Charles Stanley – Improving Our Prayers

 

Ephesians 3:14-16

Are you satisfied with your prayer life? I don’t know too many people who would answer yes to that question, because most of us know that we fall short in this discipline. Even the most mature believers recognize their need for improvement, and one of the best methods for doing that is examining scriptural prayers and using them as a model.

Several of Paul’s prayers are recorded in his epistles, and they supply wonderful insights about different ways to pray. In today’s passage, we see two foundations for prayer.

A Humble Attitude. Paul’s physical posture of bending his knees served as a reminder of his submissive position before the heavenly Father. He knew there was nothing in himself that would cause the Lord to hear and respond. He had access to the throne of God only through his relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul did not make himself the center of the conversation but focused on the Lord and the church for whom he was interceding.

A Focus on God. The foundation of Paul’s prayer life was the Trinity. The apostle understood that God the Father adopts all believers worldwide into His family for eternity; that there are glorious riches found in God the Son; and that God the Holy Spirit has limitless power. The requests Paul made for the Ephesians were based on almighty God’s matchless abilities, resources, and power.

Although we can confidently approach the Lord’s throne of grace, we must always remember that we are but humble servants, and He is our exalted God.

Bible in One Year: Acts 23-24

 

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Our Daily Bread — True, Deep Desire

 

Bible in a Year:

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

Mark 10:51

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Mark 10:46–52

A mouse with a shrill voice, Reepicheep is perhaps The Chronicles of Narnia’s most valiant character. He charged into battle swinging his tiny sword. He rejected fear as he prodded on the Dawn Treader toward the Island of Darkness. The secret to Reepicheep’s courage? He was deeply connected to his longing to get to Aslan’s country. “That is my heart’s desire,” he said. Reepicheep knew what he truly wanted, and this led him toward his king.

Bartimaeus, a blind man from Jericho, sat in his normal spot jingling his cup for coins when he heard Jesus and the crowd approaching. He yelled out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). The crowd tried to silence him, but Bartimaeus couldn’t be stopped.

“Jesus stopped,” Mark says (v. 49). In the midst of the throng, Jesus wanted to hear Bartimaeus. “What do you want?” Jesus asked (v. 51).

The answer seemed obvious; surely Jesus knew. But He seemed to believe there was power in allowing Bartimaeus to express his deep desire. “I want to see,” Bartimaeus said (v. 51). And Jesus sent Bartimaeus home seeing colors, beauty, and the faces of friends for the first time.

Not all desires are met immediately (and desires must be transformed), but what’s essential here is how Bartimaeus knew his desire and took it to Jesus. If we’ll pay attention, we’ll notice that our true desires and longings always lead us to Him.

By: Winn Collier

Reflect & Pray

What do you truly desire? How might this desire lead you to Jesus?

Jesus, help me to bring my desires to You. What I’m ultimately seeking can only be satisfied by what You alone can provide.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Upending Fair

 

I do not know of many races or sporting competitions in which the last person across the finish line comes in first place. Certainly, getting the lowest time often means the winning performance. But to come in last place means to come in last. For all of us who were picked last for various athletic events in school, how whimsical it would have been if being chosen last was a position of honor! Of course, I could very easily see how unfair it would seem if those with the best athletic ability, those who had trained the longest, worked the hardest, and had come in first place did not receive the honor due that effort. The last being first can be very bad or very good depending upon where one stands.

Jesus once told a story that upends expectations for those who perennially find themselves as last or first. A landowner hires laborers to work in his vineyard. They are hired throughout the work day and all the workers agree to the wage of a denarius for a day’s work. The enigmatic and exceptional punch line to this story occurs when those who are hired at the very end of the day—in the last hour—are paid the same wage as those who worked all day long. The long-suffering laborers cry out, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.” Those workers that were hired first are not paid any additional wage. The first are not first, in this story. Instead, the landowner replies with a radical reversal: The last shall be first, and the first last.

Not only is the conclusion to this story exceptional and enigmatic, it also seems wholly unfair. For how could those who worked so little be paid the full day’s wage? Yet, this upending of any sense of fairness is a recurring theme in other stories of Jesus as well. Indeed, the familiar parable of the prodigal son functions in a similar manner and upsets our sense of what is fair and right, just as in the parable of the laborers. A careful reading presents an extravagant display of grace towards all wayward sons and daughters, even as it illuminates a human frugality with grace.

Jesus presented this story as a crowd of tax-collectors, sinners, and religious leaders gathered around him. All who listened had a vested interest in what Jesus might say. Some hoped for grace, while others clamored for judgment. “A certain man had two sons,” Jesus begins. The younger of the man’s two sons insists on having his share of the inheritance, which the father grants though the request violated the Jewish custom that allotted a third of the inheritance to the youngest son upon the death of the father.(1) With wasteful extravagance, the son squanders this inheritance and finds himself desperately poor, living among pigs, ravenous for the pods on which they feed. “But when he came to his senses” the text tells us, he reasons that even his father’s hired men have plenty to eat. Hoping to be accepted as a mere slave, he makes his way home. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him.

The religiously faithful (i.e., first in faithfulness) in the crowd might have gasped at this statement. How could the father extend such grace towards a son so wasteful and wanton? Yet, this father is the true prodigal, extending grace in an extravagant way. His prodigal heart compels him to keep looking for his son—he saw him while he was still a long way off. And despite being disowned by his son, the father feels compassion for him. With wasteful abandon, he runs to his son to embrace him and welcome him home. The father orders a grand party for this son who has been found, “who was dead and has begun to live.”

The older brother in Jesus’s story provocatively gives voice to a deep sense of outrage.(1) In many ways, his complaint intones the same complaint of the laborers in the vineyard. “For so many years, I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of your… But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots; you killed the fattened calf for him.” We can hear the implicit cry, “It’s not fair!” The text then tells us that the older son was not willing to join the celebration. He will not hear the entreaty of his gracious father both to come into the celebration and to recognize that “all that is mine is yours.” Here again, the last shall be first, and the first last and all expectations of fairness or of getting one’s rightful due are upended.

While not vague in their detail or content, these two parables of Jesus are both exceptional and enigmatic. If we are honest, they disrupt our sense of righteousness and our sense of fairness. Both portraits of the prodigal father and of the landowner present a radical reversal. God lavishes grace freely on those many deem the last or the least deserving. But perhaps the exceptional and enigmatic aspects of these parables are felt most keenly by those who fail to recognize their need of grace. For all who see themselves least, last, or lost from the grace extended by the gracious God depicted in these stories, we may yet find ourselves in that honored place of the presence of God.


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

 

(1) Fred Craddock, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 187.

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Joyce Meyer – Emotions Are Here to Stay

 

Be sober-minded; be watchful…firm in your faith. — 1 Peter 5:8-9

Adapted from the resource Power Thoughts Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

We all have emotions, and we always will; they are part of being human. Since that is true, I believe emotional stability should be one of the main goals of every believer. We should seek God to learn how to manage our emotions and stop them from managing us.

I urge you to make emotional maturity a priority in your life. If you do not believe you are doing a good job of managing your emotions, begin to pray and seek God for emotional maturity. I also encourage you to learn what upsets you the most or prompts you to behave emotionally, and be watchful during those situations.

Prayer Starter: Father, I ask for Your help to manage my emotions. Help me to mature in You and have a greater understanding of why I do the things I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Like a Sweet Perfume

 

“But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, He has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go He uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel like a sweet perfume” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

We can certainly learn a lesson from the apostle Paul. He frequently begins a chapter or a verse with a note of praise. To say that he had a thankful spirit would be understating the case. That perhaps is the key to victory in every area of our lives, to begin with thanksgiving.

It is God who leads us to triumph over principalities and powers. And in leading us to triumph, He is then able to use us to tell others of His love and forgiveness through the Lord Jesus. As we rest in His victory and in His command, with its promise of “Lo, I am with you always,” we spread the gospel like a sweet perfume.

In your own home and in your own neighborhood, perhaps, are those who need the sweet perfume of the gospel, that heavenly aroma that comes first from God, then through us as His servants, and finally in the message itself: the good news of sins forgiven and a heavenly home assured.

Around the world, literally, I personally have seen multitudes of men and women, old and young, become new creatures in Christ. The aroma indeed is one of sweet perfume, for tangled lives have become untangled to the glory of God, and joy abounds in hearts and lives where only sadness and despair had been known.

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: “Dear Lord, help me to bear a heavenly aroma as I share the sweet perfume of the gospel with others.”

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – A Closet Chat with God

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Religious leaders loved to make theater out of their prayers.  The show nauseated Jesus.  In Matthew 6:6 He said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who cannot be seen.  Your Father can see what is done in secret, and He will reward you.”

The words surely stunned Jesus’ audience.  The people were simple farmers and stonemasons.  They couldn’t enter the temple.  But they could enter their closets.  The point?  He’s low on fancy, high on accessibility.  You need not woo him with location or wow him with eloquence.  It’s the power of a simple prayer.

Every day for four weeks, pray four minutes…a simple prayer.  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 – Chick-fil-A Foundation will no longer donate to Salvation Army and FCA: A question and two important facts

 

The Chick-fil-A Foundation announced yesterday that it is “introducing a more focused giving approach to provide additional clarity and impact with the causes it supports.” As a result, it will “deepen its giving to a small number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger.”

As a result, the Foundation has committed $9 million in 2020 to three initiatives: it will support education through Junior Achievement, address youth homelessness through Covenant House International, and fight hunger by dedicating $25,000 to a local food bank at each new Chick-fil-A opening. The company’s total benevolent gifts will approximate $32 million next year.

What the Foundation will not do is continue its financial support of The Salvation Army or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), each of which has been accused of anti-LGBTQ bias.

The question is why.

An overview of the issue

Chick-fil-A first made LGBT-related headlines in 2011 after the WinShape Foundation, supported by restaurant founder S. Truett Cathy and his family, made contributions to the Family Research Council and Exodus International. LGBTQ activists protested, considering these groups to be discriminatory.

The next year, CEO Dan Cathy publicly stated his support for traditional marriage. Following a public backlash, the Civil Rights Agenda announced that Chick-fil-A had “ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights.”

The company also formed a new charitable arm, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, which continued to support groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and The Salvation Army, which are not focused on political action.

However, protests against the company’s alleged anti-LGBTQ bias have continued to escalate. Airports in San Antonio, Buffalo, and San Jose have prevented the restaurant from opening or stated they would not renew its lease. Boston’s late mayor pledged to ban the company from opening within city limits.

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