Charles Stanley – Following Our Convictions

 

Acts 4:1-20

Most of us have been blessed to live relatively free from persecution. We may have experienced some mocking, ridicule, or ostracism because of our beliefs, but we don’t have to fear punishment or death. However, that’s not the case elsewhere in the world. There are Christians in other countries for whom today’s passage is all too familiar.

Acts 4 tells us that Peter and John faced great opposition for their faith. After being thrown into jail for healing a sick man, they were warned not to speak or teach in Jesus Christ’s name. But they held firmly to their convictions and replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20 NLT).

Our goal as believers is to become unshakeable in our faith. Peter and John didn’t flinch from their responsibility to proclaim salvation in Jesus’ name, even in the face of imprisonment and threats. Yet in reading this account, we may wonder how we could ever endure persecution.

The truth is that in ourselves, we can’t do it. But we are never alone. When we stand for our convictions, God’s Spirit is always present in us. He gives us the physical, spiritual, mental, and moral strength to stand firm when we are tested and tried (Luke 12:11-12).

God wants His children to trust Him with the future; He doesn’t want us becoming panicky about what may lie ahead. But if He ever calls us to suffer for Him, in that moment He’ll provide the grace we need in order to remain faithful.

Bible in One Year: Esther 1-5

 

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Our Daily Bread — Fearless Love

 

Bible in a Year:2 Chronicles 10–12; John 11:30–57

We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 John 4:7-12

For years I wore a shield of fear to protect my heart. It became an excuse to avoid trying new things, following my dreams, and obeying God. But fear of loss, heartache, and rejection hindered me from developing loving relationships with God and others. Fear made me an insecure, anxious, and jealous wife, and an overprotective, worrying mother. As I continue learning how much God loves me, however, He’s changing the way I relate to Him and to others. Because I know God will care for me, I feel more secure and willing to place the needs of others before mine.

God is love (1 John 4:7–8). Christ’s death on the cross—the ultimate demonstration of love—displays the depth of His passion for us (vv. 9–10). Because God loves us and lives in us, we can love others based on who He is and what He’s done (vv. 11–12).

When we receive Jesus as our Savior, He gives us His Holy Spirit (vv. 13–15). As the Spirit helps us know and rely on God’s love, He makes us more like Jesus (vv. 16–17). Growing in trust and faith can gradually eliminate fear, simply because we know without a doubt that God loves us deeply and completely (vv. 18–19).

As we experience God’s personal and unconditional love for us, we grow and can risk relating to Him and others with fearless love.

By Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray

What fears are found in your heart? As you ponder God’s great love for you, how does this help alleviate them?

Lord, thank You for pouring limitless love into us so we can love You and others without fear.

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Fairest Jesus of Them All

The sharp distinction between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith common in New Testament studies has proven to be an inexhaustible mine for those searching for melodramatic ideas to bounce around during important Christian holidays. The historical Jesus is taken to be the merely human person who was born and raised in Palestine and was crucified during the days of Pontius Pilate. The Christ of faith is assumed to be a mythical, supernatural figure invented by the early admirers of the earthly Jesus. Such thinking flourished in eighteenth century German biblical scholarship, particularly after the posthumous publication of the private notes of Herman Samuel Reimarus between 1774 and 1778.

Inspired by Reimarus’s doubts concerning the historicity of the biblical record, many other scholars published monographs in which they cast Jesus in various religious and cultural roles unhinged from the supernatural. The whole movement, which became known as “the old quest of the historical Jesus,” was brought to a near screeching halt by the 1906 publication of Albert Schweitzer’s book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, whose title also branded the movement. Schweitzer demonstrated that the scholars of the old quest shared something in common—they relied heavily on their presuppositions about who they believed Jesus was and so “each individual created him in accordance with his own character.”(1) In other words, each one of them ended up producing the Jesus they went out looking for in the first place.

Unfortunately, the tendency to recast Jesus in our own image continues even in our day. In scholarly circles, it is represented by the Jesus Seminar which refuses to allow the possibility of the supernatural for those who have “seen the heavens through Galileo’s telescope.”(2) Even among believers, it rears its ugly head whenever we prefix the name of Jesus with the possessive pronoun “my” in order to secure our turf from unwelcome scrutiny. A few years ago, a friend and I attended a church in which several people broke out in convulsive laughter in the middle of the worship service. My friend later informed me that they were laughing in Jesus. I knew something about the historical Jesus, but this was my first encounter with the hysterical Jesus and further evidence of his protean flexibility in human hands.

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Joyce Meyer – Rest for the Weary

 

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own. — 1 Corinthians 6:19

Adapted from the resource Closer to God Each Day Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

The first key to overcoming stress is to recognize or admit we are experiencing it, and look for the source of it.

There was a time in my life when I was constantly having headaches, backaches, stomach aches, neck aches, and all the other symptoms of stress, but I found it very difficult to admit I was pushing too hard physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

I wanted to do all of the things I was doing and wasn’t willing to ask God what He wanted me to do. I was afraid that He would lead me to give up something I wasn’t ready to give up yet.

Although the Lord gives power to the faint and weary, if you are worn-out from continually exceeding your physical limitations, you will have stress.

Our bodies are the sanctuary (home) of God, and we are in disobedience when we push ourselves past God-ordained limitations and live in continual stress. We all have limits and we need to recognize what they are and eliminate excess stress from our lives.

If you wear out your body, you can’t go to a department store and purchase another one, so take care of the one you have!

Prayer Starter: Father, I lift my schedule and activities up to You. Show me areas where I need to change. Help me to do my part to eliminate stress and take care of my body, the temple of Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for Your grace to change! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Walk in the Light

 

“Later, in one of His talks, Jesus said to the people, ‘I am the Light of the world. So if you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, for living light will flood your path” (John 8:12).

The living room of our home was dark when I quietly slipped a key into the lock and opened the door one night, walking slowly and softly so as not to awaken Vonette and our sons who were very young. Though they had been trained to put away their toys, somehow in the rush to get ready for bed that night they had left cars and a train and other favorite play things scattered throughout the living room.

You guessed it! I stepped on one with wheels that almost threw me to the floor before I could regain my balance. Many a person has broken a leg or an arm under similar circumstances, and some have even fallen and hit their heads on sharp objects, resulting in a fatal accident.

So it is in the spiritual realm. If we insist on walking in the darkness, we will inevitably stumble and take risks that can greatly jeopardize our spiritual health and, in some cases, lead to our spiritual death by cutting ourselves off from God.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness.” In the first epistle of John we are told, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not tell the truth. If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses [and keeps on cleansing] us from all sin.”

There is only one person who qualifies to be the light of the world. That is Jesus. So how do we follow Him? What does it mean to walk in the light? Basically, it means that there is no unconfessed sin. It means that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, that we are feasting upon the Word of God and obeying His commands which include sharing our love for Christ with others.

Bible Reading: I Thessalonians 4:5-8

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I shall walk in the light with Christ who is the light of the world, and reflect His light in such an attractive way that those who walk in darkness will be drawn to the light as moths are drawn to a burning candle.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – A Kingdom Message

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Some months ago, I was late to catch a plane out of the San Antonio airport.  I wasn’t terribly late but I was late enough to be bumped and have my seat given to a standby passenger.  When the ticket agent told me I would have to miss the flight, I put to work my best persuasive powers.  “But the flight hasn’t left yet!”  “Yes, but you are here too late” she responded.  “But m’am” I pleaded, “I’ve got to be in Houston by this evening.”  She was patient but firm. “I’m sorry sir.”  “I know what the rules say,” I said.  “I’m not asking for justice, I’m asking for mercy.”  She didn’t give it to me.

But God does.  Even though by the book I’m guilty, by God’s love, I get another chance.  Even though by the Law I’m indicted, by mercy, I’m given a fresh start.  For it is by grace, you have been saved.  And not by works, so that no one can boast.

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For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Blind and autistic performer reminds us that every life is sacred

Kodi Lee played the piano and sang on America’s Got Talent when it premiered Tuesday night. The twenty-two-year-old is blind and autistic, yet he was so amazing that he received a standing ovation from the judges and a “golden buzzer” sending him directly into the finals.

I was deeply moved by his performance and urge you to watch it.

It turns out, we should not be surprised by Kodi’s success. As his website states, he is one of approximately twenty-five people in the world with such perfect pitch and an audio photographic memory (he can recall and perform music after just one hearing). He has mastered Bach, Chopin, and Mozart, and also performs rock, jazz, R&B, and pop. He was recently invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

As I watched Kodi’s remarkable America’s Got Talent performance, this sobering thought occurred to me: What if, as a result of his challenges, he had been aborted?

Two “Christian” arguments for abortion

I appeared last week on Equipped with Chris Brooks, a national radio program hosted by one of the most brilliant and insightful ministers I know. As Chris and I discussed the ongoing abortion controversy, a listener called to state that she is pro-life personally but does not believe she has the right to force her beliefs on others.

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