Charles Stanley – Turning Our Back on God

 

2 Chronicles 33:1-25

Hezekiah was a god-fearing king who brought about reformation. His son Manasseh, however, was an evil ruler. He had watched his father walk with God and live according to Scripture. Yet he chose to ignore the Lord. Manasseh worshipped false gods, even to the point of sacrificing his sons. He practiced evil—including witchcraft and sorcery—and led the people astray, thereby provoking the Lord to anger. This story illustrates that God doesn’t tolerate an attitude of indifference toward Him.

Now consider our country. We, too, are a nation that largely disregards the Lord—one that has turned away from Him and embraced idols. Maybe ours aren’t statues of stone, but we worship money, athletic ability, fame, politics, and reputation. Over time, we’ve removed the Lord from many aspects of public life. What was once a nation founded on godly principles has become a country that tolerates a variety of sins.

When Israel turned its back on the Lord, God’s wrath was inevitable unless the people repented and made Him Lord once again. As believers, we have responsibility to pray that God will draw our heart—and the heart of our country—back to Himself, and that He will help the gospel and truth spread through our land.

Bible in One Year: Ezra 8-10

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Our Daily Bread — Remembering

 

Bible in a Year:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 15:9–17

On Memorial Day, I think of many military veterans but especially my dad and uncles, who served in the military during World War II. They made it home, but in that war hundreds of thousands of families tragically lost loved ones in service to their country. Yet, when asked, my dad and most soldiers from that era would say they were willing to give up their lives to protect their loved ones and stand for what they believed to be right.

When someone dies in defense of their country, John 15:13—“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”—is often recited during the funeral service to honor their sacrifice. But what were the circumstances behind this verse?

When Jesus spoke those words to His disciples during the Last Supper, He was about to die. And, in fact, one of His small group of disciples, Judas, had already left to betray Him (13:18–30). Yet Christ knew all of this and still chose to sacrifice His life for His friends and enemies.

Jesus was willing and ready to die for those who’d one day believe in Him, even for those who were still His enemies (Romans 5:10). In return, He asks His disciples (then and now) to “love each other” as He has loved them (John 15:12). His great love compels us to sacrificially love others—friend and foe alike.

By:  Alyson Kieda

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Face to Face

 

Many of us may likely have missed it. Couched between Wednesday’s building crescendo of assignments and zoom calls and Friday’s promise of their conclusion, Thursday hardly seems more than a means to an end. Though the day is every bit as holy as Easter Sunday, most of the world moves through it unsuspectingly—even those who have confessed the momentous lines of the Apostles’ Creed: “On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.”

Last Thursday was Ascension Day, the day that marks the ascension of Jesus Christ. For those of us grieving losses and loved ones, it is a profession of faith worth peering into closely. For those of us grieving the immense loss of Ravi Zacharias, the Ascension is a personal and particular comfort we might hold near. Forty days after the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, the church around the world holds in remembrance this eventful day. The gospel writer records: “Then [Jesus] said to his disciples…. ‘See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.”(1)

The ascension of Christ may not seem as momentous to the Christian story as the resurrection or as rousing as the image of Jesus on the cross. After the death and resurrection, in fact, the ascension might even seem somewhat anti-climatic. The resurrection and ascension statements of the Apostles’ Creed are essentially treated as one in the same: On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. One might even think that the one miraculous act flowed immediately into the other: as if the death of the body of Jesus was answered in the resurrection, a presence who then floated onto heaven. Unfortunately, the result of this impression is that many think of the ascension as somehow casting off of Christ’s human nature, as if Jesus is a presence that only used to be human. Hence, Jesus seems one more fit to memorialize than one we might expect to actually see face-to-face one day.

But in fact, this couldn’t be farther from the experience of the disciples, to whom Jesus appeared repeatedly in the days following the resurrection. To them it was abundantly clear that Jesus was not any sort of spiritual ghost or remote presence. He ate with them; he talked with them; he instructed them as to the ministries they would lead and the deaths they would face because of him. He was in fact more fully human than they ever realized, and it was this holy body, this divine person that they held near as they lived and died to proclaim his kingdom. In the words of poet Malcolm Guite:

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.

The ascension they reported was no different than the very future they envisioned with him: he was raised as a human, fully human. As the disciples were watching and Jesus was taken up before their very eyes, a cloud hid him from their sight. The text then refers to them “looking intently up into the sky as he was going” when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them: “‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go’”(3) In this resurrected body, Christ ascended to heaven, fully human, fully divine, entirely glorified. They said goodbye face-to-face. And it will be the same when they greet him again.

For the Christian, no action of Jesus is without weight, and this, his last action on earth, is weighed with far more hope than is often realized. Ascending to heaven, the work God sent him to accomplish was finally completed. The ascension was a living and public declaration of his dying words on the Cross: It is finished. In the ascension, Jesus furthered the victory of Easter—the victory of a physical body in whom God had conquered death. Because of the ascension, the incarnation is not a past or throwaway event. Because of the ascension, we know that the incarnate Son who was raised from the dead is sharing in our humanity even now. And just as the men in white informed the disciples, so we carry in our own flesh a guarantee that Christ will one day bring us to himself. It is for these reasons that N.T. Wright affirms, “To embrace the Ascension is to heave a sigh of relief, to give up the struggle to be God (and with it the inevitable despair at our constant failure), and to enjoy our status as creatures: image-bearing creatures, but creatures nonetheless.”(3)

Ascension Day, a holy day falling inconspicuously on a Thursday in May, is the conspicuous declaration that we are not left as orphans. In the same post-resurrection body that he invited Thomas to touch, Jesus invites us to full humanity even today. He ascended with a body, he shares in our humanity, extending his own body even now, promising to return for our own bodies. Christ is preparing a room for us, and we can know it is real because he himself is real. We say goodbye face-to-face. And it will be the same when we greet our Lord and our loved ones once again.

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

 

(1) Luke 24:49-53.
(2) Acts 1:9-11.
(3) N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), 114.

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Joyce Meyer – Keep Pressing On

 

I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward. — Philippians 3:13-14 (AMPC)

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

Our relationship with God is a process; we’re all moving from one level to another. No one ever “masters” communication with God, because there’s no limit to the depths of who He is, or the relationship we can have with Him. It just keeps growing, keeps going deeper, keeps getting stronger. Our ability to hear and understand His voice develops and improves over time, and with practice we get better at sharing our hearts with Him. We never become experts in prayer and we never stop learning to communicate with God—our experiences with Him just keep getting richer and better.

God has so much for you, and even though you may not be exactly where you want to be yet, you can thank God that you’re on the right track to get there. As long as you’re making progress, it really doesn’t matter if you’re crawling, walking, or running—just keep pressing on.

You’re okay and you’re on your way!

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for being patient with me as I grow in my ability to hear your voice. Please help me to be patient with myself and to keep pressing on. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Give Him the First Part

 

“Honor the Lord by giving Him the first part of all your income, and He will fill your barns with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines” (Proverbs 3:9,10).

“Yes, I tithe,” said John D. Rockefeller, Sr., “and I would like to tell you how it all came about.

“I had to begin work as a small boy to help support my mother. My first wages amounted to $1.50 per week. The first week after I went to work I took the $1.50 home to my mother and she held the money in her lap and explained to me that she would be happy if I would give a tenth of it to the Lord.

“I did,” Rockefeller said, “and from that week until this day I have tithed every dollar God has entrusted to me. And I want to say if I had not tithed the first dollar I made I would not have tithed the first million dollars I made.

“Tell your readers to train the children to tithe, and they will grow up to be faithful stewards of the Lord.”

As R. G. Le Tourneau observed years ago, “We do not give to God because it pays, but it does pay to give to God and to serve Him faithful.” Without any question, God honors faithful stewardship – of time, energy, money, all that we have and are.

The importance of tithing is one of the first lessons I learned as a new Christian. Now I realize that that is only the beginning, because everything that I enjoy has been entrusted to me by a gracious, loving Father, who expects me to maximize all that he has put into my hands; therefore, tithing must be followed by offerings, based on clear Word of God that as we sow we reap. The more we give back to God, the more He will entrust to us, but we are to give with a cheerful heart out of a deep sense of gratitude for all that God has given to us.

Bible Reading: Malachi 3:8-12

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: God will have the first fruits of my life, the first part of my money, my time, my talent, my energy.

 

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Max Lucado – Your Test Will Be Your Testimony

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

God can make something good out of your mess.  The test you’re experiencing will become your testimony.  2 Corinthians 1:4-5 says, “God comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings alongside someone who’s going through hard times so we can be there for that person, just as God was there for us.” (MSG)

You didn’t sign up for this crash course in single parenting?  No, God enrolled you.  He’s taken the intended evil and rewoven it into this curriculum.  Why?  So you can teach others what He’s taught you.  Rather than say, “God, why?” ask “God, what?  What can I learn from this experience?” Rather than ask God to change your circumstances, ask Him to use your circumstances to change you. Life is a required course — might as well do your best to pass it.  You will get through this.

Read more You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Turbulent Times

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – A conversation I will not forget: Reflecting on Memorial Day in a pandemic

Today is Memorial Day, an observance held annually in the United States on the last Monday in May. On this day, we especially remember the more than 1.3 million Americans who have died in our nation’s wars.

As the son and grandson of soldiers and a proud and grateful American, I want to honor this day each year in the Daily Article and each day in my heart.

However, there is a companion theme on this Memorial Day I’d like us to consider as well.

A nurse with tears in her eyes 

I had minor outpatient surgery last week. I say that only to say that I interacted with several medical staff in the days leading up to and through the procedure. Each of them was wearing a mask and gloves; several were wearing protective gowns as well.

That’s because, so far as they knew, I was infected with COVID-19 and capable of spreading the infection to them.

One nurse with whom I spoke had an especially touching story. When she and her colleagues were cleared to return to work several weeks ago, her daughter moved out of their home. This daughter has been living with her older brother because her mother could become infected with SARS-CoV-2 at work and bring the infection home to her.

As a result, this nurse has not been in the physical presence of her daughter for two months. They speak over Skype or Zoom every day, but it’s not the same. I will not forget her or the tears in her eyes as she told me her story.

Thousands of healthcare workers have been infected with COVID-19 so far. Add to them the multiplied thousands of people working in other frontline capacities during this pandemic, from those who deliver groceries and supplies to those who police our streets to keep us safe.

Each of them is risking their life and their family to serve us.

How best can we observe this Memorial Day during a pandemic? Consider three biblical priorities.

One: Remember 

Paul said of the Philippians, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3). Like him, we should remember those we are honoring today and express gratitude to God for them and their families.

Take time today to think about the 1.3 million women and men who have died to protect the freedoms you enjoy. Envision their lives and sacrifice; consider the years they lost in serving our nation. If you know a member of their families, express your gratitude to them for the sacrifice their loved ones made for you.

I especially encourage you to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance by stopping at 3:00 p.m. local time for one minute of silence. If you know a veteran or current member of the military, find a way to express your gratitude to them as well.

Extend this commitment to the healthcare providers and other frontline workers you know. Find a way to express your gratitude today and every day.

Two: Pray 

Paul said of the Ephesians, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16). As he prayed for them, we should pray for those we are considering today.

Pray for our military and their families, asking God for their protection and encouragement. Pray for those who have lost loved ones in the service of our country, asking God for their strength and peace.

And pray for our healthcare workers and others on the frontlines of this pandemic. Ask God to keep them and their families safe. Pray for them to feel the encouragement and gratitude of our nation.

Three: Emulate 

Think of the millions of women and men who chose to serve our nation at the cost of their lives. Consider their families living with the pain of their loss. Think about the women and men serving in harm’s way around the world, willing to die that we might live. And consider the healthcare providers and other frontline workers who are serving us at risk to themselves and those they love.

You and I may not be called into their service, but we have our own kingdom assignments. With our calling comes a commitment to fulfill that calling at any cost. Those God uses most fully are those who are most fully surrendered to his use.

Scripture teaches, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Paradoxically, this is the best way to serve the Lord and men.

The path to “true happiness” 

Remember, then pray, then emulate.

Helen Keller noted: “True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

What “worthy purpose” will you serve with your life?

 

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