Charles Stanley – Snared by the Schemer

 

2 Corinthians 2:1-11

Satan’s primary goal is to alienate you from the love of God. If our enemy can manipulate you into focusing on your own desires, you will no longer see the Lord’s perspective.

We have seen this happen to people throughout the Bible. In Genesis, Eve wasn’t able to see all that God gave her, because she focused on one fruit (Gen. 3:1-6). In the book of Joshua, Achan was trapped by his desire for wealth, and he sinned against God (Josh. 7:20-25).

Even a man abundantly blessed by the Lord can lose sight of what’s important. King David went up to the palace roof, and he spotted a beautiful woman bathing (2 Samuel 11:2). This single action led to several tragic events in his life. By taking his eyes off God and all that He had provided, David ended up experiencing great heartache.

The same can happen to us, but there is good news: If you’ve committed yourself to the Lord, then you have died and been raised with Christ. He is now your life (Col. 3:1-4). When facing temptation, ask yourself, How will Christ regard the choice I make, and Will my decision have unwanted repercussions? Listen for the Holy Spirit, and He will send you in the right direction.

Bible in One Year: 1 Kings 1-2

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Seeking God

 

Bible in a Year:

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you.

Psalm 63:1

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 63:1–8

It’s inspiring to watch people’s passion and dedication in pursuing their dreams. A young woman I know recently graduated from college in just three years—a task that took total commitment. A friend wanted a particular car, so he worked diligently baking and selling cakes until he reached his goal. Another person who’s in sales seeks to meet one hundred new people every week.

While it can be good to earnestly seek something of earthly value, there’s a more important kind of seeking that we must consider.

In desperation, struggling in a desert, King David wrote, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you” (Psalm 63:1). As David cried out to Him, God drew close to the weary king. David’s deep spiritual thirst for God could only be satisfied in His presence.

The king remembered meeting with God in His “sanctuary” (v. 2), experiencing His all-conquering love (v. 3), and praising Him day after day—finding true satisfaction in Him that’s not unlike enjoying a full and satisfying meal (vv. 4–5). Even during the night he contemplated God’s greatness, recognizing His help and protection (vv. 6–7).

Today the Holy Spirit convicts us to earnestly seek after God. As we cling to Him, in power and love God holds us up with His strong right hand. By the leading of the Spirit, may we draw close to the Maker of all good things.

By:  Dave Branon

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Present Mercy

French modern artist Georges Rouault was born in 1871 just outside Paris in the part of the city devastated by war. He was born in the midst of civil war. His mother gave birth to him as she sought shelter from heavy bombardment. Rouault would also live through the horrors of both World War I and World War II. He was drawn to art early in his life and encouraged by his mother, first training in a workshop that produced stained glass. By 1891, he was a pupil of Gustave Moreau in Paris, and a classmate of Matisse. But Rouault struggled deeply as an outsider. His art was disconcerting to everyone.

The church saw Rouault’s work as dark and unwanted. His contemporaries found his obsession with the cross far too religious, his interest in iconography and the French medieval aesthetic unwanted artifacts of the past. He was frequently referred to as “the artist of darkness and death.” He was accused of being able only “to imagine the most atrocious and avenging caricatures” and being “attracted exclusively by the ugly.”(1)

T.S. Eliot once praised the gift of artists who can hold a sense not only of the “pastness of the past but also of its presence.”(2) This is an apt description of Georges Rouault. His work considered the horrors of suffering that he saw presently and troublingly all around him alongside of the human Son of God crucified on a Roman cross, who somehow stood vividly in Rouault’s mind in the very midst of it. He saw the grotesque, the degraded, and demoralized of the world: the sorrow of clowns, the degradation of prostitutes, the hypocrisy of judges. And alongside these things, he saw the sacred, wounded head of Christ as the only one who could make sense of it. He saw within the bleak condition of the world and the fallen reality of our souls the presence of God in human form, standing within the darkness with us—and for us. Rouault inhabited an imagination steeped in the gifts of Holy Week and Easter, marked by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

In my own liturgical tradition, during the season of Lent as the church prepares for the feast of Easter, there is a practice called “burying the hallelujahs.” We refrain from saying hallelujah during Lent, hallelujah being an ultimate expression of rejoicing that means “God be praised.” For the forty days of Lent we are invited instead to remember our deaths, to call to mind our need, our sin, our apathy, our finiteness. During Lent, we mourn with the world, with the church far and wide, and we challenge ourselves to sit with it all.

This year, as we watched an unseen enemy move with deadly force around the world, I was thankful for the burying of our hallelujahs and a ready language to lament with neighbors I will never meet but with whom I grieve. I needed the imagination afforded by Lent and Holy Week. And in the midst of our continuing global health crisis and a suffering humanity in its wake, I need the imagination of Easter. We don’t bury the hallelujahs in cynicism or despair. We bury them because this is precisely where Easter itself begins: with a God who doesn’t bypass the darkness, but takes us through it. In the midst of this darkness, this grief, this death, this injustice, this moment of suffering, Jesus himself is present.

In the 70s and 80s when death squads were operating in countries of South and Central America, a liturgy emerged in the church by which Christians dramatically enacted faith amidst the pervasive fear perpetuated by the imagination of the nation state. Where death squads spread fear by “disappearing” those bodies that stood in their way, the church saw the resurrection of Christ and his own fatally wounded and “disappeared” body as a dramatic counter-narrative of resistance. Thus, at the liturgy, the names of those killed or disappeared were called aloud, and for each name someone from within the congregation would declare: Presente. “Here!”(3)

In this cultural moment, there are many who would meet this liturgical act or any mention of the resurrection, for that matter, with dismissal. Maybe even an understandable dismissal. Like words of comfort at a difficult funeral, while the sentiment might be needed, it will not undo what has been done. The death squads were not deterred by this communal act of rallying around a consoling word, and neither will Covid-19. These names are the names of people who were actually lost. In a heartbreakingly real sense, the “disappeared” are most definitely not presente. Those presently mourning loved ones lost to a virus that stole even the dignity of saying goodbye must feel this most acutely.

It is not hard to tend to an imagination that tells us that the “disappeared” belong to a group that will never stop growing: genocide, cancer, bombings, nameless lives wasted, tragically cut short, buried and gone. But whether confessed in sorrow or in cynicism, the assumption behind this imagination is that the dead can be buried once and for all and forgotten. What the churches facing these death squads seemed to understand better than most of us is that Christ gives us permission to lean into the tension of these seemingly contradictory claims: Buried. And Presente.

The bold proclamation of Easter is that bodies are not buried once and for all and forgotten. Suffering and injustice, viruses and cancer, murder and depression: None of these will have the final word. Easter is God’s promise that the darkness of Holy Saturday was far from empty, and the same is true of our darkness today.

In Georges Rouault’s Miserere series, there is a piece entitled “Resurrection,” where Christ’s resurrected body is depicted in that memorable cruciform image. It is both triumphant and a triumph that we feel compelled to reach for, to long for, as it breaks in. Rouault shows us victory, but we are also left longing for it, lamenting that it isn’t here yet.

Easter invites us further into this sacred, confounding space. We can delve into the darkness—perhaps holding the names of loved ones lost or lamentation we don’t know how to voice beyond groans—because this is a Suffering Servant who dares to hold it all. Beauty and ashes. Light and utter darkness. The risen Christ is present in all of it. Presente. He is here.

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

(1) William A. Dyrness, Rouault: a Vision of Suffering and Salvation (Grand Rapid: William B. Eerdmans, 1971), 43.
(2) T.S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” The Egoist, 1919.
(3) Story told by Rowan Williams in Choose Life: Christmas and Easter Sermons in Canterbury Cathedral (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 133-134. See also William Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1998).

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – Keep Your Appointment

 

You will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. — Jeremiah 29:13 (AMPC)

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

We may have to deal sternly with our flesh (our old nature) to resist the passivity that tries to keep us from growing closer to God. A commitment to spend time with Him is as serious a commitment as any we will ever make.

For instance, if I needed dialysis because of kidney disease and had to be at the hospital twice a week for treatment at 8:00am, I certainly wouldn’t accept an invitation to do anything else during those times, no matter how appealing it seemed or how much I wanted to do it. I would know my life depended on keeping my dialysis appointment. We need to be that serious about our time with God. The quality of our lives is directly affected by the quality time we spend with Him, so that time should have first priority in our schedules.

Sometimes we become slack in keeping our appointments with God because we know He’s always available. We know He’ll always be there for us, so we may skip or reschedule our time with Him so we can do something that seems more urgent. If we spent more “priority time” with God, we might not have as many “urgent” situations that rob us of time.

When we spend time with God, even if we don’t feel His presence or think we’re learning anything, we’re still sowing seeds that will produce a good harvest in our lives. As you stay determined and persistent, you’ll reach the point where you’re understanding more of God’s Word, enjoying your relationship with Him, and hearing His voice more and more.

Prayer Starter: Father, please teach me how to be more intentional about spending time with You. Thank You so much for giving me the ability to grow in this area. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Inner Strengthening 

 

“That out of His glorious, unlimited resources He will give you the mighty inner strengthening of His Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 3:16).

In Christ are all the attributes and characteristics promised to His children as the fruit of the Spirit. And the Holy Spirit was given to glorify Christ.

  • Do you need love?

The Lord Jesus Christ is the incarnation of love. Paul prays that our roots may “go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep and how high His love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves (though it is so great that you will never see the end of it, or fully know or understand it”) (Ephesians 3:17-19).

  • Do you need peace?

Christ is the “Prince of Peace.” “I am leaving you with a gift,” said Jesus, “peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives” (John 14:27).

  • Do you need joy?

Christ is joy.

  • Do you need patience?

Christ is patience.

  • Do you need wisdom?

Christ is wisdom.

  • Are you in need of material possessions so that you can better serve Christ?

They are available in Him, for God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills,” and He promised to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19).

All that we need is to be found in Christ and nowhere else. The supernatural life is Christ, for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 3:17-21

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Knowing that God’s unlimited resources make possible the mighty inner strengthening in my life, I shall focus my attention upon Him through reading His inspired Word and obeying His commands.

 

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Rejoice, God is Always Sovereign

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Paul urges us to “rejoice in the Lord always!” (Philippians 4:4).  Not just on paydays, good days, or birthdays.  But rejoice in the Lord always.  Rejoice in the Lord always?  Yeah, right, mumbles the person from the hospital bed.  How? sighs the unemployed dad.  Always? questions the mother of the baby born with a disability.

It’s one thing to rejoice in the Lord when life is good, but when the odds are against you?  It’s not easy, but it is possible.  Lay claim to the promise of God in Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  Rejoice in the sovereignty of God.  His throne is still occupied; his will is still perfect.  Rejoice in the Lord always.  God uses everything to accomplish his will!

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – A church fills its empty pews with pictures of its members: How the joy of Easter Sunday can change the world on Monday

church in Florida appeared to be full yesterday, but this is because members of the congregation emailed photos of themselves to the staff, who then printed the images and taped them to the backs of seats in the sanctuary.

Welcome to Easter Sunday 2020.

A church in South Carolina had Easter services in their parking lot as members watched on large outdoor screens while listening to the broadcast over local radio. A youth pastor in Arlington, Texas, created an Easter egg hunt for children using the online video game Minecraft, a strategy which gained national attention.

A church in North Carolina has held a sunrise Easter service for 250 years, even through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and two World Wars. But for the pandemic, the celebration was replaced by an online service.

Archbishop José Horacio Gómez of the Los Angeles diocese was right: “Our churches may be closed but Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains.”

Boris Johnson is home from the hospital 

Now it’s the Monday after Easter. What difference did yesterday make today?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was released from the hospital Sunday morning to continue his recovery from COVID-19 at home. In a video tribute, he thanked healthcare workers who “saved my life, no question.” Scientists are trying to determine whether patients such as the prime minister now have an acquired immunity that protects them from reinfection or at least lessens the severity of future infections.

If so, doctors who recover from COVID-19 could care for coronavirus patients in the place of those who are still at risk. The same could be true for grocery workers, delivery drivers, and anyone else performing an essential service at the risk of infecting themselves (and then their families).

Let’s consider this possibility as a post-Easter parable.

The practical path to happiness 

I have long been grateful for the work of Arthur C. Brooks, the former president of the American Enterprise Institute and now faculty member at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. A committed Christian, he is one of the most thoughtful interpreters of culture today. His keynote address at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast was just one example of his practical wisdom.

Continue reading Denison Forum – A church fills its empty pews with pictures of its members: How the joy of Easter Sunday can change the world on Monday