Charles Stanley – Our Faithful Teacher

 

2 Timothy 3:14-17

Think about all the teachers who have impacted your life. Have you ever considered that the Bible exceeds them all? It not only teaches who God is and how to be saved but also tells us how the Lord wants us to live as Christians.

This indispensable resource offers encouragement and practical guidance for whatever we face. For instance, God’s Word tells how to handle temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), teaches the value of adversity (James 1:2-4), and explains how to live righteously (Eph. 4:17-32). In addition, it assures us nothing can separate us from Christ’s love (Rom. 8:38-39). All that we need for life and godliness can be found in its pages.

So, instead of calling a friend, searching the internet, or reading a self-help book when direction is needed, we should first go to God’s Word. And then we should ask ourselves, Am I listening to its teaching?

But the Bible isn’t just for instruction; it’s also for correction and confrontation, so we should be open to that kind of teaching as well. That means an even more challenging question is, Am I heeding the Bible’s reproof?

Scripture is a great resource only if our hearts are receptive to its wisdom, and we must have the humility to accept any kind of teaching it offers. Only then can we be fully trained in righteousness by the Scriptures.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 1-7

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Perspectives from Above

 

Bible in a Year:

I will not yield my glory to another.

Isaiah 48:11

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Isaiah 48:5–11, 17

When Peter Welch was a young boy in the 1970s, using a metal detector was only a hobby. But since 1990, he’s been leading people from around the world on metal-detecting excursions. They’ve made thousands of discoveries—swords, ancient jewelry, coins. Using “Google Earth,” a computer program based on satellite imagery, they look for patterns in the landscape on farmland in the United Kingdom. It shows them where roads, buildings, and other structures may have been centuries ago. Peter says, “To have a perspective from above opens a whole new world.”

God’s people in Isaiah’s day needed “a perspective from above.” They prided themselves on being His people yet were disobedient and refused to give up their idols. God had another perspective. Despite their rebellion, He would rescue them from captivity to Babylon. Why? “For my own sake, . . . I will not yield my glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11). God’s perspective from above is that life is for His glory and purpose—not ours. Our attention is to be given to Him and His plans and to pointing others to praise Him too.

Having God’s glory as our own life’s perspective opens a whole new world. Only He knows what we will discover about Him and what He has for us. God will teach us what is good for us and lead us along the paths we should follow (v. 17).

By:  Anne Cetas

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Harmless Petty Sins

A familiar fable tells of the hunter who lost his life to the leopard he himself had saved as a pet for his children when the leopard was just a cub. The moral of the story can be deduced easily from the title, Little Leopards Become Big Leopards; or else, sin is easier to deal with before it becomes a habitual practice that eventually defines our lives.(1) Though the story as it stands is a beautiful illustration of a profound truth, there is a deeper lesson regarding the nature of sin that is easily concealed by this line of thinking and which, I believe, lies at the very essence of the Christian call to Christ-likeness. The problem is that the parallel between little harmless leopard cubs and little harmless sins can be dangerously deceptive.

Whereas leopard cubs are indeed harmless, there is no stage of development at which sin can be said to be harmless, for individual acts of sin are merely the symptoms of the true condition of our hearts. It is not accidental that the call to Christian growth in the Scriptures repeatedly zeros-in on such seemingly benign “human shortcomings” as bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander, and malicious behavior (Ephesians 4:31). In his watershed address, The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus placed a great deal of emphasis on lust, anger, and contempt—behaviors and attitudes that would probably not rank high on our lists of problems in need of urgent resolution. Armed with firm and sometimes unconscious categories of serious versus tolerable sins, we gloss over lists of vices in the Scriptures because they seem to be of little consequence to life as we experience it.

But when we fail to grasp the subtleties of sin, we run the risk of rendering much of biblical wisdom irrelevant to our daily life and practice. While we appreciate the uniqueness and necessity of the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf, his specific teachings can at times appear to be farfetched and the emphasis misplaced. Does it not seem incredible that the God who made this world would visit it in its brokenness, dwell among us for over thirty years, and then leave behind the command that we must be nice to each other? Can the problems of the world really be solved by having people “turn the other cheek” and “get rid of anger and malice”?

 

Unfortunately, those “little” sins are not only the mere symptoms of a much bigger problem; they are also effective means of alienating us from God and other human beings. How many careers have been ruined only because of jealousy? How many people have been deprived of genuine help as a result of the seemingly side-comment of someone who secretly despised them? How many relationships have been destroyed by bitterness? How many churches have split up because of selfish ambitions couched in pietistic terms? How much evil has resulted from misinformation, a little coloring around the edges of truth? And have you noticed how much we can control other people just through our body language? From the political arena to the basic family unit, the worst enemy of human harmony is not spectacular wickedness but those seemingly harmless petty sins routinely assumed to be part of what it means to be human.

According to a NASA scientist, a two-degree miscalculation when launching a spacecraft to the moon would send the spacecraft 11,121 miles away from the moon: all one has to do is take time and distance into account.(2) How perceptive then was George MacDonald when he uttered these chilling words, “A man may sink by such slow degrees that, long after he is a devil, he may go on being a good churchman or a good dissenter, and thinking himself a good Christian”!(3) Similarly, C.S. Lewis warned that cards are a welcome substitute for murder if the former will set the believer on a path away from God. “Indeed,” he wrote, “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”(4) This is as true as much for the individual as for communities.

Now the decisive path out of this quandary is not just a greater resolve to be obedient to God. Such a response is usually motivated by guilt, and the duration of our effort will be directly proportional to the amount of guilt we feel: we will be right back where we started from when the guilt is no longer as strong. The appropriate response must begin with a greater appreciation of the holiness of God and a clear vision of life in God. It is only along the path of Christ-likeness that the true nature of sin is revealed and its appeal blunted. Yes, brazen sinfulness is appallingly evil and destructive, but it only makes a louder growl in a forest populated by stealthier, deadly hunters masquerading as little leopards. It is no idle, perfunctory pastime to pray with King David:

Search us, O God, and know our hearts;
Test us and know our thoughts.
Point out anything in us that offends you,
And lead us along the path of everlasting life.

J.M. Njoroge is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Nairobi, Georgia.

(1) For example, Paul White’s, Little Leopards Become Big Leopards, published by African Christian Press.
(2) John Trent, Heartshift: The Two Degree Difference That Will Change Your Heart, Your Home, and Your Health (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2004), 17.
(3)George MacDonald, in George MacDonald: An Anthology by C. S. Lewis (New York: Dolphin Books, 1962), 118.
(4) C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, in A C.S. Lewis Treasury: Three Classics in One Volume (New York: Harcourt & Company, 1988), 250.

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Joyce Meyer – Shake It Off

 

But [as for me personally] it matters very little to me that I should be put on trial by you [on this point], and that you or any other human tribunal should investigate and question and cross-question me. I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself. . . . It is the Lord [Himself] Who examines and judges me. — 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource The Confident Woman – by Joyce Meyer

No matter what you do in life, there will always be someone who criticizes you, so you need to learn how to let it go and not let it bother you. Criticism is very difficult for most of us, and it’s easy for our self-image to be damaged by one critical remark. But it is possible to learn how not to let ourselves be negatively affected by others’ negative words. Every great man or woman has had to learn how to cope with criticism. We have to know our own hearts and not allow others’ judgment of us to keep us from moving forward.

People love you when you’re doing everything they want you to do, but they’re quick to criticize when even one little thing goes wrong. The apostle Paul experienced criticism about countless things, but he said that he wasn’t the least bit concerned about the opinions of others. He said that he did not even judge himself, but he knew he was in God’s hands and that in the end he would stand before God, and only He would judge his life.

Prayer Starter: Jesus, when criticism comes, please help me remember that You’re my only judge, and I don’t need to live to please people. Thank You for healing my hurts and giving me grace to let them go. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – How to Save Your Life

 

“And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23,24, KJV).

Martin Luther once told the maidens and housewives of Germany that in scrubbing floors and going about their household duties they were accomplishing just as great a work in the sight of heaven as the monks and priests with their penances and holy offices.

In the 15th century, a woman – Margery Baxter – had said the same thing couched in different terms.

“If ye desire to see the true cross of Christ,” she said, “I will show it to you at home in your own house.”

Stretching out her arms, she continued, “This is the true cross of Christ, thou mightest and mayest behold and worship in thine own house. Therefore, it is but vain to run to the church to worship dead crosses.”

Her message was plain: holiness is in our daily service.

Your life and mine are worshiping Christ today to the degree that we practice the presence of God in every minute detail of our lives throughout the day. We are taking up our cross when we shine for Jesus just where we are, obediently serving Him and sharing His good news with others.

If you and I want to save our lives, we do well to lose them in obedient service to the Lord Jesus Christ, allowing His indwelling Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.

Bible Reading: John 12:23-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will take up my cross today – shining just where He puts me at this point in my life.

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Max Lucado – Try Defiant Joy

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

My friend Rob cried freely telling his story about his young son’s challenging life.  Daniel was born with a double cleft palate, dramatically disfiguring his face.  He had surgery, but the evidence remains, so people constantly notice and occasionally make remarks.  Daniel, however, is unfazed.  He just tells people God made him this way so what’s the big deal?

He was named student of the week, and so was asked to bring something to show his classmates for show and tell.  Daniel told his mom he wanted to take the pictures that showed his face prior to the surgery.  His mom was concerned.  “Won’t that make you feel a bit funny?” she asked.  But Daniel insisted, “Oh, no, I want everyone to see what God did for me!”  Try Daniel’s defiant joy and see what happens.  God has handed you a cup of blessings.  Sweeten it with a heaping spoonful of gratitude!

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 – HBO removes Gone with the Wind: How to approach media with purpose rather than fear

 

HBO Max recently announced that they would temporarily remove Gone with the Wind from its offerings in response to recent backlash over its portrayal of life in the antebellum South. The film, despite its status as a classic, has also served as a lightning rod for accusations of ignoring the evils of slavery and glorifying racial discrimination.

A spokesperson for the company justified their decision with the argument that “Gone with the Wind is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society. These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions was irresponsible.”

HBO will offer the film again when they can pair it with a discussion of the story’s historical context, though the movie itself will not be changed. As the spokesperson noted, “to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. If we are to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.”

Regardless of whether or not you agree with HBO’s decision, they did get at least one thing right: ignoring history doesn’t change what happened, it just makes us more likely to repeat it.

The subtle influence of media

One of recent history’s most important lessons is that what we see in films, on TV, or consume via other forms of media has a way of shaping our thoughts that few other influences can match.

That basic principle is part of why HBO fears people watching Gone with the Wind might be ever so slightly more prone to underestimate the horrors of slavery or look wistfully at a time when equality among the races was a concept few valued.

It’s also what has often led Christians to be justifiably concerned with the normalization of LGBTQ+ lifestyles in movies and television.

A recent example of that fear is the new animated short on Disney+ titled Out. The 9-minute film is the first time Pixar Animation Studios has featured an openly homosexual main character, and it chronicles his journey towards telling his parents that he’s gay. And while it’s not available under the kids profile setting, it is made with the same basic animation qualities as other programs that are geared towards children.

Given the pervasiveness of media and it’s subtle—yet consistent—influence on our thinking, it’s more important than ever to have a plan in place for how we’ll consume it. To that end, what are some practical steps we can take to guard against the waves of culture slowly ebbing away at our faithfulness to God’s truth without going so far in the opposite direction that we act as though those waves don’t exist?

Don’t run from the issues

First, we need to accept that the issues are real and see that reality as an opportunity rather than a threat. Throughout his ministry, Jesus never shied away from dealing with difficult topics and was often able to use them to help people better understand the Lord.

For example, he used the incipient racism of his day to teach people about God’s love in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). He used the legalism of the religious leaders to show people the limitations of trying to make themselves right with God in their own strength (Luke 11:37-52). And he used the Jewish hatred of Roman taxes to remind them that every part of their lives should be dedicated to the Lord (Mark 12:13-16).

In the same way, we shouldn’t be afraid of the issues commonly brought up in the media. Rather, we should view them as opportunities to teach people about God.

That doesn’t mean they’ll always accept his truth, and the opposite is likely to be true as often as not. But if we willingly cut ourselves out of the conversation, then we also give up the right to lament when society seems to move steadily away from the Lord.

After all, if God’s people won’t speak up for him, who will?

Own your influence

Lastly, we need to take ownership of our own spheres of influence.

If you’re worried about your kids, for example, accepting unbiblical truths because they see them on TV or in a movie, then don’t let those mediums be the dominant voice in their lives. That doesn’t mean ignoring the topics or even restricting those shows. If we don’t bring them up, someone else will. It’s up to us to take responsibility for what we see.

If you feel like your kids are old enough to have the conversation about homosexuality, for example, Out could present a great opportunity to broach the subject. (For help preparing for that discussion, see What does the Bible say about homosexuality?) In the same way, Gone with the Wind could be a good (albeit long) chance to show how people used to see slavery and life in the South, while also discussing the flaws inherent to the portrayal of both.

And the same is true for addressing these subjects in your own life as well. If we neglect to take responsibility for the media we take in and the subjects they depict, then we will inevitably be swayed into acceptance. Instead, own those choices and ask the Lord to guide you in seeing the world—media included—through the lens of Scripture.

God is here to help, but he’s not going to do it for you.

Act with caution rather than fear

History has shown that media has the innate ability to sway public thinking in a powerful way. Thoughts shift over time to better align with what we see or read, yet the shift is often so subtle that it can only be seen in hindsight.

That’s why it’s so important for Christians to approach all media with caution.

Caution, however, should not equate to fear.

While there will be times that God leads us to simply avoid a particular film or show, ideas should never frighten us. Rather, if guided by the Lord, they can be avenues through which we can help people know him better.

So whether it’s Gone with the Wind, Out, or any other form of media, check with God before you decide that he won’t use it to advance his kingdom.

His answer might surprise you.

 

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