Charles Stanley –Obedience or Preference?


Matthew 26:36-42

Every believer must choose whether he will live by the principle of obedience or follow his preferences. When a person commits to doing the Lord’s will, then every situation and decision is sifted through the standard of “God said it, so I’m going to do it—and that’s the end of it.” He or she may complain, weep, or try to argue. But in the end, the individual will be obedient, no matter what.

I recall being invited years ago to interview with a church in Atlanta. During the entire trip, I told the Lord that I didn’t want to move. I fussed and carried on a good while, but I knew Atlanta would be my new home. I didn’t like the idea, but the alternative was unimaginable: There are few things more unpleasant than living with the nagging anxiety that you missed out on something good.

The Lord certainly understands our need to question, cry out, and petition Him for the strength to do what He commands. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a high priest who can sympathize with us. Jesus wasn’t excited or happy about the cross. He grieved over the coming separation from His Father. Nevertheless, He was committed to following God’s will (Matt. 26:39). No one took Christ’s life from Him; He laid it down (John 10:18).

Our lives are about fulfilling the heavenly Father’s purpose. Many people miss out on its goodness because they choose to follow personal preferences instead, believing their own choices are better. Obedience is sometimes hard, but the struggle and sacrifice are worth it. The Lord’s ways and principles lead believers to joy and peace.

Bible in One Year: Matthew 16-18

Our Daily Bread — Our Singing Father


Read: Zephaniah 3:14–20 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 30–31; Philippians 4

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will . . . rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

No one told me before my wife and I had children how important singing would be. My children are now six, eight, and ten. But all three had problems sleeping early on. Each night, my wife and I took turns rocking our little ones, praying they’d nod off quickly. I spent hundreds of hours rocking them, desperately crooning lullabies to (hopefully!) speed up the process. But as I sang over our children night after night, something amazing happened: It deepened my bond of love and delight for them in ways I had never dreamed.

Did you know Scripture describes our heavenly Father singing over His children too? Just as I sought to soothe my children with song, so Zephaniah concludes with a portrait of our heavenly Father singing over His people: “He will take great delight in you; in his love he will . . . rejoice over you with singing” (3:17).

Much of Zephaniah’s prophetic book warns of a coming time of judgment for those who’d rejected God. Yet that’s not where it ends. Zephaniah concludes not with judgment but with a description of God not only rescuing His people from all their suffering (vv. 19–20) but also tenderly loving and rejoicing over them with song (v. 17).

Our God is not only a “Mighty Warrior who saves” and restores (v. 17) but a loving Father who tenderly sings songs of love over us.

Father, help us to embrace Your tender love and “hear” the songs You sing.

Our heavenly Father delights in His children like a parent singing to a newborn baby.

By Adam Holz


The singing heart of God (Zephaniah 3:17) is but one of the many ways He expresses His love and care for us. Of course, we readily acknowledge that He rescues us and provides for us. We also know He made us and empowers us to live for Him in this world. But that is only the beginning. In Luke 15 we find that, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, God rejoices over our rescue and return to Him. Additionally, He comforts us in our seasons of trial (2 Corinthians 1:3–8). Beyond that, He mourns with us in our pain—even to the point of valuing our tears (Psalm 56:8). In these and countless other ways, our God continually expresses the depth of His love and concern for His children.

How have you experienced that care in the different seasons of your own life?

Bill Crowder

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – For Lazarus and Rachel

Jesus tells the story of a rich man who is content to live comfortably with the great chasm between his success and a poor man’s predicament. At his own gate each day, the man passes a beggar named Lazarus, who is covered in sores and waits with the hope that he might be satisfied with something that falls from the rich man’s table. But as Jesus describes the rich man, he sees neither Lazarus nor his plight. Ironically, when the rich man dies and is suffering in Hades with his own agony and aspirations, he still chooses to view Lazarus as inferior, worthy only of being a servant. “Father Abraham, have mercy on me,” he pleads, “and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony.”(1) Twice he makes it clear in his requests that he sees the man who sat at his gate as subordinate at best. Having refused all his days to see the waiting Lazarus as a fellow soul, a suffering neighbor, the chasms the rich man allowed in life had now grown fixed in death.

Another story that emerges from the life of Jesus came before he was old enough to tell stories of his own. The prophet Isaiah told of a child who would be born for the people, a son given to the world with authority resting on his shoulders. Hundreds of years later, in Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, this prophecy was being fulfilled: The angel had appeared. A child was born. The magi had come. The ancient story was taking shape in a field in Bethlehem. But when Herod learned from the magi that a king would be born, he gave orders to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. At this murderous edict, another prophecy, this one spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, was sadly fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping; Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”(2) While the escape of Mary and Joseph to Egypt allowed Jesus to tell the story of Lazarus years later, the cost, as Rachel and all the mothers’ who didn’t escape knew well, was wrenchingly great.

Of the many objections to Christianity, one that stands out in my mind as troubling is the argument that to be Christian is to withdraw from the world around us, to follow fairy tales with wishful hearts and myths that insist we stop thinking and believe that all will be right in the end because God says so. In such a vein, Karl Marx depicts Christianity as a kind of drug that anesthetizes people to the suffering in the world and the wretchedness of life. Likewise, in Sigmund Freud’s estimation, belief in God functions as an infantile dream that helps us evade the pain and helplessness we both feel and see around us. I don’t find these critiques and others like them troubling because I find them accurate of the kingdom Jesus described in any way. I find them troubling because so many Christians live as if Freud and Marx are quite right in their analyses.

In our impervious boxes and minimalist depictions of the Christian story, we can comfortably live as if in our own world, blind and unconcerned with the world of suffering around us, intent to tell our feel-good stories while withdrawing from the harder scenes of life. In fact, to pretend as if Christianity does not at times function as a wishful escape from the world is perhaps another kind of wishful thinking. There are some critiques of Christianity we ignore at our own peril.

But in reality the stories Jesus left us with reach unapologetically beyond wishful thinking; his proclamations of the kingdom among us are far from declarations of escapism. The story of Rachel weeping for her slaughtered children and Lazarus waiting in agony at the gate of someone who could make a difference are two stories among many that refuse to let us sweep the suffering of the world under the rug of unimportance. The fact that they are included in the gospel that brings us the hope of Christ is not only what makes that hope endurable, but what proves Freud and Marx entirely wrong. Jesus embodies the kind of hope that can reach even the most hopeless among us. He hasn’t overlooked the suffering of the world anymore than he has invited his followers to do so. It is a part of the very story he tells; it is a story written on his own scarred hands and feet.

Thus, precisely because the faith Christians proclaim is not a drug that anesthetizes or a dream that deludes, we must tell the whole story and not merely the parts that lessen our own pain. We must also live as people watchful and ready to be near those who weep and wait—the poor, the demoralized, and the suffering. There are far too many Rachels who are still weeping and Lazaruses who are still waiting, waiting for men and women of faith to inhabit the good news they proclaim, to live into the startlingly real identity of Christ himself.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Luke 16:24.

(2) Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18.

Joyce Meyer – The “Much Greater Hunger”

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. — Romans 14:19

Adapted from the resource Trusting God Day by Day Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Mother Teresa said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

I have discovered that most people we meet or come into contact with in our everyday lives do not have a sense of their infinite value as children of God. I think Satan works very hard to make people feel devalued and worthless, but we can neutralize the effect of his lies and insinuations by building people up, encouraging, and edifying them. One way to do this is with a sincere compliment, which is one of the most valuable gifts in this world.

Most people are quick to compare themselves with others, and in doing so, they often fail to see their own abilities and worth. Making another person feel valuable isn’t expensive and doesn’t have to be time consuming. All we need to do is get ourselves off of our minds long enough to think about someone else, and then find something encouraging to say.

Making people feel valuable won’t cost any money, but it gives them something worth more than anything money can buy. Offering a sincere compliment may seem like a small thing, but it gives someone tremendous strength.

I believe in having goals. As I was working with God to develop good habits in the area of encouraging others, I challenged myself to compliment at least three people each day. I recommend that you do something similar to help you become a frequent encourager.

Prayer Starter: Father, please use me to help others understand their true value. Open my eyes to those around me. Help me to make a habit of building people up with sincere love and encouragement. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Trusting Is God’s Gift


“Because of His kindness you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it.” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Joe had asked Jesus to come into his life many times but was never sure of his salvation. “How can I be sure I’m a Christian and will go to heaven when I die?” he asked.

I explained that it was not enough to ask Jesus to come to live within us and forgive our sins. We must believe that He will do exactly what He promised to do. By faith, we must be able to say, “I know that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for my sins, that He was raised from the dead and that He will come into my life and change me if I ask Him to. I know that He will make me His child and never leave me because all of these are promises from God’s holy, inspired Word. Therefore, I believe the promise of Ephesians 2:8,9 – that I attain salvation through trust in Christ.”

Through the years I have seen thousands of individuals profess faith in Christ after hearing or reading John 1:12, (KJV) “But as many received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God,” and Revelation 3:20, where Jesus promised, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him” (NAS). But not everyone with whom I have prayed has received the assurance of salvation. The reason? It is not enough to ask Christ into our lives; we must believe His promise, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8, NAS).

Bible Reading:I Peter 1:3-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Have I been asking Jesus Christ into my life frequently through the years, but am not sure He is there, not sure of eternal life, or that I would go to heaven if I died today? If so, I will pray, “Right now, Lord Jesus, whatever may have taken place in my life prior to this moment, I want to declare that I believe in You as my Savior and wish to follow You as my Lord. So, for the last time, I invite You to come into my life. Forgive my sins; cleanse me; make me the kind of person You want me to be. By faith in You and in the authority of Your inspired Word, I now acknowledge that You live within me, and I believe Your promise, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.’* Therefore, I will never insult You by asking You to into my life again, but will hereafter thank You daily that You indwell me, that I have eternal life and that through the enabling of Your power I can live a supernatural life. *Hebrews 13:5, NAS

Max Lucado – Drenched in Hope


Listen to Today’s Devotion

Jesus encouraged his followers to “always pray and never lose hope” (Luke 18:1).  Never lose hope?  Never be fainthearted?  Never feel overwhelmed?  Never get sucked into the sewer of despair?  Can you imagine?  No day lost to anguish.  No decision driven by fear.  This is God’s will for you and me.  He wants us to “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).”  Abound…what an extraordinary verb to use with hope.

For about half an hour recently, the sky above me became a waterfall.  I had to pull my car off the road.  Windshield wipers stood no chance against the downpour. Every square inch of the highway was drenched.  Rain abounded.  Could you use some abounding hope?  God will drench your world with hope; it is His promise.  And because God’s promises are unbreakable our hope is unshakable!

Read more Unshakable Hope

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

Denison Forum – What do politics and UFC have in common?

Did you hear about the fight that began after it ended?

Three million people paid to view Khabib Nurmagomedov fight Conor McGregor in an Ultimate Fighting Championship title bout Saturday night. A bitter personal conflict between the two has been brewing for months. After Nurmagomedov won, he climbed out of the octagon-shaped cage in which they fought and attacked one of McGregor’s corner men. Two men from Nurmagomedov’s camp jumped into the cage and attacked McGregor.

Did the verdict settle the hostilities? McGregor: “I always say you should aim for peace, but if you can’t get peace, you should aim between the eyes. This will never be over.”

The heart of the issue

The UFC fight feels like a parable for America’s political culture this morning. After the Senate voted 50-48 to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh, USA Today headlined: “Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation didn’t settle this fight. It ignited it.

petition to impeach Kavanaugh has now gathered over 125,000 signatures. Republicans are hoping the fight galvanizes support ahead of the midterm elections in November.

The conflict over Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation was not just another example of the divisive rhetoric that has split America into “red” and “blue” states for years. Nor is the animosity solely due to the fact that a five-to-four conservative majority now sits on the Court.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, explained the issue succinctly yesterday: if the conservative justices do not overturn Roe v. Wade, “they will nullify it, pretty much.” She expects the new Court to allow more state restrictions on abortion.

And this is the heart of the issue.

When the system fails

Continue reading Denison Forum – What do politics and UFC have in common?