Charles Stanley – Expanding the Horizons

 

Acts 1:1-8

The horizon is the farthest point of land or water that a person can see, where earth and sky meet. Yet the universe extends far beyond what the eye can behold. Similarly, the church’s vision can be limited. God said to bring the gospel to every nation, but we often confine our outreach to what we think is manageable.

Sometimes what holds us back from fulfilling God’s command is our limited experiences and understanding. We may act according to logic, but God calls us to obey in faith. For example, rational thought might lead people to avoid missions in a foreign country because it isn’t safe. Or perhaps there’s a language barrier. But Jesus said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). He is fully aware of our human limitations, so He provides guidance, wisdom, and strength to accomplish His will.

The church is to share the gospel, and God will call individuals to fulfill this commission in different ways. We’re all to participate through prayer and giving, and some are also called to action. Pray for direction and wisdom in communicating the good news of salvation to the world. The Holy Spirit will lead and empower you.

Bible in One Year: 2 Kings 24-25

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Free Indeed

 

Bible in a Year:

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:36

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 8:31–36

The film Amistad tells the story of West African slaves in 1839 taking over the boat that was transporting them and killing the captain and some of the crew. Eventually they were recaptured, imprisoned, and taken to trial. An unforgettable courtroom scene features Cinqué, leader of the slaves, passionately pleading for freedom. Three simple words—repeated with increasing force by a shackled man with broken English—eventually silenced the courtroom, “Give us free!” Justice was served and the men were freed.

Most people today aren’t in danger of being physically bound, yet true liberation from the spiritual bondage of sin remains elusive. The words of Jesus in John 8:36 offer sweet relief: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus pointed to Himself as the source of true emancipation because He offers forgiveness to anyone who believes in Him. Though some in Christ’s audience claimed freedom (v. 33), their words, attitudes, and actions regarding Jesus betrayed their claim.

Jesus longs to hear those who would echo Cinqué’s plea and say, “Give me freedom!” With compassion He awaits the cries of those who are shackled by unbelief or fear or failure. Freedom is a matter of the heart. Such liberty is reserved for those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son who was sent into the world to break the power of sin’s hold on us through His death and resurrection.

By:  Arthur Jackson

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – At All Times

 

The Bible assures us that at all times God is with us. He is our comforter; He is our healer. He is our physician; He is our provider. He knows better than we do.

As I have previously shared with you, during my recent back surgery, the surgeon spotted something that concerned him enough to take a biopsy and the biopsy revealed I had cancer.

Our doctors in Atlanta were concerned I couldn’t start treatment until fully healing from the back surgery. However, since then we have been able to consult with doctors at the renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Truly, God did a miracle in getting me here, literally a day or two just before they had to close to treating any patients outside of Texas. My doctor, a Sarcoma specialist, feels confident in starting a regimen of chemotherapy and we have begun that. Since this treatment is coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, I will remain here in Houston for the next few months until I finish chemotherapy. I am so grateful that both my wife, Margie, and daughter Naomi can be here with me. God has given me the best doctor, and I look forward to gradually seeing this disease mend.

The Bible assures us that at all times God is with us. He is our comforter; He is our healer. He is our physician; He is our provider. He knows better than we do. While some nights have been painful, my heart has been at rest that this is all God’s plan. I want to get better; I want to be well. I want to be in his will and honoring to Him.

As I listen to the news, I have heard many commentators and government leaders say that we are living in a time of war with an unseen enemy, this terrible pandemic that has swept through the globe. We are facing uncertain times, and I pray for all those in need.

When I think of war, I think of my days in Vietnam, where there was so much uncertainty and fear. When I was twenty-five years old, I was invited to speak there, hosted by my denomination, The Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Two stories from Vietnam remind me that at all times God is with us. On one occasion, I was being driven from Dalat to Saigon by a missionary named George Irwin. En route, our car started to sputter and chug and died on us. Ironically, minutes before, George’s wife, Harriet, had said to all of us in the car, “We are about to go through the most dangerous part of the country.”

I wondered why on earth she was telling us this now. Couldn’t she have waited ‘til we had passed through it? Nevertheless, there we were, stuck on the highway in the most dangerous part of the country, trying to figure out what was wrong with our jeep.

Suddenly, a white car came speeding down the road. We tried to stop it for some help by waving our white handkerchiefs. The man driving the car just swerved it around us and increased his speed even more to avoid stopping. A few minutes went by, and George tried the ignition again and the car started, much to our relief.

As we drove a couple of miles down the road, we saw that the white car had been ambushed. The wounded and dying were on the side of the road, and the Viet Cong were running away in the distance. They had been waiting to ambush the next vehicle to come along, and that happened to be it. If our car had not broken down, it would have been us.

God has an appointed time for all of us. His protection and security is ours ‘til that moment comes when it’s “closing time.”

Another story from Vietnam probably stirs my confidence in God’s sovereignty and the power of his Word more than any other. When I was ministering there, one of my interpreters was Hien Pham, a young Christian. Sometime after I left, Vietnam fell and Hien was imprisoned. His jailers tried to indoctrinate him against the Christian faith and restricted him to Communist propaganda in French and Vietnamese.

The propaganda began to take its toll. “Maybe,” he thought, “I have been lied to. Maybe God does not exist.” So Hien determined that when he awoke the next day, he would not pray or think of his faith anymore.

The next morning, Hien was assigned to clean the prison latrines. There he found a scrap of refuse paper with apparent English script. He hurriedly grabbed it and washed it. Later that night, startled and trembling, he read these words from Romans 8: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. … For I am convinced that [nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verses 28 and 38). Hien wept knowing there was not a more relevant passage for one on the verge of surrendering to a false doctrine.

Hien later escaped the country, again through the course of God’s amazing hand. He has since shared his testimony with many, confident that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

I have absolutely no doubt that God stops and orders our steps in his sovereign will and grace. The Jesus I know and love today I encountered at the age of seventeen on a bed of suicide. I came to him unsure about the future. I remain with him certain about my destiny.

When we are face to face with God, we will find out how many were the potential catastrophes from which He saved us. Every pain and wound is part of his sovereign plan for us. He is the ultimate guardian over every breakdown. He alone can be our protection. At all times, God is with us.

Ravi Zacharias is Founder and Chairman of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Alpharetta, GA. This article was published in the 28.3 edition of Just Thinking magazine. To view the magazine in its entirety, click here.

 

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Joyce Meyer – Godly Boundries

 

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body. — 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource New Day, New You – by Joyce Meyer

The word stress was originally an engineering term used to refer to the amount of force a beam or other physical support could bear without collapsing.

In our time, the word has been expanded to refer not only to physical pressure, but also to mental and emotional tension. As human beings, God has created us to withstand a certain amount of stress. We have problems when we push ourselves beyond those limits. But like so many people, because I have things to do, many times I’ll just keep pushing myself even though it’s causing me physical damage.

Of course, when either Dave or I feel sickness coming on, we immediately pray for healing. But if we become sick as a result of running our body down by pushing it beyond the limits God has set for us, we need rest as well as prayer to restore our health. The boundaries He’s put in place are for our own good; when we stay within them, we’ll experience more peace in our body and soul.

Prayer Starter: Father, please show me where my boundaries and limits are, and how I can stay within them. Thank You for giving me the wisdom and strength I need to honor You in the way I take care of myself. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Self-Control Is Better

 

“It is better to be slow-tempered than famous; it is better to have self-control than to control an army” (Proverbs 16:32).

You and I know from experience that it is not easy to discipline our emotions, our passions or our self-will. In fact, apart from God’s help, it is an impossibility.

  • A lustful person who does not control his thoughts quenches and grieves the Spirit.
  • An overweight person, because he cannot control his appetite, quenches and grieves the Spirit.
  • A Christian who places undue emphasis on material possessions quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit.
  • A gossip who cannot control his tongue quenches and grieves the Spirit.
  • A husband, wife, or child who fails to live according to the commands of Ephesians chapter 5 quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit.
  • A student who fails to study adequately because of poor discipline quenches and grieves the Spirit.

Many pages would be required to list all the ways in which lack of self-control quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit.

The spirit, mind and body are the three aspects of our being over which we are told to practice self-control.

What is man’s spirit?

It is his immaterial being – man without his body, if you will. The Bible gives many characteristics of the spirit of man. It is that which communicates with the Spirit of God.

Man’s spirit is the center of emotions (1 Kings 21:5), the source of passions (Ezekiel 3:14) and the seat of volition or exercise of the will (Proverbs 16:32). Our spirit is subject to divine influence while housed in our mortal body (Deuteronomy 2:30 and Isaiah 19:14), and leaves the body at the time of physical death (Ecclesiastics 12:7 and James 2:26).

Bible Reading: Proverbs 15:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Drawing upon this enabling power of the Holy Spirit, I will practice the vital discipline of self-control.

 

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Max Lucado – Remind God of His Promises

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

I remember sitting in high school Algebra class staring at my textbook as if it were written in Mandarin Chinese.  Fortunately I had a patient teacher.  He issued the invitation and stuck to it: “If you cannot solve a problem, come to me and I will help you.”  I wore a trail between his desk and mine.  I would remind him, “Remember how you promised you would help?”  I still had the problem, mind you, but I entrusted the problem to one who knew how to solve it.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said, “Put the Lord in remembrance of His promises, keep not silence” (Isaiah 62:6).  God invites you—yes, commands you—to remind him of his promises.  Find a promise that fits your problem, and build your prayer around it!  These prayers of faith touch the heart of God and miracles are set in motion!

Read more Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World

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Denison Forum – Family finds the dog that saved them from a tornado: Surprising someone with God’s compassion today

Eric Johnson was asleep on March 3 when Bella, the family’s six-year-old miniature Australian shepherd, woke him up. She was behaving erratically, giving him the sense that “something just didn’t feel right.”

He turned on the television to learn that a tornado was headed toward his town of Cookeville, Tennessee. He put his wife and their three children in a bathtub and was looking for Bella when the tornado struck their house. Their home was destroyed; Johnson was thrown into his backyard. He suffered a head injury and his wife had broken ribs.

Bella was thrown into the yard and survived, but then went missing. Their family searched for her for weeks. A church friend and dog tracker finally found her in an alley four miles from their home. Johnson, his brother-in-law, and their pastor helped retrieve her.

After fifty-four days of living on her own, Bella was reunited with her family.

Using drones to deliver flowers 

Help in hard times often comes from unexpected places.

Delivery robots are bringing goods and medical supplies to hospitals and others in need while helping support workers remain safe. Socially distanced people are using drones to deliver flowers, give virtual tours of quarantined cities, and even walk their dogs.

Turkey, which has become far more dictatorial and undemocratic in recent years, nonetheless has vowed solidarity with the United States during the pandemic. They recently sent 500,000 surgical masks, 4,000 overalls, 2,000 liters of disinfectant, 1,500 goggles, 400 N95 masks, and 500 face shields to the US.

I’ve been doing radio interviews nearly daily across recent weeks. One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How can Christians make a difference in these days?” We all want to do what we can to help people and to honor our Lord.

In a secularized culture that condemns Christians for our supposed intolerance, how can we surprise others with his love and our compassion?

Major on the majors 

I’ve been reading in Acts lately and came upon this odd statement: “We set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead” (Acts 28:11). Why would Luke include this note?

Continue reading Denison Forum – Family finds the dog that saved them from a tornado: Surprising someone with God’s compassion today

Charles Stanley – Where the Battle Is Won

 

Matthew 26:36-56

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wrestled with the knowledge that He would die on the cross, bearing the weight of our sin and being spiritually separated from the Father.

Jesus got alone before the Father and cried out. And when He left that garden, He walked out with calm resolve. Jesus would still drink the cup of suffering and separation, but He knew that in the end, He would triumph (Heb. 12:2). That’s why He could face the cross, the beatings, and the humiliation. When Jesus went to confront the arresting party, He was ready—so much so that the Pharisees and soldiers “drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). He allowed them to arrest Him, determined to do His Father’s will.

We, too, can come to know God’s heart and mind when we’re in the habit of regularly spending time alone with Him. Then as difficult decisions come, we’ll be better prepared to discern His will.

When we fully surrender to the Father’s plan, we put our decision-making into the hands of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God, who holds the past, present, and future. Even in staggering trials, you can move forward with courage and power that will glorify Him.

Bible in One Year: 2 Kings 21-23

 

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Our Daily Bread — Right Beside You

 

Bible in a Year:

The Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him.

Deuteronomy 4:7

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Deuteronomy 4:5–8

Each day at a post office in Jerusalem, workers sort through piles of undeliverable letters in an attempt to guide each to its recipient. Many end up in a specially marked box labeled “Letters to God.”

About a thousand such letters reach Jerusalem each year, addressed simply to God or Jesus. Puzzled by what to do with them, one worker began taking the letters to Jerusalem’s Western Wall to have them placed between its stone blocks with other written prayers. Most of the letters ask for a job, a spouse, or good health. Some request forgiveness, others just offer thanks. One man asked God if his deceased wife could appear in his dreams because he longed to see her again. Each sender believed God would listen, if only He could be reached.

The Israelites learned much as they journeyed through the wilderness. One lesson was that their God wasn’t like the other gods known at the time—distant, deaf, geographically bound, reached only by lengthy pilgrimage or international mail. No, “the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him” (Deuteronomy 4:7). What other people could claim that? This was revolutionary news!

God doesn’t live in Jerusalem. He’s close by us, wherever we are. Some still need to discover this radical truth. If only each of those letters could be sent the reply: God is right beside you. Just talk to Him.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Three Questions

 

As a Christian writer and speaker, I am often asked what the most frequent questions are regarding the Christian faith. Of course, I am frequently asked questions of an intellectual or historic nature: Did Jesus of Nazareth really exist? Is his resurrection from the dead a historical event? How is one to understand the Bible as the Word of God? For some, the questions never go beyond intellectual curiosity or pursuit. For others, these questions need to be answered for constructing a sound apologetic.

Probe a bit deeper, however, and it isn’t difficult to discover that many questions come from the deepest places of the heart. They come because of personal experience with suffering of one form or another. Is there a God? If so, does that God care about me, know me? If so, why does God seemingly allow so much suffering? When the fervent prayers of righteous men and women do not prevent the cancer from spreading, or the child from dying, or the plane from crashing, or the marriage from failing, these more existential questions come like water bursting through the dam.

The kinds of questions I receive are not unique to my contemporary context. They have been asked for millennia. The technical term for the theist’s response to the issue of suffering is called theodicy. Theodicy is the word given in the seventeenth century by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, one of the great intellectual thinkers of the Enlightenment period.(1) Theodicy attempts to explain how and why there can be suffering in the world if God is all-powerful and loving. In trying to solve this problem, some thinkers have denied the omnipotence of God; God is all-loving, but not able to do anything about suffering. Others dispense of the notion that God is all-loving, at least in any conventional understanding. But neither of these alternatives provides a satisfactory answer.

Intellectual wrangling over this problem, aside, the experience of suffering in light of both the goodness and power of God has caused many to doubt God, and others to walk away from faith altogether. If God does not prevent suffering, and if God does not care about the sufferer, then for some, the only alternative appears to be that God cannot exist in any meaningful way.

The writers of Scripture wrestled with these questions too. Often, they provided different ways of answering these questions. Some believed that suffering resulted from sin. Others believed that God causes suffering as a form of punishment. Still others asserted that suffering brings redemption.(2)

In Mark’s Gospel, a simple story about a boat caught in a terrible storm provides an altogether different answer framed around three profound questions. When evening had come, Jesus and his disciples got into a boat, most likely to cross the Sea of Galilee, in order to “go over to the other side.”(3) In the course of their travel, a fierce storm arose suddenly and violently. It was so intense that the waves were not only breaking over the boat, but the boat was filling with water and on the verge of sinking. The gospel writer tells us that Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat and resting soundly when the disciples roused him with their fearful, first question: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus seems to ignore their question and instead answers the wind and the waves, “Peace, be still.” His exhortation to the natural elements of wind and water was perhaps intended for the disciples as well, for he returns their question with a second question: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” To which the disciples reply to one another with the ultimate question, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

It is not entirely unreasonable for those who want to be followers of Jesus to think that because he is in the boat suffering will not arise. But suffering does come, and the wind roars around and the sky turns black, and the storm of all storms appears to envelop all in darkness and terror. Jesus, don’t you care that we are perishing becomes an incredulous cry for all who would wish for immunity from the troubles of life. Indeed, as noted author Craig Barnes has written “Faith…has little to do with our doctrines or even with our belief that Jesus could come up with a miracle if he would only pay attention. Faith has everything to do with seeing that…the Savior [is] on board“(4)

In the midst of difficult and often unending questions about suffering, Jesus is there in the midst of the storm of doubt, in the tumultuous waves of despair, in the gale-force winds of defeat. He is there with the fearful, and the doubtful and those without faith. He illustrates the assurance of God’s care in the storm. His presence with the disciples in the storm tells us more about who he is—neither removed from suffering, nor always preventing suffering—then why we suffer. “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

 

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

 

(1) Bart Ehrman, God’s Problem (New York: HarperOne, 2008), page 8.
(2) See for examples Proverbs 3:33, “The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the abode of the righteous”; Amos 4:1-3, “[Y]ou cows of Bashan who oppress the poor, who crush the needy…the Lord God has sworn in his holiness: the time is surely coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks”; and Isaiah 53, the redemption by the suffering Servant.
(3) Mark 4:35-41.
(4) M. Craig Barnes, When God Interrupts (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 138.

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Joyce Meyer – Do What You Can Do!

 

Who [with reason] despises the day of small things? . . . — Zechariah 4:10 (AMPC)

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

I recently started walking for exercise, and after about ten days I was up to three miles a day. A few more days went by and I started having pain in a groin muscle. It got so bad that I could only walk about three-quarters of a mile. I was tempted to quit altogether because I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet, and I started thinking that walking that small amount wouldn’t do any good. But I was wrong! By doing the little I could do, I eventually worked up to five miles a day.

If you can’t exercise three days a week, but you can exercise one day, then start with that and see what happens. You may find that doing what you can do is an open door to eventually being able to do what you can’t do now! If you can’t study the Bible an hour every day, but you can do 10-15 minutes, then start with what you can do and watch it grow.

Many people never get started with the things they want to do because they want to start at the finish line. If you never get started in the right direction, you will never get to where you want to be. My philosophy is this: “I may not be able to do everything, but I refuse to do nothing!”

Prayer Starter: Father, please help me to see the value in doing things that seem small, and not to get discouraged when things take longer than I wanted or expected. Thank You for the strength to take baby steps of faith, and for bringing me one step at a time from where I am to where I need to be.In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Protects Worshipers

 

“He protects all those who love Him, but destroys the wicked” (Psalm 145:20).

Throughout Scripture one is reminded over and over again that when a person obeys Him, God blesses that person. And when a person – or a nation – disobeys Him, God disciplines, just as a loving father disciplines his disobedient child because he loves him, not because of his wrath or any evil intent.

The Israelites, though warned many times that if they disobeyed God He would destroy them, finally had to be destroyed – after numerous warnings and disciplinings (including grievous plagues) – because of their disobedience (Deuteronomy, chapters 8 and 28; Amos, chapter 4). God still disciplines men and nations. It is a sobering thing to disobey God.

Someone has said, “We do not break God’s laws, but God’s laws break us.” If we obey them, we are blessed. If we disobey them, we must suffer the consequences.

Scripture suggests that what applies to individuals and to nations also applies to Christian movements or organizations such as the one with which I have the privilege of serving our Lord. So long as I and the now more than 16,000 full-time and associate staff members continue to obey God, His hand of blessing will remain upon our worldwide efforts. If we disobey Him, He will not only withhold His blessings, but will discipline us as individuals and as a movement.

I pray daily that each one of us may determine to obey God implicitly.

Bible Reading: Psalm 45:14-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Recognizing that the laws of God in the spiritual realm are just as inviolate as the laws of the physical realm, and that God blesses those who obey Him and disciplines those who are disobedient, with the enabling of the Holy Spirit I will seek to express my love for God by living a life of faith and obedience for His glory.

 

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Max Lucado – Cast Your Anxiety on God

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

On my good days I begin my morning with a cup of coffee and a conversation with God.  I look ahead into the day and make my requests.  I am meeting with so-and-so at 10:00AM.  Would you give me wisdom?  This afternoon I need to finish my sermon.  Would you please go ahead of me?

Then if a sense of stress surfaces during the day, I remind myself, Oh, I gave this challenge to God earlier today.  He has already taken responsibility for the situation.  I can be grateful, not fretful.

The Bible says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).  Casting is an intentional act to relocate an object. As you sense anxiety welling up inside you, cast it in the direction of Christ.  He is moved by the sincere request.  After all, is he not our Father?

Read more Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World

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Denison Forum – ‘Secret group of scientists and billionaires’ working to ‘stop COVID-19’: The transformative power of unity

 

The Wall Street Journal broke the story that is now making headlines everywhere: “The Secret Group of Scientists and Billionaires Pushing a Manhattan Project for Covid-19.”

They call themselves “Scientists to Stop Covid-19.” Their group includes chemical biologists, an immunobiologist, a neurobiologist, a chronobiologist, an oncologist, a gastroenterologist, an epidemiologist, and a nuclear scientist. Biologist Michael Rosbash, a 2017 Nobel Prize winner, says that of all the scientists at the center of the project, “There’s no question that I’m the least qualified.”

Their work had not been reported before the Journal article. They are led by a thirty-three-year-old physician-turned-venture capitalist named Tom Cahill. He lives in a one-bedroom rental near Boston’s Fenway Park and owns just one suit. But his connections through his investment firm have made the group’s work possible.

The article describes scientific proposals from the group that are already being discussed or implemented by government leaders. They are now looking at ideas for the post-COVID-19 world.

No one involved with the effort stands to gain financially. Their desire is to add their expertise and connections to the coronavirus battle effort. Stuart Schreiber, a Harvard University chemist and member of the group, says, “We may fail. But if it succeeds, it could change the world.”

A teleconference that impressed me greatly 

One of the most hopeful aspects of the pandemic is the fact that the entire world is united in fighting it. Our best minds from around the globe are focused on our common foe. Unlike a war in which nations fight each other, this is a conflict in which our enemy has made us all allies.

We are seeing such collaboration not just in science but across our nation and culture. This is one way God is redeeming this crisis.

Jesus prayed in John 17 that his followers would be united “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (v. 23). As the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), we obey our head and fulfill his purpose far better when our members are working in unity.

I was asked this week to join a teleconference of Houston-area religious leaders. They crossed all denominational and cultural boundaries. Their common desire was to support and encourage each other as they sought ways to move forward together.

One example that impressed me was their concern for smaller churches meeting in area schools. These schools are closed into the summer, meaning that these congregations will have no place to meet once in-person services begin. So the larger churches began working on ways the smaller churches could use their campuses.

I am convinced that Jesus was smiling in heaven.

Competition and intercession 

Our free-market economy is based on competition. The theory is that the more companies and workers compete, the better their products become and the lower their prices. By contrast, I have seen the state-sponsored economy work in Cuba—or not work, I should say. When people own what they make and can advance based on their hard work and initiative, society benefits.

One downside of this competitive environment, however, is that it can so easily foster spiritual independence and conflict. Churches compete with churches for members. Pastors compete with pastors for acclaim and advancement. Church growth can be a zero-sum game: if the new family in our community joins your church, they did not join my church.

I have witnessed such competition across my entire ministry. But the common enemy we face today is being used by God to unify his people in transformative ways. The astounding evangelistic movement I profiled in yesterday’s Special Edition is one result of such collaboration. The pastors in Houston who discussed ways to help smaller congregations are another.

So, here’s my question: As we face the ongoing pandemic, could God’s people be united in prayer more powerfully and intentionally than ever before?

We have responded financially to crises in the past. For example, you were incredibly generous when I asked you to help us raise funds to support those devastated by Hurricane Harvey in my hometown of Houston.

As we face physical, financial, social, and relational challenges unseen in living memory, is there a better time for us to answer Jesus’ intercession for unity through united intercession of our own?

Find a movement and join it 

My purpose today is not to announce a prayer movement in response to the pandemic. God has led other believers to do this very thing. Some are centered on 2 Chronicles 7:14 and pray at 7:14 every morning and evening in response. Others are being supported by churches, denominations, and ministries.

The Lord might lead you to find and join such a movement. He might lead you to begin one. He might lead you to ask a handful of other believers to join you in specific intercession for each other and our world. Two believers in agreement are enough to pray in powerful unity (Matthew 18:20).

My purpose is to emphasize the urgency of prayerful unity today and tomorrow. Defeating our viral enemy will require medical and social collaboration. Defeating our even more dangerous spiritual enemy will require spiritual collaboration.

What step will you take to pray in unity today?

 

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Charles Stanley – The Purpose of Life

 

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Why am I here? Everyone wonders this at some point. Some theories suggest that we’re merely taking up space and will return to nothingness when we die. There are also people who say we are masters of our own destiny. Both are untrue! The Lord has placed you on earth to fulfill His purpose.

God has a unique plan for every person’s life, but Christians all share one goal: to be conformed to His image. This process begins here on earth and is finished when we reach heaven. Much of the work the Lord does in our earthly life centers on our character. He shows us how to be as loving, kind, and peaceful as Jesus.

We might think this is hard. But the truth is, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and then lives the life of Christ through him or her. We should be submissive to His guidance. That means we should respond to situations in life with this question: “How can You use this to make me more like Jesus?”

The Lord is behind everything that happens to you—either He directly instigates the situation, or He allows it to take place. Both trials and triumphs are engineered to fulfill God’s great purpose: crafting a life that reflects His love and glory to the world.

Bible in One Year: 2 Kings 18-20

 

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Our Daily Bread — Let Us Praise!

 

Bible in a Year:

May the nations be glad and sing for joy.

Psalm 67:4

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 67

When the alarm on Shelley’s phone goes off every day at 3:16 in the afternoon, she takes a praise break. She thanks God and acknowledges His goodness. Although she communicates with God throughout the day, Shelley loves to take this break because it helps her celebrate her intimate relationship with Him.

Inspired by her joyful devotion, I decided to set a specific time each day to thank Christ for His sacrifice on the cross and to pray for those who have yet to be saved. I wonder what it would be like if all believers in Jesus stopped to praise Him in their own way and pray for others every day.

The image of a beautiful wave of worship rolling to the ends of the earth resounds in the words of Psalm 67. The psalmist pleads for God’s grace, proclaiming his desire to make His name great in all the nations (vv. 1–2). He sings, “May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you” (v. 3). He celebrates His sovereign rule and faithful guidance (v. 4). As a living testimony of God’s great love and abundant blessings, the psalmist leads God’s people into jubilant praise (vv. 5–6).

God’s continued faithfulness toward His beloved children inspires us to acknowledge Him. As we do, others can join us in trusting Him, revering Him, following Him, and acclaiming Him as Lord.

By:  Xochitl Dixon

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Great Dichotomy

Most scholars agree that the Enlightenment or “Age of Reason,” which began in the early seventeenth century, set up a great dichotomy that persists in modern time.(1) The great “dichotomy” of the Enlightenment entailed the separation of the public and private realms. The public realm was the world of ascertained by reason alone. Missiologist Lesslie Newbigin explains, “The thinkers of the Enlightenment spoke of their age as the age of reason…by which human beings could attain (at least in principle) to a complete understanding of, and thus a full mastery of, nature—of reality in all its forms. Reason, so understood, is sovereign in this enterprise.”(2) In the realm of reason, therefore, revelation from a divine realm was not needed. Human reason could search out and know all the facts about reality, and “no alleged divine revelation, no tradition however ancient, and no dogma however hallowed has the right to veto its exercise.”(3)

The realm of religious belief was now relegated to the realm of private value and private purpose. It wasn’t that the Enlightenment dichotomy cut out God. Rather, it created a distinction between “natural” religion—God’s existence and the moral laws known by all and demonstrable by reason—and “revealed” religion—doctrines as taught by the Bible and the church. The latter realm, dominant in the Middle Ages and the Reformation, came under increasing attack and was eventually relegated to private expression and personal feelings.

Fueled by scientific and philosophical discoveries, the view of the world as the venue of God’s providence and rule, shifted to the view that sovereign reason could discover all that was necessary to advance humanity toward its highest destiny. All of Christianity’s supernatural claims and all of its revelatory content were unnecessary in a world where the Creator had endowed human beings with enough reason to discern what was important simply through the study of the natural world. As such, the autonomous, rational human became the center of truth and knowledge.

 

What emerged from this dichotomy was the belief that the real world was a world of cause and effect, of material bodies guided solely by mathematically stable laws. Discovering the cause of something was to have explained it in its totality. There was no need to invoke any supernatural “purpose” or “design” as an explanation any longer.

And yet, purpose remains an inescapable element in human life. Newbigin argues: “Human beings do entertain purposes and set out to achieve them. The immense achievements of modern science themselves are, very obviously, the outcome of the purposeful efforts of hundreds of thousands of men and women dedicated to the achievement of something that is valuable—a true understanding of how things are.”(4) Hence, persisting in the belief that science, for example, is value and purpose-free belies an intentional rejection of reality. The pursuit of science to find causes for effects devoid of any larger purpose seems self-defeating. Why study at all if there is no purpose for study?

Proclaiming that purpose infuses human endeavor, and as such, that purposeful human endeavor can point to purposeful design, and design gives rise to a Designer behind it all will not necessarily convince those who see a world only of mechanical cause and effect. Yet, scratch the below the surface of the most strident materialists, and one uncovers a yearning for something more than what can be understood by reason alone. As atheist Sam Harris wrote: “This universe is shot through with mystery. The very fact of its being, and of our own, is a mystery absolute….The consciousness that animates us is itself central to this mystery and the ground for any experience we might wish to call ‘spiritual.’”(5)

The Gospel of John suggests that reason and revelation need not be dichotomized. In this explanation of the significance of Jesus Christ, the objective and the subjective aspects of truth are revealed in a person: “The Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us.” The rational principle that undergirds all things, as the Greeks understood the Logos, is embodied in the human person, Jesus, according to John’s Gospel. And in the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus we have a new starting point for reason. The resurrection is indeed the very basis “for the perpetual praise of God who not only creates order out of chaos, but also breaks through fixed orders to create ever-new situations of surprise and joy.”(6) Ever-new situations of surprise and joy might involve breaking a false dichotomy between public and private faith and the objective and subjective aspects of reality, even between reason and revelation. This one who brings new life and new ways of knowing invites us to wholeness, and not dichotomy.

 

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

 

(1) Stanley Grenz and Roger Olsen, 20th Century Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 16-17.
(2) Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 25.
(3) Ibid., 25.
(4) Ibid., 35.
(5) Sam Harris, The End of Faith (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004), 227.
(6) Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, 150.

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Joyce Meyer – Loving Others with Your Words

 

…Love (affection and goodwill and benevolence) edifies and builds up and encourages one to grow [to his full stature]. — 1 Corinthians 8:1 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Love Out Loud – by Joyce Meyer

Are you part of God’s construction crew, or Satan’s destruc­tion crew? God’s Word teaches us to edify and build up people, because they need to hear our words of encouragement. We all like to have people say loving things to us, so we should do for others what we want them to do for us (see Matthew 7:12). We should never refuse to do something God asks us to do just because it doesn’t come easily.

Ask God to give you words that you can sincerely say to people that will build them up. You might be shopping for some new clothes and see a store clerk and think, That dress she’s wearing is really pretty. Your thought won’t help her, but saying it to her will. Tell people you appreciate their hard work, because you might be the only person who ever tells them.

Start encouraging the people in your family, then gradually expand to those at work or church, and eventually get extreme enough to try com­plimenting complete strangers (use wisdom when speaking to members of the opposite sex).

If you like to set goals for yourself, why not set one in this area? Start by committing to give three compliments each day and keep increasing the number until it becomes part of who you are and not just something you try to do.

Prayer Starter: Holy Spirit, I invite You to direct my words today. Thank You for teaching me in every moment how I can encourage those around me, and for giving me the right words for each person. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Fullness of Joy

 

“Thou wilt show me the path of life; in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11, KJV).

“If you have lost the joy of the Lord in your life,” someone once observed, “who moved, you or God? For in His presence is fullness of joy.”

That saint and prophet of earlier years, A. W. Tozer, suggested several ways for the believer to achieve real joy:

  1. Cultivate a genuine friendship with God. He is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.
  2. Take time to exercise yourself daily unto godliness. Vow never to be dishonest about sin in your life, never to defend yourself, never to own anything (or let anything own you), never to pass on anything hurtful about others, never to take any glory to yourself.
  3. No known sin must be allowed to remain in your life. “Keep short accounts with God” – never allow unconfessed sins to pile up in your life.
  4. Set out to build your own value system based on the Word of God. Meditate on the Word; practice the presence of God. Set priorities as you realize what is truly important. It will be reflected in the standard of values you set for yourself.
  5. Share your spiritual discoveries with others.

Bible Reading: John 15:7-11

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Knowing that the best witness in the world is a joyful, radiant Christian, I will try to be that kind of believer, trusting the indwelling Holy Spirit to thus empower me and radiate His love and joy through me. I will share my spiritual discoveries with others.

 

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Max Lucado – Your Problem is a Prayer-Sized Challenge

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Praying specifically about a problem creates a lighter load.  Many of our anxieties are threatening because they are ill-defined and vague.  If we can distill the challenge into a phrase, we bring it down to size. It’s one thing to pray, “Lord, please bless my meeting tomorrow.”

It’s another thing to pray, “I have a conference with my supervisor at 2:00 PM tomorrow.  She intimidates me.  Would you please grant me a spirit of peace so I can sleep well tonight?  Grant me wisdom so I can enter the meeting prepared.  And would you soften her heart toward me and give her a generous spirit?  Help us have a gracious conversation in which both of us benefit and your name is honored.”

There!  You have reduced the problem into a prayer-sized challenge.  As God’s children we honor him when we tell him exactly what we need.

Read more Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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