Charles Stanley – Developing a Servant Spirit

 

Matthew 20:17-28

Personal ambition and servanthood aren’t always compatible. In fact, they are often at odds with each other. A servant’s goal is to please his or her master in whatever way is required, but personal ambition strives for self-advancement. Jesus’ words from today’s passage must have sounded foreign to the disciples’ ears since, according to the thinking of their culture, greatness was acquired by striving for it, not by serving.

Like them, we live in a world where many people are seeking to make a name for themselves. They set goals, make plans, and do whatever is necessary to achieve what they’ve set out to do. But as Christians, we’re to live by a different standard: exalt Christ, obey His commands, and serve Him faithfully by doing His will, not our own.

We’re not called to gain fame and fortune by leaving our footprints in concrete for all to admire.  Our task is to humbly follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Whether our lives have a large or small impact is up to God, not us. The greatest acts of service are not usually flashy displays; more often they’re commonplace gestures like being kind to strangers, ministering to fellow believers, and praying for others.

Jesus humbled Himself, surrendered His rights, and obeyed God even to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). Being His servant begins with the same attitude. It requires helping others when it’s not convenient, doing tasks that are not glamorous, and obeying the Lord even if it’s costly. We aren’t on earth to build our own kingdom but to faithfully serve God as He builds His.

Bible in One Year: Acts 21-22

 

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Our Daily Bread — Loving the Stranger

 

Bible in a Year:

Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.

Exodus 22:21

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Exodus 23:1–9

After a member of my family converted to a different religion, Christian friends urged me to “convince” her to return to Jesus. I found myself first seeking to love my family member as Christ would—including in public places where some people frowned at her “foreign-looking” clothes. Others even made rude comments. “Go home!” one man yelled at her from his truck, not knowing or apparently caring that she already is “home.”

Moses taught a much kinder way to act toward people whose dress or beliefs feel different. Teaching laws of justice and mercy, Moses instructed the children of Israel, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). The edict expresses God’s concern for all strangers, people vulnerable to bias and abuse, and it is repeated in Exodus 22:21 and Leviticus 19:33.

Therefore, when I spend time with my family member—at a restaurant, in a park, taking a walk together or sitting and talking with her on my front porch—I seek first to show her the same kindness and respect that I would want to experience. It’s one of the best ways to remind her of the sweet love of Jesus, not by shaming her for rejecting Him, but by loving her as He loves all of us—with amazing grace.

By: Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray

What attitudes do you hold about people who appear “different” or “foreign”? In what ways can you practice God’s edict to not mistreat a “stranger” or “sojourner” in your land?

Gracious Father, open my heart today to a stranger or foreigner in my land, helping them to encounter You.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Imagination Reborn

 

Nicodemus was confused. He had come to Jesus under the secrecy of the night professing what he thought he knew: “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”(1) Nicodemus was a Pharisee in the time of Jesus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He was highly regarded, which most likely explains the veil of night by which he sought to meet the controversial rabbi. He did not want to draw unnecessary attention to his consideration of Jesus. Even so, it was perhaps an act of faith to seek out the divisive young man from Galilee, an act of humility to grapple with a message that thoroughly confused him, a message that seemed to call the very basis of his faith into question.

In reply to Nicodemus’s admission that night, Jesus offered one of his own: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The ensuing conversation is one of mystery and semantics.

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb.”

Again Jesus answered curiously, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”(2)

Nicodemus replied as many of us reply on a journey of faith, belief, doubt, and confusion: as one reaching for light to see dim outlines of a picture before him. “How can this be?” he asked, and the conversation that followed showed a man not asking hypothetically but actually, as one really longing to understand the logistics of rebirth. Nicodemus came to Jesus in the obscurity of darkness and found himself confronted by a conversation about flesh and spirit and light: “[W]hoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

G.K. Chesterton once said that it is important for the landlady who is considering a lodger to know his income, but it is more important to know his philosophy. Likewise, for the general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s worldview. “[T]he question” writes Chesterton, “is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether in the long run, anything else affects them.”(3) The big picture is always the most important picture. And when the picture is God, God outgrows every frame through which our eyes begin to see the divine. In a manner reminiscent of the exchange between Aslan and Lucy, God as noun, verb, and all always moves beyond the God we imagine.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “You’re bigger.”

“I am not,” said the great lion. “But every year you grow; you will find me bigger.”

For Nicodemus, the entire picture was turned on its head. Everything he knew was cast into shadows by the light who stood before him. “How can this be?” are the last words we hear from Nicodemus this night. The darkened exchange of Christ and the Pharisee is one that ends without clarity. Yet true to our own lives, his confusion does not seem to disperse in the expanse of one chapter. There are two more references to Nicodemus in John’s Gospel, and they suggest that that this initial meeting with Jesus was the beginning of something of a journey. In the darkness of faith, Nicodemus seemed to discover the God who is there, the light who draws us further up and further in, until standing before the divine, we ourselves are reborn.

 

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

(1) John 3:2.
(2) John 3:3-21.
(3) G.K. Chesterton, Heretics (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 15.

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Joyce Meyer – Are You Not Worth Much More Than They?

 

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? — Matthew 6:26

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

It might do all of us good to spend some time watching birds. That’s what our Lord told us to do. If not every day, then at least every now and then we need to take the time to observe and remind ourselves how well our feathered friends are cared for. They literally do not know where their next meal is coming from, yet I have personally never seen a bird sitting on a tree branch having a nervous breakdown due to worry.

The Master’s point here is really very simple: “Are you not worth more than a bird?” Even though you may be wrestling with a poor self-image, surely you can believe that you are more valuable than a bird, and look how well your heavenly Father takes care of them.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for reminding me that when life is overwhelming or I’m tempted to worry, I have tremendous value in Your eyes, and You’ll never let me down. Help me to be mindful that You will always love me, provide for me, and take care of every need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Wonderfully Comforts

 

“What a wonderful God we have – He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4).

Whatever God does for you and me is without merit on our part and by pure grace on His part, and it is done for a purpose. Here the apostle Paul tells the Corinthian believers why God so wonderfully comforts and strengthens them, and us, in our hardships and trials.

This scriptural principle is a good one to remember: God never gives to or benefits His children solely for their own selfish ends. We are not comforted and strengthened in our hardships and trials just so that we will feel better.

Eleven out of the 13 Pauline epistles begin with the exclamations of joy, praise and thanksgiving. Second Corinthians, obviously, is one of those. Though Paul had been afflicted and persecuted, he had also been favored with God’s comfort and consolation.

Paul delighted in tracing all his comforts back to God. He found no other real source of happiness. The apostle does not say that God’s comfort and strength is given solely for the benefit of others, but he does say that this is an important purpose. We are not to hoard God’s blessings.

Bible Reading: Hebrews 13:15-19

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: As I live in the supernatural strength of the Lord God, I will make an effort, with His help, to share that strength (and other blessings) with others

 

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Max Lucado – Whispered Reminders

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

In Matthew 6 Jesus prayed, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

A prayer that begins…May I not view you as a distant father, but as one who has come to earth and understands the challenges and temptations of my life.  Be near me today, whisper reminders that you’re close.  My friends need you today as they make difficult decisions in their workplace and in their families.  Show them you are closer than even their earthly fathers. Thank you for hearing me and listening to my pleas.  It’s in Jesus’ name I pray this, amen.

Here’s my challenge for you!  Every day for four weeks, pray four minutes.  Then get ready to connect with God like never before!

Read more Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Four people killed at family gathering in Fresno: Why we need to emulate the kindness of Tom Hanks

I had planned to begin my article today by focusing on the kindness of Tom Hanks, whose portrayal of Fred Rogers will open in theaters this Friday. Then I opened my computer this morning to learn that another shooting was making headlines.

Fresno Police Lt. Bill Dooley described the tragedy: “This was a gathering, a family and friend gathering in the backyard. Everyone was watching football this evening when unknown suspects approached the residence, snuck into the backyard and opened fire.”

Ten people were shot and four died.

Tom Hanks “is just as nice as you think he is”

The more that violence fills the news, the more we need examples to give us hope. That’s why Tom Hanks is such an important model for our culture.

Hanks’ movies have grossed nearly $10 billion worldwide. His portrayal of Fred Rogers will be at least his seventy-first film.

But Hanks is known at least as much for who he is in real life as for who he is on the movie screen. His powerful recent interview with the New York Times is subtitled: “Hanks is playing Mister Rogers in a new movie and is just as nice as you think he is.”

Here are some examples cited by the Times reporter: When Hanks was shooting Angels & Demons in Rome, a bride and her father couldn’t approach the chapel because of the film crew, so Hanks stopped filming and escorted them to the altar. He once bought some boxes of Girl Scout cookies, then offered selfies to passers-by as an enticement to buy. He found a woman’s student ID and used his Twitter feed to get it back to her.

What do college students want most in a mate?

Time magazine reports that researchers asked 2,700 college students to narrow down the characteristics that were most important to them in a lifetime mate, and one emerged from all cultures: kindness.

Kindness works for churches: Congregations in California are responding to the state’s housing crisis by sharing their parking lots with people who live in cars, providing mobile showers for the homeless, and exploring ways to build affordable apartments on their own land. One minister explained: “This is just one part of how we live out our faith.”

Kindness works for managers: according to Forbes, science now shows that it’s more productive to praise people for their successes than to correct their mistakes.

Kindness even works for popes: Pope Francis hosted 1,500 homeless and needy people for lunch yesterday as the Roman Catholic Church marked its World Day of the Poor. Last week, a mobile clinic was set up in St. Peter’s Square, where volunteer doctors gave free specialist health care to the poor.

Why is kindness so rare?

Why is kindness newsworthy? One reason is that it is so rare.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Four people killed at family gathering in Fresno: Why we need to emulate the kindness of Tom Hanks