–40). Don’t worry about the criticism of others; God loves you. His love and approval are all you need.

Prayer Starter: Father, I thank You that I don’t have to listen to the criticism of others. You see my heart and You know my motives. I thank You that Your approval is greater than the approval of any person. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Happy are the Pure in Heart

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, KJV).

Jesus had a flashpoint against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They professed to be something they were not. Externally they did everything right, adhering meticulously to all the details of the law, yet He referred to them as being “whitewashed tombs” internally, and being “full of dead men’s bones.” Thus, obviously, the “pure in heart” did not apply to the Pharisees, according to His view of them.

In John 14:21, Jesus says, “The one who obeys Me is the one who loves Me and because he loves Me My Father will love him and I will too and I will reveal Myself to him.” That is another way of saying what He said in the verse in Matthew above. The pure in heart shall see God because He will reveal Himself to those who obey, and only the pure in heart obey.

If God seems impersonal to you, far off and unreachable, you may want to look into the mirror of your heart to see if anything there would grieve or quench the Spirit, short- circuiting His communication with you.

You may be sure of this promise of God: The pure in heart will experience the reality of His presence within.

If for some reason this is not your experience, God has made provision whereby you can have vital fellowship with Him. Breathe spiritually. Exhale by confessing yours sins, and inhale by appropriating the fullness of God’s Spirit. Begin to delight yourself in the Lord and in His Word, asking God to give you a pure heart, and you may be assured that God will become a reality to you.

Bible Reading:Psalm 18:20-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Because I desire to have a close personal relationship with God and to live a supernatural life, I will keep my heart pure before Him.

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – As Good as it Gets?

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Is this as good as it gets?  Many people assume that it is! Many people think their deepest joy and most profound happiness happens somewhere between the delivery room and the funeral home.  Is that as good as it gets? For the Christian, this world is as bad as it gets.  Set your heart on this hope from the 2 Corinthians:

“Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day.  We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles.  We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Because God’s promises are unbreakable, out hope is unshakable!

Read more Unshakable Hope

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

http://www.maxlucado.com

Denison Forum – “Storm of a lifetime” threatens 10 million people

Normally, Apple’s fall launch of a new iPhone and other products would be leading the news. The feature that helps users limit their iPhone use is getting special attention along with some ridicule.

However, today is not a normal day.

A National Weather Service meteorologist calls Hurricane Florence the “storm of a lifetime” for portions of the Carolina coast. He is warning of “the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm.” More than ten million people are under storm watches and warnings this morning.

Yesterday we discussed the theological implications of natural disasters like Florence. Today, let’s turn to practical biblical principles. The storm calls on us to respond in two significant ways.

God’s call to solidarity

As I was watching the news coverage of Florence yesterday, the thought occurred to me: I’m not monitoring this crisis as though someone I love is experiencing it. If members of my family lived on the Carolina coast, I would be much more emotionally engaged in this unfolding tragedy.

Most of us are the same way. We’re concerned for those who experience a disaster, then we go about our day, subconsciously grateful that this isn’t happening to us. In the case of Florence, we might even congratulate ourselves for not living in an area susceptible to hurricanes (though inland regions deal with tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, and other natural disasters).

Continue reading Denison Forum – “Storm of a lifetime” threatens 10 million people