Charles Stanley – Strength for the Lonely

 

Isaiah 41:9-11

Loneliness is a painful emotion that many people fear. Paul knew what it felt like, so his life and letters can offer us encouragement when we’re lonely. Yesterday we saw how the apostle was motivated by the presence of Christ. Now let’s look at what fueled His courage.

First, Paul experienced the strength of God. Often, the Lord allows us to come to the end of our own ability so that we clearly see His hand. Otherwise, we would attribute success to our own doing. For example, the apostle was facing possible death charges in court, and it must have been tempting to water down the truth in order to save his own life. But God enabled him to be forthright in once again proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ—fearlessly, boldly, and effectively.

Second, Paul knew he was fulfilling God’s will. Despite his dire situation, the apostle found satisfaction, energy, and joy because he was obedient to God. The believer’s reality is bigger than what meets the eye in the imminent moment.

Remember, even in painful circumstances, three truths are certain: Jesus stands with us; He strengthens us for whatever task our Father wants us to accomplish; and until our final breath, He will enable us to fulfill God’s purpose. Be comforted and encouraged by these promises of the living Lord.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 29-34

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Just-in-Case Idols

 

Bible in a Year:

They have followed other gods to serve them.

Jeremiah 11:10

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Jeremiah 11:9–13

Sam checks his retirement account twice each day. He saved for thirty years, and with the boost of a rising stock market, finally has enough to retire. As long as stocks don’t plunge. This fear keeps Sam worrying about his balance.

Jeremiah warned about this: “You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem” (11:13).

Judah’s idolatry is remarkable. They knew the Lord was God. How could they worship anyone else? They were hedging their bets. They needed the Lord for the afterlife, because only the true God could raise them from the dead. But what about now? Pagan gods promised health, wealth, and fertility, so why not pray to them too, just in case?

Can you see how Judah’s idolatry is also our temptation? It’s good to have talent, education, and money. But if we’re not careful, we might shift our confidence to them. We know we’ll need God when we die, and we’ll ask Him to bless us now. But we’ll also lean on these lesser gods, just in case.

Where is your trust? Back-up idols are still idols. Thank God for His many gifts, and tell Him you’re not relying on any of them. Your faith is riding entirely on Him.

By:  Mike Wittmer

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Cost of Cynicism

 

“Why bother?” Have you been caught off guard by this retort…or perhaps uttered it yourself? The way of thinking goes: “There’s no use trying. This is just the way it is.” And such an outlook may seem realistic in the face of some insurmountable challenge. Indeed, we encounter this reasoning in Mark 5 shortly after a man named Jairus asks Jesus to follow him to his home to heal his dying daughter. Mark reports, “While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher any more?'” (v.35).

Given this ominous news, their rhetorical question appears entirely reasonable, though they surely show a lack of compassion for Jairus or an understanding of what has just taken place: Jesus was speaking with a woman who was immediately healed when she touched his garments. Yet what interests me further is the attitude often veiled in this question: resignation, cynicism, and false pride.

 

In the face of disappointment or despair our world may encourage a “Why bother?” attitude, but if we take a few moments to really consider this way of thinking we discover just how costly it really is. Moreover, it is anathema to the Scriptures and all that Jesus taught. In fact, Jesus’s response couldn’t be more revealing: “Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe'” Arriving at Jairus’s home, Jesus then ushers those cynically laughing at him out of the house and raises the child to life again before her father and mother.

Now we may reason, “That was then; this is now. Am I honestly to pray and believe that God is going to resurrect a loved one?” No, this isn’t quite what this passage is teaching, for such historical narrative first and foremost provides evidence that Jesus is God incarnate (rather than three principles for receiving an answer to prayer). However, the evidence of Jesus’s identity and power unfolds a very tangible application, and one that we find throughout the gospels. That is this: If God can really overcome death and raise someone to life, surely is God not also able to strengthen, heal, or provide for us in times of trouble? Furthermore, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). The question it seems then is whether we believe that this same life-giving power can be at work within us or whether we’ve resigned ourselves to “This is just the way it is.”

A widow without a family in first-century Greco-Roman society could have easily concluded “Why bother?” before a powerful judge who “neither feared God nor cared about men” and who refused her petition for justice.(1) Yet Jesus employs this very story to teach us about prayer. Refusing to believe that “this is just the way it is,” the widow persists in her cry for justice to the judge. “For some time he refused,” says Jesus. “But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'”

David Wells comments on this parable: “Nothing destroys petitionary prayer (and with it, a Christian view of God) as quickly as resignation. ‘At all times,’ Jesus declared, ‘we should pray’ and not ‘lose heart,’ thereby acquiescing to what is.”

For “what is” is not always “just the way it is” if we will bother to pray and not lose heart. Yes, such fearless persistence and prayer is indeed costly, yet to counter “Why bother?” is surely costlier still.

Danielle DuRant is research assistant for Ravi Zacharias at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) See Luke 18: 1-8.

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Joyce Meyer – Wilderness Mentality

 

The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, You have dwelt long enough on this mountain. Turn and take up your journey and go to the hill country of the Amorites …. Behold, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them. — Deuteronomy 1:6-8 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Battlefield of the Mind – by Joyce Meyer

Those of us who are parents know these words so well: “In a minute. Just a little longer. Pleeease?” We call our children to leave their playing and come inside, but they want just a little more time to stay out with their friends. For now, at least, they’re content playing and don’t want to think about getting cleaned up or eating dinner. It’s always, “Just a little longer”—if we let them. And at times, we adults act a little like those children who cry out, “Just a little longer!”

I’ve met miserable people—people who disliked their lives, hated their jobs, or were in intolerable relationships with the wrong kind of people. They knew they were miserable, but they did nothing about it. Their actions were saying, “Just a little longer.” A little longer for what? More pain? More discouragement? More unhappiness?

Those are the people who have what I call a wilderness mentality. To understand what I mean by that, we need to talk about the Israelites as Moses led them out of Egypt. If they had obeyed God, stopped grumbling, and moved straight ahead like God originally told them, they could have made the trip in eleven days, but it took them 40 years.

Why did they finally leave? Only because God said, “You have stayed long enough on this mountain.” If God hadn’t nudged them into the Promised Land, I wonder how long they would have stayed and longed to cross the Jordan.

They were people in bondage. Although they had seen miracles in Egypt and praised God when the Egyptian armies were defeated at the Red Sea, they were still in bondage. The chains of slavery were no longer on their bodies, but they had never removed those chains from their minds. That is living in the wilderness mentally.

For 40 years, they grumbled. They had no water, and then God provided it for them. They grumbled about the food. Manna was all right, but they wanted meat of some kind. No matter what the situation, they were still mental prisoners. As they had been in Egypt, so they were in the wilderness. No matter how good things became, they were never good enough. They had forgotten all the hardships and slavery in Egypt, and every time they were frustrated with Moses’ leadership they moaned, “Oh, if only we had stayed in Egypt.”

They had forgotten how bad things were, and they had no vision for how good things could get. When they had the chance to move into a new land, they were afraid. “There are giants in the land,” they cried out. They had seen God’s deliverance in the past, but they weren’t ready for it in the present.

Finally, God said, “Okay, it’s time to move out.” The Bible doesn’t tell us much about their attitude at that moment, but I imagine they cried out, “Let’s stay just a little longer. Things aren’t good here, but we know how to live in the wilderness. We’re afraid to leave this place—we’ve gotten used to it.”

If you don’t like your life, but you won’t make an effort to change, you may have a wilderness mentality. If your mind is constantly filled with negative thoughts, they will keep you from moving forward into the destiny God has for you.

However, you don’t have to waste any more time—you can do something about it! You can say, “I’ve stayed long enough at this mountain. Now I’m going into the Promised Land—the land where I’ll live in victory and defeat Satan’s plans.”

Prayer Starter: Father, please help me completely throw off the wilderness mentality. Thank You for helping me replace it with the Promised-Land mentality, and to live in freedom through Jesus! In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Forgets Our Sins

 

“And then he adds, ‘I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds'” (Hebrews 10:17).

We were seated at the breakfast table, talking about the exciting adventure of the Christian life. Chuck and Mary were just discovering new facets and understanding of the life in Christ.

“Can you tell us in a few words what should be our objective as Christians?” they asked me.

In very brief summary, I replied, “The Christian life is the process of becoming in our experience through the enabling of the Holy Spirit what we already are in God’s sight, in order to bring maximum glory, honor and praise to His name.”

Christ gave Himself to God for our sins – as one sacrifice for one time. Then He sat down at the place of highest honor at God’s right hand. For by that one offering He made forever perfect in the sight of God all those whom He is making holy.

I am perfect in God’s sight, because in His sight there is no such thing as time and space. Let me hasten to all: I know that I am not perfect in my experience. That is a process which takes time, knowledge of God and His Word, and growth in faith in order to claim these truths as reality in our lives.

I am perfect in God’s sight because He sees me in Christ, and in Christ, who is perfect and without sin. He sees me without spot or blemish. Someone has referred to this great experience of being crucified, baptized and enthroned with Christ as a different life altogether. As we are reminded in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV), “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Bible Reading: Hebrews 8:8-12

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Because God has forgiven and forgotten all my sins and lawless deeds. I will now, through the enabling of His Holy Spirit, receive His forgiveness and cleansing and never again be burdened with those sins of the past. I will claim my new supernatural life in Christ for the glory of God. Because this is such great good news, I will not keep it to myself. I must tell others.

 

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Max Lucado – Mature Truth

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Your family history doesn’t have to be your future. The generational garbage can stop here and now. Don’t give your kids what your ancestors gave to you. Talk to God about it, in detail. God, everyday I came home from school to find mom drunk, lying on the couch.  I had to take care of baby brother, do homework on my own.  It’s not right, God. Difficult, for certain.  But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Let Him replace “childish thinking” with mature truth.

A dear friend of mine was called to identify the body of his father who’d been shot by his ex-wife. The blast was just another in a long line of angry, violent family moments. He made this resolution:  “It stops with me.”  And it has! God wants to help you—for your sake!  Trust Him—you’ll 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 – Supreme Court ruling protects gay and transgender workers: Questions about religious freedom and three biblical certainties

“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” This is the conclusion of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion handed down yesterday. The court ruled that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful “for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual . . . because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The court, by a six-to-three margin, ruled that “sex” applies to homosexual and transgender persons.

When I saw the news, I thought immediately about religious liberty. Does the ruling mean that churches, Christian schools, ministries, and other religious institutions could be forced to violate our biblical convictions regarding gender and sexuality? If your church’s pastor declared that he was transgender, would your congregation be able to end his employment on that basis? Could a ministry refuse to hire a gay person on the basis of their sexual identity?

Let’s discuss what we know so far, then we’ll focus on three biblical responses to this issue.

“Questions for future cases” 

Jesus taught us to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). A free church in a free state is the biblical ideal, a conviction protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Yesterday’s ruling notes the objection that “complying with Title VII’s requirements in cases like ours may require some employers to violate their religious convictions.” Justice Gorsuch writes: “We are also deeply concerned with preserving the promise of the free exercise of religion enshrined in our Constitution; that guarantee lies at the heart of our pluralistic society.”

Then he adds: “But worries about how Title VII may intersect with religious liberties are nothing new; they even predate the statute’s passage.” He notes that Title VII includes an exception relating to “the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on . . . of its activities.” (In other words, Christian churches cannot be forced to hire Muslim ministers, or vice versa.)

He adds that the court has recognized that the First Amendment can protect religious institutions and its ministers from the application of employment discrimination laws. And he cites the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which “might supersede Title VII’s commands in appropriate cases.”

The court did not rule on this issue yesterday, since the employers whose cases it decided did not claim religious liberty infringement. Rather, Justice Gorsuch concludes that such religious liberty issues are “questions for future cases.”

In his dissent, however, Justice Samuel Alito warns that the ruling could have implications regarding bathroom access, women’s sports, housing, healthcare, employment by religious organizations, and freedom of speech. He believes that the court’s decision “will threaten freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and personal privacy and safety.”

Three biblical certainties

We do not know the full implications of yesterday’s ruling for religious freedom, but three biblical certainties are worth remembering today.

One: God creates us as male and female (Genesis 1:27; Mark 10:6) and intends sex for the covenant marriage of a man and a woman (Genesis 1:28; 2:18; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10). (For more, see my article, What Does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?)

Two: God loves all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a biblical passage censuring “men who practice homosexuality,” we also find these other sinners listed: the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). Do you recognize yourself? The good news is that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). All of us.

Three: We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), no matter how unpopular that truth becomes. I expect yesterday’s ruling to escalate public acceptance of LGBTQ lifestyles, which will also escalate public condemnation of those perceived to be “intolerant” on this issue. But as the apostles declared unpopular truth to the religious authorities of their day (cf. Acts 5:27–32), so we must proclaim God’s word “with all boldness” (Acts 28:31) and “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

In responding to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, ethicist Russell Moore notes: “We can be the people who recognize that those who disagree with us are our mission field, to be persuaded, not a sparring partner to denounce. We must have both conviction and kindness, both courage and patience, both truth and grace.”

How to outlove our critics 

The enemy is using our commitment to biblical sexuality against us by inciting our secular culture to condemn Christians and Christian beliefs as bigoted and intolerant. The best way to respond is to outlove our critics.

It is to love LGBTQ persons enough to risk their rejection by sharing God’s best with them in compassion and humility. It is to love our lost friends enough to risk their rejection by sharing God’s saving love with them in the same way.

However, we cannot give what we do not have. Before I can share God’s love with you, I must experience God’s love for myself. Craig Denison notes: “We’re meant to love others out of the overflow of God’s love for us.” He encourages us to make time to meet with our Father today and experience his transforming love. Then we can “ask him for his heart for people around you, and follow through with courage in love.”

Craig concludes: “If you will make it your goal to see God’s heart proclaimed through your life, you will experience more joy and purpose than you can imagine.”

Will you make this goal your passion today?

 

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