Charles Stanley – The Gift of Eternal Life

 

1 John 5:6-13

The Bible tells us that we are helpless to save ourselves. The only way to receive the gift of salvation is to agree with the testimony of Scripture: God the Father sent His Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins.
Jesus Christ paid in full the debt we owed for our transgressions (Isa. 53:5; Rom. 6:23). His gift of salvation is:

Freely Given. The guilt of our sin has been removed without cost to us. There is no act so vile that it is not covered by the cross of Christ, and there is no deed so good that could achieve salvation.

Fully Sufficient. Christ’s death paid for all sin—past, present, and future. Nothing is required of us except to believe in Jesus.

Forever Ours. Having received our salvation, we do not have to work to keep it. This precious gift is permanently ours, and it guarantees that we are irrevocably members of God’s family.

Our feelings do not determine whether we are saved or not; the only thing that matters is what God says—and what we believe. Have you put your faith in Jesus? If so, then according to God’s biblical promises and the Holy Spirit’s affirmation, you can know that eternal life is yours. Won’t you thank God today for this remarkable gift?

Bible in One Year: Job 39-42

 

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Our Daily Bread — “God Stuff”

 

Bible in a Year:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

1 Peter 3:15

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Peter 3:13–18

Most of Mike’s co-workers knew little about Christianity, nor did they seem to care. But they knew he cared. One day near the Easter season, someone casually mentioned that they’d heard Easter had something to do with Passover and wondered what the connection was. “Hey, Mike!” he said. “You know about this God stuff. What’s Passover?”

So Mike explained how God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. He told them about the ten plagues, including the death of the firstborn in every household. He explained how the death angel “passed over” the houses whose doorframes were covered by the blood of a sacrificed lamb. Then he shared how Jesus was later crucified at the Passover season as the once-and-for-all sacrificial Lamb. Suddenly Mike realized, Hey, I’m witnessing!

Peter the disciple gave advice to a church in a culture that didn’t know about God. He said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

Because Mike had been open about his faith, he got the chance to share that faith naturally, and he could do so with “gentleness and respect” (v. 15).

We can too. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we can explain in simple terms what matters most in life—that “stuff” about God.

By:  Tim Gustafson

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Lazarus Waits, Rachel Weeps

 

Jesus tells the story of a rich man who is content to live comfortably with the great chasm between his success and a poor man’s predicament. At his own gate each day, the man passes a beggar named Lazarus, who is covered in sores and waits with the hope that he might be satisfied with something that falls from the rich man’s table. But as Jesus describes the rich man, he sees neither Lazarus nor his plight. Ironically, when the rich man dies and is suffering in Hades with his own agony and aspirations, he still chooses to view Lazarus as inferior, worthy only of being a servant. “Father Abraham, have mercy on me,” he pleads, “and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony.”(1) Twice he makes it clear in his requests that he sees the man who sat at his gate as subordinate at best. Having refused all his days to see the waiting Lazarus as a fellow soul, a suffering neighbor, the chasms the rich man allowed in life had now grown fixed in death.

Another story that emerges from the life of Jesus came before he was old enough to tell stories of his own. The prophet Isaiah told of a child who would be born for the people, a son given to the world with authority resting on his shoulders. Hundreds of years later, in Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, this prophecy was being fulfilled: The angel had appeared. A child was born. The magi had come. The ancient story was taking shape in a field in Bethlehem. But when Herod learned from the magi that a king would be born, he gave orders to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. At this murderous edict, another prophecy, this one spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, was sadly fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping; Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”(2) While the escape of Mary and Joseph to Egypt allowed Jesus to tell the story of Lazarus years later, the cost, as Rachel and all the mothers’ who didn’t escape knew well, was wrenchingly great.

 

Of the many objections to Christianity, one that stands out in my mind as troubling is the argument that to be Christian is to withdraw from the world around us, to follow fairy tales with wishful hearts and myths that insist we stop thinking and believe that all will be right in the end because God says so. In such a vein, Karl Marx depicts Christianity as a kind of drug that anesthetizes people to the suffering in the world and the wretchedness of life. Likewise, in Sigmund Freud’s estimation, belief in God functions as an infantile dream that helps us evade the pain and helplessness we both feel and see around us. I don’t find these critiques and others like them troubling because I find them accurate of the kingdom Jesus described in any way. I find them troubling because so many Christians live as if Freud and Marx are quite right in their analyses.

In some impervious boxes and minimalist depictions of the Christian story, we can comfortably live as if in our own world, blind and unconcerned with the world of suffering around us, intent to tell our feel-good stories while withdrawing from the harder scenes of life. In fact, to pretend as if Christianity does not at times function as a wishful escape from the world is perhaps another kind of wishful thinking. There are some critiques of Christianity we ignore at our own peril.

But in reality the stories Jesus left us with reach unapologetically beyond wishful thinking; his proclamations of the kingdom among us are far from declarations of escapism. The story of Rachel weeping for her slaughtered children and Lazarus waiting in agony at the gate of someone who could make a difference are two stories among many that refuse to let us sweep the suffering of the world under the rug of apathy. The fact that they are included in the gospel that brings us the hope of Christ is not only what makes that hope endurable, but what proves Freud and Marx entirely wrong. Jesus embodies the kind of hope that can reach even the most hopeless among us. He hasn’t overlooked the suffering of the world anymore than he has invited his followers to do so. It is a part of the very story he tells; it is a story written on his own scarred hands and feet.

Thus, precisely because the faith Christians proclaim is not a drug that anesthetizes or a dream that deludes, we must tell the whole story and not merely the parts that lessen our own pain. We must also live as people watchful and ready to be near those who weep and wait—the poor, the demoralized, and the suffering. There are far too many Rachels who are still weeping and Lazaruses who are still waiting, waiting for men and women of faith to inhabit the good news they proclaim, to live into the startlingly real identity of Christ himself.

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

(1) Luke 16:24.
(2) Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18.

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Joyce Meyer – Give Thanks in Every Situation

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. — Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Adapted from the resource Healing the Soul of a Woman – by Joyce Meyer

The apostle Paul teaches us to be thankful in every situation, no matter what our circumstances are—in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, he actually says this is God’s will for us. But when our soul has been wounded, we definitely don’t feel like being thankful. Sometimes all we can do is be grateful that God is getting us through a situation, keeping us and sustaining us every day. Even when we’re on a really difficult journey, we can thank Him for walking with us every step of the way.

The more God heals our soul, the more grateful we can be. Every new level of healing and wholeness we experience is a reason to thank God. But the question is: Can we thank God before we see the big breakthroughs we long for? Can we use our faith to believe He will move in our lives and be grateful for that?

In Exodus 15:20–21, Moses’ sister, Miriam, sings a song of praise to God for parting the Red Sea, taking the Israelites through it on dry ground, and then putting the waters back together so the Egyptians that were chasing them drowned. It’s great that Miriam took time to thank and praise God after He did something amazing—we should always thank God when He comes through for us. The real challenge, though, is to be grateful and worship Him before we see what we’re believing Him for. I want to encourage you: Don’t wait to praise and thank God until after you have victory—decide to worship Him in advance. This will help you develop the habit of thanking God in all kinds of circumstances, which in turn cultivates gratitude.

When Paul teaches us to give thanks “in every situation,” he’s encouraging us to develop a lifestyle of thanksgiving. We are to thank God throughout the day for everything He does for us, all the ways He helps us, and everything He’s promised us. Giving thanks to Him shouldn’t be something we only do once a day when we sit down to a meal, once a week at church, or just before we go to sleep as we try to think of all the good things He’s done for us that day. I often say, “Pray your way through the day,” to help encourage people to develop a lifestyle of prayer, but it’s just as important to thank your way through each day. The more thankful you become, the more aware you are of God’s blessings in your life. When you go through life with a growing awareness of His blessings, thanking Him often, every day is easier, happier, and better.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for all the ways You’ve blessed me and are helping me today. Please help me to always be aware of Your presence and grateful for Your work in my life. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You’ve Already Won

 

“Dear young friends, you belong to God and have already won your fight with those who are against Christ, because there is someone in your hearts who is stronger than any evil teacher in this wicked world” (1 John 4:4).

“I am afraid of Satan,” a young minister once told me.

“You should be afraid of Satan,” I responded, “if you insist on controlling your own life. But not if you are willing to let Christ control your life. The Bible says, ‘Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.'”

My friend lived in a city where one of the largest zoos in the world was located.

“What do you do with lions in your city?” I asked.

“We keep them in cages,” he replied.

“You can visit the lion in its cage at the zoo,” I explained, “and it cannot hurt you, even if you are close to the cage. But stay out of that cage, or the lion will make mincemeat out of you.”

Satan is in a “cage.” He was defeated 2,000 years ago when Christ died on the cross for our sins. Victory is now ours. We do not look forward to victory, but we move from victory, the victory of the cross.

Satan has no power except that which God allows him to have. Do not be afraid of him, but do stay away from him. Avoid his every effort to tempt and mislead you. Remember, that choice is up to you.

Bible Reading: I John 2:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will with God’s help, stay out of Satan’s “cage,” choosing rather to enlist God’s indwelling Holy Spirit to fight for me in the supernatural battle against the satanic forces which surround me.

 

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Thank God for the Night

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

 

God notices the grateful heart.  He took a praise-singing shepherd boy and made him a king. There’s no hint of God getting out of sorts if we aren’t thankful, but there is evidence that we’re affected by our own ingratitude.  What of the disastrous days?  The nights I can’t sleep and the hours I can’t rest?  Are we still grateful then?  Jesus was.

The Bible records, “On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).  It’s not often you see the words betrayed and thanks in the same sentence, much less in the same heart.  In the midst of the darkest night of the human soul, Jesus found a way to give thanks.  Anyone can thank God for the light.  Jesus teaches us to thank God for the night.  And He says to us, “you’ll get through this,” and we will.

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 – Can people spread coronavirus without symptoms? An update on COVID-19 and learning to grow amidst daily danger

In light of the protests and charged conversations regarding race, it can be easy to forget that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. Many fear the mass demonstrations will soon bring the coronavirus back to the forefront of our minds, though. To that end, where do we stand when it comes to COVID-19?

The answer is both encouraging and confusing.

A scientist with the World Health Organization, for example, recently stated that asymptomatic people “rarely transmit” the virus to others. If true, that’s great news, as one of the primary fears with coronavirus is that even healthy-looking people could get others sick.

The WHO clarified yesterday, however, that while asymptomatic people are unlikely to spread the virus, pre-symptomatic people—those who will eventually show symptoms but haven’t yet—can still infect others.

So, essentially, if you aren’t showing symptoms you are unlikely to get anyone else sick unless you will eventually show symptoms, which you can’t know at the time.

Ultimately, they still recommend wearing masks in public and limiting your exposure to large crowds.

COVID-19 may have started in August? 

There have also been new developments with regard to when COVID-19 first appeared. A recent study from Harvard Medical School used satellite images of parking lots at six hospitals in Wuhan, China to show that, compared with previous years, there “was a steep increase in occupancies from August 2019, which culminated with a peak in December 2019.” The highest daily occupancies occurred between September and October.

That data, taken in conjunction with an increase in online searches for coronavirus-related symptoms, including those unique to the virus, led the study’s authors to conclude that the virus likely originated earlier than the previously reported date of late December.

Beijing, however, has dismissed the study as “ridiculous” and others have claimed that, while it offers some interesting evidence, it’s far from conclusive.

Acquiring a more precise knowledge of when the virus originated could be an important step toward understanding how it has spread and how we can best fight it. But, in the end, the only thing it seems we can be certain of is that we still can’t be certain.

Some good news amidst troubling times

Despite the mixed messages, it does seem like genuine progress has been made in at least containing the virus. Places like New York City that were once devastated by illness are now hitting their desired benchmarks and, while there are still problem areas around the country, there is more hope now than in months past that we’ll be able to resume some semblance of normalcy in the not too distant future.

That future isn’t here yet, though. And in these uncertain times, it can be easy to become either complacent or discouraged as life seems to spin out of our control.

There’s a basic anxiety that goes along with knowing that simply leaving your house is a dangerous decision. And even if you learn to accept that danger as a necessary part of life, it remains in the back of your mind, producing stress and making everything else just a bit more difficult.

Of course, leaving the house has always been dangerous to some extent. But when that danger seemed within our control, when it came more from random accidents than simply getting coughed on, it didn’t bother us as much. I think the reason is that even when those feelings of control are misplaced, they still imbue us with a sense of protection and security to which many have grown accustomed.

A lesson from the ancient Israelites

If there was ever a people group who knew what it was like to live with the constant reminder that protection and security were not guaranteed, it was the ancient Israelites. Whether it was the decades spent wandering in the wilderness, the enemies that made them feel like “grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:33), or the strange battle plans that made no earthly sense (Joshua 6), the Israelites were forced to approach every day with a very clear understanding of their need for God.

Now, that doesn’t mean they appreciated that fact, as evidenced from the multiple times they complained so much, the Lord told Moses he was ready to destroy them (Exodus 33:5, Numbers 14:11).

Still, God was able to accomplish amazing things through the Hebrew people, and it was in large part because they were forced to depend on him. And the same was true for the first generations of Christians as well (Acts 17:6).

How to grow from daily danger

Most of us are likely anxious for a cure or treatment that will reduce the threat of COVID-19 and allow our lives to resume without masks, public restrictions, and the myriad other daily inconveniences brought on by the virus. Until that day comes, however, let’s allow God to redeem these times by learning to live with a greater dependency on him.

After all, our need for his presence and guidance isn’t going to dissipate when the threat of the coronavirus does. Learning to embrace that need now will better equip us for the days ahead when leaning on God will feel less necessary.

It may seem counterintuitive, but these difficult days might be the easiest time for us to make that choice.

Let’s be sure we don’t waste them.

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/