Charles Stanley – Sustaining Grace

 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

God’s grace is amazing. It not only takes care of our sin problem through the cross but also strengthens and sustains us every day of our life. The Lord never wavers in His good purpose for us, nor is He ever thwarted. His sustaining grace is the answer to our …

Difficult circumstances. Being a Christian does not exempt us from painful trials or unpleasant situations. The apostle Paul knew this firsthand. When he presented the good news of the gospel, some believed but many opposed him. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, he wrote that he had been in danger everywhere he went. He experienced rejection, beatings, and arrest but did not give up. God’s grace continually upheld and strengthened him.

Personal suffering. Paul also spoke about the thorn in his flesh, which caused him great torment. Three times he asked God to remove it, but the Lord did not. Why? Because divine grace was sufficient. It would cover Paul’s needs. Grace had already taken the apostle from condemned to forgiven and from outsider to beloved child. Because he experienced the undeserved love of God, this zealous persecutor of the early church became a missionary spreading the good news about Jesus.

The apostle declared that he was content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, and persecutions because he had experienced the Lord’s all-sufficient grace. He knew that God would continue to help him in every situation, and that regardless of his circumstances, living in the favor and love of God was enough. Is that true for you?

Bible in One Year: Exodus 36-38

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Our Daily Bread — The Mood Mender

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 19–20; Matthew 18:21–35

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 94:19

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 94:2

As I waited at the train station for my weekly commute, negative thoughts crowded my mind like commuters lining up to board a train—stress over debt, unkind remarks said to me, helplessness in the face of a recent injustice done to a family member. By the time the train arrived, I was in a terrible mood.

On the train, another thought came to mind: write a note to God, giving Him my lament. Soon after I finished pouring out my complaints in my journal, I pulled out my phone and listened to the praise songs in my library. Before I knew it, my bad mood had completely changed.

Little did I know that I was following a pattern set by the writer of Psalm 94. The psalmist first poured out his complaints: “Rise up, Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. . . . Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” (Psalm 94:2, 16.) He didn’t hold anything back as he talked to God about injustice done to widows and orphans. Once he’d made his lament to God, the psalm transitioned into praise: “But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge” (v. 22).

God invites us to take our laments to Him. He can turn our fear, sadness, and helplessness into praise.

By Linda Washington

Today’s Reflection

Lord, I pour out my heart to You. Take my hurts and my anger, and grant me Your peace.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Outcasts at the Table

“It would surely be much more rational if conversation rather than dancing were the order of the day,” notes Miss Bingley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

“Much more rational, I dare say,” replies her brother, “but not be near so much like a ball.”(1)

Mr. Bingly’s quip came to mind as I walked to the altar to receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. “Come to the table,” we hear each Sunday at Christ’s invitation. “Everything is ready.” Eating was no doubt for Jesus a theological declaration; declaration that could perhaps have been more rationally given. But this would certainly be much less like a feast.

The insistence of Jesus at the inclusion of the unwanted of society was a hallmark of his ministry. This, along with his enjoyment of eating with others, brought upon him labels of unsavory repute. In two different gospels Jesus remarks on his reputation at the table: “[T]he Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’”(2) The theologian Joachim Jeremias describes the massive social and spiritual implications that an invitation to a meal held in the minds of this culture—namely, a declaration of worth, the offer of acceptance, and the assurance of divine forgiveness. “Hence the passionate objections of the Pharisees who held that the pious could have table fellowship only with the righteous,” notes Jeremias. “They understood the intention of Jesus as being to accord the outcasts’ worth before God by eating with them, and they objected to his placing of the sinner on the same level as the righteous.”(3)

Jesus mixed food with scandal—allowing sinful women near him at the table, breaking bread with crooked tax collectors, telling stories about dredging the hedges and the streets for the lowly to join the heavenly banquet. Food in his culture was a foreshadowing of heaven, where the righteous join God at the great feast. So it is scandalous that at his table, it is the outcast who seems to be most decidedly welcomed. Or, if we are to take the meal at Emmaus as evidence one step further, Christ is the outcast welcoming the least and the lost. “The encounter with the risen Jesus [in the breaking of the bread] began as an encounter with a stranger,” writes Rowan Williams.(4)

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Outcasts at the Table

Joyce Meyer – Keep Your Appointment

 

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. — Jeremiah 29:13

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

We may have to deal sternly with our flesh to resist the spirit of passivity that tries to keep us from growing in the knowledge of God. A commitment to spend time with God is as serious a commitment as any we will ever make.

If I needed dialysis because of kidney disease and had to be at the hospital twice a week for treatment at 8 a.m., I certainly would not accept an invitation to do anything else during those times, no matter how appealing it seemed or how much I wanted to do it. I would know my life depended on keeping my dialysis appointment.

We should be that serious about our time with God. The quality of our lives is greatly affected by the time we spend with Him, so that time should have priority in our schedules.

Sometimes we become slack in keeping our appointments with God because we know He is always available. We know He will always be there for us, so we may skip or reschedule our time with Him so we can do something that seems more urgent.

If we spent more “priority time” with God, we might not have so many “urgent” situations that tend to rob us of our time.

When we spend time with God, even if we don’t feel His presence or think we are learning anything, we are still sowing good seeds that will produce good harvests in our lives. With persistence, you will reach the point where you understand more of God’s Word, where you are enjoying fellowship with Him, and where you are talking to God and hearing His voice.

Prayer Starter: Lord, today I renew my commitment to spending time with You. You’re the Source of everything good in my life, and I know that apart from You I can do nothing of real value (see John 15:5). Help me to always see how much I require Your strength and presence in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Can Be Sure This Is God’s Will

 

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, KJV).

“Always give thanks for everything?” my friend Jim remarked with impatience bordering on anger. “How can I give thanks to God when my wife is dying of cancer? I would be a fool, and besides I don’t feel thankful. My heart is breaking. I can’t stand to see her suffer any more.”

Jim was a Christian, but he had not yet learned how to appropriate the supernatural resources of God by faith. He had not heard that the Holy Spirit produces the supernatural, spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He did not know that the Holy Spirit was ready and eager to lift his load, fill his heart with peace and enable him to demonstrate a thankful attitude, even in times of heartache, sorrow and disappointment.

About the same time, I had a call from a beloved friend and fellow staff member, Bob. “I’m calling to ask for your prayers,” he said. “My wife has an inoperable brain tumor, but we are trusting the Lord for a miracle. We are both thanking God, for we know He makes no mistakes and we are ready for whatever happens.”

Bob and Alice were controlled by the Holy Spirit, responding as Spirit-filled persons are equipped to respond. Though God did not heal Alice’s ailing body, He performed a greater miracle by providing the supernatural resources which enabled Bob and Alice to praise and give thanks to God as a powerful testimony of His love and grace in their behalf.

Bible Reading:1 Thessalonians 5:11-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that “all things work together for good to those who love God” – and that includes me – I determine through the enabling of the Holy Spirit to obey God today as an expression of faith by thanking Him in everything and for everything.

 

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Max Lucado – Fear of What Is Next

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Life comes with surprises. On our list of fears, the fear of what’s next demands a prominent position.  In John 14:27, on the eve of his death Jesus promised his followers,  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Heaven’s message is clear– when everything else changes, God’s presence never does.  As Jesus sends you into new seasons, you journey in the company of the Holy Spirit.  So make friends with whatever’s next.  Embrace it.  Change is not only a part of life; change is a necessary part of God’s strategy.  To use us to change the world, God makes reassignments.

Read more Fearless

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – How to respond when skeptics claim our faith is dangerous

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Survivors marked the seventy-fourth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where more than a million people were killed. Six million Jews in total died in the Holocaust.

Closer to home, Dakota Theriot was captured yesterday afternoon at his grandmother’s home in Virginia. The twenty-one-year-old is believed to have killed his parents, his girlfriend, and her father and brother.

In other news, at least fifty-eight people are dead and at least three hundred are missing after a dam collapsed in Brazil on Friday. This morning’s Wall Street Journal reports that the rushing wall of mud was enough to fill a football stadium more than six times.

And ISIS has now claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Catholic cathedral in the Philippines during Sunday Mass. At least twenty people died in the double bomb attack.

Skeptics often ask what difference Christianity makes in a world like ours. If our God apparently cannot “fix” the world he made, how does faith in him change anything? Isn’t religion just the “opium of the people,” as Marx claimed?

In fact, isn’t religion not just irrelevant but dangerous to our progressive society?

Is religion dangerous?

When Christians like Karen Pence choose to follow biblical morality in ways the culture finds offensive, the outcry is deafening. Commentator Matt Walsh: “Gone are the days when leftists pretended to see religion as a thing that should be relegated to homes and churches and private schools. That very small amount of extremely limited and qualified ‘tolerance’ is gone. They will not tolerate Christianity in any forum, especially a private school” (his emphasis).

The “religion is dangerous” movement has been gathering momentum for several years. Critics such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris claim that religion is not just irrelevant and outdated but positively dangerous to society.

Religion flies planes into buildings and causes 9/11s, we’re told. It creates clergy abuse scandals and spends billions on buildings rather than people. It’s homophobic, racist, etc.

Of course, any group can be caricatured by blaming it for the sins of people who misrepresent and corrupt its teachings. Atheistic Communism has been responsible for 100 million deaths around the world. Are we to blame Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris for these atrocities?

When Christians were charged with cannibalism

We’ve been here before.

Early Christians were accused of being heretics since they would not worship the emperor and gods of Rome. They were charged with cannibalism for eating the “body and blood” of Jesus, with incest for loving each other as brothers and sisters, and with sorcery for performing miracles.

Apologists such as Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, and Tertullian responded by defending their faith rationally. But they emphasized as well the good lives and works of those they defended.

For instance, Athenagoras stated that Christians, though sometimes “unable to prove in words the benefits of our doctrine, by their deeds . . . exhibit the benefit arising from the possession of its truth.” Justin Martyr claimed that Christians are the empire’s “best allies in securing good order.” He noted that Christians pay taxes (Matthew 22:15-22) and submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-5) and even pray for the emperor as part of their worship (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Then as now, our lives are our best defense. The culture may condemn us for obeying Scripture regarding same-sex relations, for instance, but it takes note when we work to eradicate AIDS. Skeptics try to dismiss our faith as dangerous, but they must account for the fact that Christians have contributed more to education, healthcare, the welfare and protection of children, and care for the impoverished than any other group in history.

“The victory that overcomes the world”

The more broken our world, the more relevant our faith. When you and I find positive ways to make a practical difference in the lives we influence, we sow the seed of the gospel and plant trees we may never sit under.

All the while, we should remember that “this is the victory that overcomes the world–our faith” (1 John 5:4). Our eternal victory in Christ is certain.

Saturday morning, I watched the women’s finals of the Australian Open. It was a terrific match between Petra Kvitova and Naomi Osaka. The momentum shifted back and forth. The television cameras repeatedly showed Osaka’s family, coaches, and friends reacting to the stress of the competition.

I, however, watched the match in complete calm. That’s because I was 100 percent certain that Osaka would win. And that’s because the match was over before I watched it.

Since Sydney, Australia, is seventeen hours ahead of us in Dallas, the match began at 2:30 a.m. our time. ESPN tape-delayed its coverage to later that morning. But a news prompt on my cell phone told me the results of the tournament before the television coverage began.

As a result, I watched two players compete for a prize one of them had already won.

While it is true that “for [God’s] sake we are being killed all the day long” (Romans 8:36), it is also true that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (v. 37).

Let’s claim–and share–our victory today, to the glory of God.

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