Charles Stanley – The Betrayal of a Friend

 

Psalm 41:1-13

Betrayal is one of the most painful experiences in life. Although strangers may reject, mock, or ridicule us, only those we love or trust can betray us, and that’s what makes it so painful. This is exactly what David felt when he wrote Psalm 41. His enemies spoke evil and falsehood against him, but worse still, a friend turned on him (Psalm 41:9).

When friends gossip about us, make insinuations of wrongdoing, or tell outright lies, what can we do? A good reputation is very hard to recover after it has been ruined. And it’s devastating if one friend after another believes the gossip and turns away.

Something we must keep in the forefront of our mind is that our friends and family are imperfect and sinful and are therefore prone to making mistakes, believing lies, and hurting one another. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit the same is true of us. However, this doesn’t negate the pain we feel or the wrong done to us.

So how can we handle rejection and betrayal in a godly fashion? First of all, we should not deny the pain, nor should we let it dominate and ruin our life with anxiety, bitterness, anger, or a desire for revenge. Second, we can take it to God and ask Him to protect, sustain, and heal us (Psalm 41:2-4).

Although we may not know exactly why the Lord allowed betrayal, going through it teaches us to seek God’s approval rather than man’s. Vindication may not come in this life, but it will be revealed in eternity, when each one’s praise will come from God.

Bible in One Year: Judges 16-17

 

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Our Daily Bread — Joy in Hard Places

 

Bible in a Year:Deuteronomy 32–34; Mark 15:26–47

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:18

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Habakkuk 3:16-19

Whenever she was unable to take my phone call, my friend’s voicemail recording invited me to leave her a message. The recording cheerfully concluded, “Make it a great day!” As I reflected on her words, I realized that it’s not within our power to make every day “great”—some circumstances truly are devastating. But a closer look might reveal something redeeming and beautiful in my day, whether things are going well or poorly.

Habakkuk wasn’t experiencing easy circumstances. As a prophet, God had shown him coming days when none of the crops or livestock—on which God’s people depended—would be fruitful (3:17). It would take more than mere optimism to endure the coming hardships. As a people group, Israel would be in extreme poverty. Habakkuk experienced heart-pounding, lip-quivering, leg-trembling fear (v. 16).

Yet despite that, Habakkuk said he would “rejoice in the Lord” and “be joyful” (v. 18). He proclaimed His hope in the God who provides the strength to walk in difficult places (v. 19).

Sometimes we go through seasons of deep pain and hardship. But no matter what we’ve lost, or wanted but never had, we can, like Habakkuk, rejoice in our relationship with a loving God. Even when it feels like we have nothing else, He will never fail or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). He, the One who “provide[s] for those who grieve,” is our ultimate reason for joy (Isaiah 61:3).

By Kirsten Holmberg

Today’s Reflection

What about your relationship with Jesus brings you the greatest joy? How has He met you recently in a time of hardship or grief?

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – An Ordinary Cross

“The cross,” someone once said, “has become so ordinary that we hardly see it anymore.” The thought struck me as I walked through a shop with items to buy stashed in every possible crevice: frog-shaped garden statues, multi-colored curios, inventive décor made from soda cans, beach glass, refurbished car parts. Occasionally surfacing through the ornamented walls were cross-shaped or cross-adorned objects, so ordinary in a shop so out-of-the-ordinary, they were almost hard to notice at all. The cross has become so ordinary that we hardly see it anymore. The thought altered the remainder of my browsing. How can this be true? How can an image once shameful enough to bow the proudest heads have ever become ordinary? Could the gallows ever be innocuous? Would the death sentence of someone near us ever fail to get our attention, much less blend in beside earthenware and figurines?

Theodore Prescott is a sculptor who has spent a great deal of time thinking about the cross. In the 1980’s he began working on a series of crosses using different materials, forms, and processes hoping to reconstitute the cultural and scriptural imagery of the Roman cross. In a sense, Prescott attempts to portray the incongruous. The Roman cross was a loathsome manner of execution that inflicted an anguished death; the Cross of Christ held a man who went willingly—and without guilt. Though a reflection of beauty and sacrifice, the cross is also an image of physical torture, inseparable from flesh and blood. There was a body on these beams. Its image bears both startling realities—the presence of outstretched limbs and the mystery of a now vacant cross. These contrasts alone are replete with a peculiar depth. Yet, our daily intake of the cross “precludes contemplation,” notes Prescott. The cross has indeed become so ordinary that we hardly see it anymore.

Maybe he is right. But if the cross has become merely a symbol of Christianity, an emblem of one religion in a sea of others, it is still a symbol that stands secluded from the others. Even as an image among many or an image buried in bric-a-brac, it remains conspicuously on its own. The symbol of the cross is an instrument of death. It is also, curiously, a symbol of God’s kindness. Far from ordinary, it suggests, at the very least, a beautiful and terrible love quite beyond us. Could it be that it is we who have become ordinary, our senses dulled to unconsciousness by the daily matters we give precedence? Even in his own time, the apostle Paul lamented such a blurring of the cross, calling the world to a greater vision: As I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – An Ordinary Cross

Joyce Meyer – Relax! God Is Working

 

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] — Matthew 11:28 (AMPC)

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

Being relaxed feels wonderful. Being nervous, tense, and worried are not so wonderful. Why aren’t more people relaxed? Jesus said if we are weary and overburdened, we should go to Him and He will give us rest, relaxation, and ease (see Matthew 11:28–29).

Jesus wants to teach us the right way to live, which is different from the way most of the world lives.

It would be putting it mildly to say that I was an uptight woman for the first half of my life. I simply did not know how to relax, and it was due to me not being willing to completely trust God. I trusted God for things, but not in things. I kept trying to be the one in control. Even though God was in the driver’s seat of my life, I kept one hand on the wheel just in case He took a wrong turn.

Relaxation is impossible without trust! If you know you can’t fix the problem you have, then why not relax while God is working on it? It sounds easy, but it took many years for me to be able to do this.

I know from experience that the ability to relax and go with the flow in life is dependent upon our willingness to trust God completely. If things don’t go your way, instead of being upset, you can believe that getting your way was not what you needed. God knew that, so He gave you what was best for you, instead of what you wanted.

If you are waiting much longer than you had hoped to, you can get frustrated, angry, and upset, or you can say, “God’s timing is perfect; He is never late. And my steps are ordered by the Lord.” Now you can relax and simply go with the flow of what is happening in your life.

When it comes to things that are out of our control, we can either ruin the day or relax and enjoy it while God is working on the situation. As long as we believe, God keeps working!

Prayer Starter: Father, right now I commit all of my cares, concerns and circumstances to You. Help me, moment by moment, to trust You—to give my burdens to You and relax in Your love, knowing You have everything under control. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Father and Son

 

“For a person who doesn’t believe in Christ, God’s Son, can’t have God the Father either. But he who has Christ, God’s Son, has God the Father also” (1 John 2:23).

An angry young student leader of a leftist movement approached me after one of my lectures on campus. “I resent your poisoning the minds of these students with your religious ideas,” he said, obviously trying to start an argument.

Instead of responding in kind, I asked him to come to our home for dinner where we could talk quietly and more in depth. He accepted the invitation.

After dinner, we discussed our individual views concerning God and man and the way we felt our ideas could best help man to maximize his potential. He objected when I started to read from the Bible.

“I don’t believe anything in the Bible,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “if you don’t mind, I would like to read you a few portions of Scripture which will help you better understand why I became a Christian after many years of agnosticism. I didn’t believe in God or the Bible either, but something wonderful happened to me which changed my thinking – in fact, my whole way of life. There are some of the Scriptures which made a great impression on my thinking, and I would like to share them with you.”

Reluctantly he agreed to listen. So I read portions of John 1, Hebrews 1 and Colossians, finally coming to this key verse in 1 John. My new student friend asked questions along the way. Before leaving that night, the miracle occurred and he wrote in our guest book, “The night of decision.”

Bible Reading: I John 4:14-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Rather than try to defend the supernatural Word of God, I will simply present it in the power of the Holy Spirit and let the Word of God be its own defense.

 

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Max Lucado – Lovebursts

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Lovebursts.  We all have them.  Spontaneous affection.  Tender moments of radiant love.  They remind you about what matters.

Jesus had lovebursts…lots of them.  One of them happened when four men lowered their paralytic friend through a roof to reach Jesus.  And faith got God’s attention.  Mark 2:5 says, “When Jesus say the faith of these people, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Young man, your sins are forgiven.’”

To heal the man’s body took a simple command.  To forgive the man’s sins took Jesus’ blood.  Jesus already knew the price of forgiveness.  But he offered it anyway.  Love burst his heart.  By the way, he hasn’t changed.  What happened then happens today. All of heaven must pause as another burst of love declares the only words that really do matter:  “Your sins are forgiven.”

Read more He Still Moves Stones

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – A farmer who died for a stranger: How to find good news in bad news

 

There is good news in the bad news making news today.

First, the bad news: Large parts of Nebraska and the US Central Plains were underwater over the weekend after a late-winter “bomb cyclone” storm triggered historic flooding. Forecasters warn that more rain is coming tomorrow.

A farmer named James Wilke got a call to assist a stranger during the storm and drove his tractor over a bridge that collapsed. Wilke and his tractor went into the floodwater; he did not survive.

Meanwhile, last week’s shooting in New Zealand continues to dominate headlines as authorities rush to identify the fifty victims and the prime minister promises changes to gun laws. And ceremonies were held in Kenya and Ethiopia for the 157 victims of last week’s Ethiopian Airlines plane crash.

While man-made tragedies deservedly generate headlines and global sympathy, natural disasters affect millions across the country. The global annual death rate from natural disasters has fallen significantly over the years, but such tragedies affect 218 million people each year and claim 68,000 lives.

However, there is a principle here that promises to liberate us with hope that transcends all hardships.

Theology from a crocodile

The book of Job is not usually considered an uplifting work of literature. Much of it is dominated by Job’s understandable complaints to God about the horrific suffering he endured.

Toward the end of the book, the Lord answers him—not by explaining Job’s pain, but by declaring his own omnipotence and omniscience.

For instance, God asks Job, “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?” (Job 41:1). Most scholars believe that “Leviathan” in this context is a giant crocodile.

The creature’s creator warns Job: “Lay your hands on him; remember the battle—you will not do it again!” (v. 8). By comparison to this mighty beast, “The hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him” (v. 9).

This is just one illustration of our frailty and finitude in the face of God’s creation. There are more examples everywhere we look. As the Lord reminds Job and us, “Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine” (v. 11).

When last were you awed by God?

Here’s my question: If we fear creation (and we should), should we not fear its Creator even more?

Proverbs 1:7 declares, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” “Fear” is our healthy response to the awesome power and might of the one true God.

When Ananias lied to God and died as a result, “great fear came upon all who heard of it” (Acts 5:5). The early church walked “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit” and “multiplied” as a result (Acts 9:31). By contrast, Scripture says of sinners, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18, quoting Psalm 36:1).

Across Scripture, whenever people knew they were in the presence of the one true God, their response was one of awe and reverence.

When Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up,” he cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1, 5).

When Peter realized our Savior’s divine power, “he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:8). John testified that when he met the risen Christ on Patmos, “I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).

When last were you awed by God?

When we trust God with our fears

What is the most fearsome natural threat you can imagine?

It might be a hurricane or a tornado, a roaring lion or an attacking shark. Now realize that the God who made what makes you afraid is infinitesimally more powerful than his most powerful creation.

When we give him the awe and reverence he deserves, we position ourselves to experience his presence and power in life-changing ways. When we acknowledge that God is more powerful than the most powerful threat in nature, we are also acknowledging that our Father is more powerful than anything that can harm us.

Indeed, he is not only all-powerful—he is all-loving as well. As a result, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Say it with Paul: “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 38–39).

When we trust him with our fears, our fearful culture pays attention. When we serve him out of selfless gratitude for his grace, our self-centered society takes note.

A record crowdfunding campaign

Dallas Jenkins is director of The Chosen, the first multi-season television series about the life of Christ. Jenkins says the idea behind the series came after “a significant career disappointment. My previous film had done poorly at the box office, and I was uncertain of my future.”

So, Jenkins decided to create a short film about the birth of Christ “just intended for my church’s Christmas Eve service.” The response was so strong that he decided to make an entire television series about the life of Jesus through the eyes of those who encountered him.

However, his team needed funding for the project. They decided to let the body of Christ help. Roughly 16,000 people around the world responded, giving more than $10 million—a record-setting campaign.

Jenkins trusted his fear to God’s power for God’s glory. Job would encourage us to do the same.

Who or what is your Leviathan today?

 

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