Charles Stanley – How God Works

 

2 Peter 3:9-18

God is at work everywhere. In the very first verse of the Bible, He is creating the heavens and earth. In the last verses of Revelation, He is calling people to be saved. Throughout Scripture and in the world today, the Lord is active in the lives of believers and unbelievers, although in very different ways.

We will be able to see God move in our life if we understand how He works—and He operates in both dramatic and seemingly insignificant ways. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, everyone could see by his face that he’d had a dramatic encounter with God. In contrast, Joseph entered Potiphar’s household as a slave. That may seem like an inconsequential situation in an incredible life, but it was important to God’s plan for Joseph.

In a similar way, God’s work in us always has purpose. Our life may seem routine, but God is busy every day conforming us to Christ’s likeness. He may allow circumstances we dislike, but those situations accomplish His goal. And we can see from examples like Gideon and Samson that He works differently with each person.

However God chooses to work in our life, we must trust Him. For instance, the Lord promised Abraham a son but silently waited 25 years to honor His vow. What appears slow to us is not slow to God. He is working out the perfect timing of events. Our patience to wait on Him demonstrates our trust, which is rewarded when we come ever closer to God’s goal: to become more like Jesus.

Bible in One Year: 1 Thessalonians 1-5

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Canceled Debts

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Hosea 5–8
  • Revelation 2

The Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed.

Deuteronomy 15:2

 

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Deuteronomy 15:1–8

In 2009, Los Angeles County stopped charging families for the costs of their children’s incarceration. Though no new fees were charged, those with unpaid fees from before the change in policy were still required to settle their debt. Then in 2018 the county canceled all outstanding financial obligations.

For some families, canceling the debt aided greatly in their struggle to survive; no longer having liens on their property or wages being garnished meant they were better able to put food on the table. It was for this kind of hardship that God called for debts to be forgiven every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:2). He didn’t want people to be crippled forever by them.

Because the Israelites were forbidden to charge interest on a loan to fellow Israelites (Exodus 22:25), their motives for lending to a neighbor weren’t to make a profit, but rather to help those who were enduring hard times, perhaps due to a bad harvest. Debts were to be freely forgiven every seven years. As a result, there would be less poverty among the people (Deuteronomy 15:4).

Today, believers in Jesus aren’t bound by these laws. But God might occasionally prompt us to forgive a debt so those who’ve been struggling can begin afresh as contributing members of society. When we show such mercy and generosity to others, we lift up God’s character and give people hope.

By: Kirsten Holmberg

Reflect & Pray

How have your “debts” been forgiven? Who can you lift up by forgiving a debt owed or a wrong done to you?

Jesus, thank You for caring about the financial burdens we carry.

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Ordinary and Extraordinary

For those who are well-familiar with the Christmas narrative from the Gospel of Luke, the inherent strangeness to the story may be missed. When read without either an over-familiarity or a commercialized sentimentality, the Lukan account of God’s advent into the world is fairly extraordinary. I am struck by the way Luke juxtaposes the announcement of the King of Israel—”For to you is born this day in the city of David the Savior who is Christ the Lord”—with the sign of his advent: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”(1) The God of the universe would be set in a lowly manger, a feed trough for animals. he would be clothed, not in purple finery, but in woven, cloth strips.

Luke’s narrative highlights what seem to be the most ordinary and the most mundane details of Jesus’s birth for many modern readers. And yet, these seemingly ordinary details highlight a God who chooses to display divine glory in the commonplace birth of a human child. The gospel writer’s utter preoccupation with ordinary details reveals the belief that coming of the Messiah and his kingdom would look very different from the kingdom that was expected. And this was extraordinary.

The Bible indicates a long silence of God from speaking directly to the people—a silence that must have seemed an eternity. But out of the silence of that quiet night, the angel spoke and announced what the people of Israel had all hoped for: God is near, the gospel proclaims, born in the same city as your great king of old, King David! The people now would look upon the new David, their new deliverer, who would be their Messiah. The prophet Micah announced this special context as well: “As for you, Bethlehem, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you one will go forth for me to be ruler in Israel. His going forth is from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Out of the silent sky came the news that surpassed all news. The Messiah had come and the world would never be the same again, for a king had been born this day in the city of David—Christ the Lord!

Yet, this king would not be born in an expected palace or even into the household of a priest, like John the Baptist, for example. The glorious place of Israel’s new king would be different than expected: “And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” Born this day, in the city of David is your Christ, your Messiah. And guess what? You’ll find him in a manger, which is the feeding trough for ordinary farm animals. Who would believe this report? How could the Messiah come with such vulnerability and poverty?

 

But the manger would prove to be his palace, and the first subjects of the kingdom would not be the influential or the powerful, not the righteous or the rulers. In fact, only a few people actually hear the news. After the silence of ages, God does not come with a shout, but like a whisper into the ears of a few select, uninfluential individuals. God comes as a crying baby needing the comfort and succor of human parents.

Mary, a young girl as yet unmarried, would be the first recipient of this good news. She was young and insignificant, and this announcement of an illegitimate and unexplained pregnancy wouldn’t help her place in that society. The announcement also comes to shepherds—the least influential in that society—young boys, out in the fields, far from their towns and villages, tending to the family sheep. The glory of Israel is revealed to those most would deem inglorious. Israel’s new king is born to a young, unmarried girl, in a town not her home, placed in a manger with animals as the initial witnesses to the birth. The heavenly announcement is made only to a group of poor, unnoticed shepherds.

Unveiling the glory of God through humble means and ordinary details is a point Luke’s gospel highlights in portraying a kingdom that would upend many cherished expectations. The Almighty God, who created heaven and earth, who created the shepherds and the animals, Mary and Joseph, was the same God who chose to be glorified in human flesh as the baby Jesus. In the dependence and vulnerability of an infant, God’s glory is revealed. Humble circumstances with unremarkable witnesses reveal the greatness and glory of God. Humility, from the very beginning, is one of the hallmarks of Jesus’s Kingdom. Dr. James Denison elaborates on these extraordinary circumstances: “As a young child, [Jesus] was celebrated by foreign Magi, not of his own people. He spent his public ministry touching lepers, welcoming Gentiles and prostitutes, discipling tax collectors and other despised people, and offering the gospel to all who would receive it. His birth proved the words: ‘God so loved the world that God gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but receive eternal life.’”(2)

In a world that confuses glory with glitter, glamour, power, and prestige, would we see God’s glory in this seemingly inglorious package—cradled in a feed-trough, presented to peasants, and announced to the least and the last? For all who would wonder at this kind of birth, this kind of king, and this kind of God, they are welcomed to draw closer to the manger and the stable.

 

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

 

(1) Luke 2:11-12.
(2) James Denison, blog entry, 2007.

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http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – Fickle Feelings

 

So, then those who are living the life of the flesh [catering to the appetites and impulses of their carnal nature] cannot please or satisfy God, or be acceptable to Him. — Romans 8:8 (AMPC)

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

When we follow the ever-changing impulses of our carnal nature, it is not pleasing or acceptable to God, because He has a much better life in mind for us. We all have times when emotions change without warning, and it is important that we learn how to handle ourselves in times like that. If we merely follow our feelings, we will surely end up making decisions and taking actions that we will regret later on.

Recently, Dave and I had several people to our house for a party, and I was energetic and felt great. The next day, for no apparent reason, I woke up feeling dull-headed and a bit down emotionally. Why? What is wrong with me? Those are the first questions I asked myself. I didn’t get an answer, so I had to make a choice. Should I continue to try to figure out my odd mood and get more and more confused, or should I pray, asking God to reveal anything He wants me to see and go on about the business of the day, asking God to help me live beyond my feelings?

I have learned over the years that being a stable, consistent person requires that I own my feelings instead of letting them own me. In other words, I may have them, but I cannot let them control me. Feelings are fickle. They change frequently and often without any notice. Sometimes we understand why, but much of the time we don’t.

Our physical condition can affect emotions. Consider things like: Did I get enough sleep? or Did I eat something that made me feel bad? or Is it allergy season? Our spiritual condition can also cause mood fluctuation: Have I spent enough time with God? Do I have hidden sin that needs to be dealt with? Is God chastising me about something?

I recommend praying first to see if God reveals anything, and if He doesn’t, then remain steady in the storm. Don’t try excessively to figure out your feelings, because it will get you more and more focused on them. Trust God, use extra self-control, and very soon you will feel better.

Prayer Starter: Father, I desire to be stable emotionally at all times. Help me stay steady when my emotions fluctuate. I want to live a life that is pleasing to You at all times, and I trust You to continue teaching me in this area. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Teach You Much

 

“But when the Father sends the Comforter instead of Me – and by the Comforter I mean the Holy Spirit – He will teach you much, as well as remind you of everything I myself have told you” (John 14:26).

Some years ago, at one of our week-long Lay Institutes for Evangelism, attended by more than 4,000 trainees, I gave a message on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Afterward, a missionary who had just retired after 20 years of service in Africa came to see me. He was very excited as he came to share how, during that meeting, he had finally found what he had sought throughout his entire Christian life.

“Today, as you spoke,” he said, “I was filled with the Spirit. For 20 years I have tried to serve God on the mission field, but I have served Him in the energy of the flesh and have had very little results. Now, though I have retired and returned to America, I want to go back to Africa.

“This time, I want to concentrate on working just with missionaries, because I know from experience that many of them are still searching for what I have sought all these years. The most important message I can take to them is how they can be filled with the Holy Spirit by faith.

“I want to teach them what you taught me so that they, in turn, will be able to teach the Africans how they too can be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. J. Edwin Orr, a leading authority on spiritual revival, describes the Holy Spirit as “the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Christ. He is the Lord of the harvest, supreme in revival, evangelism and missionary endeavor.”

“Without His consent, plans are bound to fail. It behooves us as Christians to fit our tactical operations into the plan of His strategy, which is the reviving of the church and the evangelization of the world.”

Bible Reading: John 14:13-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will look to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit for the spiritual lessons I need to learn today and claim His power to serve the Lord Jesus Christ supernaturally.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Acceptance and Forgiveness

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

It doesn’t matter what I do—it’s never enough.  I’ll never meet their expectations!

Ever caught yourself using these unhealthy expectations?  Your brother made an A in chemistry, and we know you’ll do just as well!  or…  If you had a better job we could afford that house! Expectations.  They create conditional love.  I love you, but I’ll love you more if…

Jesus expects that we leave everything, deny all, and follow Him.  The difference?  Jesus’ expectations come with two important companions:  forgiveness and acceptance.  No strings.  No hidden agendas.  Jesus’ love for us is up front and clear.  His sacrifice was not dependent upon our performance.  “I love you,” He says, in spite of your failures.  One step behind the expectations of Christ comes his forgiveness.  Expectations!  With acceptance and forgiveness, they can bring out the best!

Read more No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – The most popular Bible verse for 2019: The peace of God requires the power of God

 

What would you guess might be the most popular Bible verse, according to YouVersion’s 400 million users?

Philippians 4:6 is the answer. The verse says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

What does its popularity say about us?

Volcano burns honeymooning couple

The day’s news seldom lacks for “anxious” headlines. For instance, a Virginia couple on their honeymoon in New Zealand were severely burned by the volcanic eruption on Monday that killed at least six people. Twenty-five people are currently hospitalized in critical condition.

A three-year-old boy whose mother was strolling him through a Manhattan crosswalk was struck and killed by a truck Monday, shortly after the two had finished eating breakfast at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. And six people were killed in a shootout in New Jersey yesterday, including a police officer, two suspects, and three civilians. The dead officer was Detective Joseph Seals, age forty, who was married with five children.

Tragedy makes the news daily, but we face more systemic issues as well. For example, a new study shows that death rates are increasing for middle-aged Americans of all racial and ethnic groups. Suicide, drug overdoses, and alcoholism are the main causes, but heart disease, stroke, and other medical conditions are contributors as well.

Clergy are certainly not immune. For instance, a mental health summit for pastors was held last Friday at Wheaton College. About four hundred ministry leaders filled a sold-out auditorium; the event was live-streamed to seventy-seven churches around the world. It responded to a recent report that about half of all Protestant pastors feel as though the demands of ministry are more than they can handle; 54 percent find their role to be frequently overwhelming.

US Catholic priests are likewise dealing with stress, burnout, depression, and substance abuse issues. An escalating shortage of priests is exacerbating demands on Catholic clergy as well.

“The Lord is at hand”

Where can we find peace in such perilous times? Yesterday, we discussed the urgency of seeking to live by the word of God. Today, we’ll focus on seeking the help of God to obey the word of God and experience the peace of God.

Like every word in God’s word, our favorite verse for the year has a context. In the Greek, Philippians 4:6 actually continues a sentence Paul began in the previous verse: “The Lord is at hand.” The phrase means that God “is present in this time and place.”

This restates Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), as well as our Father’s assurance, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10). As a result, Paul’s thought continues, we can choose to “not be anxious about anything.”

However, the fact of God’s empowering presence does not mean that we have no responsibility in advancing his kingdom.

“Valiant men” were “expert in war” but “cried out to God”

In 1 Chronicles 5, we read that “the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war” (v. 18). Unsurprisingly, when they “waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphis, and Nodab” (v. 19), “they prevailed over them” (v. 20a). Here we see the importance of developing our skills until we are “expert” in them.

But the rest of the verse gives the underlying reason for their victory: “For they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him” (v. 20b). As we give God our best minds and skills, he uses us to do more than we could do without him.

We find this divine-human partnership at work all through Scripture.

Moses was skilled in Egyptian culture, then God used his courageous leadership (Acts 7:22). David was a brilliant warrior, theologian, musician, and statesman who depended deeply on God’s strength (Psalm 25:5). Daniel was a skilled scholar (Daniel 1:20), but also a fervent intercessor (Daniel 6:10). Paul was trained by the most acclaimed scholar in Judaism (Acts 22:3), but he knew he could do all things only “through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

“This small way that leads to real peace and joy”

As we work, God works. As we give God our best and trust him for his best, we experience his power and know his peace.

Christmas illustrates our theme. Micah 5 contains the famous prediction that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of “one who is to be ruler in Israel” (v. 2). But two verses later, we learn how the Messiah would fulfill this calling: “He shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD” (v. 4).

As a result, “he shall be their peace” (v. 5). The peace of God comes to those who depend upon the power of God.

Henri Nouwen: “It is hard to believe that God would reveal his divine presence to us in the self-emptying, humble way of the man from Nazareth. So much in me seeks influence, power, success, and popularity. But the way of Jesus is the way of hiddenness, powerlessness, and littleness. It does not seem a very appealing way. Yet when I enter into true, deep communion with Jesus, I will find that it is this small way that leads to real peace and joy.”

Will others find the “peace and joy” of Jesus in you today?

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/