Charles Stanley – Dying to Serve: A Parable

 

John 12:23-26

Imagine two grains of wheat lying on the floor of a warm and cozy barn. One day, the farmer comes in and tells them, “I want to take you out of this comfortable barn and plant you in the earth. I’m going to place you in the cold ground and cover you with soil. It will be dark, and you will die. But I promise that you will multiply and become very fruitful.”

The first grain of wheat turns down the suggestion. “No way!” he says. “Count me out. I like my comfort, and I don’t want to die.” But the second one, after carefully considering the pain and discomfort of dying, decides the promise of a future harvest is worth the sacrifice. So the farmer takes him outside and plants him in the ground, while allowing the first grain of wheat to remain inside the barn.

A few days later, a small green sprout begins to appear over where the seed has been planted. Then it grows and becomes a tall stalk of wheat that produces one hundred more grains. For the next 40 years, the farmer plants all the seeds that originated from that first grain of wheat, and year after year the harvest multiplies. Meanwhile, the grain of wheat that stayed in the barn remains there all alone, never growing or multiplying—but he has stayed very comfortable.

Which grain of wheat are you? Are you playing it safe, or have you let Christ plant you in the world? The only way you’ll become useful and fruitful in God’s kingdom is by abiding in Him and trusting that His desires for your life are worthwhile.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 39-43

 

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Our Daily Bread — Rescuing Villains

 

Bible in a Year:Nehemiah 10–11; Acts 4:1–22

Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants!

Daniel 3:28

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Daniel 3:26–30

The comic book hero is as popular as ever. In 2017 alone, six superhero movies accounted for more than $4 billion (US) in box office sales. But why are people so drawn to big action flicks?

Maybe it’s because, in part, such stories resemble God’s Big Story. There’s a hero, a villain, a people in need of rescue, and plenty of riveting action.

In this story, the biggest villain is Satan, the enemy of our souls. But there are lots of “little” villains as well. In the book of Daniel, for example, one is Nebuchadnezzar, the king of much of the known world, who decided to kill anyone who didn’t worship his giant statue (Daniel 3:1–6). When three courageous Jewish officials refused (vv. 12–18), God dramatically rescued them from a blazing furnace (vv. 24–27).

But in a surprising twist, we see this villain’s heart begin to change. In response to this spectacular event, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” (v. 28).

But then he threatened to kill anyone who defied God (v. 29), not yet understanding that God didn’t need his help. Nebuchadnezzar would learn more about God in chapter 4—but that’s another story.

What we see in Nebuchadnezzar isn’t just a villain, but someone on a spiritual journey. In God’s story of redemption, our hero, Jesus, reaches out to everyone needing rescue—including the villains among us.

By Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray

Who do you know in need of God’s rescue? What can you do to help?

Jesus prayed for those who persecuted Him. We can do the same.

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Creation and Destruction

 

The capture of one of the most notorious drug loads—leader of the Sinaloa Cartel—El Chapo, Joaquin Guzman made global headlines. Guzman was captured without the firing of a single bullet. This was quite a feat given that he kept an arsenal of weapons around him at all times: semi-automatic rifles, hand-grenades, rocket-launchers, and other weapons of mass-destruction. Yet, he was completely caught off guard when police arrested him in his home in the early dawn of 2014. He escaped not five months later by creating a tunnel from his shower. While the media hailed his capture and re-capture in January 2016 as well as his recent trial and upcoming sentencing as huge successes in the fight against drug trafficking, most citizens in Mexico are less sure. There is little confidence that Guzman’s capture will slow the traffic or violence of the drug trade and its cartels, which for many seems an intractable feature of Mexican life.

The moral depravity of the real-life drug cartels has often been fictionalized in television and film. Whether the popular television show Breaking Bad or the 2007 film No Country for Old Men (adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy), the violence intertwined with the illegal drug trade has often been used as a metaphor for exploring the underbelly of evil just below the surface of ‘civilized’ life. Specifically, it is a force that seems to advance without end or solution. The recent news about heroin epidemics and overdoses in typically “middle-American” towns is a chilling example. Given the chaotic elements inherent in addiction and violence, it is understandable how a kind of nihilistic despair can take hold. As the sheriff laments in the film No Country for Old Men:

“I was sheriff of this county when I was twenty-five years old. Hard to believe. My grandfather was a lawman; father too. You can’t help but compare yourself against the old-timers. Can’t help but wonder how they would have operated these times. The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, ‘O.K., I’ll be part of this world [emphasis mine].’”(1)

When I read the headlines or encounter some of the ways in which these realities are depicted in film, television, novels, and other artistic media, I wonder with the Sheriff in McCarthy’s novel how to make a difference in the kind of world most would be terrified to enter. Is there any hope for redemption, transformation, and justice that goes beyond simply punishment? As a Christian, I wonder what difference the good news of Jesus can make in a world of drug lords, traffickers, and violence?

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Joyce Meyer – He Cares for You and Wants to Comfort You

 

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. — Psalm 34:17-18

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

I believe God mourns with us when we suffer a great loss. After all, when Jesus taught us to pray, He told us to call God “Abba,” which is best translated as “Daddy.”

What daddy doesn’t ache when his little boy comes home defeated after striking out at his Little League game? What mother doesn’t feel her own heart break as her little girl comes home from school having been taunted on the playground?

In the overall scheme of things, these are tiny losses and hurts, and the parent knows that. But the pain of seeing your child suffering is piercing nonetheless.

Immediately after teaching the disciples to pray what we know as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus asked, What man is there of you, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will hand him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent? (Matthew 7:9–10AMPC).

In other words, because He is our Father, God suffers when we suffer. And while He could change our circumstances in an instant, more often than not, He doesn’t. But when He sees His child suffer, He suffers, too.

When you are feeling loss and sorrow, ask God to hold you in the hollow of His hand, to whisper His comfort and to stroke your head, like a parent fussing over his fevered child. You may or may not feel that comfort, but God’s Word is true, and so is He.

Prayer Starter: Thank You, Father, that You are the God of all comfort and You suffer when I suffer. Please comfort me today. Help me to sense Your loving presence in everything I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Gave His Son

 

“Since He did not spare even His own Son for us but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also surely give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32).

George was very faithful in his Christian walk. In fact, he had a little black book in which he recorded all of his activities for each day. These included daily devotions, note-taking, verses to be memorized, appointments to be kept and every activity of his life. Outwardly he seemed so perfect that I, as a young Christian, wanted to be like him. Then one day he had a nervous breakdown. As he told me later, the last thing he did before he went to the hospital was to throw away his little black book and tell his wife he never wanted to see it again. Without realizing it, he had become very legalistic in his relationship with God rather than accepting, by faith, what God had already done for him. while in the hospital he began to recall some of the thousands of verses which he had memorized through the years. It was then that he relaxed enough to allow the Holy Spirit to illumine his mind to comprehend the importance of living by faith.

As Paul writes to the Galatians in the third chapter: “What magician has hypnotized you and cast an evil spell upon you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death as clearly as though I had waved a placard before you with a picture on it of Christ dying on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by trying to keep the Jewish laws? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you heard about Christ and trusted Him to save you. Then, have you gone completely crazy? For if trying to obey the Jewish laws never gave you spiritual life in the first place, why do you think that trying to obey them now will make you stronger Christians?”

I ask you again: Does God give you the power of the Holy Spirit as a result of your trying to obey His laws? No, of course not. He gives that power when you believe in Christ and fully trust Him. The greatest heresy of the Christian life is legalism; and yet, it inevitably seems to attract dedicated, committed Christians. They are happy to accept salvation as a gift of God by faith. But like the Galatians, they insist on earning their way thereafter.

We must never forget that salvation is a gift of God which we receive by faith. Nothing can be earned. If we believe God, we will want to work to please Him, not to earn His favor.

Bible Reading: Romans 8:33-39

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will invite the Holy Spirit to protect me from becoming legalistic in my walk with Christ. Having received salvation by faith, I shall claim each day’s blessings by faith as I live the supernatural life.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – In God We (Nearly) Trust

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Drink deeply from God’s Lordship.  He authors all itineraries.  He knows what is best.  No struggle will come your way apart from His purpose, presence, and permission.  What encouragement this brings.  You are never the victim of nature or the prey of fate.  Chance is eliminated.

You are more than a weathervane whipped about by the winds of fortune.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, he promises.  And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched; nor will the flame burn you.  “For I am the Lord your God.” (Isaiah 43:2-3).

We live beneath the protective palm of the sovereign king who super intends every circumstance of our lives, and delights in doing us good.  Be encouraged.  God’s ways are always right.

Read more Come Thirsty

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – A shooting in Dallas and the death of Gloria Vanderbilt: Reading the world through God’s word

A gunman opened fire on the Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas yesterday morning. According to the Dallas Police Department, the heavily armed, masked suspect was shot in an “exchange of gunfire” with federal officers.

He was reportedly taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Authorities identified the suspect as twenty-two-year-old Brian Isaack Clyde. A bomb squad also examined his vehicle, later detonating a device in a controlled explosion.

As of this morning, federal authorities leading the investigation have not offered a motive for the shooting.

“They can’t take what’s hidden in your heart”

The bad news is that another shooting occurred in a public space. The good news is that the shooter harmed no one.

We can carry this bipolar theme into nearly any story in today’s news.

For example, Wayne Cordeiro, a well-known Hawaiian pastor, met recently with twenty-two Christian leaders in China. Eighteen had been imprisoned. They told him that Christians headed for prison smuggle in pieces of paper with portions of Scripture on them which they memorize.

“Even though they can take the paper away, they can’t take what’s hidden in your heart,” one told Cordeiro.

We should grieve with and intercede for our sisters and brothers suffering such horrific persecution. But we can rejoice in their faith and choose to emulate their courage.

The death of Gloria Vanderbilt

On the other side of the news, Gloria Vanderbilt died yesterday at the age of ninety-five.

She was the great-great-granddaughter of famous financier Cornelius Vanderbilt and the mother of CNN newsman Anderson Cooper. Hers was a story of remarkable fame and financial means.

However, her father was a gambler and an alcoholic dying of liver disease when he married her mother. Gloria was one year old when he died.

Continue reading Denison Forum – A shooting in Dallas and the death of Gloria Vanderbilt: Reading the world through God’s word