Charles Stanley – How to Strengthen Faith

 

Matthew 17:14-20

How do you know whether your faith is strong or weak? We realize that as believers, we’re supposed to trust God with every aspect of life, but circumstances may cause us to waver. This is not a new problem—five times in the book of Matthew, Jesus pointed out examples and symptoms of what He called “little faith.”

Anxiety. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed people who were worried about their basic needs being met (Matt. 6:25-34). He assured them of divine provision if God’s kingdom was their top priority.

Fear. When a storm arose, the disciples were afraid even though the Creator of the wind and the sea was with them, asleep in the boat (Matt. 8:23-27).

Focus. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he had faith to walk on water. But when he focused on his circumstances, he began to sink. (Matt. 14:24-33).

Forgetfulness. Despite the feeding of thousands, the disciples failed to remember Christ’s past provision in their current situation (Matt. 16:5-12).

Inadequacy.  Although Jesus had given His disciples authority to cast out demons, they felt inadequate and lacked divine power when faced with a particularly difficult situation (Matt. 17:14-20).

In each case, the wrong mindset resulted in a lack of confidence in Christ. Diminished faith begins not with circumstances but with our thinking and focus. Therefore, if we want to increase our trust in God, we must fill our minds with the truth of Scripture, remember our Father’s faithfulness to us in the past, and look for His hand working in our present situation. When our minds are renewed, our faith will be also.

Bible in One Year: Mark 10-12

 

http://www.intouch.org/

 

Our Daily Bread — The Prayer and the Chain Saw

 

Read: Nehemiah 1 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 50–52; 1 Thessalonians 5

Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant. Nehemiah 1:11

I respect my Aunt Gladys’s intrepid spirit, even if that very spirit concerns me sometimes. The source of my concern came in the form of news she shared in an email: “I cut down a walnut tree yesterday.”

You must understand that my chainsaw-wielding aunt is seventy-six years old! The tree had grown up behind her garage. When the roots threatened to burst through the concrete, she knew it had to go. But she did tell us, “I always pray before I tackle a job like that.”

While serving as butler to the king of Persia during the time of Israel’s exile, Nehemiah heard news concerning the people who had returned to Jerusalem. Some work needed to be done. “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3). The broken walls left them vulnerable to attack by enemies. Nehemiah had compassion for his people and wanted to get involved. But prayer came first, especially since a new king had written a letter to stop the building efforts in Jerusalem (see Ezra 4). Nehemiah prayed for his people (Nehemiah 1:5–10), and then asked God for help before requesting permission from the king to leave (v. 11).

Is prayer your response? It’s always the best way to face any task or trial in life.

Father, Your Holy Spirit reminds us to pray first. Today, we commit to doing so as Your Spirit prompts us.

Make prayer a first priority, instead of a last resort.

By Linda Washington

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Does Religion Oppress Women?

A New York Times blog written by Nicholas Kristof recently caught my attention.  “Does Religion Oppress Women?” was the question and the title of the article.  As someone who speaks and writes on behalf of the Christian faith, I have often heard this asserted as a reason against belief in the Christian faith—or any faith at all.  But I am also a woman and I wondered how a secular journalist like Kristof might answer this question.  Moreover, I wondered what in his travels and experience he had seen that made him write about this topic in particular.

Kristof has traveled extensively across the African continent and has spent time in some of Africa’s poorest communities.  In his many essays documenting these experiences, he often talks about the role of faith, acknowledging both its positive role and its negative contribution in the life of African women specifically.  He writes, “I’ve seen people kill in the name of religion… But I’ve also seen Catholic nuns showing unbelievable courage and compassion in corners of the world where no other aid workers are around, and mission clinics and church-financed schools too numerous to mention.”(1)  So, is religion, and Christianity in particular, good for women?  Kristof does not offer an easy answer to this question.

And of course, there are not easy answers.  As recently as April 2010, as reported in Christianity Today magazine, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that Christians in some countries in Africa still practiced female genital mutilation.(2)  For many, and particularly persons of faith, these findings are very troubling.

In fact, these findings take on doleful irony when one looks at the earliest Christian movement and its attraction for women in particular.  The world of the Roman Empire, filled with a diverse array of religious options, could not compete with the growing Christian movement in its appeal to women.  So many women were becoming Christians, in fact, that pagan religious leaders used its attraction to women as an argument against Christianity.  In his treatise, On True Doctrine, the pagan leader Celsus wrote in alarming terms about the subversive nature of Christianity to the stability of the Empire and regarded the disproportionate number of women among the Christians as evidence of the inherent irrationality and vulgarity of the Christian faith.  Historian David Bentley Hart writes of Celsus’s alarm:  “It is unlikely that Celsus would have thought the Christians worth his notice had he not recognized something uniquely dangerous lurking in their gospel of love and peace… [A]nd his treatise contains a considerable quantity of contempt for the ridiculous rabble and pliable simpletons that Christianity attracted into its fold: the lowborn and uneducated, slaves, women and children.”(3)  Indeed, Christianity attracted women and others deemed on the bottom rung of society because it elevated their status from an often oppressive Roman patriarchy.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Does Religion Oppress Women?

Joyce Meyer – Break Your Box

 

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He [Jesus] sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask [box] of very costly oil of spikenard [perfume]. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. — Mark 14:3 (NKJV)

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

I believe that breaking (saying no to) the flesh is what today’s Scripture is about. The woman broke that box so the expensive perfume could be poured out. In the same way, we have to “break” our flesh.

We all have sweet perfume in us. But our alabaster box (our flesh) has to be broken so the perfume (the good things of God) can flow out of us.

We are “pregnant” with the good things of God. We each have the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faith, meekness, and temperance. But many times, our alabaster box (our flesh) keeps them from being poured out.

Oh, but we love our alabaster box. We don’t want to break it because, after all, it is such a pretty box. We spend so much time taking care of it; we don’t want it to be broken.

But we must love God more than we love anything else. We need to circumcise our flesh and be willing to let go of the things of the flesh, so God’s blessings can flow to us and through us.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I choose to break my alabaster box in order to express my love for You and receive everything You have for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Brings You Comfort

 

Jesus said, “But I will send you the Comforter – the Holy Spirit, the source of all truth. He will come to you from the Father and will tell you all about Me” (John 15:26).

For years I was among the more than 95 percent of church members who, according to various surveys, are not knowledgeable concerning the person and ministry of the Holy spirit. Then God, in His gracious love and wisdom, showed me how simple it is to release His power into and through my life by faith, just as years before I had received assurance of my salvation by faith.

If I had only one message to proclaim to the Christian world, it would be this: how to know and experience, moment by moment, day by day, the reality of the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit. Everything that has to do with the Christian life involves God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.

We are born again through the ministry of the Spirit (John 3). The Holy Spirit inspired men of old to record the holy, inspired Word of God (2 Peter 1:21). Only those who are filled, controlled and empowered with His presence can comprehend what He communicated to those writers centuries ago, which is the message that He has for us today (1 Corinthians 2:14).

We cannot live holy lives apart form the Holy Spirit, for He alone can produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) in our lives. We cannot pray intelligently unless the Holy Spirit enable us, for He makes intercession for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26). We have no power to witness for Christ apart form His power (Acts 1:8). Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to live a supernatural life.

Bible Reading:John 14:16-21

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I determine to learn everything I can about the Holy Spirit. I will refer to the concordance in my Bible and study every reference to Him in the Scriptures, and ask my pastor, or other spiritual leaders in whom I have confidence, to recommend books on the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. I will not be satisfied with anything less than the love, joy, peace, victory and power that comes from living daily in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Let Prayer Be Our First Option

Listen to Today’s Devotion

It was a tense deacon’s meeting.  Apparently there was more agitation than agreement, and after a lengthy discussion someone suggested, “Why don’t we pray about it?”  To which another questioned, “Has it come to that?”

What causes us to think of prayer as the last option rather than the first?  I can think of two reasons: feelings of independence and feelings of insignificance. We think, God doesn’t want to hear my problems. He’s got famine and the Mafia to deal with. I don’t want to trouble him with my mess. The last thing you should worry about is being a nuisance to God.  If that’s your thought, may I share with you a favorite verse of mine? “Because He delights in me, He saved me” (Psalm 18:19).

God can live anywhere in the universe and he chose your heart.  He’s crazy about you!  Why don’t you talk to him?

Read more A Gentle Thunder

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

http://www.maxlucado.com

Denison Forum – Is your sports team killing you?

Steven Clary and his friends were ecstatic at halftime of the 2017 Super Bowl: his Atlanta Falcons were up 28-3 over New England. By the time the Patriots came back to defeat his team, he was in the hospital with chest pain.

A study published last year suggests that the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat can substantially affect the cardiovascular system. Heart rates peak most often during scoring opportunities and overtime.

September and October are the only months when you can watch baseball, basketball, hockey, and football. But our fixation with athletics is not confined to this season of the year: Americans spend $100 billion on sports each year.

According to a Barna study, 64 percent of Americans think pro athletes have more influence in society than pastors. We commonly refer to “idolizing” sports figures and other celebrities. Perhaps we’re more right than we know.

The sin at the heart of all sins

I have a wooden idol on one of the shelves in my library. I purchased it nearly forty years ago when I was a missionary in East Malaysia. It is a hand-carved image of a bird with a large beak. I was told that some of the natives viewed it as a nature god.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Is your sports team killing you?