Charles Stanley – Created to Serve God

 

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

One of the characteristics of fallen human nature is the rejection of what’s best. This began all the way back in the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Eve to rebel against God and exert her right to determine her own course. Ever since, people have been pursuing their desires based on self-interest. It’s understandable that this is the world’s mindset; sadly, though, it is also the attitude of many Christians who attend church but consider serving an encroachment on their time.

Such self-centered reasoning is grounded in three misconceptions.

  1. We don’t understand who God is. He’s the divine Creator of the universe and the sovereign Ruler over heaven and earth. He redeemed us from sin with the precious blood of His Son—in other words, He purchased us from slavery to sin. In that way, we become His slaves, who serve Him out of love and gratitude.
  2. We don’t understand why we are here. We were created to worship and serve God. This is our destiny and the way we glorify Him.
  3. We don’t understand the Lord’s great purpose in the world. He is building His kingdom, and we have been commissioned to be involved in this process by ministering to one another and proclaiming the gospel near and far.

God intended Christian service to be a divine privilege, a fulfilling opportunity, and an avenue of blessing. To say we can’t fit it into our schedule is a rejection of what God has commanded and ordained as best. But the truth is, what we forfeit by not serving is far greater than anything we could gain by selfishly pursuing our own way.

Bible in One Year: Deuteronomy 24-27

 

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Our Daily Bread — No Comparison

 

Bible in a Year:Numbers 23–25; Mark 7:14–37

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 21:17-25

“One of these days I’m going to put it all on Facebook—not just the good stuff!

My friend Sue’s comment—made casually over lunch with her husband—caused me to laugh out loud and also to think. Social media can be a good thing, helping us stay in touch with and pray for friends across the years and miles. But if we’re not careful, it can also create an unrealistic outlook on life. When much of what we see posted is a “highlight reel” of “the good stuff,” we can be misled into thinking others’ lives are without trouble, and wonder where our own went wrong.

Comparing ourselves with others is a sure recipe for unhappiness. When the disciples compared themselves to each other (see Luke 9:46; 22:24), Jesus quickly discouraged it. Soon after His resurrection, Jesus told Peter how he would suffer for his faith. Peter then turned to John and asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:21–22).

Jesus pointed Peter to the best remedy for unhealthy comparisons. When our minds are focused on God and all He’s done for us, self-focused thoughts fall gently away and we long to follow Him. In place of the world’s competitive strain and stress, He gives us His loving presence and peace. Nothing can compare with Him.

By James Banks

Today’s Reflection

How can you use social media in a God-honoring way? How can a real relationship with God keep you from making unhealthy comparisons?

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Finding Gratitude

Gratitude can be easily forgotten in a world filled with terror, fear, and heightened concern for safety. It is not difficult to understand a pervasive mood of suspicion and guardedness given the regularly disruptive news of violence and tragedy. A hand-wringing anxiety replaces the open-heartedness that accompanies gratitude.

More than this, it can seem naïve or insensitive to articulate gratefulness in the midst of human suffering. How can I be thankful when so many around the world suffer in unspeakable ways? It feels more appropriate to maintain a somber outlook as a way of finding solidarity with those who are hurting. Being grateful for personal “blessing” seems to add salt to the wound.

Perhaps this is why it is always amazing to encounter those who find gratitude to be healing even in the midst of loss and tragedy. A powerful editorial by New York Times writer, David Brooks, introduced readers to Kennedy Odede, a Kenyan man who grew up in the infamous Kibera slums of Nairobi. Odede and his wife, Jessica, have created schools for girls and a community organization called Shining Hope for Communities. In their co-written memoir called Find Me Unafraid, Jessica and Kennedy recount the horrors of life growing up in this slum with all of its abundant evil. Kennedy was molested and abused by a priest, repeatedly beaten by his father, watched friends and family murdered before his eyes, saw others die from drug abuse, and had to survive through petty theft because of constant hunger and poverty. Yet, Brooks described Kennedy as the most joyful person he knows. How can this be, Brooks wondered, given all that he suffered? In an email to Brooks, Kennedy wrote:

“While I didn’t have food and couldn’t go to school or when I was the victim or witness of violence, I tried to appreciate things like the sunrise—something that everyone in the world shares and can find joy in no matter if you are rich or poor. Seeing the sunrise was always healing for me, it was a new day and it was a beauty to behold.”(1)

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Finding Gratitude

Joyce Meyer – Receiving Correction

 

A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. — Proverbs 15:5

From the book New Day, New You Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Ask yourself how you react to correction or criticism. Try to be honest in your evaluation. Confident people who have validated themselves as valuable can receive correction without anger or a defensive attitude. God says only a fool hates correction (see Proverbs 15:5). Why is that? Because he should be wise enough to want to learn everything he can about himself.

Confident people can listen objectively to another point of view. They can pray about what is said and either receive or reject it according to what God places in their heart.

During the years I was filled with shame and guilt, I could not receive even a tiny word of correction from my husband. If he said anything that even remotely suggested he felt I needed to change in any way, I became emotionally upset, angry, and defensive. Dave would repeatedly say, “I am only trying to help you.”

But I could not get past how I felt when I was given his or anyone else’s help. If I asked him whether he liked an outfit I was wearing, I would get defensive if he said no. I could not even allow him to give me his honest opinion. If his opinion did not agree with mine, I felt rejected. I am grateful that those days are over. Everyone does not have to like what I like in order for me to feel secure.

It is absolutely wonderful to be able to approve of ourselves, because we believe God approves of us, even though others do not. It is good to be humble enough to receive correction, yet confident enough not to let the opinions of others control us.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I truly want to learn and grow—to become more like you. Help me to be more confident—knowing that You love and accept me—so I won’t be controlled by the opinions of others. I also ask for Your grace to humbly receive correction when it’s needed from You or other people in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – How to Love the Unlovable

 

A special leap-year Promise excerpted from Dr. Bright’s book, The Greatest Lesson I ever Learned.

“By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

I have made many important discoveries and learned many valuable lessons in the course of my nearly 80 years.

I could write about about my days of agnosticism when as a happy pagan I finally heard the Good News for the first time and fell in love with Jesus Christ. I could have told about the days when I first experienced the reality of the person of the Holy Spirit. I could share my discovery of how to introduce others to Christ as a way of life, or my realization that everybody hungers for God, even so-called atheists, because God created us that way. (Romans 1:19, 20)

However, having considered all of these possibilities, [the greatest lesson I ever learned is how to] love people who sometimes are difficult to love.

Why is this lesson important to me? Because God places a very strong emphasis on love in His Word. In fact, our Lord teaches us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind’ and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostle Paul, that no matter what else we might accomplish in life, regardless of what we may contribute that is good and commendable, apart from love, it is of no value whatsoever.

In one instance, I was having difficulty loving a fellow staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ. But the Lord reminded me of I Peter 5:7, “Let him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you” (TLB). When I claimed God’s love for the man, by faith, my concern lifted. This man and I met later that afternoon and had the most wonderful time of prayer and fellowship we had ever experienced together. Loving with God’s love, by faith, had changed our relationship.

Perhaps you have been in a similar situation and wondered, “How can I really love that person?” I encourage you to make a list of those whom you don’t like and begin to love them by faith. Confess any wrong attitudes you may have about them. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with Christ’s love for each of them. Then seek to meet with them as you draw upon God’s limitless, inexhaustible, overwhelming love for them by faith. You will discover, as I have, that we can never run out of opportunities to love by faith.

Bible Reading: Hebrews 11:6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Commit to examining your relationships, asking the Lord who you need to express His love for. Take time to pray for that person, and your own attitude about them. Then contact them, and let them know you are praying for them.

TODAY’S ACTION LINKS: Complete Dr. Bright’s online study about How You Can Love By Faith.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Look at a bruised reed at the water’s edge—once slender, sturdy, and tall— now bowed and bent.  Are you a bruised reed?  You were upright and sturdy, rooted in the riverbed of confidence.  Then you were bruised by harsh words, a friend’s anger, a spouse’s betrayal, religion’s rigidity, or your own failure.

Is there anything closer to death than the smoldering wick on a candle?  Once you blazed with faith.  Then they said your ideas were foolish, your dreams were too lofty.

But the theme of the New Testament is that God is the friend of the wounded heart and the keeper of your dreams.  Christ met people at all points of pain.  By His touch bruised reeds straightened and smoldering wicks were ignited.

Read more He Still Moves Stones

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

http://www.maxlucado.com

Denison Forum – The secret intelligence network that defeated Hitler: Words change the world

 

Words saved the world.

William Stephenson was a World War I hero, businessman, inventor, and spymaster. Ian Fleming called him the “real thing” behind his James Bond character.

A Man Called Intrepid tells Stephenson’s incredible story (“Intrepid” was his code name). The book reads more like a novel than the historical narrative it is. Here we learn that early in World War II, Stephenson created a secret network that eventually involved thirty thousand intelligence experts. They worked behind enemy lines in Europe to provide intelligence to President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill.

These operatives were able to feed false information to German authorities, convincing them that D-Day would be launched at Calais rather than Normandy. This kept Hitler from committing forces that could have defeated the Allied invasion.

When the Germans began launching rockets into London, these intelligence spies fed the Nazis false data on where their rockets actually fell, saving thousands of lives. They helped the Allies free Niels Bohr from Nazi captivity, which kept the Germans from developing atomic weapons and helped America create the bombs that ended World War II.

These secret heroes did not fire weapons or drive tanks. They risked (and many gave) their lives to communicate words that helped defeat Hitler and save the world.

When Switzerland invaded Liechtenstein

A Florida congressman made news with a tweet directed at Michael Cohen, which the congressman later took down and for which he apologized. The Florida bar has now opened an investigation into whether the congressman, a licensed attorney in the state, violated professional conduct rules with his tweet.

Even wordless events require words to record and interpret them.

You may not know that on this day in 2007, Switzerland invaded Liechtenstein. A detachment of 170 Swiss infantrymen got lost on a training mission and accidentally crossed their neighbor’s border.

Liechtenstein is seventeen times smaller than Rhode Island. Its thirty-seven thousand residents were not aware that they had been invaded. Since they have no army, they chose not to retaliate.

We know of this ironic event only because it was reported in words.

We send 6,000 tweets a second

We are the most verbal society in history.

One study concluded that women speak 16,215 words per day, while men speak 15,669 words per day. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Six thousand tweets are sent every second, which corresponds to five hundred million tweets a day. Every sixty seconds, 510,000 comments are posted on Facebook.

Add the 1.7 billion websites on the internet and the information exchanged on social media sites such as WhatsApp (one billion users a month), WeChat (697 million users a month), Tumblr (555 million users a month), and Instagram (400 million users a month), and it becomes clear that we are exchanging more words than ever before in human history.

This can be good news for the gospel, but bad news for our souls.

Good news for the good news

Mart Green is the Chief Strategy Officer for the Green Family Businesses, board chair of Hobby Lobby, and founder of Mardel Christian Supply. At a recent conference in Washington, DC, I heard him describe the IllumiNations project he is leading. Its goal is to translate God’s word into all six-thousand-plus languages in the world. Digital technology is making this dream a reality.

Walt Wilson is a retired Marine, brilliant businessman, longtime personal friend of mine, and founder of Global Media Outreach. This online evangelism and discipleship ministry has documented more than two hundred million decisions for Christ since it began in 2004.

Digital technology is enabling us to “make disciples of all nations” more effectively than ever before in Christian history (Matthew 28:19).

The secret of the Reformation

Amid the cacophony of words in our culture, it can be hard to hear God’s voice. But human words cannot change human hearts. Only God’s words have the power to convict of sin, save souls, and transform eternities.

Explaining the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther testified: “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing.”

The declaration “Thus says the Lord” appears more than four hundred times in the Bible. Each time, a human listened for God’s word before speaking or writing his truth to the world.

Now it’s our turn.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

To speak God’s word, we must first listen for God’s word. When last in our frenzied, social-media-driven culture did you accept your Father’s invitation to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)? When last did you listen for the “low whisper” of God’s Spirit (1 Kings 19:12)?

Our Father speaks through his word as we study Scripture (Hebrews 4:12). He speaks through his worship as we pray and focus on him (cf. Acts 13:2). He speaks through his world as we look for the Creator in his creation (Psalm 19:1–4).

As Francis Schaeffer noted, “He is there and he is not silent.”

In fact, your Lord wants to speak to you today. When will you make time to listen?

Note: In today’s chaotic culture, we are increasingly faced with faith-related questions that can be challenging and impossible to answer. In this week’s video from our YouTube series, “Biblical Insight to Tough Questions,” we tackle the question: Why do we believe the Bible is actually the word of God? Thanks for turning to Denison Forum to discern news differently and build a movement of culture-changing Christians.

 

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