Charles Stanley –The Trustworthy Character of God

 

2 Samuel 7:21-22

Whom do you trust? It isn’t easy to find many people who are true to their word. At some point, we all learn the hard way that anyone other than almighty God can disappoint us. Let’s look at the Lord’s character to discover why He can be trusted.

  • He is the one true God. Back in Old Testament times, it was common for people to actually carve and worship a false god. Today, it is more typical to idolize something unseen, such as wealth, power, fame, or relationships. These can consume our passion, money, and time—and in the end leave us fruitless and empty. Jehovah, on the other hand, is alive and real, ready to be intimately involved in our lives.
  • God is truth, and He is always faithful (John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 10:13). Unlike sinful man, the Lord is trustworthy—and everything that He says will happen comes to pass. Our sovereign God has all power and is in control of every situation.
  • Christ loves us unconditionally. How can we ever doubt His love when He willingly gave His life in our place? And His love is based not on our behavior or status but on His character alone.
  • The heavenly Father is unchanging. All of the above are timeless attributes that will forever be true.

God can be trusted. So don’t give Him just the easy concerns; rely upon your Creator for everything. He desires a personal relationship with His beloved and is able to guide each believer through life victoriously. In a changing, suspicious world, you have a Friend who is 100 percent reliable.

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 22-24

 

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Streams in the Desert for Kids – Help Me!

 

Matthew 15:22–23

A man once had a dream about Jesus who came upon three young men. As he came to the first of the three, he bent down to talk with him and smiled. He even gave a quick hug. Then he came to the second. He only put his hand on the young man’s head and gave him a quick look. Then he came to the third young man. This time he just walked right past and didn’t do or say anything.

Those who were watching wondered what that third young man had done to cause Jesus to ignore him. So they asked Jesus why he treated each young man so differently. Jesus said, “The first young man is a new Christian and he needs all the help I can give him. I wanted to encourage him, so I spent time with him. The second young man is a little stronger and loves me a little more. I can trust him and so I didn’t spend as much time with him. I was not ignoring the third young man. I love him very much and I’m training him for a very important role in life. I want him to be able to trust me even when it seems I’m not paying attention. It’s important for what I want him to do.”

When you pray and it seems like your prayers are being ignored, know that God hears you. God’s silence isn’t anger or disapproval. In fact, he loves you very much and it could be that he is training you to trust him even when it feels like he’s not paying attention. Perhaps he is preparing you for a greater role than you ever imagined.

Dear Lord, I still have a lot to learn about trusting you. Help me to believe you are at work no matter what I see. Amen.

 

 

 

Our Daily Bread — The Greatest Gift

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 11–12; Luke 6:1–26

We have found . . . Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

John 1:45

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 1:43–51

Over the years, my friend Barbara has given me countless encouraging cards and thoughtful presents. After I told her I’d received Jesus as my Savior, she handed me the greatest gift she’d ever given me—my first Bible. She said, “You can grow closer to God and mature spiritually by meeting with Him daily, reading Scripture, praying, and trusting and obeying Him.” My life changed when Barbara invited me to get to know God better.

Barbara reminds me of the apostle Philip. After Jesus invited Philip to follow Him (John 1:43), the apostle immediately told his friend Nathanael that Jesus was “the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote” (v. 45). When Nathanael doubted, Philip didn’t argue, criticize, or give up on his friend. He simply invited him to meet Jesus face to face. “Come and see,” he said (v. 46).

I can imagine Philip’s joy when he heard Nathanael declare Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the king of Israel” (v. 49). What a blessing to know his friend wouldn’t miss out on seeing the “greater things” Jesus promised they’d witness (vv. 50–51).

The Holy Spirit initiates our intimate relationship with God and then lives in all who respond in faith. He enables us to know Him personally and to invite others to encounter Him daily through His Spirit and the Scriptures. An invitation to know Jesus better is a great gift to receive and give.

By Xochitl Dixon

Today’s Reflection

To whom will you extend an invitation to know Jesus better? How has He worked through others to grow your faith?

 

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Joyce Meyer – Add Flavor Everywhere You Go

 

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. — Matthew 5:13

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

I think it’s safe to say that most of what the world offers is tasteless—and I’m not talking about food. For example, most of the movies Hollywood produces and the way people treat each other in the world today are tasteless.

Usually when we see any type of behavior that is in poor taste, we are quick to blame “the world.” We might say something like, “What is the world coming to?” Yet the phrase “the world” merely means the people who live in the world. If the world has lost its flavor, it is because people have become tasteless in their attitudes and actions.

Jesus said we are the salt of the earth (see Matthew 5:13). He also said we are the light of the world and should not hide our light (see Matthew 5:14).

Think of it this way: Each day as you leave your home, you can add God’s light and flavor to any environment. You can bring joy to your workplace by being determined to consistently have a godly attitude, and through simple things like being thankful, patient, merciful, quick to forgive offenses, kind, and encouraging. Even simply smiling and being friendly is a way to bring flavor into a tasteless society.

I want you to try an experiment. Just think: I am going to go out into the world today and spice things up. Get your mind set before you ever walk out the door that you are going out as God’s ambassador, and that your goal is to be a giver, to love people, and to add good flavor to their lives.

The question each of us must answer is, “What have I done today to make someone else’s life better?”

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to add “flavor” everywhere I go today. Show me ways I can truly love and bless others…and represent You in everything I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – To Encourage Us

 

“These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us, so that we will look forward expectantly to the time when God will conquer sin and death” (Romans 15:4).

Tom had a “short fuse” and frequently exploded in anger when he was disappointed with himself or others. Then he received Christ and began to study the Word of God, obey its commands and walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

His life began to change, gradually at first, until, as he told me recently, it has now been a long time since he has allowed his old nature to express his impatience.

The story is told of an impatient man who prayed and kept praying for God to grant him the virtue he so desperately needed.

“Lord,” he prayed, “give me patience, and give it to me now!”

Patience, however, is a virtue that is developmental in nature, to a large degree. It is the result of walking in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). It develops out of a good heart and a godly attitude (Luke 8:15). It is spawned sometimes during times of tribulation. Remember, it is a fruit of the Spirit.

Paul writes, “If we must keep trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently” (Romans 8:25).

So patience comes from hope and trust in God. And finally, we learn patience through the study and personal application of God’s Word in our lives, as suggested in Romans 15:4, “These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us.”

Bible Reading: Romans 15:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  When delays and seeming denials occur, I will exercise patience, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

http://www.cru.org

Charles Stanley – A God We Can Trust

 

Psalm 37:1-9

Scripture repeatedly admonishes us to trust in the Lord. When times are good, this doesn’t seem difficult. However, when trials arise, it is much harder to rely fully upon Him.

Yet it is always important for us to place our trust in the living God, especially when everything around us seems to be falling apart. This may well have been the situation that inspired the writing of Psalm 37.

In today’s passage, David mentions several times that we should not fret (vv. 1, 7, 8). Distress over a situation is the opposite of trust, and fretting has ill effects. For one thing, it can take a toll on physical and emotional well-being. Another problem is that feeding worry can lead to wrongdoing. And by attempting to resolve the situation quickly in our human way, we may miss God’s best solution. Yet another consequence is that our angst may undermine our witness for the kingdom because we will not be reflecting God’s peace in all that we do.

What, then, is the antidote for worry and stress during a difficult time? Absolute trust in Christ. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” This means we are to lay all our burdens at His feet, believing that He is good, loving, and in control.

When trials arise, do you run toward the Lord? Or do you try to handle things yourself? He who created you can handle any difficulty and pain, even when it seems overwhelming. What He desires is your surrender and trust. It is in His arms that you will find rest for your soul.

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 19-21

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Creator and Sustainer

 

Bible in a Year: Judges 9–10; Luke 5:17–39

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory . . . sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Hebrews 1:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Hebrews 1:1–4

Working with a magnifying glass and tweezers, Swiss watchmaker Phillipe meticulously explained to me how he takes apart, cleans, and reassembles the tiny parts of specialty mechanical watches. Looking at all the intricate pieces, Phillipe showed me the essential component of the timepiece, the mainspring. The mainspring is the component that moves all the gears to allow the watch to keep time. Without it, even the most expertly designed watch will not function.

In a beautiful New Testament passage found in the book of Hebrews, the writer eloquently praises Jesus for being the one through whom God created the heavens and the earth. Like the intricacy of a specialty watch, every detail of our universe was created by Jesus (Hebrews 1:2). From the vastness of the solar system to the uniqueness of our fingerprints, all things were made by Him.

But more than the Creator, Jesus, like a clock’s mainspring, is essential for the function and flourishing of creation. His presence continually “[sustains] all things by his powerful word” (v. 3), keeping all that He has created working together in all its amazing complexity.

As you have opportunity to experience the beauty of creation today, remember that “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). May the recognition of Jesus’s central role in both creating and sustaining the universe result in a joyful heart and a response of praise as we acknowledge His ongoing provision for us.

By Lisa M. Samra

Today’s Reflection

What in God’s creation has caused you to worship Him? Why?

 

 

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Joyce Meyer – Joy Is a Decision

 

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. — Psalm 118:24

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

Enjoying the abundant life Jesus died to give you is based on a decision you make, not on your circumstances. Thankfully, you can decide to be happy right where you are and to enjoy the life you have right now on the way to where you are going. You can make a firm decision to enjoy your journey.

You can begin by saying out loud, “I am going to enjoy my life.” Until you get that thought established in your mind, every morning when you wake up, before you even get out of bed, I encourage you to declare out loud, “I am going to enjoy this day! I am seizing the day! I am taking authority over Satan—the joy thief—even before he tries to come against me. I have made up my mind that I am going to keep my joy today!”

Having a right mind-set always helps in every situation.

Prayer Starter: I thank You today, Father, that I can choose to live in the abundant life Jesus died to give me. I don’t have to live a miserable, unhappy life. I can choose to celebrate Your goodness and enjoy the life You have given me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Rivers of Living Water

 

“For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me” (John 7:38).

I was explaining to a group of Christians the meaning of Proverbs 15:13-15, “A happy face means a glad heart, a sad face means a breaking heart. When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong and when he is cheerful everything seems to go right.”

God’s Word reminds us that the source of joy is the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6). So if a man is filled with the Spirit, he will have a joyful heart. When we are filled with the Spirit, we will express love by singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. A happy heart will inevitably produce a joyful countenance (Ephesians 5:18-21).

If we do not have a joyful, peaceful countenance, there is reason to question whether we have a loving, joyful heart. And if we do not have a loving, joyful heart, it is not likely that we are filled with the Spirit.

One Christian leader, who had heard me speak, approached me later. He just happened to have a very somber, stern countenance. He explained to me that this was a new concept to him, and since he was reared in another culture, he felt that his somber countenance was a cultural thing.

“In our part of the world [the Middle East],” he said, “we don’t smile and express ourselves like American Christians.”

Together we analyzed the Scripture and concluded that culture has nothing to do with this truth, since Jesus, Paul and other writers of the New Testament were also born in the Middle East. If we truly understand the Spirit-filled life, whatever our cultural background, the joy of the Lord will flow from us – from our “innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38, NAS).

Bible Reading: John 7:33-37

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Recognizing love, joy and peace as trademarks of the Spirit-filled life, I will consciously seek to be Spirit-controlled so that these expressions will be a natural overflow of my life. I will teach this spiritual truth to others today.

 

 

http://www.cru.org

Charles Stanley – Life’s Number One Priority

 

Luke 10:38-42

Churches are filled with believers who have a go-go-go attitude. Serve in this way! Go on that mission! Teach a class! Lead worship! These are good things, but the activity of doing can overshadow the power of being and get us off track.

Today’s passage offers a perfect picture of this “doing versus being” dichotomy, as it reveals Martha and Mary’s unique responses to Jesus’ visit. We immediately see that Martha is the doer. She runs around, cleaning, making the meal, and operating in a whirlwind of activity. Mary, however, is more concerned with simply being—she wants to be near Jesus and absorb every moment of His presence.

Neither sister was necessarily wrong in her response. Martha is often looked down upon in this scene, but the truth is, her heart was in the right place in wanting to meet the needs of her Master. She was going about the ministry, while Mary was engaged in worship.

In His rebuke of Martha in Luke 10:41-42, Jesus never said Martha was wrong for what she was doing; He said only that her busyness wasn’t the best thing at the moment. This interaction is a message for the church, as the Lord calls us first to honor Him. Only then—once we are fueled by His Spirit and an intimate encounter with God—are we best prepared to go about the activity of ministry.

The church needs both Marthas and Marys. Thinking about whom you identify with more, ask, Do I keep an intimate relationship with God in the midst of my activity? Do I allow private worship to fuel my ministry fire?

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 17-18

 

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Our Daily Bread — Bright Lights

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 7–8; Luke 5:1–16

You are the light of the world.

Matthew 5:14

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Philippians 2:12–18

In the summer of 2015, a group from our church was sobered by what we saw in Mathare, one of the slums in Nairobi, Kenya. We visited a school with dirt floors, rusting metal walls, and wooden benches. But against the backdrop of extremely humble surroundings, one person stood out.

Her name was Brilliant, and the name couldn’t have fit her better. She was an elementary school teacher who possessed joy and determination that matched her mission. Colorfully dressed, her appearance and the joy with which she instructed and encouraged the children were stunning.

The bright light Brilliant brought to her surroundings resembles the way Christians in Philippi were to be positioned in their world when Paul wrote to them in the first century. Against the background of a spiritually needy world, believers in the Lord Jesus were to shine “like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:15). Our assignment hasn’t changed. Bright lights are needed everywhere! How encouraging it is to know that through the One “who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (v. 13) believers in Jesus can sparkle in ways that fit Jesus’s description of those who follow Him. To us He still says, “You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).

By Arthur Jackson

Today’s Reflection

How can you reveal the light of Christ to others? What can you do to bring His joy to those who desperately need it?

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Resonate Gifts

 

There are a few poetic lines I know by memory simply because my boss is fond of repeating them. Ravi Zacharias often quotes a song titled The Lost Chord, which was penned by Adelaide Proctor and later set to music by Arthur Sullivan. It is a hymn that describes a moment of transcendence, a hint of wonder that appeared momentarily and left the narrator yearning for more. The song tells her story:

Seated one day at the organ
I was weary and ill at ease,
and my fingers wandered idly
over the noisy keys.
I know not what I was playing
or what I was dreaming then,
but I struck one chord of music
like the sound of a great “Amen.”

It flooded the crimson twilight
like the close of an angel’s psalm,
and it lay on my fevered spirit
like the touch of infinite calm.
It quieted pain and sorrow
like love overcoming strife;
it seemed the harmonious echo
of our discordant life.

It linked all perplexed meanings
into one perfect peace,
and it trembled away into silence
as if it were loathe to cease.
I have sought but I seek it vainly—
that one lost chord divine—
that came from the soul of the organ
and entered into mine.

It may be that death’s bright angel
will speak in that chord again;
it may be that only in heaven
I shall hear that grand “Amen.”

The wonder of this world is amplified by the fact that it ends, that it “trembles away into silence.” But what are these fleeting moments, which touch us with an infinite calm, and link perplexed meanings with peace? In our lost chords, something comes and vanishes. But it creates a hunger for more, a longing for something that we can almost taste, a thirst that points us to what we were ultimately made to hold and know and be. God has set eternity in our hearts, Solomon said; in moments such as these, we seem to know it.

Tellingly, Arthur Sullivan actually tried to set Proctor’s words to music for years, but he was unsuc­cessful un­til he faced the death of his brother. Painfully aware of the fragility of life, grieving the untimely death of one he dearly treasured, Sullivan was able to pen the magnificent music to words that were undoubtedly of great comfort. Through tears he looked toward a God preparing many rooms, and it quieted pain and sorrow like love overcoming strife.

Through music, his grief found expression; the possibilities in the words he loved were finally enacted for him. Love overcoming strife. This is the certain and resonating song of God in our lives: one who values creation so much that he joins it, hence, enabling possibilities, signaling signs of the kingdom, embodying new life, cultivating life’s flourishing. In his place, the very particular past in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus meets us very presently. The vicariously human Son meets us as strength and peace for today, hope for what is to come.

The psalmist says of God, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.”(1) There are few analogies in language that lend a hand in our comprehending of eternal pleasures and fullness of joy. But there are sounds and glimpses all around us, the resounding gifts of life re-made by the God who comes near even in death.

 

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

 

(1) Psalm 16:11.

 

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Joyce Meyer – Know Your Source

 

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. — John 15:5

It’s so important for us to remember that God is our Source and the key to winning life’s battles. He wants to fight our battles, but the choice is ultimately up to us. So, how do we let God fight our battles? Well, first, it means you don’t take matters into your own hands and do what you feellike doing.

For example, when someone hurts or offends me, what I feel like doing is retaliating—doing something to “make them pay” for what they did. But our way and God’s way are completely different!

We are in a spiritual battle, and it goes much deeper than what we see on the surface. That’s why knowing His Word is so incredibly important. The Bible clearly outlines God’s strategies for overcoming the enemy, and it contains His wisdom and the direction we need for every problem we face. Because knowing what God’s Word says—and then doing what it says—is the greatest weapon we have to winning life’s battles!

God’s Word shows us who we are in Christ and teaches us how to defeat the enemy through His strength. His Word has the power to renew our mind, heal our brokenness and change our lives (see Romans 12:2Hebrews 4:12). Simply put, God’s Word is our protection. We must know it, love it, obey it…and use it against the enemy when he comes against us.

Prayer Starter: Father, You are my Source and Strength. Teach me through Your Word how to depend on You completely. Help me to renew my mind daily. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – As a Man Thinketh

 

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…. (Proverbs 23:7, KJV).

“Every day in every way I am becoming better and better,” declared the French philosopher Emile Coue. But it is said that he committed suicide.

Positive thinking by a nonbeliever without a biblical basis is often an exercise in futility. Though I agree with the basic concept of positive thinking, so long as it is related to the Word of God, there is a difference between positive thinking and supernatural thinking. We do not think positively so that we can know Christ better; we come to know Christ better, which results in supernatural thinking. The basis of our thinking is God’s Word; supernatural thinking is based upon the attributes of God.

When a man says, “I am going to be enthusiastic, by faith, as an act of the will,” or “I am going to rejoice, by faith, as an act of the will,” he is simply drawing upon his rights as a child of God, according to the promises of God.

In supernatural thinking, we apply the promises of God, knowing with certainty that if we ask anything according to His will, He will hear and answer us.

Some well-known Christian leaders emphasize “positive thinking” and “possibility thinking.” They are men whom I admire and with whom I agree basically in this regard because the Christian life is a positive life. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

But I prefer to use what I believe to be the more scriptural definition of the Christian life – supernatural thinking, which includes – but goes far beyond – both positive thinking and possibility thinking.

Bible Reading: Proverbs 23:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Today I will claim by faith a promise or promises from God’s Word which will help me to live a supernatural life.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – He Still Moves Stones

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Why did God leave us one tale after another of wounded lives being restored?  It isn’t to tell us what Jesus did.  It’s to tell us what Jesus does.  Paul says in Romans 15:4, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us.  The Scripture gives us patience and encouragement so that we can have hope.”

Reflect on your own journey.  What was it like before you met Christ?  And share your story; not with everyone necessarily, but with someone.  Your honest portrayal of your past may be the courage for another’s future.  But don’t just depict the past.  Depict the present.  Describe his touch and the difference Jesus has made in your life.  He’s not finished with you yet!   Ah, but look how far you’ve come!  What God begins, God completes.  The God who spoke still speaks.  The God who forgave still forgives.  He still moves stones.

Read more He Still Moves Stones

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – ‘Unplanned’: A movie about abortion that changes everything

 

If you’re like most of us, you’d rather not read another article about abortion this morning.

The subject is divisive, the debate vitriolic. If you haven’t had an abortion, if you don’t love someone who has, or if you’re not considering an abortion personally, it can be tempting to ignore the issue.

Then comes a movie that changes everything.

Startling abortion statistics

Unplanned is being released today. My wife and I were invited to attend an advance screening of the film a few weeks ago. It makes the issue of abortion so real and relevant that everyone should see the film.

Here’s what I mean.

According to Planned Parenthood, one in four American women will have an abortion by the age of forty-five. How many actual women is this?

Here are my calculations:

In other words, only 8.5 percent of the American female adult population and 4.3 percent of the entire American adult population has personally experienced an abortion.

Continue reading Denison Forum – ‘Unplanned’: A movie about abortion that changes everything

Charles Stanley – Do You Know God’s Voice?

 

John 10:1-5

Our perceptions of the Lord have a huge impact on how we hear His voice speak to us in His Word and through His Spirit. There are many voices calling for our attention—we need to be able to distinguish Christ’s words from all the others because He alone always speaks truth. If we listen to other voices, we’ll be led astray, and this includes our own internal voice when it perceives God inaccurately.

This is why it’s so important to make sure our image of God fits the one given in Scripture. The Bible teaches us that …

He is righteous. The Lord would never lead us to do anything sinful because doing so would contradict His nature and His Word.

He is gracious. We don’t have to worry that God is waiting to condemn or punish us. Having been saved by Christ, we live continually in His grace and kindness.

He is faithful. He always does what He says and will never abandon those who belong to Him.

He is our heavenly Father. He loves and cares for us, both by providing for our needs and by disciplining us so that we grow in godliness.

He is our Judge. All who are in Christ, however, have passed out of judgment into eternal life and need never fear condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

If our conception of the Lord is inaccurate, we may think He’s harsh, stingy, or angry with us. But there is an even greater danger if we think that God wants to satisfy all our selfish and worldly desires—that is the voice of a stranger; we should reject it and flee to our Good Shepherd.

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 15-16

 

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Our Daily Bread — Surrounded by God

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 4–6; Luke 4:31–44

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lordsurrounds his people both now and for evermore.

Psalm 125:2

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 125:1–5

In a busy airport, a young mother struggled alone. Her toddler was in full tantrum mode—screaming, kicking, and refusing to board their plane. Overwhelmed and heavily pregnant, the burdened young mother finally gave up, sinking to the floor in frustration, covering her face, and starting to sob.

Suddenly six or seven women travelers, all strangers, formed a circle around the young mother and her child—sharing snacks, water, gentle hugs, and even a nursery song. Their loving circle calmed the mother and child, who then boarded their plane. The other women returned to their seats, not needing to discuss what they had done, but knowing their support had strengthened a young mother exactly when she needed it.

This illustrates a beautiful truth from Psalm 125. “As the mountains surround Jerusalem,” says verse 2, “so the Lord surrounds his people.” The image reminds us how the bustling city of Jerusalem is, indeed, flanked by surrounding hills—among them the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, and Mount Moriah.

In this same way, God surrounds His people—supporting and standing guard over our souls “both now and for evermore.” Thus, on tough days, look up, “unto the hills,” as the psalmist puts it (Psalm 121:1 kjv). God awaits with strong help, steady hope, and everlasting love.

By Patricia Raybon

Today’s Reflection

How have you sensed the Lord surrounding you with His love? Who can you share His love with today?

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Cross or the Cookie Jar

 

As a young man growing up in Scotland, like many others, I was exposed to Christianity and the symbol of the cross. It was a point of confusion, a mystery at best, and at worst, an object of scorn and disgust. I did not know what it meant or why religious people thought it important, but I knew I wanted nothing to do with it.

Alister McGrath, Professor of theology, ministry, and education at King’s College, London, writes: “Just as God has humbled himself in making himself known ‘in the humility and shame of the cross,’ we must humble ourselves if we are to encounter him. We must humble ourselves by being prepared to be told where to look to find God, rather than trusting in our own insights and speculative abilities. In effect, we are forced to turn our eyes from contemplation of where we would like to see God revealed, and to turn them instead upon a place which is not of our choosing, but which is given to us.”(1)

In other words, nothing in history, experience, or knowledge can prepare the world for God’s means of drawing near. At the cross, something we are not expecting is revealed, something scandalous unveiled, something we could never have articulated or asked for is given to us. Philip Yancey, the renowned author, offers more on this: “Here at the cross is the man who loves his enemies, the man whose righteousness is greater than that of the Pharisees, who being rich became poor, who gives his robe to those who take his cloak, who prays for those who deceitfully use him. The cross is not a detour or a hurdle on the way to Kingdom, nor is it even the way to the Kingdom; it is the Kingdom come.”(2)

Christian or not, I think many of us have significantly distorted ideas about the purpose and meaning of the cross. When many people think of “sin” or the human condition before God, what comes to mind is perhaps something like the image of a child caught with his hands in the cookie jar. Such an image might well be understood as disobedience or maybe even naughtiness, but is it really that important? It is certainly not bad enough to justify extreme reactions. As a result of such a metaphor, our moral reflections on sin tend to foster incredulity or disgust. The response seems totally out of proportion to the offense.

But let us shift the metaphor. Supposing one day you go for a routine medical examination, and they discover you have a deadly virus. You did not do anything. You were not necessarily responsible, but you were exposed, and infected. You feel the injustice of it all, you are afraid, you are angry, but most of all, you are seriously sick. You are dying and you need help.

Whatever the cross and the gospel are about, it is not a slap on the hands for kids refusing to heed the rules of the cookie jar. It is not mere advice to get you to clean up your life and morals. It is not mere ideas to inform you about what it takes to be nice. It is restoration and recreation, a physician’s mediation; it is about human flourishing and discovering life.

The cross may seem an extreme and offensive measure to the problem of sin and death and sickness—but what if it is the very cure that is needed? McGrath describes our options at the cross of Christ. “Either God is not present at all in this situation, or else God is present in a remarkable and paradoxical way. To affirm that God is indeed present in this situation is to close the door to one way of thinking about God and to open the way to another—for the cross marks the end of a particularwayof thinking about God.”(3) Shockingly, thoroughly, scandalously, the cross depicts a God who throws himself upon sin and sickness to bring the hope of rescue miraculously near.

Some find it shocking, some overwhelming, some almost too good to be true. It is, however, for all.

Stuart McAllister is regional director for the Americas at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Alister McGrath, The Mystery of the Cross, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 104.
(2) Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 196.
(3) Alister McGrath, The Mystery of the Cross, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 103.

 

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Joyce Meyer – The Warrior Within

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” — Acts 1:8

Are you fighting a battle right now? I believe we all have battles to fight at different times in life. The good news is, as followers of Christ, we are not fighting alone. We have a Mighty Warrior and His host of angels on our side. That makes it a totally different fight. The Holy Spirit, our personal Warrior, is in each of us, and He is our Helper.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of us—God literally gives each one of us a little piece of Himself. So, what does this mean? It means that all of God’s power, strength, comfort, creativity, and help are available to us at all times.

God never meant for us to live weak, powerless lives—always “running on fumes” and barely getting by. His will is for us to be “more than conquerors” (see Romans 8:37). And through His Spirit, He wants to provide us with the strength and ability we need to succeed in life and lead us through each battle we face.

The enemy will try to stop us from moving forward in the things of God. And he will use any strategy against you, things such as discouragement and distraction. But remember that Almighty God is on your side no matter what you’re facing, and He has a plan for you to be victorious.

Prayer Starter: Father, I believe You lead, guide and direct me every day. Help me to be the strong warrior you have called me to be and follow the plan you have for me to win the battle. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org