Charles Stanley – The Purpose of Our Trials

 

1 Peter 4:12-14

We shouldn’t expect the Christian life to be easy and comfortable, because believers aren’t exempt from trials. In fact, becoming a Christian may result in increased trouble and suffering. Peter refers to such hardship as a “fiery ordeal,” and tells us not to be surprised by it (1 Peter 4:12). God uses our suffering for His good purposes, and He walks through it with us. Hope in the midst of affliction is possible when we understand what God is achieving in the situation.

First, the heavenly Father sometimes uses painful experiences to purify us. Trials drive us to the Lord and open our eyes to sins that we have tolerated. His discipline is not designed to crush us but to produce “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).

Second, the Lord at times allows difficulty as a way of testing us. His goal is to produce increased faith, endurance, and devotion to Him. Rather than complaining, we should exult in our tribulations, knowing that they are producing proven character within us (Rom. 5:3-4).

Third, God uses suffering to display his power. Trials humble us by revealing our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). They teach us to depend on the Lord for the power to persevere and mature.

Fourth, our suffering has eternal benefits. Earthly affliction “is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Let these truths encourage you to view your next trial from God’s perspective. Though you may not feel it at the time, the Lord is with you. He is your hope and sufficiency.

Bible in One Year: Micah 5-7

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — False Places of Safety

 

Bible in a Year :Song of Songs 6–8; Galatians 4

The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!

Mark 1:15

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Mark 1:9–15

When our dog Rupert was a puppy, he was so afraid of going outside I’d have to drag him to the park. After getting him there one day, I foolishly let him off his leash. He sprinted home, back to his place of safety.

That experience reminded me of a man I met on a plane, who began apologizing to me as we taxied down the runway. “I’m going to get drunk on this flight,” he said. “It sounds like you don’t want to,” I replied. “I don’t,” he said, “but I always run back to the wine.” He got drunk, and the saddest part was watching his wife embrace him when he got off the plane, smell his breath, then push him away. Drink was his place of safety, but it was no safe place at all.

Jesus began His mission with the words, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). “Repent” means to reverse direction. The “kingdom of God” is His loving rule over our lives. Instead of running to places that entrap us, or being ruled by fears and addictions, Jesus says we can be ruled by God Himself, who lovingly leads us to new life and freedom.

Today Rupert runs to the park barking with joy. I pray the man on the plane finds that same joy and freedom, leaving behind his false place of safety.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray

What false place of safety do you run to in times of fear or stress? How will you leave it behind today and place yourself under God’s freeing rule?

Jesus, forgive me for running to anything but You in search of life and happiness. I turn away from those things now, and turn my life over to You. Lead me to real freedom.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Truth on Its Head

 

G.K. Chesterton took the word “prolific” to a level that, as a writer, simply makes me feel tired. In his lifetime, Chesterton authored over one hundred books and contributed to two hundred others. He penned hundreds of poems, five plays, five novels, and some two hundred short stories, including the popular Father Brown detective series. He wrote over four thousand newspaper essays, including thirty years worth of weekly columns for The Illustrated London News, and thirteen years of weekly columns for The Daily News. He also edited his own newspaper, G.K.’s Weekly.

As one can easily imagine after such an inventory, G.K. Chesterton was always writing—wherever he found himself, and with whatever he could find to write on. So, in the tearoom he scribbled on napkins. On the train, in front of a bank teller, or in the middle of a lecture, he was known to jot hurriedly in a notebook, or even on the cuff of his sleeve.

Chesterton’s eccentric approach to writing, in fact, matched his eccentric approach to life in general. His public image was one out of a Shakespearean comedy. If he were not recognized in the streets of London by the flowing black cape and the wide brimmed top hat he always wore, he was given away instantly by the clamoring of the swordstick he always carried—for nothing more than the romantic notion that he might one day find himself caught up in some adventure where defending himself might become necessary.

He rarely knew, from hour to hour, where he was or where he was supposed to be, what appointment he was to be keeping, or lecture he was to be giving. The story is often told of the time he telegraphed his wife with the note, “Am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?” His faithful wife, Frances, wired back, “Home,” knowing it would be most promising for all involved if she could physically point him in the right direction. Chesterton seemed to live out one of his own clever paradoxes: “One can sometimes do good by being the right person in the wrong place.”

In fact, paradox, in more ways than one, is an ample word for G.K. Chesterton. It was one of his favorite things to point out, stir up, and call to mind. He described paradox as “truth standing on its head to gain attention,” and often evoked such jestering truisms throughout his dialog. With declarations bizarre enough to escape defensive mindsets, but with a substance that could blow holes in fortresses of skepticism, G.K. Chesterton, as absentminded as he may have appeared to be, challenged the world to think. With humility, wonder, and genius, Chesterton taught us, in the words of Father Brown, that often it isn’t that we can’t see the solution; it’s that we can’t see the problem in the first place.

In his disarming manner, such that even his opponents regarded him with affection, Chesterton exposed the inconsistencies of the modern mindset, the unfounded and unnoticed dogmatism of the unbeliever, and the misguided guidance of the cults of comfort and progress. He marveled that religious liberty now meant that we were no longer allowed to mention the subject, and that “there are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.” To the convicted agnostic he said, “We don’t know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable.” To the social Darwinist he said, “It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.”

And to anyone who would listen, Chesterton devotedly pled the case for Christ: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting,” he said, “It has been found difficult and left untried.”

To everyone his life affected, and continues to affect, G.K. Chesterton, with and without words, made a boisterous point about delighting in life to the fullest; life that is fullest, first and foremost, because there is someone to thank for making it full. He writes:

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and the pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

Chesterton was a man alive with the gusto of resurrection, the marvel of truth, and the thankful foresight of a coming King among us.

 

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

 

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Joyce Meyer – You Can Be Brave

 

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — John 1:12

Adapted from the resource Wake Up to the Word Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

“To get” means to obtain by struggle and effort, but “to receive” means to simply take in what is being offered. Our relationship with God was never intended to be complicated and based upon our own works. The more we learn how to receive from God by faith, the simpler and more enjoyable our walk with Him becomes.

You can keep your relationship with God simple by receiving His unconditional love and believing His Word no matter what you think or how you feel. You can receive by faith all that He offers, even though you know full well that you don’t deserve it. And you can choose to lean on, trust in, and rely on Him to meet every need you have instead of worrying and trying to figure things out.

And with His help (grace), you can obey Him and grow in spiritual maturity by knowing His will and receiving His best for your life!

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for the incredible privilege of being Your child. Today, by faith, I choose to receive the blessings You have for me—Your love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, wisdom, joy, peace, and every good thing You have in store for my life. Help me to receive from You with simple child-like faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – We Can Obey All

 

” ‘Sir, which is the most important command in the laws of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘ “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: “Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if your obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying the others'” (Matthew 22:36-40).

Steve came for counsel. “I want with all my heart to be a man of God,” he said. “Can you tell me how I can please the Lord and be everything He wants me to be? You have walked with the Lord for many years. Surely you have learned some lessons that would help me.” I turned to this passage, and we read it and discussed it together.

“Jesus has answered your question, Steve,” I said to him. “If you keep these two commandments, all the others and all the demands of the prophets will be fulfilled.” We turned to Exodus 20:1-17 and reviewed the Ten Commandments.

“You see, Steve, if your love God with all your heart, you will have no other god before Him. You will not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. You will remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will honor your father and mother. You will not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet that which belongs to your neighbor.”

Think what would happen if every person who professed to be a follower of Jesus Christ would truly obey the two greatest commandments. Not only would the Ten Commandments be fulfilled, but so would the Golden Rule and every other command of God. The great miracle would result. The moral, spiritual and even the economical problems that plague the nations of the world would be resolved almost overnight.

This kind of love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. For the supernatural love of God (agape) is spread abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. It is only as we walk in the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit, fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ, that we can fulfill these commandments.

Bible Reading: Mark 12:28-34

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Through the supernatural enabling power of the Holy Spirit, I will love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and my neighbors as myself, knowing that as I do so, I will be fulfilling and obeying all the other laws.

 

 

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Max Lucado – The Fine Art of Saying “Hello”

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Paul gave these instructions to the Romans and repeated them to other churches. Twice to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:20 and 2 Cor. 13:12); and then to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:26).  Peter flew the friendliness flag as well in his first epistle (1 Peter 5:14) when he said, “Greet one another with a kiss of love.”

We tend to overlook these passages.  Why the big deal?  Why should we be careful to greet one another?  The answer is out of respect.  Respect is a mindfulness of another person’s situation.  Respect says “Hello” to the new kid in class. Respect says “Good afternoon” to the cashier at the checkout stand.  A greeting in its purest sense is a gesture of goodwill.  Simply greeting one another is not that hard.  But it makes a significant difference.  And this is how happiness happens.

 

Read more How Happiness Happens – Finding Lasting Joy in a world of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations

 

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Denison Forum – Three sisters who fought the Nazis: How compassion changes those who change the world

 

There is something in us that wants to help people who need help.

Time tells the remarkable and sometimes gruesome story of three sisters who fought the Nazis as part of the Dutch resistance in World War II. One explained why she became involved in the conflict: “While I was biking, I saw Germans picking up innocent people from the streets, putting them against a wall and shooting them. I was forced to watch, which aroused such an enormous anger in me, such a disgust. . . .

“You can have any political conviction or be totally against war, but at that moment you are just a human being confronted with something very cruel. Shooting innocent people is murder. If you experience something like this, you’ll find it justified to act against it.”

Two sisters help Iranian immigrant

Hassan Nezhadessivandi has spent the last five years distributing Express, a publication of the Washington Post. Mr. Nezhadessivandi immigrated from Iran in 1978 to go to college, but unrest in his homeland cut off his funds. He has been working odd jobs for many years to support himself.

He stood at the same spot in Washington, DC, for four hours every morning, passing out the newspaper to the commuters who passed by. He did his job in the snow, rain, or heat.

When the Post announced last Wednesday that the last copy of Express would be distributed the next day, many of the commuters realized they would no longer see Hassan. At the age of sixty-five, he was not sure how he would make ends meet.

Then, two sisters started a GoFundMe account for him. They spread the word by placing a poster board at the station, printing fliers, and sharing the link on social media. The fund has raised nearly fifteen thousand dollars so far.

“I have already been given a taste of God”

Part of being made in our Father’s image is sharing his heart for his children. This impulse to make the world better shows that we intuitively believe in a better world.

Henri Nouwen:

“I know that the fact that I am always searching for God, always struggling to discover the fullness of Love, always yearning for the complete truth, tells me that I have already been given a taste of God, of Love, and of Truth. I can only look for something that I have, to some degree, already found. How can I search for beauty and truth unless that beauty and truth are already known to me in the depth of my heart?

“It seems that all of us human beings have deep memories of the paradise that we have lost. Maybe the word innocence is better than the word paradise. We were innocent before we started feeling guilty; we were in the light before we entered into the darkness; we were at home before we started to search for a home.

“Deep in the recesses of our minds and hearts there lies hidden the treasure we seek. We know its preciousness, and we know that it holds the gift we most desire: a life stronger than death.”

As we work, God works

The fact that we were made for a better world, however, does not exempt us from seeking to better this world.

Darian Thompson started at safety for the Dallas Cowboys in their 31–6 win over Miami last Sunday. After overcoming numerous injuries and setbacks, he is following his dream in the NFL.

He told a reporter, “I’m thankful for God allowing me to do this. But also, it’s a testament to me and my work and the time I’ve put in.”

Noah built the ark, and God closed the door (Genesis 7:16). Moses held his staff over the Red Sea, and God parted the water (Exodus 14:21). Joshua led the people to step into the flooded Jordan River, and God stopped the water (Joshua 3:14–17). Peter preached at Pentecost, and the Spirit led three thousand souls to Christ (Acts 2:41).

As we work, God works. As we give our Father our best, we position ourselves to experience his best.

A man spent a year turning an overgrown, weed-infested field into a beautiful garden. When he showed it to his pastor, the pastor exclaimed, “What a beautiful creation of God.”

The man replied, “You should have seen it when God had it all to himself.”

“You will set the world on fire”

Denison Forum seeks to build a movement of culture-changing Christians because we are convinced that such a movement is the greatest need of our day. God has entrusted to each of us a Hassan Nezhadessivandi or a weed-infested field—ways we can use our gifts and influence to help someone follow Jesus.

Helping hurting people has been at the heart of the Christian mission from its beginning until today (cf. Acts 2:45). Our most powerful witness to a skeptical culture is our compassion for those in need.

Such compassion is not only our gift in God’s name—it is also God’s gift to us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

St. Catherine of Siena went further: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

What part of the world will you set on fire today?

 

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Charles Stanley – Communicating God’s Truth

 

Matthew 28:18-20

You’ve probably heard people say, “That may be true for you but not for me.” Genuine truth is not relative. Nor is it a part-time phenomenon. So, when Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He meant it for everyone. The rock-solid principles that God has communicated should be shared with others.

We see this admonition repeatedly in Scripture. In Matthew 28:18-20, the Lord gives us what is known as the Great Commission. This is a charge for all of us who believe: We’re to go out and spread the truth about Jesus Christ, teaching others what we have learned.

Likewise, in 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul instructs Timothy not only to tell others what he has learned, but also to encourage those men to tell even more people. And Paul elsewhere states that we, as believers, are “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). In other words, we are His emissaries to the world. We are to take what we know and make it known to those we encounter. For what purpose? The passage makes it clear that our mission is to help others be reconciled to God.

How can we ever doubt the urgency of this message? We have a truth to tell, and we must share it!

This week, take the time to write out your faith story, and review it so you’ll feel comfortable and confident sharing that testimony with others. Pray for opportunities to share how God’s love has changed your life. Then trust the results to the Lord.

Bible in One Year: Hosea 1-5

 

 

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Joyce Meyer – Learning to Expect Good Things

 

All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. — Proverbs 15:15 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Battlefield of the Mind Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Shortly after I began to seriously study the Bible, I felt an oppressive atmosphere around me. Everything seemed gloomy—as if something bad was going to happen. It wasn’t anything I could explain, just a vague, dreaded sense of something evil or wrong about to happen.

“Oh, God,” I prayed. “What’s going on? What is this feeling?” I had hardly uttered the question when God spoke to me. “Evil forebodings.” I had to meditate on that for several minutes. I had never heard the phrase before. God had spoken to me, and I stayed quiet before Him so I could hear the answers.

I realized, first of all, that my anxieties weren’t real—that is, they were not based on true circumstances or situations. I was having problems—as most of us do —but they were not as critical as the devil was making it appear. My acceptance of his lies, even though they were vague, was opening the door for the evil forebodings.

I eventually realized that I had lived in the midst of similar gloomy feelings most of my life. I was expecting something bad to happen instead of aggressively expecting something good. I felt a dread, an unexplained anxiety around me. I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific—only that sense of something evil or terrible.

The Living Bible says, “When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong.” That’s how I felt, as if something—maybe everything—was wrong or was about to go wrong.

As previously stated, I realized that for most of my life, I had been miserable because of evil thoughts and anxious forebodings. As I continued to meditate on evil forebodings, God broke through and gave me a clear revelation. I was miserable because my thoughts were miserable—my thoughts were poisoning my outlook. My thoughts robbed me of the ability to enjoy my life.

I should have been saying, “Thank You, God, for today. Thank you for Dave and my children and my friends and all Your blessings.” But, instead of being positive, I found myself even dreading to answer the phone when it rang, for fear it might be bad news.

All of this gloom and doom that surrounded me began in my abusive childhood. I endured a great deal of misery, and most of my life was unhappy and filled with disappointments. I began to live in a vague fear and dread of the future. I had not been taught to let go of what was behind.

I couldn’t rejoice in what I had now and the good things going on in my life. I focused on the past and what might lie ahead—and what lay ahead was usually gloom and doom and chaos because that was what I was expecting.

Satan had built a stronghold in my mind, and I was trapped until I learned I could tear down that negative, evil stronghold by applying God’s Word to my life and circumstances.

I once had a friend whom I’ll call Marlene. She lived in a state of constant chaos. One day she had health problems. The next day Marlene’s son had lost his job, and they were going to have to support him and his family. As soon as that was over, another traumatic situation would erupt.

Marlene was a Christian, but she lived in fear of bad news. Marlene would not have known how to live a life that was not filled with chaos. All of her conversation was negative and gloomy. Even her countenance was sad and gloomy.

I realized that I had started to become like Marlene—I was miserable because I had allowed Satan to rob me of the ability to enjoy my life. It took a while before I was able to be positive most of the time, but little by little, my thinking changed, and so did my life.

I no longer live in evil forebodings, expecting to hear at any moment of a new problem. Now I purposely expect good things to happen in my life. I realize now that I can choose my thoughts. I don’t have to accept Satan’s lies.

Like everyone else, negative things do happen to me from time to time, but I don’t become negative because of them. I remain positive, and that helps me enjoy my life even in the midst of the storms.

Prayer Starter: Father, I thank You for the great future You have planned for me. Please help me to choose positive thoughts that line up with Your Word and expect Your goodness in every area of my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Max Lucado – Joy in the Success of Others

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

We are not God’s gift to humanity.  God can use each of us, but he doesn’t need any of us.  We are valuable but not indispensable.  You love.  But who loved you first?  You serve.  But who served the most?  What are you doing for God that God could not do alone?

How wise of us to remember Paul’s antidote to joy-sucking self-promotion.  “With humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

Here is a helpful exercise that can turn your focus off yourself and on to others.  During the next twenty-four hours make it your aim to celebrate everything good that happens to someone else. Keep a list.  You will move from joy to joy as you regard other people’s success as more important than your own.  And this is how happiness happens.

Read more How Happiness Happens – Finding Lasting Joy in a world of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations

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Charles Stanley – The Work of the Holy Spirit

 

John 16:7-15

If someone asked what the Holy Spirit does, how would you answer? Some Christians may not be aware of what He is accomplishing in their life, but the Spirit’s work isn’t a total mystery—Scripture tells us what the role of our divine Helper is.

He convicts us of sin (John 16:8). This is the first step in awakening us to our need for salvation. But even afterwards, the Spirit continues revealing sin in our life so we can immediately confess and receive forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

He guides us into all truth (John 16:13-14). The Holy Spirit teaches about Jesus Christ and God’s Word, and He helps us discern the difference between truth and error.

He fills us (Eph. 5:18). To be filled with the Spirit means that He is directing our path, much like a ship that is driven along by the wind filling its sails. This requires that we surrender our life to Him, acknowledging that He owns us and has the right to lead.

He bears fruit through us (Gal. 5:22-23). The Spirit produces qualities we could never consistently display on our own: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Although the Holy Spirit indwells and seals us immediately upon salvation, His work within each believer takes a lifetime. He is our constant Helper, who transforms us into Christ’s image and equips us for our daily challenges so we don’t have to struggle through life in our own strength. In all of our difficulties, conflicts, and heartaches, He guides our way, guards our hearts, and gives us His wisdom.

Bible in One Year: Obadiah 1, Jonah 1-4

 

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Our Daily Bread — A Shield Around Me

 

Bible in a Year :Song of Songs 1–3; Galatians 2

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

Psalm 3:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 3

Our church experienced an agonizing loss when Paul, our gifted worship minister, died at the age of thirty-one in a boating accident. Paul and his wife, DuRhonda, were no strangers to pain; they had buried several children who hadn’t made it to term. Now there would be another grave near the small graves of these little ones. The life-crushing crisis this family experienced hit those who loved them like a knockout blow to the head.

David was no stranger to personal and family crises. In Psalm 3, he found himself overwhelmed because of the rebellion of his son Absalom. Rather than stay and fight, he chose to flee his home and throne (2 Samuel 15:13–23). Though “many” considered him forsaken by God (Psalm 3:2), David knew better; he saw the Lord as his protector (v. 3), and he called upon Him accordingly (v. 4). And so did DuRhonda. In the midst of her grief, when hundreds had gathered to remember her husband, she raised her soft, tender voice in a song that expressed confidence in God.

When doctors’ reports are not encouraging, when financial pressures won’t ease up, when efforts to reconcile relationships fail, when death has left those we cherish in its wake—may we too be strengthened to say, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high” (v. 3).

By:  Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray

How did you respond the last time you found yourself in an overwhelming situation? How does knowing God is a shield around you help?

Heavenly Father, help me to see that though life can be uncomfortable, I can find comfort in You.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In a World of Stories

 

“You can’t stop stories being told,” Dr. Parnassus tells his relentless foe with religious assurance in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. The world of belief-systems and worldviews is indeed a complicated playground of stories, storytellers, passions, and allegiances—and this is one film which certainly attests to that complicated dance. What makes the interplay of story most complicated is perhaps what is often our inability to name or even to perceive these interacting powers in the first place. That which permeates our surroundings, subconsciously molds our understanding, and continuously informs our vision of reality, is not always easy to articulate. The dominate culture shapes our world in ways we seldom even realize, and often in ways we cannot realize, until something outside of our culture comes along and introduces us, and the scales fall from our eyes.

Further complicating the great arena of narratives is the fact that we often do not even recognize certain systems for the metanarratives that they are, or else we grossly underestimate the story’s power on our own. Whatever version or versions of the story we utilize to understand human history—atheism, capitalism, pluralism, consumerism—their roots run very deep in the human soul. This is why Bishop Kenneth Carder can refer to the global market economy as a “dominant god,” or consumerism, economism, and nationalism as religions.(1) These deeply rooted ideologies are challenged only when a different ideology or imagination comes knocking, when a different faith-system comes along and upsets the imagination that powerfully orders our world.

This is perhaps one reason that the biblical imagination presented in Scripture calls again and again to remember the story, to tell of the acts of God in history, and to bear in mind and vision the one who is near. For into this world of belief-systems and worldviews, God tells the story of creation and the pursuit of its redemption, and then Christ comes in our own flesh and proclaims a kingdom entirely other. The narrative imagination we discover in Scripture introduces us not only to a new world but a world that jarringly shows us our own.

The signs and scenes leading to the incarnation alone challenge many of our cultural norms, turning upside down ideas of authority, power, and glory, presenting us a kingdom that reverses everything we know. What kind of a king crouches down to his subjects to feed the masses or wash their feet? What kind of a leader tells those under him that the way to the top requires a dedication to the bottom? What kind of God comes as child and leaves on a cross? What kind of meal lifts us to another kingdom where we are brought into the presence of the host and asked to taste him? Yet these are the stories he told and Christians tell; this is the imagination he gives us to see him, the world, our selves and neighbors. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19). Not long after their meal, his physical body was broken, too.

The story of the Christian is one that remembers the very first and the very last moments of a rabbi and his disciples—a child born, a teacher present, a meal shared, a lamb revealed, feet washed by one who claimed to be both king and servant. It is a story that invites its hearers into a kingdom entirely different than the many stories before them, connecting them with a God who somehow reigns within a realm that is here and now, and also approaching. In the Lord’s Supper, Christians are literally “taking in” this biblical imagination, which unites followers with Christ in such a way that helps us to live as he lived in a world of stories.

When the apostle Paul called early followers of Christ not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds so that they might discern what is the will of God—”what is good and acceptable and perfect,” he was reminding them that there are overlapping and contradicting stories all around them, but that it is the story of God that earns the role of orienting narrative. In other words, Christ does not leave his followers with the option of living unaware of all the subconscious ways in which we are formed by the world of stories. Living into the kingdom of God means recognizing the power of God’s story beside every competing narrative—not necessarily shutting each one out, but interpreting every other story through the Story. Living further into the biblical imagination presented in Scripture, the Christian’s very life, like that of Christ’s, shows the world the subversive power of an imagination that moves far beyond the systems of “postmodernism,” “consumerism,” and “nationalism.”

Whether Christian, atheist, or Hindu, no one can avoid being in the world. We cannot escape the world’s formative stories, nor should we want to escape the particular place where we have been planted.(3) Yet, nor do we want it to become so much our home that we cannot see all the dust on the windows or feel the draft of a roofless shelter. For the Christian, the more we find ourselves living into the imagination of this different kingdom, a world breathed by the Father, proclaimed by Christ, and revealed by the Spirit, the unchallenged, unseen storylines of our worlds come sharply into focus. And the more we taste and see of the goodness of God, the more we taste and see of Christ in the land of the living. Like Paul, at times something like scales fall from our eyes and the Spirit compels us to get up and re-experience our baptisms, going further into the biblical imagination, where our voices regain strength in telling and retelling the unstoppable story.(4)

 

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

 

(1) Kenneth Carder, “Market and Mission: Competing Visions for Transforming Ministry,” Lecture, Duke Divinity School, Oct. 16, 2001, 1.
(2) Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1995), 95.
(3) Jesus himself prayed, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but I ask that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
(4) “And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength” (Acts 9:18-19).

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Joyce Meyer – Form New Habits

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. — 2 Corinthians 5:17

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

God’s Word teaches us that when we receive Christ as our Savior and Lord, He gives us a new nature. He gives us His nature. He also gives us a spirit of discipline and self-control, which is vital in allowing us to choose the ways of our new nature. He gives us a sound mind (see 2 Tim. 1:7), and that means we can think about things properly without being controlled by emotion. The way we once were passes away, and we have all the equipment we need for a brand-new way of behaving.

God gives us the ability and offers to help us, but we are not puppets, and God will not manipulate us. We must choose spirit over flesh and right over wrong. Our renewed spirits will then control our souls and bodies or, to say it another way, the inner person will control the outer person.

Without God’s help we have difficulty doing things in moderation. We frequently eat too much, spend too much money, have too much entertainment, and talk too much. We are excessive in our actions because we behave emotionally. And after the thing is done and cannot be undone, we regret doing it. But we can choose to form new habits, not doing something just because we feel like it, but instead doing what will produce the best result in the end.

We do not have to live in regret. God gives us His Spirit to enable us to make right and wise choices. He urges us, guides and leads us, but we still have to cast the deciding vote. If you have been casting the wrong vote, all you need to do is change your vote. Forming new habits will require making a decision to not do what you feel like doing unless it agrees with God’s will.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for constantly changing me and making me more like You. Help me today to obey Your direction and make wise choices. Help me to form healthy habits that will produce good results in the future. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He’s in the Midst

 

“For where two or three gather together because they are Mine, I will be right there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

What better proof is there of the fact that Jesus is God, that He is omnipresent? As you and I gather with our little groups – whether two or three, or 200 – Jesus is there in the midst. And at the same time that wonderful promise applies to similar groups in Africa, Israel, China and anywhere else!

This general assertion is made to support the particular promise made to his apostles in verse 19. Those who meet in His name can be sure He is among them.

An omniscient, omnipotent God – and His Son Jesus Christ – are omnipresent (everywhere present at the same time)! What a glorious truth! Let your imagination soar: among the Masai tribe in Kenya, Africa, or the Quechua Indians in Ecuador – if they are meeting in that name which is above every name, even Jesus Christ our Lord, He is right there meeting with them.

Equally important, you and one or two friends meeting together in His name can have the assurance that He is right there meeting with you as well. And you can feel His presence – especially as you acknowledge the fact that He is there and begin to worship Him for who and what He is.

Joy of joys, God and Jesus Christ who meet with missionaries and national believers on the field and with church leaders in their councils also meet with you and me today.

Bible Reading: Acts 20:32-38

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will look for new opportunities to invoke His presence in my midst by fellowshipping with other believers in His name.

 

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Max Lucado – Ministry Vs. Vain Ambition

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

“Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?  Tell her to come and help me!” (Luke 10:40).

Of all the ironies.  Martha was in the presence of the Prince of Peace, yet she was the picture of stress.  Martha’s downfall was not her work or request; it was her motivation.  Rather than making a meal for Jesus, it seems she was trying to make a big deal about her service.

Might there be a bit of Martha within us?  What begins as a desire to serve Christ metastasizes into an act of impressing people.  And gifted Marthas become miserable mumblers.  Yet the Martha within is not easily silenced.  Mark it down.  When ministry becomes vain ambition, nothing good happens.  And Jesus does not get served.  No wonder the apostle Paul was so insistent when he said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition” (Philippians 2:3).

Read more How Happiness Happens – Finding Lasting Joy in a world of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations

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Denison Forum – The latest on the Emmy Awards: How to win the ‘crown of life’

 

Game of Thrones won for Outstanding Drama Series at last night’s Emmys, making it the most-awarded narrative series in the history of the Emmys. Fleabag won for Outstanding Comedy Series. Jodie Comer and Billy Porter received Outstanding Lead Actress and Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

Here is what I noted: Except for a few minutes watching a late-night talk show here or there, I did not see a single show that was nominated. Not one.

Advice I wish I always followed

Part of the explanation could be that much of popular culture is aimed at people half my age. Another factor is that I have to go to bed early each night to finish this article early the next morning.

But I suspect the largest reason for the disconnect between the 2019 Emmys and my television-watching habits is that Janet and I choose to watch shows that do not dishonor the Lord and his word. I’m not suggesting that every nominated show fails this standard, but many do.

Scripture calls us to “be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). In that light, we should heed the warning of the eighteenth-century scientist G. C. Lichtenberg: “Never undertake anything for which you wouldn’t have the courage to ask the blessing of heaven.”

I wish I could tell you that I always follow his advice. But I do recognize the truth of his assertion.

“The euthanasia of Christianity”

The popularity of television shows that contradict the biblical worldview reveals that many people do not realize there is a biblical worldview.

God’s word speaks to every dimension of every moment of life, not just our Sunday worship or Monday prayers. Abraham Kuyper was right: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

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Our Daily Bread — Guiding Light

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 143–145; 1 Corinthians 14:21–40

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Genesis 1:1–5

The restaurant was lovely but dark. Only one small candle flickered on every table. To create light, diners used their smartphones to read their menus, look to their tablemates, and even to see what they were eating.

Finally, a patron quietly pushed back his chair, walked over to a waiter, and asked a simple question. “Could you turn on the lights?” Before long, a warm ceiling light flashed on and the room erupted with applause. But also with laughter. And happy chatter. And thank-yous. My friend’s husband turned off his phone, picked up his utensils, and spoke for us all. “Let there be light! Now, let’s eat!”

Our gloomy evening turned festive with the flick of a switch. But how much more important to know the real source of true light. God Himself spoke those astonishing words, “Let there be light,” on the first day when He created the universe, “and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Then “God saw that the light was good” (v. 4).

Light expresses God’s great love for us. His light points us to Jesus, “the light of the world” (John 8:12), who guides us from the gloom of sin. Walking in His light, we find the bright path to a life that glorifies the Son. He is the world’s brightest gift. As He shines, may we walk His way.

By:  Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray

In what situation do you need Christ’s light to shine? When has His light guided you?

Loving God, we thank You for Jesus, the Light of the World, and the guiding light of His great love.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Shape of Affection

 

In a study included in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine children were shown to overwhelmingly prefer the taste of food that comes in McDonald’s wrappers. The study had preschoolers sample identical foods in packaging from McDonald’s and in matched, but unbranded, packaging. The kids were then asked if the food tasted the same or if one tasted better. The unmarked foods lost the taste test every time. Even apple juice, carrots, and milk tasted better to the kids when taken from the familiar wrappings of the Golden Arches. “This study demonstrates simply and elegantly that advertising literally brainwashes young children into a baseless preference for certain food products,” said a physician from Yale’s School of Medicine. “Children, it seems, literally do judge a food by its cover. And they prefer the cover they know.”(1)

The science of advertising is often about convincing the world that books can and should be judged by their covers. These kids were not merely saying they preferred the taste of McDonald’s food. They actually believed the chicken nugget they thought was from McDonald’s tasted better than an identical nugget. From an early age and on through adulthood, branding is directive in telling us what we think and feel, who we are, what we love, what matters.

 

But lest we blame television and marketing entirely for the wiles of brand recognition, we should recall that advertisers continue to have employment simply because it works. That is, long before marketers were encouraging customers to judge by image, wrapping, and cover, we were judging by these methods anyway. When the ancient Samuel was looking for the person God would ordain as king, he had a particular image in mind. In fact, when he first laid eyes on Eliab, Samuel thought confidently that this was the one God had chosen. But on the contrary, God said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”(2)

The study with the preschoolers is startling because adults can see clearly that a carrot in a McDonald’s bag is still inherently a carrot. Yet how often are we, too, blindsided by mere wrappings, the cultural repetitions that mold us, the images and liturgies that shape our affections? Is the mistake of a child in believing the food tastes better in a yellow wrapper really any different than our own believing we are better people dressed with the right credentials, covered by the latest fashion, repeating the right belief-systems? Covered in whatever comforts us or completely stripped of our many wrappings, we are the same people underneath.

But according to one ancient writer, there is one exception. The Apostle Paul writes of a kind of clothing that changes the one inside them. “[F]or all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(3) Clothed in the righteousness of the man Jesus, a person is wrapped in the identity of the human Son of God. They are given new packaging, new life, new robes worn only by Christ, and thus, like him, they are made most truly human.

Unlike the catch and costliness of well-marketed wrappings, the robes he describes are free. The beautiful and difficult word of Christianity is that Christ requires only that we come without costume or pretense. The many robes we collect, the covers with which we judge the world, we must be willing to give him. He takes from tired shoulders robes of self-importance and false security. He tears from determined grasps those garments of self-pity and shame. And then he clothes the needful soul with garments of salvation, arrays us in robes of righteousness, gives us the hopeful liturgy of his presence, and reminds us that we wear his holy name from the inside out.

 

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

 

(1) “Foods Tastes Better With McDonald’s Logo, Kids Say,” Forbes, August 6, 2007.
(2) 1 Samuel 16:7.
(2) Galatians 3:27-28.

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Joyce Meyer – Come Closer!

 

Come close to God…and He will come close to you. — James 4:8 (AMP)

Adapted from the resource Hearing from God Each Morning Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Not everyone is willing to pay the price required to be close to God. Not everyone is willing to simply take the time required or make the investments needed for spiritual growth. God doesn’t ask for all of our time. He certainly wants us to do things we don’t consider “spiritual.” He designed us with bodies, souls (minds, wills, and emotions), and spirits, and He expects us to take care of all these areas.

Exercising our bodies and caring for our souls takes time and effort. Our emotions need to be ministered to; we need to have fun and be entertained, and we need to enjoy being with other people. Our minds need to grow and be renewed daily. In addition, we have a spiritual nature that needs attention. To stay balanced and healthy, we must take time to take care of our entire being.

I believe the whole issue of intimacy with God is a matter of time. We say we don’t have time to seek God, but the truth is that we take time to do the things that are most important to us. Even though we all have to fight distractions every day, if knowing God and hearing from Him is important to us, then we will find time to do it. Don’t try to work God into your schedule, but instead work your schedule around time with Him.

Getting to know God is a long-term investment, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get instant results. Be determined to honor Him with your time, and you will reap the benefits.

Prayer Starter: Father, I can’t live without You. Help me to put You first in my life and take the time to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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