Charles Stanley – The God Who Chooses Us

 

Ephesians 1:3-12

There’s nothing more humbling than salvation. We might like to think we did something that made our heavenly Father look down and say, “Now, there’s a person worth saving,” but this simply is not the case. We had absolutely nothing to offer God except our sin. And what’s more, today’s passage tells us that “He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). How could we possibly take any credit for something that happened before we were born?

God chose us, not when we were saved but before we had done anything noteworthy—in fact, long before we even came into existence. Our part was simply to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the offer of forgiveness by the Son, and the love of our heavenly Father. That should remove any sense of pride about how we were saved.

What’s even more amazing about our salvation is its permanency: Choosing us to be holy and blameless before Him forever, God predestined us to become His adopted children and heirs of His kingdom (Eph. 1:4-5; Eph. 1:11). Our future in heaven is not only free from the penalty and power of sin but also free from sin’s very existence. Never again will we succumb to unrighteous desires or even battle temptation.

In light of this loving rescue plan, we marvel at the fact that God knew us before we were born and chose to save us. My friend, we should fall on our face before Jesus Christ in humble adoration, praise, and gratitude for His great love and mercy.

Bible in One Year: Hebrews 10-11

 

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Our Daily Bread — Failure Is Impossible

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Micah 1–3
  • Revelation 11

This work had been done with the help of our God.

Nehemiah 6:16

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Nehemiah 6:1–9

“Failure is impossible!” These words were spoken by Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), known for her immovable stance on women’s rights in the US. Though she faced constant criticism and later an arrest, trial, and guilty verdict for voting illegally, Anthony vowed to never give up the fight to gain women the right to vote, believing her cause was just. Though she didn’t live to see the fruit of her labor, her declaration proved true. In 1920, the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote.

Failure wasn’t an option for Nehemiah either, mainly because he had a Powerful Helper: God. After asking Him to bless his cause—rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem—Nehemiah and those who had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon worked to make that happen. The wall was needed to keep the people safe from enemies. But opposition to the cause came in the form of deception and threats. Nehemiah refused to let opposition deter him. He informed those who opposed the work, “I am carrying on a great project” (Nehemiah 6:3). After that, he prayed, “Now strengthen my hands” (v. 9). Thanks to perseverance, the work was completed (v. 15).

God gave Nehemiah the strength to persevere in the face of opposition. Is there a task for which you’re tempted to give up? Ask God to provide whatever you need to keep going.

By: Linda Washington

Reflect & Pray

How do you normally handle opposition? What cause are you willing to fight for, no matter how tough the opposition?

Precious God, I need Your help to keep going with the work You’ve given me to do, no matter what the cost may be.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Unintended Consequences

 

The modern era has been a time of rich progress. It has been a time of scientific and economic breakthroughs and increasing visions for more and more liberty on personal and political fronts. Yet most of us sense that all is not well in our contemporary world order. Our values, visions, tastes, desires, and longings are all clashing against one another with a tremendous cost in civility, uncertainty, and angst about our wellbeing and future. A number of years back, the scholar Alisdair McIntyre sought to address the competing moral conversations and approaches in our time in his book “Whose Justice? Which Rationality?” His conclusion was that in the public square we have arrived at a place of incommensurable demands and conversations that actually cannot be resolved because the principles involved and the methods employed cannot lead to shared outcomes.

This is certainly a sobering thought and not one to bring a burst of enthusiasm or hope on our early morning reflections. Most of us would contend that we want to view time and history realistically. But what does that look like? Who decides what is realistic? For the Christian, we do so in light of God’s sovereign oversight and rule, in light of God’s word and the nature of reality, and in light of the work of Christ, and in the ongoing work on the Spirit in history. We also take note of what real decisions have been wrought by real people in real space and time, and the consequences of those accumulated ideas and decisions on all we face today. The “inheritance,” if you like, our earlier commitments or rejection of things that were seen as hindrances to personal or societal progress have costs and consequences.

I think here of the intense focus on values and on what one sees as personal rights—such as the quest and pursuit of identity, where this pursuit becomes an absolute and a stance that all must respect. In this quest, the individual is elevated as the sum of all goods and the choice as intensely personal, inviolable, and supreme. With such a personalized value and vision statement operating in many hearts and minds, the idea of compromise, the common good, or any serious validity to views that differ or conflict with mine becomes an anathema. The other is made entirely irrelevant, sacrificed at the altar of self. Reflecting on various versions of how I should “look out for number one” as a means of being serious about my vision and rights, I cannot help but hear a new religious creed: If any man or woman would succeed, let them pursue their passion, take up their cause, and follow their deepest self.

In such a world, everything becomes a simple dialectic of win or lose. Life is easily managed and understood in binary terms for those who adopt this approach. Who is right and who is wrong? Who is good and who is bad? Those who agree are welcomed and those who don’t are vilified. The costs and consequences of this kind of thinking are vast. As a society, we lack any shared philosophical basis to even process the questions. The psychological cost mounts as various extreme views lead the way and fuel deep sadness at the tone and style of interactions. The social price is seen in polarization and fragmentation all too readily confirmed in the hyper-vocal media. The political cost is equally plain to see and painful to admit.

But the gospel invites a contrast in imagination. For the centrality and supremacy of love for God and love for neighbor are clear in the teaching of Jesus whose love is costly and sacrificial. Jesus takes the notion of the common good, the other, and grace itself very seriously. The love of God is both an alternative and an antidote to the strident self-centeredness and selfishness that is fostered by our culture. It is a love that cares, that shows compassion, that reaches out, and yes, that stands for truth while being willing to bear the cost vulnerably. The birth, life, and example of Jesus gives us much to reflect on.

This is a call to renunciation that hits us all at the deepest level but it is also one which would have a serious impact on our own lives and those around us if it were to be embodied faithfully. Am I willing to love others with such a cost involved? Am I willing to deny my right to be right, to win, or to dominate? When in doubt, I turn my gaze to the one who so loved this world that he stepped into it not as a conqueror, but as a vulnerable child. The coming of Christ as an infant in Bethlehem is not just an event or a symbol, it is an invitation to a new way of being.

Stuart McAllister is regional director for the Americas at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – From the Pit to the Palace

 

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. — Genesis 37:23-24

Adapted from the resource Ending Your Day Right Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

When Joseph’s brothers threw him in the pit to die, God had other plans. Scripture says that even though Joseph was sold as a slave, he did not have a slave mentality. He still believed he could do great things. Ultimately, he ended up second in command to Pharaoh, the ruler over all Egypt.

How did Joseph get from the pit to the palace? It was by remaining positive, refusing to be bitter, being confident, and trusting God.

Make up your mind right now to do something great for God. No matter where you started, you can have a great finish. If people have mistreated you, don’t waste your time trying to get revenge—leave them in God’s hands and trust Him to bring justice in your life.

Prayer Starter: Lord, only You can take the bad things that have happened and work them out for my good. Help me to stay positive, trust in You, and refuse to give up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Practicing Patience

 

“You need to keep on patiently doing God’s will if you want Him to do for you all that He has promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

During a Bible study on this passage, Ted made this contribution: “Spiritually,” he said, “I’m a sprinter, not a long distance runner.”

Numerous Christians would identify with that for there is little patience, persistence, and tenacity among believers. When adversity comes, many of us are prone to give up and lose our wind. That is the reason James says in his first chapter, verses 2-4, “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”

You will note the emphasis on patience. All of us are faced with problems, testings, temptations, adversities and trials in varying degrees. We can determine, by our attitudes and actions, whether or not our tragedies will turn to triumph. Our heartache and sorrow can become joy and rejoicing simply by our patience, which is the ability to relax in the confidence that God rules in the affairs of men and nations. Everything is under His control. And as we walk in faith and obedience, we will be a part of His wonderful and perfect plan.

But the question may be asked, how can we increase this rare trait or gift of patience that unlocks the door to supernatural living? The answer is simple. It is found in Galatians 5:22-23 in the listing of the fruit of the Spirit, for one of the nine characteristics mentioned is patience or longsuffering.

Are you patient with your husband, wife, parents, children, neighbors and those with whom you work in the office? Or do you find yourself critical and complaining – more prone to judge than to bless?

As we more and more yield ourselves to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, the fruit of patience is increased, along with all the other fruit.

Bible Reading: Hebrews 6:12-15

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will invite the Holy Spirit to control and empower my life moment by moment, day by day, knowing that the fruit of the Spirit, including patience, will increase and mature in my life.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – On Which Side Are You?

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

(simulated news broadcast)  “No question, the Nazarene will  be executed!  They’ve got the Galilean in custody—our sources tell us one of his own men turned him in… film at 11:00.”

A few weep.  A few smile.  A few walk up the hill to see the spectacle. The immensity of Jesus’ execution makes it impossible to ignore.  See the women arguing on the street corner?  The countless pilgrims entering Jerusalem for the Passover?  They’ll go home with a spellbinding story of the teacher who was raised from the dead.

Everyone is choosing a side.  You can’t be neutral on an issue like this one.  And today, two thousands years later, the same is true.  A choice is demanded.  No fence sitting is permitted.  The cross, in its absurd splendor, won’t allow that.  On which side are you?

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 – ‘Star Wars’ and the 12 steps of the ‘Hero’s Journey’: Finding God in surprising places

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the last film in the last Star Wars trilogy, opens in theaters today.

I remember my first Star Wars film as if it were last week. I had never seen such technology on a movie screen. And when Luke destroyed the Death Star, the cheers shook the theater.

We’ve been cheering for the Skywalkers for forty-two years since.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, the Star Wars business has been good business for Disney. The Force Awakens grossed $937 million domestically, the most of any movie in box-office history. Disney’s new streaming service launched with a Star Wars spinoff called The Mandalorian; Disney reported that ten million users signed up a day after the service launched.

An immersive Star Wars-themed attraction called Galaxy’s Edge opened this year at Disney parks in Orlando and Anaheim. The attraction sells $20 Blu-rays, $84 Darth Vader gold rings, $32 Chewbacca kitchen aprons, and $199 lightsabers as well.

“A fundamental experience that everyone has to undergo”

What explains the remarkable generational popularity of the Star Wars franchise?

Dr. Travis Langley is a professor of psychology and lead writer of Star Wars Psychology: Dark Side of the Mind. He explains that Star Wars creator George Lucas “deliberately wove the most successful elements of heroic epics from throughout history into his story.”

Dr. Langley points to Lucas’ use of Joseph Campbell’s work on the “Hero’s Journey,” which Campbell based on Carl Jung’s writings about the power of archetypes and myth.

According to Campbell, the hero takes twelve steps:

  1. Living in the ordinary world
  2. Hearing the call to adventure
  3. Refusing the call
  4. Meeting with the mentor
  5. Crossing the threshold to leave the ordinary world
  6. Testing allies and enemies
  7. Approaching a challenge
  8. Facing the ordeal of death or a great fear
  9. Gaining the reward but facing the risk of losing it again
  10. Taking the road back to complete the adventure
  11. Facing the resurrection—one more severe test, a possible moment of death and rebirth
  12. Returning with the elixir—the hero has been transformed.

Shortly before he died in 1987, Campbell told reporter Bill Moyers that this “journey” is “a fundamental experience that everyone has to undergo.”

The “God-shaped emptiness” in us all

Campbell is right: we are all on a journey toward God’s purpose for our souls. Unfortunately, many attempt to reach their supernatural destination through natural means.

Observant Jews strive to obey the 613 laws of God. Muslims live by the Five Pillars of Islam. Buddhists seek to follow their Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. Hindus practice ascetic rituals as they attempt to progress through multiple reincarnations toward their concept of salvation.

As Pascal noted, there is a “God-shaped emptiness” in each of us. Like the Skywalkers, we battle the Evil Empire in our hearts and our world as we seek to fulfill our ultimate destiny.

But unlike the Skywalkers, none of us can complete the “hero’s journey” without the help of the one true Hero.

“He went to set up his monument”

First Chronicles 18 tells the story of David’s conquest over the enemies of his people. Included in the narrative is this unusual statement: “David also defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah-Hamath, as he went to set up his monument at the river Euphrates” (v. 3). Think of it: just as a king was building a monument to himself and his power over the region, he was defeated by the king empowered by God.

What happens to self-made heroes happens to self-made nations as well. The Lord said of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria: “This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else.’ What a desolation she has become, a lair for wild beasts! Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist” (Zephaniah 2:15).

Trying harder to do better is imprinted on our cultural DNA. Self-reliance explains much of the material success of our society.

But self-sufficiency is spiritual suicide. None of us can try hard enough or do well enough to compensate for our sins and earn our place in God’s sinless heaven.

That’s why God came to us at Christmas. It’s why he comes to us in his Spirit and word today. It’s why he calls us to submit to his Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), follow his will (Psalm 16:11), and depend on his power (Proverbs 3:5–6).

“Humanity at its worst. Divinity at its best!”

Max Lucado: “Never did what is right involve itself so intimately with what is wrong. God on a cross. Humanity at its worst. Divinity at its best! God doesn’t gasp in amazement at the depth of our faith or the depth of our failures. He knows the condition of the world and he loves it just the same.

“Just when we find a place where God would never be, like a cross—we look again, and there he is . . . in the flesh! Inconsistent surprises. Maybe the next time a surprise comes your way, you’ll see God in the middle of it.”

Where in your broken world do you need to see God today?

 

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