Charles Stanley –Clinging to God’s Promises

 

Luke 24:13-49

The Bible is a gold mine of promises for believers. During any season, but especially in hard times, God’s promises provide an anchor for our soul. They give us hope and enable us to be courageous and bold when facing challenges.

But many individuals do not rely on God’s assurances. There are two reasons for this. First, some people are unaware of His promises. Second, others simply do not believe them to be true. A lot of believers can quote Scripture, but when they face a daunting trial—like a job loss or frightening diagnosis—their confidence wavers and doubt prevails.

If we are unaware of all that Scripture promises, we can’t make ourselves believe. But the more we learn and pray and talk with God, the stronger our faith grows, and this is a gift from almighty God. Luke 24 documents two times that people came face to face with Jesus Christ but failed to recognize Him. He had to open their spiritual eyes before they could truly see. The same is true of us: Faith is impossible without the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gives believers assurance of protection, hope, eternal security, counsel, and guidance in the Scriptures. Do you trust Him?

As you read Scripture, ask the Holy Spirit to point out applicable promises for your life. Study, memorize, meditate on, and claim these truths. Then, when trials arise, you’ll have an anchor to keep you steady. Divine promises won’t necessarily take away the pain of difficult circumstances, but the God who has promised to be with you can be trusted to do all He says He’ll do.

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 11-13

 

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Our Daily Bread — Carefully Crafted

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Ezekiel 37–39
  • 2 Peter 2

Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people.

Ephesians 4:11–12

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Ephesians 4:11–14

In a YouTube video, Alan Glustoff, a cheese farmer in Goshen, New York, described his process for aging cheese, a process that adds to a cheese’s flavor and texture. Before it can be sent out to a market, each block of cheese remains on a shelf in an underground cave for six to twelve months. In this humid environment the cheese is carefully tended. “We do our best to give it the right environment to thrive . . . [and] to develop to its truest potential,” Glustoff explained.

Glustoff’s passion for developing the potential of the cheese he produces reminded me of God’s passion for developing the “truest potential” of His children so they will become fruitful and mature. In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul describes the people involved in this process: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (v. 11). People with these gifts help to stimulate the growth of each believer as well as to encourage acts of service (the “works” mentioned in verse 12). The goal is that we “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13).

Spiritual growth comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit as we submit to His maturing process. As we follow the guidance of the people He places in our lives, we become more effective as He sends us out to serve.

By: Linda Washington

Reflect & Pray

Who has been most influential to your spiritual growth? In what ways have you been challenged to grow? How can you encourage the growth of someone else?

Loving God, I’m grateful for the tender way You help me to grow.

 

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Joyce Meyer – Let Your Mess Become Your Message

 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. — 2 Corinthians 3:18

Adapted from the resource New Day, New You Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

I encourage people to let go of their past, but never to run from it. The only way to gain victory over the pain of our past is to let God walk us back through that doorway of pain and into victory. No one can achieve victory for us; we have to work out our own salvation. Paul explained this truth in his letter to the Philippian church, saying:

Therefore, my dear ones . . . work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight (Philippians 2:12-13 AMPC.)

We have to let God take us through things and let Him work in us so our mess becomes our message. Difficult things that we have endured in our past prepare us for God’s blessings in our future.

Prayer Starter: Father, You are the only One Who can take what I’ve been through and work it out for my good. Help me to continually draw closer to You and deal with the painful areas of my life that You want to heal. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Peace and Joy

 

“Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do. Remember that the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

Don and Ann wanted with all their hearts to please the Lord and worked at being victorious Christians. They diligently kept their quiet time and memorized Scripture, and they were faithful in church attendance. They did everything right. But as they said, “Even though we’ve claimed the fullness of the Holy Spirit by faith and tried to understand and apply identification truths [in which they sought to identify themselves with Christ, his crucifixion, burial and resurrection,] we just don’t seem to be enjoying the Christian life. There’s something missing.”

“In Philippians 4,” I told them, “you will find a surefire spiritual formula for victory in the Christian life. Just allow the Holy Spirit to make this passage a reality to you and apply the following as He enables you:

As an act of your will, decide that you’re going to be full of the joy of the Lord. You are the one who decides whether you’re going to rejoice or be discouraged and sad. Demonstrate before all men an unselfish, considerate attitude. Remember that the Lord can come at any moment, and be prepared.

Do not worry about anything.
Pray about everything.
Thank Him in faith for His answers.”

The results of practicing these steps is the most priceless and wonderful experience one can know, the supernatural peace of God that cannot be purchased or acquired in any other way. In order to succeed in this formula for supernatural living, of course, you must already be studying the Word of God, applying its truths to your life daily, living in the power of the Holy Spirit and sharing your faith in Christ with others.

Bible Reading: Isaiah 12:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today, as an act of my will, I shall claim the supernatural resources of God by faith and continue to experience and share the abundant life which is the heritage of all who trust and obey Him

 

http://www.cru.org

Charles Stanley – The Wages of Sin

 

Romans 6:21-23

God sent His Son to take our punishment by dying in our place. Unless believers understand this provision, they will doubt their salvation. We can’t be good enough to earn heaven. All are born with a corrupted nature; therefore, we will at times sin, no matter how hard we try not to. The Bible compares our attempts at righteous deeds to filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).

On its own, mankind has but one option with regard to sin: to die in it and spend eternity separated from God. But the Father so loved the world that He chose to punish His Son in our place (John 3:16). It was a severe price to pay. Holy God cannot look upon the squalor of sin, so when Jesus became sin for all mankind, the Father had to turn away (2 Cor. 5:21). The physical suffering of crucifixion was terrible, but nothing compared to Jesus’ wrenching horror when the Father left Him. The devastated Messiah cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).

Jesus accepted separation from the Father so we wouldn’t have to. When Paul said that the wages of sin was death, he was referring to eternal separation from God (Rom. 6:23). As believers, we are saved and forever reconciled with the Lord because of what Jesus has done.

The Savior took our place and accepted humanity’s punishment for sin. He and the Father have done the hard work of salvation so that you and I can live a life of peace, freedom, and hope and never be separated from our Creator. If you believe that Jesus Christ—the Son of God— died for your sins, then you too are saved.

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 7-10

 

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Our Daily Bread — Hazardous Materials

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Ezekiel 35–36
  • 2 Peter 1

See, this [live coal] has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.

Isaiah 6:7

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Isaiah 6:1–10

The sound of a siren increased to an ear-piercing level as an emergency vehicle sped by my car. Its flashing lights glared through my windshield, illuminating the words “hazardous materials” printed on the side of the truck. Later, I learned it had been racing to a science laboratory where a 400-gallon container of sulfuric acid had begun to leak. Emergency workers had to contain the substance immediately because of its ability to damage whatever it came in contact with.

As I thought about this news story, I wondered what would happen if sirens blared every time a harsh or critical word “leaked” out of my mouth? Sadly, it might become rather noisy around our house.

The prophet Isaiah shared this sense of awareness about his sin. When he saw God’s glory in a vision, he was overcome by his unworthiness. He recognized that he was “a man of unclean lips” living with people who shared the same problem (Isaiah 6:5). What happened next gives me hope. An angel touched his lips with a red-hot coal, explaining, “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (v. 7).

We have moment-by-moment choices to make with our words—both written and spoken. Will they be “hazardous” material, or will we allow God’s glory to convict us and His grace to heal us so we can honor Him with everything we express?

By: Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Reflect & Pray

Why do our words have such a powerful effect on others? How might God want to change your speech?

Dear God, help me to see how my words affect other people. Show me how to encourage them.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – ‘Tis the Season of Enough

 

Black Friday is the name Americans have given the day after Thanksgiving, though the concept has caught on in Canada and Europe. It is called “black” because store-keepers know it as the time of year when sales move further into the black and farther into profit margins. “Cyber Monday” is a clever addition to the frenzied consumer holiday, luring black Friday shoppers and their less adventurous counterparts to continue their purchasing online. Whether in-store or online, steep sales and loud advertisements evoke both buyer and seller competition and make for frenzied scenes. Those who watch as bystanders still sense the fervor that begins on Black Friday and continues in a hectic race until Christmas. When everyone around you seems to be running, standing still is easier said than done.

Each year the commencement of the Christmas shopping season overshadows the commencement of a far quieter season. The season of Advent (which begins on December 1 this year) signals the coming of Christmas for Christians, though not in the way that Black Friday signals the coming of the same. “Advent is about the spirituality of emptiness,” writes Joan Chittister, “of enough-ness, of stripped-down fullness of soul.” It is a far cry from the hustle of the holidays that is a race for storing things up. Speed-hoarding through the days of Christmas preparation, Christmas itself even becomes somewhat anticlimactic. “Long before December 25th everyone is worn out,” said C.S. Lewis more than fifty years ago, “physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making… They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.”(1) Quite the opposite, Advent is a season meant to slow us down, to open windows of awareness and health, to trigger consciousness. It is about finding the kind of quiet mystery and the sort of expectant emptiness that can offer a place for the fullness of God as an infant among us.

Of course, for even the quietest of hearts, this God who becomes human, the incarnate Christ, is still a disruptive mystery. But mystery, like beauty and truth, is well worth stillness, wonder, and contemplation. And this mystery—the gift of a God who steps into the world he created—is rich enough to make the most distracted souls stop and wait. As H.G. Wells said of Jesus, “He was like some terrible moral huntsman digging mankind out of the snug burrows in which they had lived hitherto.”(2) “Let anyone with ears listen!” said Jesus repeatedly throughout his life on earth. “But to what will I compare this generation?” he added. “It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’”(3) You and I can open our minds to hear the great and unsearchable things we do not know, things like the Incarnation that we may never fully understand but are always compelled to encounter further. Or we can look for all of Christmas to correspond with societal whims and unconscious distractions, cultural debates about what we call or don’t call the season, arguments about public billboards and private mangers.

Christ will come regardless. The hope of Advent is that it is always possible to make room for him. Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman who composed a remarkable series of journals in the darkest years of Nazi occupation before she died in Auschwitz, wrote, “[S]ometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”(4) Advent can be this simple; the invitation of Christ this simple. Let anyone with ears open them. Contemplating Christmas need not mean Christmas wars or lists and budgets, endless labor, fretful commotion, canned happiness.

Advent, after all, is about the riches of being empty-handed and crying “Enough.” Enough stuff. Enough chaos. Enough injustice and hatred. Enough death and despair. This is a disruptively countercultural posture: empty-handed, so that we can fully hold the mystery before us and nothing less; empty-handed, like the God who came down from heaven without riches or power, but meek and small—full, expectant, and enough.

 

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

 

(1) C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 305.
(2) Herbert George Wells, The Outline of History: being a plain history of life and mankind (New York: MacMillan, 1921), 505.
(3) Matthew 11:15-17.
(4) Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries 1941-1943 (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1983), 93.

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Joyce Meyer – Living Life on Purpose

 

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. — Ephesians 5:17

Adapted from the resource My Time with God Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Are you living the life you truly want to live? If not, is it because you allow your life to rule you instead of you ruling it? When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He instructed them to subdue it and be fruitful. God has given us a free will, and He wants us to use it to choose His will for us. When we make choices according to the will of God, He empowers us to live a life that is truly amazing.

What do you want to accomplish today? Pray, make a plan, stay focused, and go for it! Put your time into what you want to do and don’t let circumstances and people derail you. Fight for yourself! Fight for your right to follow your heart instead of being controlled by outside forces.

Be determined; be strong. Don’t be vague and thoughtless, but have a plan and work your plan. God, through Christ, has provided a way for us to live an amazing life, but we need to continually make choices that agree with God. You have one life to live, so live it fully and refuse to drift along, letting other people and circumstances make your decisions for you.

Prayer Starter: Father, show me Your will for me and help me be courageous enough to make choices that agree with You. I want the life that You want for me! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Just as He Promised

 

“God, who called you to become His child, will do all this for you, just as He promised” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Have you ever substituted your own name in a promise like that? I have, and the result is staggering, overwhelming. “God, who called Bill Bright to become His child, will do all this for me, just as He promised.”

Include your name in the verse, and the effect will be the same for you. It is incredible that before the very foundation of the world God chose and called you and me to become His children. His foreknowledge makes possible many of the mysteries we puzzle over today.

Your sanctification (setting apart) – and mine – depends upon God, and since He has begun a good work in us, He will see it through to completion. God requires holiness (another word for sanctification) and He is the resource upon whom we may call for accomplishment of that requirement.

While it is true we will never be completely and totally holy in this life, it is equally true that provision is made for us to be holy. Every moment that you and I are under the control of God’s Holy Spirit, is a moment that we are holy! Looked at in that light, the task of acquiring holiness does not seem so impossible to attain.

The principle is clear: God never gives a command without the enablement to obey it.

Bible Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will see myself as a child of God, the beneficiary of His multitudinous blessings, capable of living a supernatural life and bearing fruit for His glory through His enablement

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Jesus Welcomes Our Problems

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Do you want to see a father’s face go ashen?  Watch as he discovers three words on the box of a just-bought toy– “Some assembly required!”

What follows are hours of squeezing A into B, bolting D into F, sliding R over Z, and hoping no one notices if steps four, five, and six were skipped altogether.  I’m convinced the devil indwells the details of toy assembly.  Somewhere in perdition is a warehouse of stolen toy parts.

“Some assembly required.”  Not the most welcome sentence but an honest one.  Life is a gift, albeit unassembled.  The pieces don’t fit.  When they don’t, take your problem to Jesus.  He says, “Bring your problems to Me!”  In prayer, state them simply.  Present them faithfully, and trust Him reverently!

Read more Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Some surprising Black Friday facts: How to be grateful for what we do not yet have

Americans are expected to spend roughly $87 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year. Counter to stereotypes, 88 percent of men say they plan to shop on those two days versus 85 percent of women. Men will also spend more than women on average.

One more gender-related fact: men (56 percent) are more likely than women (49 percent) to regret a shopping purchase.

And so, our culture shifts its focus from gratitude for what we have to shopping for what we do not have. There’s a surprising spiritual lesson here for us.

Giving thanks in the future tense

This Thanksgiving week, we’ve been discussing the biblical commands to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to “always give thanks to God the Father for everything” (Ephesians 5:20 NCV). We have noted that God calls us to give thanks “in” and “for” all that we experience.

The harder our circumstances, the harder such gratitude can be. So, we learned on Tuesday to trust God to redeem all he allows. On Wednesday, we focused on the power of public gratitude in times of hardship. Yesterday, we learned that when we thank God for his material provisions, we position ourselves to experience even greater spiritual grace.

Each of these days, we focused on gratitude in the present tense. Let’s close our Thanksgiving week by thinking about what we do not yet have. As we will discover, when we thank God for the future in the present, we experience his providence in transforming ways.

Two surprises in a familiar miracle

John 6 tells the story of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. We are familiar with the boy who had “five barley loaves and two fish” (v. 9) and the fact that Jesus “distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted” (v. 11).

Two elements of this miracle are often overlooked.

One is the gracious gift our Lord offered the crowd, providing them “as much as they wanted.” This was a rare feast for impoverished people, one they would long remember.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Some surprising Black Friday facts: How to be grateful for what we do not yet have

Charles Stanley – Understanding God’s Holiness

 

Leviticus 22:29-33

If you’ve ever read through Leviticus, you may have wondered why God gave the Israelites so many rules and details about sacrifices and worship procedures. When I was a boy, I remember thinking the cattle could have fed a lot of people. To me, the sacrifices seemed like a big waste, but that’s because I didn’t understand what the Lord was teaching His people.

Today we have the completed Scriptures to help us understand who God is and what He desires of us. But in the Old Testament era, He taught His people by example. He wanted them to understand three things: first, His holiness; second, their own sinfulness and the consequences of disobedience; and third, His care for them—that He was the source of every good thing.

The rules and regulations that God instituted were visible object lessons the people would never forget. In every detail, He revealed His holiness, and in every sacrifice, the cost of sin. The rules of the tabernacle taught the people that they were not to take worship lightly. It was a serious and awesome privilege to approach a holy, righteous God.

Today, it’s rather easy to lose sight of the Lord’s holiness. To prevent that, try re-examining the Old Testament sacrificial system for a fresh perspective on the seriousness of worship. We have instant access to our heavenly Father’s throne room, but that doesn’t mean we can forgo displaying the reverence due Him. It is a privilege to come into the Lord’s presence, and He deserves honor and glory from His children.

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 4-6

 

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Our Daily Bread — A Sincere Thank You

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Ezekiel 33–34
  • 1 Peter 5

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Psalm 9:1

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 9:1–2, 7–10

In preparation for Xavier’s first job interview, my husband, Alan, handed our son a pack of thank-you cards for him to send out after he met with prospective employers. He then pretended to be a hiring interviewer, using his decades of experience as a manager to ask Xavier questions. After the role-playing, our son tucked several copies of his resume into a folder. He smiled when Alan reminded him about the cards. “I know,” he said. “A sincere thank-you note will set me apart from all the other applicants.”

When the manager called to hire Xavier, he expressed gratitude for the first hand-written thank-you card he’d received in years.

Saying thanks makes a lasting impact. The psalmists’ heartfelt prayers and grateful worship were preserved in the book of Psalms. Though there are one hundred and fifty psalms, these two verses reflect a message of thankfulness: “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1–2).

We will never be able to finish expressing our gratitude for all God’s wonderful deeds. But we can start with a sincere thank you through our prayers. We can nurture a lifestyle of grateful worship, praising God and acknowledging all He’s done and all He promises He’ll do.

By: Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray

What would you like to thank God for on this day He’s made? How can writing down prayers of thanks help us cultivate a spirit of gratitude in all circumstances?

Generous and loving God, please help us acknowledge the countless and wonderful ways You work.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Different Choice

On a recent visit to my local grocery superstore it hit me. I was standing in an aisle with over thirty types of orange juice and I couldn’t make up my mind about which kind I should buy. Pulp-free or extra-pulp? Added vitamin D plus calcium or anti-oxidant plus? No sugar or low-sugar? Low-acid or heart-healthy and fiber-rich? It didn’t occur to me to ask why there were this many varieties of orange juice.

The reality of an abundance of choices doesn’t just hit me as I stand in the grocery store. It pervades my reality. At the food court in the mall, or in the sporting goods store, or the electronics store, or while on the internet, the abundance of choices overwhelms me and I am paralyzed to choose. Especially during November and December when holiday buying becomes the dominant theme, I find myself numbed by choice. More often than I care to admit, once I do decide, I am less satisfied with what I choose. In the back of my mind swirl all the other options. Did I make the right decision or buy the right gift? The question plagues me and steals all of the joy of having been able to make a choice in the first place.

Author and psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that too many choices often have a negative impact:

“All of this choice has two effects, two negative effects on people. One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all. The second effect is that even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice than we would be if we had fewer options to choose from.”(1)

It is not hard to understand that the more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything that is disappointing about the option that you chose. Schwartz suggests that this is because the multiplicity of choices heightens our expectations. When there are not as many options human expectation is mediated. But when there are endless options, our expectations become heightened. The more heightened the expectation the more inevitable the disappointment.(2) Perhaps this is why many travelers to poorer nations are surprised to find so much more happiness and contentment among people who have so little.

I bought my low-acid, high fiber orange juice, but I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by it. Why? Even though all the varieties of orange juice enabled me to ‘do better’ with regards to tailoring an orange juice to my needs, all of the options elevated my expectations not only about the number of varieties I should be able to choose from, but also how ‘good’ the varieties should be in terms of taste, ingredients used, or in how they were produced. I remember the days when there might have been differing brands of orange juice, but very little difference between them.

This, as Schwartz terms it, is the “paradox of choice.”(3) In Western industrialized nations it is as natural as breathing in air to assume that maximizing the welfare of citizens comes through maximizing individual freedom. The reason for this is both that freedom is in and of itself good, valuable, worthwhile, and essential to being human. If people have freedom, then we can act on our own to do the things that will maximize our welfare, and no one has to decide on our behalf. The way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice.

No one would deny that freedom is essential to the flourishing of human societies. But when freedom of choice becomes equivalent to defining ourselves as consumers more than as citizens or as neighbors, what becomes of community and society? And what becomes of our identity as human beings?

These were pressing questions for the earliest Christian communities as they looked toward the one who demonstrated freedom by laying down his life. The apostle Paul raised this issue as he wrote to the Christians at Corinth. In discussing matters of personal freedom he exhorted these early Christians that “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his or her own good, but that of his or her neighbor….Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”(4) In his letter to the Galatian Christians, Paul applies the gift of freedom to a sense of corporate responsibility: “You were called to freedom; only do not turn your freedom into and opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”(5)

This definition of freedom for love and service seems to fly in the face of understanding freedom as doing whatever one wants to do, individually. Furthermore, Paul’s understanding calls into question an identity defined by mindless consumption as well. “I choose, therefore I am” is the default of many in the modern world. But for those who seek to follow Paul’s admonition, exercising choice is not simply the unchecked, unthinking, and often self-centered understanding of consumerism that occupies many Western societies and systems. The paradox of choice need not simply be the resultant “buyer’s remorse” or unmet expectations once we have chosen. Instead, the paradox of choice might be in following the one who chose to love and serve others rather than individually pursue options for best for himself. Freedom for choice can be grounded in love for the sake of another and gratitude in all circumstances.

Perhaps, the aisles of goods and services available to us might prompt this way to choose.

 

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

 

(1) Barry Schwartz, “The Paradox of Choice,” TEDGlobal, July 2005.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid.
(4) I Corinthians 10:23,24, 31.
(5) Galatians 3:13-14.

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Joyce Meyer – It Takes a Team

 

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! — Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Adapted from the resource Love Out Loud Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

In 1867, John Roebling had a vision and a passion to do something experts said couldn’t be done: build a bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn, in New York City. No one believed it could be done, but Roebling and his son Washington, a young engineer, persevered.

The Roeblings hired their crew and finally got to work on John’s dream. Only a few months into the project, a worksite accident took John’s life. But the project continued, with Washington as its leader.

Three years later, Washington was severely injured. He was unable to talk, walk, or even move most of his body. But his mind was sharp, and his dream of building the bridge still burned in his heart.

Washington had two things in his favor: one finger that still worked and a wife who loved him. Roebling and his wife figured out a communication system in which he tapped on her arm. For 11 years, Washington tapped out messages and instructions for the bridge, until it was finally complete.

Washington Roebling needed a dependable team of people to achieve his dream. He needed his father, his crew, and his wife. We need other people too; we can love, support, help, and encourage them, and they can do the same for us.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to never underestimate the value of the people You put in my life. Allow me to see who I need to help…and also who I should allow to help me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Does the Work

 

“And I am sure the God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns” (Philippians 1:6).

Howard was adamant in his conviction. “I would never lead anyone to Christ that I could not personally follow up to be sure he matures and grows and becomes all that God wants him to be.”

“Since when did you assume the responsibility of the Holy Spirit?” I asked.

Obviously, we are to do everything we can to help a new believer grow to maturity in Christ – by teaching him to trust God, study His word, pray, live a holy life, and share his faith with others. But no matter how much we do, it is the Holy Spirit who helps the new believer come to Christ, and who illumines his heart with the Word. The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray and empowers us to witness. In fact, there would be no supernatural life apart from the Holy Spirit.

Paradoxically, you and I can be confident, yet humble, when we think of all that we are, and all that we have in Christ, and realize that we are not responsible for any of it, but it is something which God has given us according to His grace. My only boast is in God, His Son Jesus Christ and His indwelling Holy Spirit. How can I boast of my abilities and achievements, when it is the Giver alone who is worthy of all honor and praise? The apostle Paul had the strong conviction that the work God had begun in the believer would be permanent. All events that transpire in our lives, all influences, heartaches, testings and sorrows, as well as all of the blessings, are designed to conform us to the image of Christ.

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: God, who saved me, continues to work in my life, conforming me to the image of Christ. Therefore, I will continue to trust and obey Him, as I draw upon His supernatural resources

 

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Max Lucado – Thank God—Every Day for Everything

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

A person never runs out of reasons to say “thanks!”  Just the word lifts the spirit!  To say, “thanks” is to celebrate a gift.  Something.  Anything.

In Scripture the idea of giving thanks is not a suggestion or a recommendation; it’s a command.  It carries the same weight as “love your neighbor” and “give to the poor.”  More than a hundred times, either by imperative or example, the Bible commands us to be thankful.  If quantity implies gravity, God takes thanksgiving seriously.

Ingratitude is the original sin.  Adam and Eve had a million reasons to give thanks.  They lived in a perfect world.  Then Satan slithered into the garden and just like that, Eden wasn’t enough.  Oh, the hissing we hear.  “Don’t you want more?”  So thank God.  Moment by moment.  Day by day.  Thank him…for everything!

Read more Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – The world’s most expensive Thanksgiving dinner and a surprising example of transforming gratitude

Welcome to America’s second-favorite holiday (next only to Christmas). But we’re a bit conflicted about the main course.

Eighty-eight percent of us will eat turkey today. Unsurprisingly, 70 percent of us say it’s not a proper Thanksgiving meal without turkey. But 65 percent of us would like an alternative to turkey on the table.

Of course, we could join the 9 percent of Americans who will eat their Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant. Then we could order whatever the restaurant serves. If you have a spare $150,000, you could celebrate the world’s most expensive Thanksgiving dinner at New York City’s Old Homestead Steakhouse.

Poultry aside, here’s an important statistic: While the holidays are filled with shopping and commercials for more shopping, 88 percent of us say we are thankful for family today. Only 32 percent say they are thankful for wealth.

Giving thanks “in” and “for” all things

This Thanksgiving week, we’re exploring the biblical commands to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to “always give thanks to God the Father for everything” (Ephesians 5:20 NCV). As we have noted, God calls us to give thanks “in” and “for” all that we experience.

In hard places, this is hard to do. We can pretend that all is well, but God sees our hearts. We can claim that things will inevitably get better, but biblical examples of innocent suffering prove that it’s not necessarily so.

On Tuesday, we discussed ways to trust that God will redeem our present challenges. Yesterday, we noted the power of public gratitude in the face of hard times.

Today, let’s learn from an unlikely source how and why to be grateful for present gifts.

“Your faith has made you well”

Luke 17 tells the familiar story of ten lepers who were healed by Jesus.

Jesus met these suffering men as “he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee” (vv. 11–12). In response to their cry for mercy, he told them to “go and show yourselves to the priests” (v. 14a), the act of one who wants to be pronounced clean of leprosy so he can reenter society. And as they obeyed him, they were “cleansed” (v. 14b).

However, only one returned to thank Jesus for his cleansing (v. 16a). Luke makes clear the astonishment he expects his readers to feel when he adds, “Now he was a Samaritan” (v. 16b).

As John notes, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9). Jews considered Samaritans to be a race of half-breeds resulting from intermarriage between Gentiles imported into the region by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:24) and Jews who remained there after the Assyrian conquest.

Consequently, the Samaritans and the Jews lived in enmity for centuries. The former built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. They accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament and rejected all Jewish traditions. That the only person returning to give thanks was a Samaritan must have shocked Luke’s Jewish readers.

As a result, only the Samaritan received Jesus’ word of blessing: “Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). “Well” translates sozo, meaning “to be delivered” or “to be saved.” The other nine were healed physically; only this man was healed spiritually.

A Scottish pastor’s surprising prayer

From a Samaritan leper, one of the unlikeliest of all faith heroes, we learn this lesson: thanking God for his material gifts positions us to receive even greater spiritual gifts.

This is a powerful reason for choosing gratitude “in” and “for” all circumstances. No matter how hard things are, we can always find a reason to give thanks. And when we do, we experience what God can only give to those who are willing to receive his grace.

Consider an example: A Scottish pastor was famous for beginning his invocation each Sunday with a word of thanksgiving. He could find something positive in even the most negative of times.

Then came a Sunday when the weather was atrocious: icy streets, frigid temperatures, howling winds. When the pastor rose to pray, those in the congregation thought, “Surely he’ll not begin with thanksgiving on such a terrible day.”

But they were wrong: the pastor opened his prayer with the words, “Lord, we thank you that it is not always like this.”

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving”

As you gather with your family and friends today, God’s word invites you to make time to give thanks for his material provisions. The food you share, the shelter and safety you enjoy, the blessing of being with those you love and those who love you. Even if gratitude is hard for you, look for ways and reasons to give thanks.

When you do, know that you will experience God’s spiritual favor as a result. As you “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4), you will encounter the Lord himself. Like the Samaritan leper, you will fall “at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks” (Luke 17:16).

And that will be a Thanksgiving to remember.

NOTE: On this day of thanks, I am especially thankful for you. It is a wonderful privilege to share this ministry with you each weekday morning. May the Lord bless you and yours with a wonderful day filled with gratitude and love.

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/

Charles Stanley – God Is With Us

 

John 14:16-26

God is always with us, even though we at times cannot sense His presence. There may be situations where we feel really close to Him, yet on other occasions, He might seem distant and uninvolved in our life. As believers, however, we can be certain He is our constant companion whether we’re aware of Him or not. This truth can empower and transform your life.

There are two statements in today’s passage that are the foundation for our confidence about God’s presence with us. Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17). Then He added, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (v. 23). What an amazing reality—the triune God has taken up residence in those of us who have received Christ’s forgiveness and salvation.

With this truth anchored in our mind and heart, we can know that no matter what we’re going through—even the loss of a loved one—we are not alone. Being in Christ, we have His peace in the midst of storms. That’s because there are none more powerful or knowledgeable than almighty God, who indwells us and gives us His comfort and strength.

We must remind ourselves of God’s presence because, unfortunately, it’s tempting to forget. But the more we remember He is with us, the better we can discern His work and comfort in our life. Let’s pray to keep this aspect of God’s character at the forefront of our mind.

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 1-3

 

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Our Daily Bread — Greedy Grasping

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Ezekiel 30–32
  • 1 Peter 4

Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:6

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Ecclesiastes 4:4–8

In the ancient fable The Boy and the Filberts (Nuts), a boy sticks his hand into a jar of nuts and grabs a great fistful. But his hand is so full that it gets stuck in the jar. Unwilling to lose even a little of his bounty, the boy begins to weep. Eventually, he’s counseled to let go of some of the nuts so the jar will let go of his hand. Greed can be a hard boss.

The wise teacher of Ecclesiastes illustrates this moral with a lesson on hands and what they say about us. He compared and contrasted the lazy with the greedy when he wrote: “Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” (4:5–6). While the lazy procrastinate until they’re ruined, those who pursue wealth come to realize their efforts are “meaningless—a miserable business!” (v. 8).

According to the teacher, the desired state is to relax from the toil of greedy grasping in order to find contentment in what truly belongs to us. For that which is ours will always remain. As Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (Mark 8:36).

By: Remi Oyedele

Reflect & Pray

What are you driven to pursue and grasp? How can you apply the wise words of Ecclesiastes in order to find tranquility?

God, thank You for Your provision and faithful presence in my life. Help me to live in a contented way, exhibiting true gratefulness to You.

 

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