Charles Stanley – The Rewards of Truth

 

Proverbs 2:1-9

Seeking God’s truth is like digging for gold: If we find a tiny flake, we keep scraping and shoveling until we come upon another, which may be a morsel no bigger than an apple seed. That little bit keeps us searching until we find a chunk the size of a marble, and so on. Each new nugget of God-experience is so exciting that we can’t stop excavating for more.

Just think of the advantages of this pursuit. First of all, seeking truth about the Lord naturally results in a more intimate relationship with Him. And aligning our life with these discoveries brings us confidence and the assurance that He is always guarding and guiding us.

Learning about God leads to an additional benefit: the development of spiritual discernment. This is the capacity to distinguish truth from falsehood even when the latter is presented as supportable fact. Having this type of godly insight in turn equips us for greater kingdom service, especially with regard to discipling others.

When it comes to our infinite God, there are always new and exciting treasures for us to unearth. So make it your goal to build a foundation of His truth for your life. By doing so, you will gain wisdom and discover new opportunities to serve Him.

Bible in One Year:   1 Samuel 23-24

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Inheritance Isn’t Earned

 

Bible in a Year:

He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

Ephesians 1:5

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Ephesians 1:3–14

“Thanks for dinner, Dad,” I said as I set my napkin on the restaurant table. I was home on a break from college and, after being gone for a while, it felt strange to have my parents pay for me. “You’re welcome, Julie,” my dad replied, “but you don’t have to thank me for everything all the time. I know you’ve been off on your own, but you’re still my daughter and a part of the family.” I smiled. “Thanks, Dad.”

In my family, I haven’t done anything to earn my parents’ love or what they do for me. But my dad’s comment reminds me that I haven’t done anything to deserve to be a part of God’s family either.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells his readers that God chose them “to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4), or to stand without blemish before Him (5:25–27). But this is only possible through Jesus, in whom “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (1:7). We don’t have to earn God’s grace, forgiveness, or entrance into His family. We simply accept His free gift.

When we turn our lives over to Jesus, we become children of God, which means we receive eternal life and have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. Praise God for offering such a wonderful gift!

By:  Julie Schwab

Reflect & Pray

In what ways do you feel or act as if you have to earn God’s love? How can you practice living in the freedom of His love?

Faithful God, thank You for freely giving Your Son so I can be a part of Your family. Help me to honor You in all You’ve done for me.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Day Four

It was a day without hope: March 11, 2011. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake set off a devastating tsunami that washed away coastal cities in Northeastern Japan. Thousands of homes were destroyed. Roads were impassable, transportation destroyed or shut down, and power remained down for weeks in the cold temperatures of early spring. All around were scenes of desperation, as stranded survivors cried for help, buried alive under the rubble of what remained of their cities, communities, and homes. Things couldn’t get much worse when the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor was discovered, making it impossible to return home. Over three hundred thousand were left homeless and over eighteen thousand people died.

March 11, 2011 was a day without hope for me, as well. Like many around the world, I couldn’t believe that yet another massive earthquake and tsunami of such magnitude—like the Southeast Asian tsunami of 2004—had wrought so much destruction and devastation. Yet on this same day, I attended the funeral for my husband who had died suddenly on March 2, 2011. I felt as if I was buried by the rubble of grief over his lost life and the life we shared together for nearly twenty years.

Even those unacquainted with the biblical narrative have likely heard the familiar story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It is one of the critical events in John’s Gospel for it is the last miracle Jesus performs prior to his entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion.(1) As readers of this story, we have the privilege of knowing the triumphant ending, but for Mary, Martha, and all who loved Lazarus, his death and burial must have also felt like a day without hope. Mary and Martha had sent word to Jesus informing him of their brother’s illness. Surely he would rush to their aid and save their ailing brother. Lord, he whom you love is ill.

But rather than rushing to their side, or simply speaking the words of healing as he had done for others, Jesus delays going to them. The Gospel reads: Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, so when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Jesus delays going to them and this sets up one of the difficult tensions in this passage. Jesus loves this family, and yet his delay means Lazarus will die, and worse, his delay will prompt the grief, heartache, and misunderstanding that must have arisen by his absence.

When Jesus does arrive, Lazarus has been dead for four days. Jewish belief taught that after three days the soul would leave the body and corruption would set in. So for those who mourned Lazarus, there was no hope of resuscitation or of saving him now. The fourth day was truly a day without hope. And yet this is the day Jesus shows up.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Day Four

Joyce Meyer – Love Includes Everyone

 

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. — Luke 6:32 (NIV)

Adapted from the resource Love Out Loud – by Joyce Meyer

The Bible teaches us that love is the most important thing—”the main thing”—and we should let the main thing be the main thing in our lives. Are you majoring in things that really don’t matter and paying very little attention to walking in love? For many years that was exactly what I did, and as a result I constantly felt unfulfilled and dissatisfied. I had a relationship with God; I even had a ministry to others! But I wasn’t happy, and I couldn’t understand why. It seemed like I had most of what I wanted in life, but joy evaded me. As I cried out to God to help me, He showed me that my priorities were out of line—I was more concerned with how I was being treated than with how I treated others.

I believe our level of love for others can be seen (or not seen) in how we treat people, espe­cially people who don’t particularly interest us or have the ability to do anything for us. According to Jesus, our love should include everybody, not just those who can pay us back. He said if you only love those who love you, what credit do you get? Even a sinner can do that!

We don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to help us do easy things, but to do things that are hard and sacrificial. Loving some people is very hard. They don’t act lovable, they don’t seem to want to be loved, and they certainly don’t return any love shown to them. But when we start treating others as we want to be treated and not as they treat us, we’re obeying a principle that releases countless blessings and joy into our lives and makes God smile.

Prayer Starter: Father, please help me love everyone, even those who are the hardest to love. Thank You for giving me strength to show Your love to the people around me today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – To Encourage Us

 

“These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us, so that we will look forward expectantly to the time when God will conquer sin and death” (Romans 15:4).

Tom had a “short fuse” and frequently exploded in anger when he was disappointed with himself or others. Then he received Christ and began to study the Word of God, obey its commands and walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

His life began to change, gradually at first, until, as he told me recently, it has now been a long time since he has allowed his old nature to express his impatience.

The story is told of an impatient man who prayed and kept praying for God to grant him the virtue he so desperately needed.

“Lord,” he prayed, “give me patience, and give it to me now!”

Patience, however, is a virtue that is developmental in nature, to a large degree. It is the result of walking in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). It develops out of a good heart and a godly attitude (Luke 8:15). It is spawned sometimes during times of tribulation. Remember, it is a fruit of the Spirit.

Paul writes, “If we must keep trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently” (Romans 8:25).

So patience comes from hope and trust in God. And finally, we learn patience through the study and personal application of God’s Word in our lives, as suggested in Romans 15:4, “These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us.”

Bible Reading: Romans 15:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  When delays and seeming denials occur, I will exercise patience, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – God is Always Sovereign

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

I love what Chuck Swindoll always says.  That “God is not sometimes sovereign.  He is always sovereign.”  The challenge that awaits us is to not give in to despair…to not do foolish things, but to trust.

The key question that we all need to be asking right now is, “What is God saying to us?”  I think He’s talking to the whole world.  I think He’s telling us that our priorities have gotten misplaced.   We need to dislodge those priorities and return to our heavenly Father.  I think He’s calling us back to Himself.  I do…I do.

Is this a signal of end times as some people are saying?  I do not know.  But I do know God is doing something in the world and He’s calling upon us.  He’s talking to the whole world.   And we are going to get through this.  It may not be quick.  It may not be easy.  But God is going to use this for good.

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Vin Scully predicts more Americans will respond to COVID crisis with faith: An atheist doctor comes to faith through a dying priest

Vin Scully is a legendary baseball broadcaster, the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1950 to 2016. Now ninety-two years old, he joined Fox News on Monday to discuss the delayed start to this year’s Major League Baseball season.

Scully, a devout Christian, said, “Now that I have some leisure time and we’re all locked in at home, I read an article and it was talking about what happened to Americans in World War II. It was such a terrible time.”

He added, “Three-quarters of Americans belonged to a house of worship. Today . . . half of Americans are involved in a house of worship, prior to this pandemic. So there’s your answer . . . Although they might not be able to go to a house of worship, probably more Americans will be praying since World War II.”

“More people will be coming back to the faith,” Scully went on. “And now that this terrible thing is upon us, people might very well get back to the center. And it’s a better world. We’ll see . . .”

“With the humble is wisdom” 

I referenced the same Wall Street Journal column in yesterday morning’s Daily Article. Scully is right: the anxiety of this crisis may well be a catalyst for the spiritual renewal we need so urgently.

As the saying goes, sometimes we need to get so far down that we have nowhere to look but up. Such humility is the foundational step to the spiritual awakening we need so urgently today.

As we noted yesterday, God’s promise to his people that he would “heal their land” is tied directly to their response to his call: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turned from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

First, they must “humble” themselves. The Hebrew word means “to bow the knee” or “to submit with humility.”

Continue reading Vin Scully predicts more Americans will respond to COVID crisis with faith: An atheist doctor comes to faith through a dying priest

Charles Stanley – The Lamb of God

 

John 1:19-29

From the beginning, God has dealt with sin through the shedding of blood. When mankind’s first act of disobedience was committed, the Lord Himself instituted the sacrificial system: He killed an animal and used its skin to cover Adam and Eve physically, just as its blood “covered” their sin. This was a temporary solution, however. Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ could atone for sin and permanently do away with it.

The Son of God came as the sin-bearer for the whole world— He lived a perfect life and then assumed full responsibility for all of our transgressions and guilt. Through His death on the cross, those who trust Him as Savior enjoy the freedom of full pardon and are made righteous and holy in the eyes of the Father.

This is why we call Jesus the Lamb of God. In the Old Testament, lambs were sacrificed to atone for sin. In a similar way, Jesus offered His life as the substitutionary death needed to satisfy God’s justice. As a result, our relationship with God was reconciled so we could be adopted us as His children. Because of Jesus we can stand before God and say, “Thank You for being my Father.”

Bible in One Year:   1 Samuel 21-22

 

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Our Daily Bread — Blessed Bread

 

Bible in a Year:

Jesus took some bread and blessed it.

Matthew 26:26 nlt

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 26:26–29

When our oldest child became a teenager, my wife and I gave her a journal that we’d been writing in since her birth. We’d recorded her likes and dislikes, quirks and memorable one-liners. At some point the entries became more like letters, describing what we see in her and how we see God at work in her. When we gave it to her on her thirteenth birthday, she was mesmerized. She’d been given the gift of knowing a crucial part of the origins of her identity.

In blessing something as common as bread, Jesus was revealing its identity. What it—along with all creation—was made to reflect: God’s glory. I believe Jesus was also pointing to the future of the material world. All creation will one day be filled with the glory of God. So in blessing bread (Matthew 26:26), Jesus was pointing to the origin and the destiny of creation (Romans 8:21–22).

Maybe the “beginning” of your story feels messed up. Maybe you don’t think there’s much of a future. But there’s a bigger story. It’s a story of a God who made you on purpose and for a purpose, who took pleasure in you. It’s a story of God who came to rescue you (Matthew 26:28); a God who put His Spirit in you to renew you and recover your identity. It’s a story of a God who wants to bless you.

By: Glenn Packiam

Reflect & Pray

How does seeing your true origin story as being made on purpose and for a purpose change the way you see yourself? What’s the bigger story than simply your situation right now?

Dear Jesus, I place my life like bread in Your hands. Only You can return me to my origin. Only You can carry me to my destiny. Jesus, You are the author and the finisher of my faith.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Lament and the Journey to Resurrection

 

It was a cold February at Christ of the Desert monastery, high in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Behind the chapel, author William Bryant Logan noticed an open grave, the disturbed red soil waiting in a tall mound beside it.

“Has a brother died?” he asked a monk.

“No,” the monk answered, “but we cannot dig in winter, so we opened this grave ahead of time, just in case.”

To many of us, an open grave is unnerving, the thought of soil disturbed and waiting is a thought entirely unwelcome. “An open grave is an open mouth,” writes Logan. “It exhales all the suggestion of the dark.”(1) In the Western world in particular, we have a complicated relationship with death and dying, dismissing as much of it as we can manage from sight, mind, and society. An open grave is a gaping wound we prefer to turn our eyes away from.

Death is one of the subjects the Christian journey of Lent invites followers to consider along the forty day journey. Lament, perhaps particularly lament as it pertains to the grave, is offered to us as a companion. Yet, Christian theologian J. Todd Billings describes lament as an expression of grief, a practice—maybe even a word—that has fallen out of use in modern times. It is a discipline often avoided, at times even buried in Christian liturgies. “[I]n a growing trend,” writes Billings, “many funerals completely avoid the language of dying and death as well as the appearance of the dead body—turning it all into a one-sided ‘celebration’ of the life of the one who has died.”(1) Such language might be fitting for certain worldviews, particularly those worldviews where death remains an enemy that puts an end to the life we are celebrating. But the biblical paradox about death attends to far more of the human experience. This, too, the journey of Lent invites us to reclaim—and I believe this may well be a gift to many of us struggling under the weight of the world’s present pain.

The Christian worldview affords the hopeful (and far more multivalent) language of celebration to be sure—Christ has indeed conquered death—but likewise, Christians are afforded the equally hopeful language of lament. We are given permission to groan as mortals who do not yet taste the fullness of the victory Christ has won, as creatures who confess with their Creator that death is an enemy of God. Where we fail to face this fuller vision of our own mortality, writes Billings, “we attend to one side of the biblical paradox about death, forgetting that even the death of a very elderly person is not ‘altogether sweet and beautiful’… [At the grave of Lazarus], Jesus still wept—even for one who would be raised again. And so should we.”(2)

For Billings, the signs of death’s current reign and the dire need for the language of lament are not the mere theological abstractions of a theology professor. In a book he never fathomed he would write at the midpoint of his life, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ, his own need for the language of lament is voiced in personal terms. It is equally clear that lament itself is a gift of the church for the world.

In one section, Billings describes his own congregation, with its array of people and stages of life, a church that on a regular basis baptizes people into new life and holds funerals marking death. This collective, human journey struck him as he led a Sunday school class shortly after his diagnosis. “In this room are cancer survivors who have gone through chemo; and there are others who have lost spouses and other loved ones to cancer and other disease and tragedy. The congregation is the only place in Western culture where we develop relationships, celebrate our faith and life together, and also extend those same relationships all the way through death and dying… That is a gift of the church. I would go so far as to say that a top recommended question from me for ‘church shoppers’ might be this: who would you like to bury you?”(3)

For any death-denying culture, the church sits as a striking counterpoint, empowered by the crucified Jesus to tell a vastly different story. But the whole story needs to be told. The Bible’s “laments, petitions, and praises—have been a staple of Christian worship for centuries. They, along with the sacraments of Christ’s dying and new life, have incorporated death into the story of Christian worship.”(4) The Christian imagination is not one that has to bury its head in the sand, taking its cues from our culture’s qualms about death and suffering. To lament is not to undermine that we are a people who live in hope. On the contrary, it is a gift of God for the people of God, who discover in the vicarious humanity of the crucified Lord both a more profound rejoicing and a more honest lament. Whereas some worldviews have no basis for the practice of lamentation (to whom would we lament?), for the Christian it is a part of the journey, a testimony to our identity in Christ. “To mourn and to protest is to testify that the gifts of creation are truly wondrous,” writes Billings, “that the communion with God and others that we taste in Christ is truly the way things are supposed to be—and thus alienation and death are not truly ‘natural’ but enemies of God and his kingdom.”(5)

For days marked by loss, it is a weighty thought, full of God’s care for multifaceted journeys: for crossings from birth to death, for journeys marked by both celebration and suffering, for moments of thirst and for places of provision. Because of Christ, the Christian is given a language and a leader through all of it: beside still waters, through dark valleys and green pastures to a table prepared in the presence of enemies, with tears to shed at the tomb of a friend and suffering carried on a personal cross. There are no abstractions here. The Christian story is mercifully not one that asks us to deny the dark and painful realities of life. Death is not pushed away in denial, but incorporated into God’s redemptive story, held by a storyteller who knows every part of the journey to resurrection, even the open grave.

 

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

 

(1) William Bryant Logan, Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995), 48.
(2) J. Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker,2015), 108.
(3) Ibid., 101.
(4) Ibid., 109.
(5) Ibid., 100.

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Joyce Meyer – A Consecrated Life

 

Unto You, O Lord, do I bring my life. — Psalm 25:1 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Hearing From God Each Morning – by Joyce Meyer

I love to lift up my hands in the morning and pray the prayer found in today’s verse, “Unto You, O Lord, do I bring my life.” This really defines consecration—complete, voluntary surrender to the Lord. In a prayer of consecration, you’re saying to Him:

“Here I am, God. I give myself to You. Not just my money, but myself. Not just one hour on Sunday morning, but myself. Not just a portion of my day, but myself. Unto You, God, do I bring my entire life. I lay it before You. Do what You want to do with me. Speak to me and through me today. Touch people through me today. Make a difference through me today. I am not the owner of anything You’ve given me; I’m a steward. Everything I am and everything I have has come from You and is available to You today.”

When we consecrate something, we set it apart for God’s use. Therefore, when we consecrate our lives, we turn our backs on our fleshly desires, the world’s way of thinking, undisciplined living, bad habits, and everything else that doesn’t agree with God’s Word. We close our ears to the noise of the world and open them to the voice of God. We intentionally put distance between ourselves and ungodly things, so we can be prepared and available for God to use us. Consecration is not easy, but it’s so worth the discipline and sacrifice it requires!

Prayer Starter: Father, I give you myself today. Please teach me how to live my life set apart for You; give me the strength to leave the world’s way of thinking and living behind. Thank You in advance for helping me live in a way that honors You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Rivers of Living Water

 

“For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me” (John 7:38).

I was explaining to a group of Christians the meaning of Proverbs 15:13-15, “A happy face means a glad heart, a sad face means a breaking heart. When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong and when he is cheerful everything seems to go right.”

God’s Word reminds us that the source of joy is the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6). So if a man is filled with the Spirit, he will have a joyful heart. When we are filled with the Spirit, we will express love by singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. A happy heart will inevitably produce a joyful countenance (Ephesians 5:18-21).

If we do not have a joyful, peaceful countenance, there is reason to question whether we have a loving, joyful heart. And if we do not have a loving, joyful heart, it is not likely that we are filled with the Spirit.

One Christian leader, who had heard me speak, approached me later. He just happened to have a very somber, stern countenance. He explained to me that this was a new concept to him, and since he was reared in another culture, he felt that his somber countenance was a cultural thing.

“In our part of the world [the Middle East],” he said, “we don’t smile and express ourselves like American Christians.”

Together we analyzed the Scripture and concluded that culture has nothing to do with this truth, since Jesus, Paul and other writers of the New Testament were also born in the Middle East. If we truly understand the Spirit-filled life, whatever our cultural background, the joy of the Lord will flow from us – from our “innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38, NAS).

Bible Reading: John 7:33-37

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Recognizing love, joy and peace as trademarks of the Spirit-filled life, I will consciously seek to be Spirit-controlled so that these expressions will be a natural overflow of my life. I will teach this spiritual truth to others today.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Feed Your Faith, Not Your Fears

Listen to Today’s Devotion

I’m just checking in to make sure that you are feeding your faith more than you are feeding your fears. You know if you feed your faith, your fears will starve.  But if you feed your fears, your faith will.  So we have to make an intentional decision during this season of high anxiety and turbulence to encourage one another and to feed one another’s faith.  And also we need to take the initiative to feed our own faith.

So I encourage you my friend, I encourage you.  Don’t give into despair.  Don’t give into anxiety.  We’re gonna get through this.  We really are.  I know that we’re getting new news day by day.  I know that developments are changing it seems by the hour. But let me tell you the thing that has not changed.  Our heavenly father is still on the throne.

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Denison Forum – ‘People are coming to us saying, I need hope’: Fighting on the front lines of spiritual awakening

The Civil War ended 155 years ago next month. World War II ended 75 years ago this fall.

In the midst of both horrific conflicts, a spiritual war was being waged as well.

During the Civil War, revival services were common on both sides. Nightly prayer meetings were held in many regiments; tent meetings were filled to overflowing. A Confederate chaplain noted that “scores of men are converted immediately after great battles.” A Pennsylvania soldier wrote, “The fact that I must die became to me living and real.”

Wall Street Journal article notes that after World War II, “Americans, chastened by the horrors of war, turned to faith in search of truth and meaning. In the late 1940s, Gallup surveys showed more than three-quarters of Americans were members of a house of worship, compared with about half today. Congress added the words ‘under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Some would later call this a Third Great Awakening.”

“Virtual cell phone choir” sings “It Is Well with My Soul” 

We are fighting a war today that is just as real as those deadly conflicts.

At a news briefing yesterday, President Trump stated that “the peak in death rate” in the pandemic “is likely to hit in two weeks” and announced that the federal government is extending its social-distancing guidelines through April 30.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s foremost infectious disease expert, said yesterday that the US could experience “millions of cases” of COVID-19 and “between one hundred thousand and two hundred thousand” deaths in the US based on what “we’re seeing now.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, also said Sunday that the administration is “asking every single governor and every single mayor to prepare like New York is preparing now.” She added, “No state, no metro area will be spared.”

In the face of this crisis, Americans are responding to the coronavirus pandemic in remarkably creative ways.

Continue reading Denison Forum – ‘People are coming to us saying, I need hope’: Fighting on the front lines of spiritual awakening