Charles Stanley – Our Testimony

 

Acts 6:1-6

A testimony is one person’s profession of faith in Jesus. However, our declaration of belief is much more than the story we tell. A good witness for the Lord consists of three parts: character, conduct, and conversation.

As Christians, we rightly place great emphasis on crafting a solid personal account of the Lord’s work in our life. We also talk about the ways that we can show Jesus Christ to our friends, family, and coworkers through our actions. But character is the part of every believer’s testimony that underlies both Christlike behavior and an honest life story.

In general, what we do and say represents the kind of person we are on the inside. Similarly, we can tell a lot about Philip’s character by noticing his actions and words recorded in Scripture. From among many believers, Philip was chosen as one who was wise and full of the Spirit. But he wasn’t selected for a prestigious ministry position—he was sent to serve food. Yet he went willingly to do this work and every other job the Lord gave Him, which shows his obedient spirit (Acts 6:5; Acts 8:5; Acts 8:26). We can be certain that he was a sincere and trustworthy man, because when he spoke, people listened (Acts 8:6). Philip’s testimony shines in every way.

You cannot trick God into thinking your character is righteous if it isn’t. Nor can you fake moral conduct or conversation with people for very long. Sooner or later, a proud, bitter, or unkind spirit yields behavior and speech contrary to the Christian message. But godly character produces real spiritual fruit.

Bible in One Year: Hebrews 10-11

 

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Our Daily Bread — Following the Leader

 

Read: Luke 9:21–24 | Bible in a Year: Micah 1–3; Revelation 11

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

In the sky over our house, three fighter jets scream through the sky—flying in formation so close together they appear to be one. Wow,” I say to my husband, Dan. “Impressive,” he agrees. We live near an Air Force base and it’s not unusual to see such sights.

Every time these jets fly over, however, I have the same question: How can they fly so close together and not lose control? One obvious reason, I learned, is humility. Trusting that the lead pilot is traveling at precisely the correct speed and trajectory, the wing pilots surrender any desire to switch directions or question their leader’s path. Instead, they get in formation and closely follow. The result? A more powerful team.

It’s no different for followers of Jesus. He says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

His path was one of self-denial and suffering, which can be hard to follow. But to be His effective disciples, we too are invited to put aside selfish desires and pick up spiritual burdens daily—serving others first instead of ourselves, for example—as we closely follow Him.

It’s quite a sight, this humbling, close walk with God. Following His lead, and staying so close, we can appear with Christ as one. Then others won’t see us, they’ll see Him. There’s a simple word for what that looks like: “Wow!”

Please, God, draw us close to You. Fill us with Your Spirit of love and joy and peace. Enable us to be a shining light in our world.

Our lives are a window through which others can see Jesus.

By Patricia Raybon

INSIGHT

Jesus had been proclaiming His identity and mission for years, and now His closest followers understood who He is. But Jesus answers Peter’s confession that Jesus is “God’s Messiah” (Luke 9:20) with a curious warning “not to tell this to anyone” (v. 21). Jesus says in no uncertain terms that the disciples should keep quiet about His identity. Why would Jesus tell them not to let people know who He is? The answer may be in verse 22, specifically in the word must. Spreading Jesus’s true identity may have interfered with His larger mission. He needed to die, and if the crowds knew He was the Messiah, they may have taken actions that might have interfered, such as making Him king by force (John 6:15) or perhaps stoning Him (10:31). Jesus told them to keep His identity a secret for the sake of His mission—“to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

J.R. Hudberg

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Light in the Darkness

Winters, in the north-eastern part of India, especially Shillong where I live, can be bitingly cold, and more so when it rains. One year, the winter was particularly wet, and for weeks on end there seemed no respite from the cold. One gloomy day followed another with nothing to lighten the dismal scene of overcast skies and thick blankets of cloud stretched like a shroud from one end of the horizon to the other. Suffocated by the cheerless gloom that had pervaded my very heart and soul, small woes and anxieties that had seemed miniscule before, now seems threateningly gigantic. Funny how the weather can affect one’s mood! And just as I was beginning to feel that sunny days are but a distant memory, suddenly, the sun rose up one morning, bright and strong, shining in a blue cloudless sky. I was immediately reminded of a song in the Bible likening the sun to a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, rejoicing like a strong man to run its race.(1)

As I was reflecting on the sight, I noticed my neighbor’s door opened. Faithfully, as he had probably been doing every single day of his life, he turned his face to the sun and paid obeisance to it. With hands folded and eyes devoutly closed, he continued in this salutation of worship for a few minutes. As I sat there in the sun, enjoying the delicious warmth soaking into my body, I can understand exactly why people would want to worship it. There is something very nurturing, healing and life-giving about the sun’s warmth. No wonder that civilizations right from the Mayans and the ancient Egyptians to the Hindus of today, revered and worshipped it.

But does it have to end there, I thought? Should not our contemplation of the wonder of creation lead us to contemplate on the greater wonder of the One who is the cause of all existence? In his song offerings, the Gitanjali, the great seer and bard, Rabindranath Tagore captures the very essence of this truth when he sings: “The morning light has flooded my eyes—this is thy message to my heart. Thy face is bent from above, thy eyes look down on my eyes, and my heart has touched thy feet.”(2) Clearly, for Tagore, every part of creation is but the whisperings of the Almighty to the human heart.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Light in the Darkness

Joyce Meyer – Winning God’s Way

 

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. — Psalm 25:4

Adapted from the resource Hearing from God Each Morning Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Most of us are happy when we get what we want. That’s human nature. But when we walk with God as we should, other things become more important than seeing our desires fulfilled—things like seeking God’s desires for our lives, hearing His voice as we make decisions, and being obedient to His leading in every situation.

Dave and I once saw a picture in a store in the mall and I wanted to buy it. Dave didn’t think we needed it, so I threw one of my silent temper tantrums; I simply became quiet because I was angry.

“You okay?” Dave asked.

“Fine. I’m fine, fine, just fine.” I responded with my mouth while my mind was thinking, You always try to tell me what to do. What can’t you just leave me alone and let me do what I want to do? Neh, neh, neh.

I continued pouting for about an hour. I was trying to manipulate Dave. I knew that with his peaceful, phlegmatic personality; he would rather let me have my way than fight with me. I was too immature in the Lord to understand that my behavior was ungodly.

I began to push Dave to buy the picture and we finally bought it. As I placed it in my home, the Holy Spirit said to me, “You know, you really didn’t win. You got your picture, but you still lost because you didn’t do it My way.”

The only way to win in life is to do things God’s way. Then, even if we don’t get what we want, we have the great satisfaction of knowing we have obeyed His voice—and that outlasts the satisfaction that comes with any earthly possession or achievement.

Prayer Starter: Father, I want to do things Your way. Please continue to change me so my thoughts, words, attitudes and actions reflect Your character in everything I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Practicing Patience

 

“You need to keep on patiently doing God’s will if you want Him to do for you all that He has promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

During a Bible study on this passage, Ted made this contribution: “Spiritually,” he said, “I’m a sprinter, not a long distance runner.”

Numerous Christians would identify with that for there is little patience, persistence, and tenacity among believers. When adversity comes, many of us are prone to give up and lose our wind. That is the reason James says in his first chapter, verses 2-4, “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”

You will note the emphasis on patience. All of us are faced with problems, testings, temptations, adversities and trials in varying degrees. We can determine, by our attitudes and actions, whether or not our tragedies will turn to triumph. Our heartache and sorrow can become joy and rejoicing simply by our patience, which is the ability to relax in the confidence that God rules in the affairs of men and nations. Everything is under His control. And as we walk in faith and obedience, we will be a part of His wonderful and perfect plan.

But the question may be asked, how can we increase this rare trait or gift of patience that unlocks the door to supernatural living? The answer is simple. It is found in Galatians 5:22-23 in the listing of the fruit of the Spirit, for one of the nine characteristics mentioned is patience or longsuffering.

Are you patient with your husband, wife, parents, children, neighbors and those with whom you work in the office? Or do you find yourself critical and complaining – more prone to judge than to bless?

As we more and more yield ourselves to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, the fruit of patience is increased, along with all the other fruit.

Bible Reading:Hebrews 6:12-15

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will invite the Holy Spirit to control and empower my life moment by moment, day by day, knowing that the fruit of the Spirit, including patience, will increase and mature in my life.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Purchased With a High Price

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

The Christmas tree hunt is on!  The preferences are different, but the desire is the same.  We want the perfect Christmas tree!  You search for the right one.  You walk the rows.  You examine them from all angles.  This one is perfect!

God does the same.  He has picked you.  He knows just the place where you’ll be placed.  He has a barren living room in desperate need of warmth and joy.  A corner of the world needs some color.  He selected you with that place in mind.  God made you on purpose with a purpose.  He interwove calendar and character, circumstance and personality to create the right person for the right corner of the world, and then he paid the price to take you home. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “God bought you with a high price.”  The Christmas promise is this:  we have a Savior and his name is Jesus!

Read more Because of Bethlehem

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Christian baker being sued again

Jack Phillips made headlines in 2012 when he refused to make a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. The suit against him went to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor.

Now Phillips is in court again, this time for refusing to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission claims that he discriminated against Autumn Scardina, who transitioned from male to female and wanted him to make a cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate.

Phillips’s attorneys call the complaint an “obvious setup.” They say their client “believes as a matter of religious conviction that sex–the status of being male or female–is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.”

So do millions of evangelical Christians, including me.

“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”

I expect to see more such lawsuits in the coming years as our post-Christian culture collides with Christian morality. When so-called civil rights compete with religious rights, civil rights usually win.

As believers navigate the legal and social implications of our faith in this challenging day, there is an imperative we need to remember: our lives must bear the scrutiny our beliefs are sure to provoke.

Two related facts follow.

One: People deserve to know what we believe and why we believe it.

Peter called his readers to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15a). God’s word speaks with powerful relevance to every issue we face today. It is vital that we speak his truth to our times.

You’ve probably heard the Francis of Assisi quotation, “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” As researcher Ed Stetzer notes, there are two problems with this quote. First, Francis never said it. Second, it’s incomplete theology.

Stetzer: “Using that statement is a bit like saying, ‘Feed the hungry at all times; if necessary, use food.’” The gospel is good news, and, as Stetzer notes, “good news needs to be told.”

Two: Our lives must mirror our words.

Peter continued: “Yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (vv. 15c-16, my emphasis).

We must be prepared to defend our faith, remembering Jesus’ warning: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20). But our witness loses its power and credibility unless our lives are worthy of respect.

“Cease to do evil, learn to do good”

Here’s the problem: it’s easy to equate religion with righteousness.

Early Christianity was a movement, not an institution. Congregations could not legally own buildings until Constantine legalized the church in the fourth century. Christians didn’t “go” to church–they were the church. Christianity was all about a personal, intimate relationship with God, not a religion about him.

However, the church over time became identified with its buildings, clergy, and religious activities. Spirituality was measured by time spent in the building where members engaged in various rituals and watched the clergy perform.

Even in our nondenominational era, those who participate in church activities are tempted to feel that they are more moral than those who don’t. There’s an implicit sense that we must be right with God if we are in his “house.”

But our Lord disagrees.

Speaking to his chosen people, God warned: “Your new moons and your appointed [religious] feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. . . . Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:14-17).

Charles Spurgeon: “Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.”

“He will tax the remotest star”

Here’s the irony: Our post-Christian society holds us to a higher standard than we might demand of ourselves. If we commit the same sins we find in popular culture, we are accused of hypocrisy. And rightly so–we claim to follow the sinless Son of God and to be the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16).

So, here’s the bottom line: Our times require courageous Christians who will model the truth we proclaim and love those to whom we proclaim it. In a skeptical culture, personal character is both essential and compelling.

The good news is that the Spirit will empower every believer who seeks his help. If you and I want to serve and reflect Jesus, “he will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us” (Oswald Chambers).

Our culture judges Christ by Christians. Let’s make that fact good news today.

 

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