Charles Stanley – Relying on God in Times of Trouble

 

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

It’s easy to think of Paul as a spiritual giant who never became discouraged by the many afflictions he suffered. After all, he tells us to exult not only in the hope of the glory of God but also in our tribulations, since they are a tool the Lord uses to produce perseverance, proven character, and hope in us (Rom. 5:1-4).

Yet in today’s passage, Paul writes with great transparency, saying he was burdened beyond his strength and despaired of life. However, He knew the Lord was not absent in all those afflictions and realized he had to trust God rather than himself. That is a lesson we can learn from as well.

If we give in to self-reliance and fear, we’ll find ourselves going down wrong paths: We may vacillate and become weaker instead of growing stronger in the storm. Oftentimes, in desperation, we’ll ask other people for guidance instead of going to our Father. Our first response should be to seek understanding from Him about what’s happening in our life. This is why time with the Lord in His Word and prayer is top priority. That’s where we discover His purposes and come away emotionally settled.

Bible in One Year: 2 Kings 4-6

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — The Saddest Goose

 

Bible in a Year:

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Ecclesiastes 4:9–12

Why is there a football in the parking lot? I wondered. But as I got closer, I realized the greyish lump wasn’t a football: it was a goose—the saddest Canada goose I’d ever seen.

Geese often congregate on the lawn near my workplace in the spring and fall. But today there was only one, its neck arced back and its head tucked beneath a wing. Where are your buddies? I thought. Poor thing was all alone. It looked so lonely, I wanted to give it a hug. (Note: don’t try this.)

I’ve rarely seen a goose completely alone like my lonesome feathered friend. Geese are notably communal, flying in a V-formation to deflect the wind. They’re made to be together.

As human beings, we were created for community too (see Genesis 2:18). And in Ecclesiastes 4:10, Solomon describes how vulnerable we are when we’re alone: “Pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” There’s strength in numbers, he added, for “though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (v. 12).

This is just as true for us spiritually as it is physically. God never intended for us to “fly” alone, vulnerably isolated. We need relationships with each other for encouragement, refreshment, and growth (see also 1 Corinthians 12:21). During these extraordinary days, due to the Covid-19 virus many of us have needed to practice physical distancing to help contain the disease. But how we look forward to the time we can meet face-to-face with our local church families again!

Together, we can stand firm when life’s headwinds gust our way. Together.

By:  Adam R. Holz

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Stepping into the Reality of Suffering

I recently sat across from a woman I wanted to adopt as a kind of nonna.(1) Originally from Croatia, she spoke with a soft accent and combination of wisdom and kindness. In observing my 5-year-old son with me, she noted, “He has a high sense of injustice.” I nodded in agreement. My little guy has begun that tortured engagement with life—the wrestling of desire to shield our eyes from sorrow with the opportunity to see our part in the larger broken story around us and participate in facets of restoration.

Years ago it was in a broken place where I met Annie. I was nervous as I walked through the streets of Amsterdam’s famous red light district, so different from anything I had seen before. About four hundred windows line cobblestone streets, a person behind each one. There are women of all ages, transgender and transvestite workers as well. Organized by nationality, it is a market of sorts, where the commodity for sale is the body of another. I was with the director of Scharlaken Koord, a Dutch organization that offers assistance to women working in prostitution.

I realized my nervousness was a reflection of my own insecurity. Truth be told, sex workers represented something threatening to me—a reminder of the enough I might never be, a kind of desirable I couldn’t compete with, a kind betrayal I did not want to know. But when we talked with them, I saw them as women. They were girls I would want to be friends with, and what was alike far surpassed our differences. To be sure, if the same things that happened to them had happened to me, I would be standing on their side of the window. They were human beings trying to survive their own choices and those made for them, just like the rest of us.

So it was with Annie. She shared her story with us: a handsome Dutch man often traveled through the airport she worked at in a distant Asian country. He began to bring gifts each time he passed through—attention and interest too. Soon he proposed to her. Her family advised she would be foolish to give up such an opportunity; she would have a much better life than what could be afforded at home. The two married and Annie went to live in his home country with apprehension and hope. Upon arrival, he confiscated her passport, explained he now owned her, and put her up for sale behind a window. She tried to resist, but he only laughed. She didn’t have her documents. She didn’t know the language. Where would she go? Realizing he was right, she succumbed to beatings and abuse and ultimately performed as required.

When Annie learned she was pregnant, she was grateful for this reminder of life inside of her. But after several intentional blows to her belly by her husband, she miscarried. Later came the day she learned her mother had died. Well over her capacity to hold the injustice, Annie spilled over with regret and rage. Only because he was tired of her and had gotten what he wanted, her husband returned the passport and bid her good riddance.

Annie returned home. But when she told her family all that happened, they disowned her for disgracing the family name. Safety and dignity were stripped from her once again. So she returned to a window in Amsterdam. “This is what I am,” she said with resignation.

My friend asked Annie if she had considered going to church, and Annie let out a laugh. “I believe in God,” she said softly. “I pray to God every night when I try to wash this horrible feeling off myself. But you tell me—if I walk into your churches, will they see me as a woman or as a prostitute?” My friend answered her honestly, “Some would see you as a prostitute. But that is not the way Jesus sees you. And many would be those who would come around you.”

Annie shook her head decisively. “The problem with your people is they tell me I should leave. But they never want to let me forget where I came from either,” she finished.

Her words remain ingrained in my mind. How easily we pin a chosen letter to the chest of another. Yet that is not the gospel message we are to live and tell. I have learned that my earnest desire to come alongside a woman who has been exploited and abused is honestly not enough. Efforts toward restoration certainly must be present, but what she really longs for is justice, an identity beyond what life experience has given her.

The vital hope of the Christian faith is that there is something more—someone more—to counter the nightmarish face of injustice. We want to offer hope to the injustice we see around us. But if we are honest, we have all encountered a sense of injustice on a personal level. Do we believe the answer to be true for us, as it is for Annie? Because a person like Annie is able to read people in an exceptional way—she has learned to do so to survive. If we offer an answer we ourselves have not embraced in the midst of our own brokenness, she will certainly find our simply crafted answers downright offensive to her own powerful injustice.

This is the lifelong lesson my young son has just entered into. He faced injustice when a trusted friend unexpectedly shoved him down in front of others, and when his little sister provoked him into a response he then faced consequences for. But his sense of injustice has reached new levels. You see, he recently had another baby sibling on the way, and he was thrilled. When I delivered the news that the baby’s little heartbeat was struggling and it appeared the little one might go straight to see Jesus, his eyes filled with sorrow. “Can I ask Jesus for a miracle?” he asked earnestly.

Each day he prayed for his miracle with a childlike purity, asking Jesus to keep the baby safe, asking that God allow us to bring the baby home and be a family here. When the dreaded and painful process of losing that little one came upon us, oh how I cried in a new way. For I long to hold and to know that baby, whose tiny form now rests quietly beneath a weeping cherry tree. And I grieved also for my young son’s hope and faith so fresh. “Why didn’t Jesus answer my prayer?” he asked with grave disappointment, betrayal even.

Two disciples filled with sorrow at injustice unknowingly encountered Jesus along the road to Emmaus. Writer Jill Carattini said, “[Jesus] tells them that the suffering and death of the Messiah were not to be understood as a defeat of God’s purpose, but as a necessary pathway to new life. And pointedly, profoundly, Jesus suggests that this is the very pattern of God: from death to life. . . . And out of the death of the Messiah himself God brings us to resurrection—first God’s, then our own.”

The temptation to turn away from the sorrow of injustice is borne out of our shared desire to avoid pain. But the sense of injustice we and so many others around the globe experience does not cease to be if we look away. We are called to respond to injustice, to step into the reality of suffering. We will meet it within our own story, just as it abounds in atrocious forms around us. We have the opportunity to mourn, to grieve, to bear witness, to meet Christ beside us, to remember our shared need for a Savior who divinely counters injustice with his embodiment of pure justice itself, rendering us redeemed, free, and at last whole.

Naomi Zacharias is director of Wellspring International, the humanitarian arm of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

 (1) “Stepping into the Reality of Suffering” by Naomi Zacharias originally appeared in Lookout Magazine, January 8, 2017.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – A Rock–Solid Foundation

 

-Solid Foundation

[Jesus] said to them, But who do you [yourselves] say that I am? Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. — Matthew 16:15-16 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Closer to God Each Day – by Joyce Meyer

When Peter said that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, it was a statement of belief. In saying this, Peter was displaying and declaring his faith.

I don’t think Peter just casually or nonchalantly made that statement. I think he did it with a sureness and a certainty that impressed Jesus, because He immediately turned to Peter and told him that he was blessed. Then He went on to say that it was upon this rock-solid foundation of faith that He would build His church (see Matthew 16:15-19).

Jesus was basically saying to Peter, “If you maintain this faith, it will be a rocklike substance in your life upon which I will be able to build My kingdom in you, and through you. Your faith will be developed to the point that even the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against you.” What a promise!

There have been many times in my life when I’ve been discouraged, not known what to do, or felt that nothing was working and everyone was against me. In those times, the words I’ve heard over and over again are, “Only believe.”

Guess what? Jesus’ promise was not just for Peter—He’s saying the same thing to you and me. Only believe!

Prayer Starter: Father, I want to believe You above all else—please help me where I’m struggling with unbelief. Thank You so much for Your promise to always be with me and to strengthen me when I face the enemy! In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Abounding Therein

 

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8, KJV). 

Some years ago, while speaking at the University of Houston, I was told about a brilliant philosophy major. He was much older than most of the other students, having spent many years in the military before he returned to do graduate work.

He was so gifted, so brilliant, so knowledgeable that even the professors were impressed by his ability to comprehend quickly and to debate rationally. He was an atheist, and he had a way of embarrassing the Christians who tried to witness to him.

During one of my visits to the university, I was asked to talk with him about Christ. We sat in a booth in the student center, contrasting his philosophy of life with the Word of God. It was an unusual dialogue. He successfully monopolized the conversation with his philosophy of unbelief in God.

At every opportunity, I would remind him that God loved him and offered a wonderful plan for his life. I showed him various passages of Scripture concerning the person of Jesus Christ (John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1). He seemed to ignore everything I said; there appeared to be no communication between us whatsoever.

A couple of hours passed, and it was getting late. I felt that I was wasting my time and there was no need to continue the discussion. He agreed to call it a day. A friend and staff member who was with me suggested to this student that we would be glad to drop him off at his home on the way to my hotel.

As we got into the car, his first words were, “Everything you said tonight hit me right in the heart. I want to receive Christ. Tell me how I can do it right now.” Even though I had not sensed it during our conversation, the Holy Spirit – who really does care – had been speaking to his heart through the truth of God’s Word which I had shared with him.

Bible Reading: Colossians 2:1-10

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will not depend upon my own wisdom, my personality or even my training to share Christ effectively with others, but I will commit myself to talk about Him wherever I go, depending upon the Holy Spirit to empower me and speak through me to the needs of others.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – God Hears Your Prayers

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

God loves the sound of your voice—always!  God never places you on hold or tells you to call again later.  He doesn’t hide when you call.  He hears your prayers.  For that reason “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

With this verse the apostle calls us to take action against anxiety.  We tell God exactly what we want.  We pray the particulars of our problems.  What Jesus said to the blind man, he says to us: “What do you want me to do for you” (Luke 18:41)?  One would think the answer would be obvious.  When a sightless man requests Jesus’ help, isn’t it apparent what he needs?  Yet Jesus wanted to hear the man articulate his specific requests.  He wants the same from us.  “Let your requests be made known to God!”

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

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Lysol factory worker is ‘on the front lines now’: Evolution’s ‘most persistent problem’ and the privilege of knowing a personal God

Gabe Scuderi has been working for twenty-four years at a Lysol factory in New Jersey but says, “It’s the first time I felt this isn’t only a job. We’re on the front lines now.”

A grandmother named Estelle Slon is emailing riddles to sick children forced into isolation as they undergo treatment for cancer and other dire illnesses. More than a thousand volunteer groups have been set up in the UK to help the most vulnerable during the coronavirus outbreak.

How are we to account for altruism?

Writing for the Federalist, Glenn T. Stanton notes the “extravagant beauty” in nature that defies evolutionary explanation. His article describes in detail the contradictory ways Charles Darwin and other evolutionists have tried to explain beauty that does not seem to serve any evolutionary purpose.

Yale University’s Richard Prum’s theory is “captured in his simple phrase ‘beauty happens.'” The bottom line is that naturalistic evolutionists have no compelling explanation for what Stanton calls their “most persistent problem.”

The same can be said of humans who perform deeds of sacrificial altruism. If evolutionary theory is right in claiming that survival optimization is our basic drive, then why is this person taking such risks? If survival of the species is the explanation, then why isn’t everyone doing the same?

Here’s the biblical response: when we care for others simply because we care for them, we express a vestige of the divine image in which we are created.

God loves us because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He loves us because it is his very nature to love, not because we have done or can do anything to deserve his love. When we love through service that is not earned and comes at great personal cost, we act as creatures who reflect the nature of our Creator.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Lysol factory worker is ‘on the front lines now’: Evolution’s ‘most persistent problem’ and the privilege of knowing a personal God