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.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

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

 

http://www.cru.org

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.

 

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