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

 

http://www.odb.org

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.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

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

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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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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