Charles Stanley – Our Trustworthy Guide

 

Psalm 32:8-9

Many years ago, while I was on a photography trip, the heavenly Father taught me a valuable lesson about leading and following. My party had been hiking on a trail for three or four hours when I felt a slight sensation of dread. I had a sneaking suspicion that we were traveling the wrong way. When I asked our guide about it, he calmly reassured me that we were, in fact, heading in the right direction.

Well, that quieted me for a few minutes, but this persistent sense of being off track simply would not go away. So I pulled out my compass and discovered that, sure enough, we were heading the wrong way. When I pointed this out to our guide a second time, he finally stopped to think about it. After examining the compass, map, and trail markers, he realized that we really were off course. We lost about three hours—and some beautiful photo opportunities—because our guide wasn’t leading us correctly.

That experience taught me how vitally important it is to trust in the person who is guiding us. Beyond the hiking trail, this holds true in business, church, families, or any other relationship. If our guide isn’t trustworthy—if we cannot put our complete faith in him or her—we’ll end up lost.

So let me ask you: Who is your guide? Are you following celebrities or news reporters? Are you trusting in politicians or business leaders? If you’ve placed your absolute faith in anyone or anything other than your heavenly Father, you’re already off course. He is our one trustworthy Guide. Seek Him and get back on track today.

Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 41-45

 

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Life Changes

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 107–109; 1 Corinthians 4

Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:24

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Ephesians 4:20–24

Stephen grew up in a rough part of East London and fell into crime by the age of ten. He said, “If everyone’s selling drugs and doing robberies and fraud, then you’re going to get involved. It’s just a way of life.” But when he was twenty, he had a dream that changed him: “I heard God saying, Stephen, you’re going to prison for murder.” This vivid dream served as a warning, and he turned to God and received Jesus as his Savior—and the Holy Spirit transformed his life.

Stephen set up an organization that teaches inner-city kids discipline, morality, and respect through sports. He credits God with the success he has seen as he prays with and trains the kids. “Rebuilding misguided dreams,” he says.

In pursuing God and leaving behind our past, we—like Stephen—follow Paul’s charge to the Ephesians to embrace a new way of life. Although our old self is “corrupted by its deceitful desires,” we can daily seek to “put on the new self” that’s created to be like God (Ephesians 4:22, 24). All believers embrace this continual process as we ask God through His Holy Spirit to make us more like Him.

Stephen said, “Faith was a crucial foundation for me changing my life around.” How has this been true for you?

By:  Amy Boucher Pye

Reflect & Pray

When you look back over your life, what comes to mind as key moments that prompted change? What long-lasting change resulted?

Jesus, You’re alive and working in the world and in my life. Help me become more like You day by day as I leave the old self behind.

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Gaining Consciousness

 

The line between real and imagined is sometimes a little blurry. At least this is the conclusion of one report on the business of cyberspace, where thousands of people have imaginary lives and quite a few are actually making a living at it. The creators of several popular online role-playing games completed a year-long study of the very real transactions that are taking place in their imaginary worlds. The results portray a flourishing economy that is rapidly grabbing advertisers’ attention. The sellers are role players who have taken the time to find marketable goods in their virtual worlds—and they are clearly putting in the time. In one popular game, a gnome is sold with a basic skill set for $214; in another, a virtual cherry dining set for a virtual home runs about 250 actual dollars. Between June 2005 and June 2006, 9,042 role players spent $1.87 million dollars on virtual goods from swords to special powers. According to analyst estimates for 2015, U.S. virtual goods revenue alone will top $1 billion and could even rake in over $2 billion.

It is entertainment I don’t claim to fully understand. But it is fascinating (and maybe worrisome) to see how seamless the real and the virtual can become. Of course, this is a reality that runs through far more than worlds of online gaming. The imagination is always at work in the way we see the world itself; this is both instinctive and instructive. Moreover, to note that something is imaginary is not to dismiss it as void of truth or reality. Fans of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes cartoon remember significant lines of truth coming from a stuffed tiger. Yet, there are also times that what is not real can become so intertwined with what is real that we scarcely notice a difference. That is, until something real reminds us otherwise—like a jolt of consciousness, an outsider’s perspective, or a credit card receipt.

The Hebrew prophet Jonah was a prophet by profession. He knew the liturgy and worship of the people of Israel by heart. So it is not unreasonable that as his life was ebbing away in the depths of the sea, Jonah would cry out with the words of a psalm he had heard countless times before. And yet, the words no doubt had a depth of meaning for him unlike anything he had known before. As he was losing consciousness—literally in Hebrew, “in the feebleness of his person,”—Jonah not only remembered God by name, but in some ways was seeing God for the first time. Like one awakened to enmeshed worlds both real and unreal, Jonah quickly clung to what was real.

Up until this point Jonah’s behavior suggests a mentality that God was not entirely omnipresent, but present only in Israel, in the temple, and in the places of his own interest. As Jonah ran to Tarshish to avoid the call of God to go to Nineveh, he ran believing there was a place he could go where God could not find him. But as he sunk further into the depths of the sea, the prophet realized that he was mercifully mistaken. His language evokes a play on words—As I was losing consciousness, I remembered the LORD. Or else, it was a sudden recognition of the Really Real in the imaginary world he had occupied. Losing consciousness, Jonah was actually gaining it.

Perhaps not wanting to consider the discomfort it would take to uproot our own embedded fallacies, tellers of Jonah’s story often minimize the distress that broke his silence with God. But the popular notion that Jonah went straight from the side of the ship and into the mouth of the fish is not supported by either the narrative as a whole or Jonah’s cry for help. H. L. Ellison suggests that “[Jonah] was half drowned before he was swallowed. If he was still conscious, sheer dread would have caused him to faint—notice that there is no mention of the fish in his prayer. He can hardly have known what caused the change from wet darkness to an even greater dry darkness. When he did regain consciousness, it would have taken some time to realize that the all-enveloping darkness was not that of Sheol but of a mysterious safety.”(1)

In that mysterious safety, Jonah shows us the strange world that unwound his imaginary one, and in it, the God who hears in both. Though the deep surrounded him and reeds were bound to his head, Jonah was heard—and his awareness of this was an essential turning point in his story. In prayer and darkness, Jonah admitted that the role of salvation cannot be in his hands. If only momentarily, the drowning prophet clung to a truth more hopeful than escapism and far more able than idols: “Salvation belongs to the LORD.”

It is hard to believe that Jonah could have considered being swallowed alive a rescue, and yet it is precisely Jonah’s considerations from which he needed to be rescued. In truth, at times, the deliverance we need most is that of deliverance from ourselves. Though our thoughts toward God be wound in self and seaweed, and the depths of our imagined autonomy threaten to drown us, rescue is indeed a valid hope. What if God is far more real than we often imagine?

 

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

 

(1) H.L. Ellison, “Jonah,” The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 374.

 

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – How to Resist Rejection

 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? — Romans 8:31

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

Do you feel as though the world is against you? Does it seem that no matter how hard you try, no one is pleased? Maybe you have conflict with a family member. Perhaps your boss finds fault with your work.

Sooner or later you will experience some form of rejection. Not everybody will like you. Some may even aggressively dislike you. No one enjoys being rejected, but you can learn to handle rejection and get on with your life if you remember that Jesus was also rejected and despised. If you feel rejected, give your hurt to God…

Prayer Starter: Lord, I can’t please everyone all of the time. I will concentrate on being a God pleaser and not a man pleaser. The rest I leave in Your hands, Lord. Grant me favor with You and with men, and continue transforming me into the image of Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – His Ways Will Satisfy 

 

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how His ways will really satisfy you” (Romans 12:2).

“The trouble with living sacrifices,” someone has well said, “is that they keep crawling off the altar.” That may be true. We “crawl off the altar” when we sin, and the only way to put ourselves back on the altar is to breathe spiritually – confess our known sins in accordance with the promise of 1 John 1:9 and appropriate the fullness of the Holy Spirit as we are commanded to do by faith (Ephesians 5:18).

When we do this, we will be living supernaturally and our lives will produce the fruit of the Spirit in great abundance.

Only by being filled with the Spirit, and thus realizing the fruit of the Spirit, can spiritual gifts be effectively utilized in witnessing and building up the Body of Christ.

We begin by totally yielding ourselves by faith to Christ in a full irrevocable surrender to His lordship.

“He died once for all to end sin’s power, but now He lives forever in unbroken fellowship with God. So look upon your old sin-nature as dead and unresponsive to sin, and instead be alive to God, alert to Him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Do not let sin control your puny body any longer; do not give in to its sinful desires. Do not let any part of your bodies become tools of wickedness, to be used for sinning; but give yourselves completely to God – every part of you -for you are back from death and you want to be tools in the hands of God, to be used for His good purposes” (Romans 6:10-13).

Bible Reading: Romans 12:3-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that God’s ways will really satisfy me, I will seek first His kingdom, resist the devil at his every appearance and watch with joy as he flees.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Let Your Life Illustrate Christ

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Tucked away in the cedar chest of my memory is a Sunday school teacher in a small West Texas church.  She gave each of us a can of crayons and a sketch of Jesus torn from a coloring book.  We didn’t illustrate pictures of ourselves, we colored the Son of God.  We used what she gave us.  No blue crayon for the sky?  Make it purple.  If Jesus’ hair is red, the teacher won’t mind.  She taught us to paint Jesus with our own colors.

God made you to do likewise.  He made you unique so you could illustrate Christ.  Make a big deal out of him. Don’t waste years embellishing your own image.  Who needs to see your face?  Who doesn’t need to see God’s?  Besides, God promises no applause for self-promoters.  But great reward awaits God-promoters–  “Good work!  You did your job well.” (Matthew 25:23).

 

Read more Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Can hard work buy happiness? New study offers surprising answers

 

Daniel Markovits is a professor at Yale Law School with previous study at the London School of Economics, Oxford, Harvard, and Yale Law School. In The Atlantic, he pulls back the curtain on one of America’s most destructive myths: the harder you work, the happier you’ll be.

The dictionary defines meritocracy as “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.” According to Markovits, this system has become highly restrictive in America, producing wealthy parents who produce privileged children.

For instance, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale collectively enroll more students from households in the top 1 percent of income distribution than from households in the bottom 60 percent. Markovits cites a study indicating that only one out of every one hundred children born into the poorest fifth of households will join the top 5 percent. As a sign of the eroding middle class, fewer than one in fifty born into the middle fifth will do the same.

But meritocracy is not only leaving behind those whose family income does not qualify them to participate. In Markovits’ words, it also “devours the elite.”

Are you suffering from “time famine”?

Wealthy students demonstrate higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse than poor students do. They suffer depression and anxiety at rates as much as triple those of their age peers. In a recent study of Silicon Valley High School students, 54 percent displayed moderate to severe symptoms of depression and 80 percent displayed moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety.

Their parents are suffering as well. In 1962, the American Bar Association declared that there are “approximately 1,300 fee-earning hours per year” available to the typical lawyer. By 2000, the number had risen to 2,400 billable hours. According to Markovits, billing 2,400 hours could require working from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. six days a week, every day of the year, without vacation or sick days.

It is unsurprising that roughly two-thirds of elite workers say they would decline a promotion if the new job demanded yet more of their energy. Most Americans who work more than sixty hours a week report that they would prefer twenty-five fewer hours. They complain about the “time famine” resulting from overwork that interferes with their marriages, families, and health.

Markovits concludes: “It is simply not possible to get rich off your own human capital without exploiting yourself and impoverishing your inner life, and meritocrats who hope to have their cake and eat it too deceive themselves.”

Elites and hillbillies

Markovits’ solution is to make education more inclusive and to favor goods and services that can be produced by workers without elite training and degrees. In this way, “The elite can reclaim its leisure in exchange for a reduction of income and status that it can easily afford. At the same time, the middle class can regain its income and status and reclaim the center of American life.”

These are undoubtedly positive steps. But Markovits’ fascinating essay leaves out a component that I believe is foundational to the kind of flourishing he wants for all Americans.

Consider a book written from the other end of the spectrum. Hillbilly Elegy is J. D. Vance’s story of his family’s roots in Kentucky and Ohio. In many ways, it makes Markovits’ case: many in rural, impoverished America see no future for themselves and have given up hope.

With one exception. Vance reconnected with his biological father after years of family chaos and a “revolving door of father figures.” The reason: his father had become a Christian.

Vance notes: “In this, Dad embodied a phenomenon social scientists have observed for decades: Religious folks are much happier. Regular church attendees commit fewer crimes, are in better health, live longer, make more money, drop out of high school less frequently, and finish college more frequently than those who don’t attend church at all.”

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Could it be that an obsession with material success “devours the elite” not just because of the time demands it makes and stress it produces but also because it is the wrong answer to life’s most fundamental question? Is it possible that creatures need a relationship with our Creator?

Jesus was clear: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is they who “wait for the Lord” who “shall renew their strength” and “mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31).

Would Jesus say you are abiding in him? Would the Lord agree that you are waiting on him?

Paul described the source of his ministry: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). As we work, God works. When we give our best, God gives his best.

But when we depend on ourselves more than we submit to and rely upon him, we miss all that Almighty God can do in and through us. That’s why I have warned often over the years that self-sufficiency is spiritual suicide.

David’s prayer is essential for us all: “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).

Do you want the impossible?

If you’re part of the meritocracy or aspire to be, take heed. No matter how much you can do, don’t settle for what you can do.

John Piper: “I don’t know how people pray who don’t believe in the sovereignty of God to do the impossible. Because all the things I want to happen are impossible. If they’re possible I’ll do them.”

Do you want the “impossible” today?

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/