Charles Stanley – Following in Christ’s Footsteps

 

Matthew 10:24-42

Much of Christianity has a distorted view of discipleship. In our desire to see more people come to Christ, we may be guilty of offering a gospel that emphasizes the benefits of following Jesus while avoiding any mention of the cost involved.

However, Jesus didn’t shy away from speaking truth. He let people know that being His disciple would not be easy, because they’d be following in His footsteps. Since Christ didn’t sail through life without challenges, why should we? Our goal should be to become like our Savior, and that means we must be willing to suffer to one degree or another.

Contrary to what many contemporary sermons suggest, following Jesus may not make your relationships better. It could become a source of contention because a true disciple’s love, devotion, and loyalty to Christ supersedes every other relationship. If what a friend or family member desires contradicts what the Lord has commanded, then the choice must be to follow Christ rather than a loved one.

As Christians, we’ll frequently be tempted to compromise in order to avoid misunderstanding, criticism, rejection, or persecution. But as Christ’s followers, we are called to live a crucified life—and compromise undercuts the wholehearted nature of crucifixion. We cannot pursue the acceptance of the world and at the same time follow the Lord. Until we stand with both feet on the side of obedience, we forfeit assurance of God’s peace and blessings.

Although discipleship is costly, the reward is great. Jesus promises to confess us as His own before God when we enter our heavenly home.

Bible in One Year: Job 9-12

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Night Watches

 

Bible in a Year:2 Chronicles 19–20; John 13:21–38

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.

Psalm 63:6

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 63:1-8

During my college days, my summers were spent working at a guest ranch in the stunningly beautiful mountains of Colorado. On a rotating basis, staff members were assigned “night watch” duty—to keep an eye out for forest fires in order to protect the guests as they slept. What initially seemed to be an exhausting and thankless task became a unique opportunity for me to be still, reflect, and find solace in the majesty of God’s presence.

King David earnestly sought and thirsted for the presence of God (Psalm 63:1), even from his bed and through the “watches of the night” (v. 6). The psalm makes it clear David was troubled. It’s possible the words contained in it reflect his deep sadness over the rebellion of his son Absalom. Yet the night became a time for David to find help and restoration in the “shadow of [God’s] wings” (v. 7)—in His power and presence.

Perhaps you’re dealing with some crisis or difficulty in your life, and the night watches have been anything but comforting. Perhaps your own “Absalom” weighs heavy on your heart and soul. Or other burdens of family, work, or finances plague your times of rest. If so, consider these sleepless moments to be opportunities to call out and cling to God—allowing His loving hand to uphold you (v. 8).

By 

Reflect & Pray

How do God’s promises encourage you when you face challenges that keep you awake at night? How can the night watches draw you closer to Him?

Dear God, thank You for always being awake and present with me in every night watch.

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Face as Figure

 

Thomas Grüter has always had trouble putting names with faces. But unlike most of us who might have trouble recollecting the name of the man who just said hello, Grüter’s trouble lies in recognizing the face of the man who just said hello—even if it is his own father’s. His condition is called prosopagnosia or “face blindness,” and until recently the disorder was thought to be exceedingly rare. But new research led by a team that included Grüter himself shows the disorder is surprisingly much more common.

Those affected with prosopagnosia are not forgetful or inattentive, nor are they the social snobs they are often accused of being. When it comes to faces—even their own—they see very little that distinguishes one from another. The part of the brain that signals face recognition simply does not respond. As a result, they may greet acquaintances as strangers, struggle to keep up with plots in movies, and have difficulty finding their own children at school pick-up time. “I see faces that are human,” notes one woman of her condition, “but they all look more or less the same. It’s like looking at a bunch of golden retrievers: some may seem a little older or smaller or bigger, but essentially they all look alike.”(1)

The more I think about what it would mean to live unable to recognize faces, the more I am amazed at our ability to do so at all. Human faces are so complex, differing in both great and minute details. Our faces change with expression or circumstance, angle or shift of light; they are transformed by emotions, altered by different situations, and slowly transformed with age. Given the intricacy of the task, it is phenomenal that we should be able to recognize so many faces so effortlessly in the first place.

Yet the face is one of the very first things we learn to respond to as infants. Developmental psychologists speak readily of the importance of the human face in the life of a newborn, particularly the faces of mother and father, which the child quickly comes to recognize. Professor James Loder speaks of the tendency of an infant to smile when one holds the mere configuration of a face on a stick beside the crib. Writes Loder, “[T]he face phenomenon is not strictly something that comes only from the environment; it is also a construct created by the child and developed out of the child’s inherent resources and deep-seated longing. Children seem uniquely endowed with a potential capacity to sum up all the complexity of the nurturing presence in the figure of the face.“(2) For the child, the face plays a central role in their developing sense of the order of their very universe. Thus, when the face of the loving nurturer goes away in any capacity (which is inevitable), the child’s world is upset on some level. For what has gone away is not merely a static face but a much greater presence.

In this, children inherently illustrate a correlation drawn in biblical language. In both Greek and in Hebrew, the word for “face” is also the word for “presence.” Though we do not literally behold the face of God, it is the Father’s greater countenance that we seek, God’s presence that comforts above all. The psalmist’s plea is that the confirming presence of God’s love would remain with him always: “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Psalm 27:9-10). Scripture seems to pronounce what is echoed in the skills and longings of a developing child: namely, our years urge us to pursue “a relationship with the One who is the cosmic ordering, self-confirming presence.”(3) That is to say, the enduring pursuit of the faithful is a pursuit of the Face that will, in fact, never go away.

I cannot imagine the hardship of those for whom no face is familiar. But there are times when God’s face certainly seems obscure to me, and it is a painful discomfort. Though evidence of God’s assuring presence may well be around me, I am at times hard-pressed to recognize it. It is in such times when I am reminded by my own longing that God is near. In my most instinctive desire is the imprint of the face for which I long. Though recognition is a task that doesn’t always come effortlessly, the longing to know the face of God is a sign placed deeply within us, an assuring mark of God’s very calming, comforting presence. Wherever we are in our stages of recognition, the promise of God, and the vicariously human presence of the Son of God, is given in mystery and kindness: For now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; but one day we shall see face to face.

 

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

 

(1) Nicholas Bakalar, “Just Another Face in the Crowd Even if It’s Your Own,” The New York Times, July 18, 2006.
(2) James E. Loder, The Logic of the Spirit (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), 91.
(3) Ibid., 95.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – Get Up and Get Going

 

I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping…Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. — Psalm 6:6,8

Adapted from the resource Starting Your Day Right Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Even before we are totally awake, Satan is bidding to deceive us and is ready to plant defeating thoughts in our mind. He wants us to be hopeless, faithless, and negative.

He definitely doesn’t want us to be positive when we get up. He wants us to have a bad attitude and be selfish and self-centered, full of hatred, bitterness, resentment, doubt, unbelief, and fear—to be mad at everybody.

But thank God, through Jesus Christ, we have been redeemed from all of those negative patterns. We can resist Satan and trust God’s power in or­der to live victoriously today.

Prayer Starter: Father, this is the day You have made! Help me to approach it with a positive attitude, full of faith and hope, knowing You have great things in store. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Bring Forth Much Fruit

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24, KJV).

Alex was distressed over his constant failure to live the Christian life victoriously.

“I am always failing,” he said. “I know what is right, but I am simply not able to keep the many commitments, resolutions and rededications that I make to the Lord almost daily. What is wrong with me? Why do I constantly fail? How can I push that magic button which will change my life and make me the kind of person God wants me to be, and the kind of person I want to be?”

I turned with him to review Romans 7 and 8, and discussed with him how all of us experience this conflict when we walk in our own strength. But the victory is ours as we walk in the Spirit. It is impossible to control ourselves and be controlled by the Holy Spirit at the same time.

Perhaps you have had that same problem and wondered why your life was not bringing forth much fruit. Christ cannot be in control if you are on the throne of your life. So you must abdicate – surrender the throne of your life to Christ. This involves faith.

As an expression of your will, in prayer, you surrender the throne of your life to Him, and by faith you draw upon His resources to live a supernatural life, holy and fruitful. The command of Ephesians 5:18 is given to all believers: We are to be filled, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, continually, moment by moment, every day. And the promise of 1 John 5:14, 15 is made to all believers: When we pray according to God’s will, He hears and answers us.

The person who walks by faith in the control of the Holy Spirit has a new Master. The Lord Jesus said, “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38, NAS). “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24, NAS).

Bible Reading: John 12:25-31

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Because my deep desire is to “bear much fruit,” I will surrender afresh to God’s Holy Spirit so that He might endow me with supernatural life and enable me to bear much fruit for His glory.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – The Dehydrated Heart

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Your body is 80 percent fluid.  Stop drinking and see what happens.  Coherent thoughts vanish, skin grows clammy, and vital organs wrinkle.

Deprive your heart of spiritual water, and your dehydrated heart will send desperate messages—hopelessness, loneliness, resentment.  Where do you find water for your soul?  Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

Let Christ be the water of your soul.  Church activities might hide a thirst, but only Christ quenches it. Drink him.  Receive Christ’s work on the cross, the energy of his Spirit, his lordship over your life, his unending, unfailing love.  Drink deeply and often.  And out of you will flow rivers of living water.

Read more Come Thirsty

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Thirty years after Tiananmen: Persecution ‘the world has never seen the likes of’

 

Tiananmen Square consists of 109 acres in the heart of Beijing, China. Ironically, the name means “Gate of Heavenly Peace.” First constructed in 1420 during the Ming dynasty, it was the entrance to the Imperial City and the Forbidden City (the homes of emperors and their households for almost five hundred years).

When I visited several years ago, I was amazed by the massive size of the square. And by the fact that it displays no indication whatsoever that one of the most dramatic events of my lifetime took place there.

“Tank man” makes history

In 1989, weeks of pro-democracy protests led to demonstrations by more than a million people in Tiananmen Square. Thirty years ago today, the Chinese government ordered its military to reclaim the area.

Troops reached the square around 1 a.m. the following morning, June 4, leading to hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests. An official death toll has never been released. Several dozen people were later executed for their parts in the demonstrations.

Mention of the massacre is banned in China still today.

Perhaps the most iconic moment came when an unidentified protester stood in front of a line of tanks, blocking their progress. The so-called “tank man” stood there for several minutes before he was pulled aside by onlookers.

The church’s “spectacular growth”

The same day the Chinese government massacred hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators, Communist Party leaders watched as pro-democracy candidates in Poland supplanted Communist rule. Pope John Paul II’s support was indispensable to their success.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Nina Shea and Bob Fu describe what happened to Christians in China after the Tiananmen massacre. Shea directs the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. Dr. Fu was a student leader during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and founded ChinaAid “to bring international attention to China’s gross human rights violations and to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.”

It was my privilege to meet with Dr. Fu a few years ago; I have followed his courageous career with gratitude.

Shea and Fu state that Chinese Christianity experienced “spectacular growth” over the thirty years after Tiananmen and report that “there could be well over 100 million Chinese Christians.” They cite projections that China could have nearly 250 million Christians by 2030. By contrast, the Communist Party numbers ninety million.

To counter such tremendous growth, President Xi Jinping last year began enforcing religious regulations to bend the church to the party’s leadership.

“A high-tech digital dictatorship”

According to Shea and Fu, ten thousand Protestant churches were ordered shut last year in Henan province, even though most were registered with the state. During 2018, more than one million Christians were threatened or persecuted; five thousand were arrested.

Mr. Xi’s regulations ban minors from entering churches and forbid Sunday schools and Bible camps. Christian symbols are sometimes being replaced in churches with pictures of Mr. Xi. Police ordered facial-recognition cameras installed in one Protestant megachurch in Beijing, prompting the pastor to close the church.

China expert and social scientist Steven Mosher warns that the persecution of Christians in China is unfolding in unprecedented ways. He reports that local officials have been instructed by the central government not to permit the public expression of religious sentiment anywhere in the towns they control. As a result, these officials are removing crosses from churches and confiscating Bibles and other religious articles from private homes.

Mosher also reports that the Chinese government is using smartphones, video surveillance, social media, and other technology to monitor its citizens. It then rewards or punishes them through a social credit system.

For example, everyone is required to have a Xi Jinping app on his or her smartphone. It is called “Study Xi Strong China”; everyone is required to study Xi on their smartphone for half an hour daily and answer a quiz. If a person misses a session, his or her social score is penalized.

Through the app, big data, artificial intelligence, and surveillance techniques, the Communist Party has developed what Mosher calls “a high-tech digital dictatorship.” He warns: “What we have in China is an unfolding persecution the world has never seen the likes of. It’s not a persecution where Christians are being arrested and fed to lions, but it’s a persecution where Christians are being arrested for their very thoughts.”

“They are doomed to lose this war”

As the world focuses this week on the Tiananmen Square massacre, let’s focus on the spiritual war being waged for the souls of more than a billion Chinese people. Just as we are to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), so we are to pray for those who are being persecuted (cf. Hebrews 13:3).

Please pray for persecuted Chinese believers to be protected and sustained by God (Psalm 46:1). Pray for them to experience “the hope to which he has called you [and] the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). Pray for them “to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16). And pray for them “boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).

God promises his people: “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed” (Isaiah 54:17). Therefore, let’s say with confidence: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

Shea and Fu quote a Chinese pastor and his wife who were arrested in December and are awaiting trial for subversion: “In this war . . . the rulers have chosen an enemy that can never be imprisoned—the soul of man. Therefore they are doomed to lose this war.”

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/