Charles Stanley – Living in God’s Favor

 

Romans 6

Once we have received the favor of God through salvation, does it matter how we behave? Today’s passage responds with an emphatic yes. After receiving God’s gracious salvation, we are not to continue acting in ways displeasing to Him. Instead we’re to walk in newness of life and consider ourselves dead to sin.

This truth is affirmed by Paul’s life. Upon his conversion, the apostle was radically changed, and he began living with single-minded devotion and obedience to Christ. After being rescued from bondage to sin and receiving the best possible Master, he’d have been foolish to return to his former state.

Divine grace frees us so that we are no longer slaves to sin—we are not just rescued from its penalty. And because our heavenly Father empowers us to know Him through Scripture, we can live in a manner that honors Him and produces lasting fruit.

How well do you know God? Pleasing Him requires learning to think the way He does, and this means His Word must be a vital part of your life. It also necessitates choosing His way over your own. Although this may seem like a costly way to live, the outcome is worth every sacrifice.


Bible in One Year:
Isaiah 50-53

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — God’s Mercy at Work

 

Bible in a Year:

May the Lord judge between you and me.

1 Samuel 24:12

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Samuel 24:1–10

My anger percolated when a woman mistreated me, blamed me, and gossiped about me. I wanted everyone to know what she’d done—wanted her to suffer as I’d suffered because of her behavior. I steamed with resentment until a headache pierced my temples. But as I began praying for my pain to go away, the Holy Spirit convicted me. How could I plot revenge while begging God for relief? If I believed He would care for me, why wouldn’t I trust Him to handle this situation? Knowing that people who are hurting often hurt other people, I asked God to help me forgive the woman and work toward reconciliation.

The psalmist David understood the difficulty of trusting God while enduring unfair treatment. Though David did his best to be a loving servant, King Saul succumbed to jealousy and wanted to murder him (1 Samuel 24:1–2). David suffered while God worked things out and prepared him to take the throne, but still he chose to honor God instead of seeking revenge (vv. 3–7). He did his part to reconcile with Saul and left the results in God’s hands (vv. 8–22).

When it seems others are getting away with wrongdoing, we struggle with the injustice. But with God’s mercy at work in our hearts and the hearts of others, we can forgive as He’s forgiven us and receive the blessings He’s prepared for us.

By:  Xochitl Dixon

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Twists and Turns

 

One of the wonderful gifts of being young is the endless optimism about the future. It seems that infinite possibilities stretch out before you; creative energy flows freely and there is a vitality that enlivens each new path and experience. All the roads before you open up and offer smooth transport to the attainment of one dream after another.

When I was a young child, the wisdom sayings of King Solomon were some of my favorite passages in the Bible. Their prescriptions offered an optimistic view of life for those who sought to follow the God. For some reason, the words seemed to bounce with joy, energy, and a sense of lightness. For example, “trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will make your paths straight” were verses that seemed to indicate God’s direct guidance for all his children into happy, straight pathways. I inferred that trusting in God’s guidance would be the result of walking down all the wonderful, straight pathways that lay out before me. I would willingly and gladly walk towards the attainment of all my goals, desires, and dreams.

While these are still precious Scripture verses to me, I have come to understand them differently as an adult. The trust I proclaimed seemed easy as everything went my way. I didn’t rely on my own understanding because I didn’t have to! But, as is true of much of the human experience, my roads did not all run straight. When dreams began to die, life-goals went unmet, and desires dried up, I realized the challenge these verses really offer.

In his book, A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis writes on the challenging nature of belief. “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box.”(1) Indeed, as many of my life goals unraveled before me, ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding’ took on new meaning in the face of absence, want, and unfulfillment. Real trust in God would be forged out of the fires of testing—testing that revealed whether or not I really believed in God, or in what God would give me. So, as God had seemingly abandoned my plans, my test of trust began.

C.S. Lewis picks up this theme in his marvelous book The Screwtape Letters. For maturation to take place, God must withdraw “all the supports and incentives” and “leave the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish.” He continues this thought through the character of Uncle Screwtape, the senior demon coaching his nephew Wormwood on the skills of devilry: “It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He [God] wants it to be. Only then, when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”(2)

It is often when our paths are most crooked, when the “props” of the journey are nowhere to be found that we are most vulnerable to find other things in which to place trust. The withdrawn supports offer a painful challenge to grow up, and to allow trust to grow up as well. Here is where we learn to trust even while feeling lost and abandoned to crooked, twisting, and unsafe paths; paths we thought would lead us to our plans, dreams, and desires.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.The journey from youth to adulthood is surely filled with many crooked paths. Many get lost along the way. Yet, the promise of this ancient proverb is that God can and will make paths straight for those who find trust—trust that often is matured by struggle and the courage to trod down crooked paths of disappointment.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: Harper-Collins, 1961), 34.
(2) C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Harper-Collins, 2001), 40.

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Joyce Meyer – The Wonder of God’s Mercy

 

Praised (honored, blessed) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)! By His boundless mercy we have been born again to an ever-living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. — 1 Peter 1:3 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource The Power of Being Thankful – by Joyce Meyer

The mercy of God toward each of us is something that we can always be thankful for. Charles Spurgeon once said, “God’s mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the sea of its water or deprive the sun of its light or make space too narrow, than diminish the great mercy of God.”

Wow! Think about that. Can any one of us drain the sea? We might be able to drain a bathtub or a pool . . . but not the ocean! That gives you an idea of God’s immense mercy toward us. Although God does hate sin, and injustice breaks His heart, He is not an angry God. He is full of mercy, not holding our sins against us. We can never do so much wrong that there is no more mercy left for us. Thankfully, where sin abounds, grace always abounds even more. So if you’re feeling like you’re beyond God’s mercy, know that He stands ready and willing to forgive and embrace you, no matter what… because He loves you.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You so much for Your endless mercy. Even when You’re saddened by my sin, I know that You love me, and You hear my prayers. Thank You for forgiving me and helping me start fresh. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Never Too Busy

 

“He will listen to the prayers of the destitute for He is never too busy to heed their requests” (Psalm 102:17).

As a relatively young Christian businessman, I was deacon of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. I was asked to be the chairman of all of our deputation ministry involving more than 100 college- and post college-age men and women who dedicated their lives to serving Christ in the hospitals, jails and skid row missions.

On many occasions it was my responsibility and privilege to speak at various mission meetings attended by hundreds of destitute winos, alcoholics, drug addicts and others who had lost their way and were now in desperate need of help, physically and spiritually. God always ministered to me as well as to them for I seldom spoke to such a group without my heart being deeply stirred. Inevitably I found myself reaching out to these men, poor, dejected, discouraged, many of whom had not bathed for months, and yet I found myself embracing them in the name of Jesus, pleading with them to allow Him to turn the tragedy of their lives into His eternal triumph. Many did and with life-changing results.

But unfortunately, there were far more who refused Christ. I am reminded of one with whom I pleaded to surrender his life to Christ and receive the gift of God’s grace. He had, through the ravages of drink, lost his wife, his children, his business and even his health. He had absolutely nothing left, but his response to my insistence that he receive Christ was, “I cannot, I have too much to give up.” I could hardly believe my ears! God was waiting with arms outstretched, eager to embrace him with His love and forgiveness, to transform his life. Let us never forget that this is God’s desire for every person for He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Bible Reading: Psalm 102:18-28

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will encourage others, rich and poor, old and young, all who are spiritually destitute, to turn to God, who loves and forgives, that they, too may experience eternal and supernatural life.

 

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Max Lucado – God Gave Himself

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

This is John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life!”  I read these words and realize they are to Scripture what the Mississippi River is to America— an entryway into the heartland.  Any serious consideration of Christ must include them!

God so loved the world.  We’d expect an anger-fueled God.  One who punishes the world, forsakes the world, but loves the world?  This world?  And He loves so much he gave his…declarations?  Rules?  Dicta?  Edicts?  No, the mind-bending claim of John 3:16 is this:  God gave his Son…his only Son!  Scripture equates Jesus with God.  God then, gave himself so that whoever believes in him shall not perish!

Read more 3:16: The Numbers of Hope

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – Two sisters reunite after fifty years because of COVID-19: The peril of self-reliance and the power of Spirit-dependence

Doris Crippen, age seventy-three, was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and became a patient at a rehabilitation center in Nebraska. Bev Boro, a medication aide, has worked at the facility for more than two decades.

Last month, Bev was looking over her patient list when she recognized Doris’s name. She was shocked: Doris is her older sister, though the two have not seen each other in more than fifty years.

The two share a father but were born to different mothers. Doris was raised by her mother and stepfather and was twenty years old when she last saw Bev. The women knew each other’s names and spent years searching for each other without success. Then the pandemic brought them together.

Despite the suffering Doris has endured, she told a reporter, “I am the happiest person in the world. I cannot believe I finally found my sister.”

We all love stories that have such happy endings, especially during days of pandemic pain and economic suffering. But what do we do with stories that don’t end so well? With family members and friends who don’t recover from this horrible disease? With prayers that seem unanswered?

  1. T. Wright, one of the most profound theologians of our generation, notes that lament is a central part of our faith. Psalms that express anger, frustration, and pain to God are in Scripture for a reason. Some of them, as Wright observes, “come out the other side into the light. And sometimes . . . they simply don’t. They stay in the dark. And there’s a sense that God is with us in that darkness.”

Yesterday we focused on our need for the power of God to live as the people of God. Today, we’ll examine perhaps the greatest obstacle to experiencing such power in painful times.

Learning from the Old West 

I’m reading Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West by H. W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin. One of the facts his fascinating narrative reinforces on nearly every page is the frailty of life on the frontier.

Settlers moving west were one Indian raid or hard winter from annihilation. Starvation was an ever-present possibility. A broken leg in the wilderness could mean a horrible death from infection or wild animals.

As a result, those on the frontier knew they needed God and each other to survive. Generations facing the Great Depression and two world wars learned the same lesson.

However, our technological and medical advances have insulated us from much of what they faced. The rising secularism and moral relativism that have resulted from our cultural self-sufficiency now threaten our souls.

And our churches as well.

The problem with church-growth seminars 

I was called to my first pastorate in 1984, just as the church-growth movement was gaining momentum. The scientific study of growing churches led to identifying best practices that could be emulated in other congregations. Before long, church-growth conferences hosted by megachurches became mandatory for pastors of smaller churches. I attended at least one a year in my early years as a pastor and read the literature produced by this movement extensively.

The purpose of these resources was to identify biblical principles that all churches should understand and seek to practice. The downside, however, was the sense—however unintended by leaders in the movement—that if churches organized themselves strategically, created worship and teaching experiences that appealed to a consumeristic culture, and marketed their services and events effectively, their growth was assured.

The fact is, human words cannot save human souls. You and I cannot convict anyone of their sins or lead them to repentance. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He will use us to the degree that we depend on him.

If our church growth strategies are submitted to the Spirit in passionate prayer and utter dependency, he will use them for God’s glory. But only then. Otherwise, we are building buildings and attracting numbers, but we are not growing God’s kingdom.

When God gives us “overcoming life” 

The coronavirus pandemic proves our mortality. The recession demonstrates the unpredictability and unreliability of wealth and the folly of self-reliance.

However, if we reframe the sufferings we face as an invitation to seek the strength of our Savior, he will redeem them by leading us into the spiritual renewal we need so desperately.

Oswald Chambers observed: “God does not give us overcoming life: he gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength.”

We can illustrate this principle physically. To get stronger, we must strain the muscles we intend to build. In the same way, when we develop the reflex of trusting our problems and pain to the power of Jesus, we experience his presence and peace in transforming ways.

“This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope” 

Speaking of biblical lament, the writer of Lamentations set the standard with his deep, despairing grief over the destruction of Jerusalem. At one point he testifies of “my afflictions and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!” (Lamentations 3:19).

But his despair leads him to make this decision: “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv. 21–23).

What is the source of your “hope” today?

 

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