Charles Stanley – Sunday Reflection: A Light to Your Path

 

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the Scripture referenced throughout.

Electric lamps weren’t invented until the 1800s, so traveling in the first century at night would have been precarious. To navigate in the darkness, travelers carried lanterns to illuminate the area just ahead of them, but their view was still limited. This is what the psalmist was referring to when he said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Imagine just how deep darkness is without any surrounding light from nearby buildings or the city. It’s dangerous. A rural community like the one listening to Jesus as He preached the Sermon on the Mount would have understood the sense of direction and bearing a city glowing in the distance can offer. Jesus calls His followers to be a light in the world, a shining city on a hill (Matt. 5:14). Remember, in situations of increasing darkness, light becomes more brilliant.

Think about it
• When you find yourself seeking direction in your spiritual life, do you think of God’s Word as a light unto your feet? What helps you find your bearings?

  •  What are some ways you can be a light in your family, neighborhood, or workplace?

Bible in One Year: 1 Timothy 1-3

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — The Christmas Gift of Speech

 

Bible in a Year:

[Zechariah’s] mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.

Luke 1:64

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Luke 1:62–75

A post-surgical stroke had robbed Tom of his ability to speak, and he faced a long rehab journey. Weeks later, we were pleasantly surprised when he showed up at our church’s Thanksgiving service. We were even more surprised when he stood up to speak. Searching for what to say, he jumbled his words, repeated himself, and confused days and time. But one thing was clear: he was praising God! It’s possible to have your heart break and be blessed at the same moment. This was that kind of moment.

In the “pre-Christmas story” we meet a man who lost the gift of speech. Gabriel the angel appeared to Zechariah the priest and told him he would be the father of a great prophet (see Luke 1:11–17). Zechariah and his wife were elderly, so he doubted it. That’s when Gabriel told him he would not speak “until the day this happens” (v. 20).

The day did happen. And at the ceremony to name the miracle baby, Zechariah spoke. With his first words he praised God (v. 64). Then he said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them” (v. 68).

Like Zechariah, as soon as he was able, Tom’s response was to praise God. Their hearts were inclined toward the One who made their tongues and their minds. Regardless of what faces us this season, we can respond the same way.

By:  Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray

How do you respond when a crisis comes? What’s your reaction when you come through it?

Thank You, Father, for the gift of speech. In my times of doubt, be with me to strengthen my faith. Help me learn how to use language to draw near to and honor You.

 

 

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Joyce Meyer – Purity Leads to Power

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. — Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

 

In order to live in freedom, it’s important that we make up our minds to live for God no matter what. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to throw off every sin that entangles us; it’s virtually impossible to grow and succeed spiritually with known, willful sin in our lives. I don’t mean to say that we have to be absolutely perfect in order for God to use us, but I am saying that we must have an intentional, vigilant attitude about keeping sin out of our lives.

When God says something is wrong, then it is wrong. When He points sin out to us, we don’t need to discuss, theorize, blame, make excuses, or feel sorry for ourselves. We need to agree with God, thank Him for showing us where we’ve strayed off the right path, ask for forgiveness, and work with the Holy Spirit to get whatever it is out of our lives. Purity leads to power, and with God’s help, we can live abundant, powerful lives.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for showing me the sin in my life so that I can move away from it and live in freedom from it. Today, please help me set aside any sin that’s holding me back so I can live a pure, holy, power-filled life for You. Thank You for giving me the wisdom and grace I need to stay on the path You have for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Quick and Powerful

 

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, KJV).

Often, what you and I have to say may seem weak and insipid. But then we have the clear promise that it really will accomplish something, for it has several characteristics that guarantee such results.

First, the holy inspired Word of God is impregnated with the power of the Holy Spirit and is quick-living. It is energetic and active – not dead, inert or powerless.

Second, the Word is powerful. Its mighty power awakens the conscience, reveals our fears, bares the secret feelings of the heart and causes the sinner to tremble at the threat of impending judgement.

Third, the Word is sharp-sharper than a two-edged sword. The Word has power to penetrate. It reaches the heart, laying open our motives and feelings.

Fourth, the Word pierces-penetrates.

Fifth, the Word discerns-shows what our thoughts and intentions are. Men see their real character in the mirror of God’s Word.

Those are some of the reasons for choosing to use the Word of God in every possible situation, allowing it to be its own best defense. God’s Word will never return unto Him void.

Bible Reading: Psalm 1

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will make more use of the sword, the Word of God, as I draw upon God’s power to live supernaturally.

 

 

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Charles Stanley – Ending Habitual Sin

 

Ephesians 6:10-17

In the old testament, a stronghold was a place of safety and protection from enemy attack. We frequently see the term used to describe God in David’s writings—as, for example, in Psalm 18:2, Psalm 31:2, and Psalm 59:16.

A stronghold is also useful to the devil, but the kind he builds isn’t for refuge. (See 2 Corinthians 10:4.) Rather, it’s a prison to keep us locked in habitual sin—a place of constant deception and temptation.

For a believer, breaking out of this kind of stronghold may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. That’s because Christ has set us free from the dominion of sin, and God has provided spiritual armor for our protection. So why do we still struggle with habitual sin? The reason is because we receive temporary comfort, pleasure, and satisfaction from these ingrained patterns of behavior. However, any “benefit” is deceptive, and guilt and shame will eventually follow.

Just thinking about giving up a sinful habit brings some people to the brink of despair, even though they long to be free. But the Holy Spirit’s power is enough to enable any believer to walk out of Satan’s stranglehold and into God’s stronghold.

Bible in One Year: 2 Thessalonians 1-3

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Prayerful Wrestling

 

Bible in a Year:

Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.

Genesis 32:24

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Genesis 32:24–32

Dennis’ life was transformed after someone gave him a New Testament. Reading it captivated him, and it became his constant companion. Within six months, two life-changing events occurred in his life. He placed his faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins, and he was diagnosed with a brain tumor after experiencing severe headaches. Because of the unbearable pain, he became bedridden and unable to work. One painful, sleepless night he found himself crying out to God. Sleep finally came at 4:30 a.m.

Bodily pain can cause us to cry out to God, but other excruciating life circumstances also compel us to run to Him. Centuries before Dennis’ night of wrestling, a desperate Jacob faced off with God (Genesis 32:24–32). For Jacob, it was unfinished family business. He had wronged his brother Esau (ch. 27), and he feared that payback was imminent. In seeking God’s help in this difficult situation, Jacob encountered God face-to-face (32:30) and emerged from it a changed man.

And so did Dennis. After pleading with God in prayer, Dennis was able to stand up after being bedridden, and the doctor’s examination showed no signs of the tumor. Although God doesn’t always choose to miraculously heal us, we’re confident that He hears our prayers and will give us what we need for our situation. In our desperation we offer sincere prayers to God and leave the results to Him!

By:  Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray

What are you struggling with that you could bring before God in prayer? What are some of the benefits of praying from the depths of our hearts even when He chooses not to change the situation?

Father, help me to see that life’s difficulties and challenges are opportunities for me to seek You in prayer and to grow in my understanding of who You are.

 

 

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Joyce Meyer – Start Something Good

 

For there shall the seed produce peace and prosperity; the vine shall yield her fruit and the ground shall give its increase and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit and possess all these things. — Zechariah 8:12 (AMPC)

Start something good in someone’s life today. Plant faith for someone’s healing. Plant hope for restoration in a seemingly hopeless situation. A sincere compliment can plant life-changing confidence in someone who is starving for encouragement. Your forgiveness of an ongoing offense can plant a seed for a miracle breakthrough in that relationship.

Pray for someone else’s need, or give a gift to meet it yourself. Start something positive to honor God. Remember, He won’t ask you to give anything that He doesn’t give you the grace to give. When you’re obedient to give what He asks you to, you’ll eventually enjoy an abundant harvest in your own life.

Prayer Starter: Lord, please show me what and where You want me to give. Thank You for blessing me so I can bless the people around me, and for directing my steps. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – At Least As Much

 

“And if even sinful persons like yourselves give children what they need, don’t you realize that your heavenly Father will do at least as much, and give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for Him?” (Luke 11:13).

A Christian leader approached me after one of my messages on the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“I want to be a Spirit-filled person,” he said, “but I don’t know what to do. I have read many books about the Holy Spirit and have sincerely sought His fullness, but to no avail. I am seriously considering giving up Christian ministry and returning to a business career. Please help me.”

With great delight I shared with this earnest seeker the truths about the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We cannot have two masters.

There is a throne, a control center, in every life and either self or Christ is on that throne. This concept of Christ being on the throne is so simple that even a child can understand it.

It is such a simple truth, and yet, in its distilled essence, that is what the supernatural, Spirit-controlled life is all about – just keeping Christ on the throne. We do this when we understand how to walk in the control and power of the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit came for the express purpose of glorifying Christ by enabling the believer to live a holy life and to be a productive witness for the Savior.

The key to supernatural living is a life centered in the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. This supernatural life is often called the Spirit-filled Christian or the Christ-centered life. The spirit-filled Christian is one who, according to Romans 6:11, has considered himself to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Christ is now at the center of his life; He is Lord.

Bible Reading: Romans 8:9-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will not allow self to usurp the rightful place of Jesus Christ – in the person of His Holy Spirit – at the control center, the throne, of my life.

 

 

http://www.cru.org

Streams in the Desert for Kids – The Choir to End All Choirs

 

Revelation 14:3

Once in a while a writer in the Bible pulls the curtain back and we get to look into heaven. That’s what happens in Revelation 14. Wow! What a sight!

Picture this: There are 144,000 believers standing on top of a mountain. Soon there is the sound of harps being played before the throne of God and before the thrones of the twenty-four elders who are nearby. There are four creatures near the throne that are covered with eyes—even under their six wings. All these creatures constantly give glory, honor, and thanks to God. (See Revelation 4:4–11.) Then the 144,000 begin to sing a song about how they had been redeemed (saved) from the earth.

It is a song that only they can sing. It is a song of redemption. The angels cannot sing it. Only those who have experienced God’s grace and transforming power can sing this kind of song. What a choir!

Our life on earth, including the hardships, is part of our “training” to sing songs of redemption in heaven. When we accept salvation, we become part of the future choir. God’s Spirit says, “Let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). That’s all we have to do to join in the celebration around the throne of God at the end of time.

Dear Lord, I want to be a part of the great choir that sings around your throne in heaven. Amen.

Charles Stanley – The Changing Battle of Faith

 

James 1:2-8

Have you ever felt as if your Christian life swings back and forth like a pendulum between faith and doubt? This is a fairly common problem, especially in trying situations. Although you know what God’s Word says, your feelings may tell you something different.

The question is not if we’ll experience this, but when—and how long we’ll remain on one side or the other. Three factors can influence whether we lean toward faith or doubt: the state of our faith at the time of the trial; our knowledge and understanding of God; and our experience with failure or success in past trials.

To grow in faith, it is important that we …

  • Trust in God’s divine nature and wisdom.
    • View difficulties from a scriptural perspective.
    • Set our mind on God’s promises.
    • Reflect on the Lord’s past faithfulness, both in Scripture and personal experience.

We can stabilize our faith by choosing to trust God rather than circumstances or human wisdom. Our perspective of the world is limited and unreliable, but the truth of Scripture stands firm. You can know with certainty that the Lord is faithful and will see you through every situation.

Bible in One Year: 1 Thessalonians 1-5

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Morning Mist

 

Bible in a Year:

I have swept away your offenses . . . like the morning mist.

Isaiah 44:22

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Isaiah 44:9–11, 21–23

One morning I visited a pond near my house. I sat on an overturned boat, thinking and watching a gentle west wind chase a layer of mist across the water’s surface. Wisps of fog circled and swirled. Mini “tornadoes” rose up and then exhausted themselves. Before long, the sunlight cut through the clouds and the mist disappeared.

This scene comforted me because I connected it with a verse I’d just read: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist” (Isaiah 44:22). I visited the place hoping to distract myself from a series of sinful thoughts I’d been preoccupied with for days. Although I was confessing them, I began to wonder if God would forgive me when I repeated the same sin.

That morning, I knew the answer was yes. Through His prophet Isaiah, God showed grace to the Israelites when they struggled with the ongoing problem of idol worship. Although He told them to stop chasing false gods, God also invited them back to Himself, saying, “I have made you, you are my servant; . . . I will not forget you” (v. 21).

I don’t fully grasp forgiveness like that, but I do understand that God’s grace is the only thing that can dissolve our sin completely and heal us from it. I’m thankful His grace is endless and divine like He is, and that it’s available whenever we need it.

By:  Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Reflect & Pray

How is it possible to abuse God’s grace? What steps can you take to break free of sinful habits and experience His forgiveness?

Dear God, thank You for Your gracious presence in my life. I don’t want to live in habitual sin. Help me to feel the freedom that comes when I confess my sin and You erase it completely.

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Music Therapy as Treatment

 

“I had been given a cassette of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor–this was the only music I had, and I had been playing it for two weeks almost nonstop. Now suddenly, as I was standing, the concerto started to play itself with intense vividness in my mind. In this moment, the natural rhythm and melody of walking came back to me, and along with this, the feeling of my leg as alive, as part of me once again. I suddenly ‘remembered’ how to walk.”(1) So writes renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks in his book Musicophilia, describing his personal recovery following a serious injury to his leg in a climbing accident.

Sacks perhaps became more popularly known as the real life individual who inspired the character portrayed by Robin Williams in the 1990 film, Awakenings, a film later nominated for an Oscar. But the description The New York Times bestowed upon him as “the poet laureate of medicine” well sums up an impressive biography that includes the story of a physician, scientist, writer, and artist. A fascinating man, a lengthy article could be written in attempt to do yet small justice to a remarkable life story and his pursuit of treatment for those suffering from illnesses like autism, parkinsonism, epilepsy, phantom limb syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, schizophrenia, and the great pandemic of sleepy sickness following World War I. For today, I want to bring a magnifying glass to his research of music therapy as treatment for the above mentioned conditions, and more.

His writing in Musicophilia explores the power of music to move us, to heal us, and to haunt us. While he often draws from his experience with patients, I like the words one reporter wrote when he described the role of music in Sacks’ own recovery: “his own mind was his best laboratory.” For this is true for all of us, perhaps.

What is it about music that can awake one out of catatonic state and can instantly carry us back to a time and memory etched in our minds long ago? Sacks says that music is processed in multiple centers of the brain, more even than language. Thus, when one or even several centers incur damage, the ability to process music is still alive in the surviving rooms of our mind. “In the senile, music can help recall lost memories; in the speech-impaired, it can bring back words,” the neurologist writes. “Immobile patients may get up and dance or sing.”(2)

Not long ago, I had the privilege of bearing witness to music therapy. I observed children on the spectrum of autism and Asperger’s clench their fists with determination as they focused their energy and desire to press their lips together to form the letter b, in response to the skilled music therapist looking them so sincerely in their eye as she provided a therapeutic answer cloaked in musical notes to help them confront their challenge. I swallowed hard as I glimpsed the ever so slight movement of a wounded veteran paralyzed by a brain injury as he answered her invitation to sing a favorite Blues Brothers song he learned to love long before his accident on the battlefield. It is a fascinating field helping people to override the limitations of the body in favor of the strength and awakening of the mind. It is providing a quality of life, a reminder of the life within.

I have always been one deeply affected by music, and often noticed how the sounds of a familiar tune can take me back to the sights and even smells of a certain time. I might struggle to recall my current zip code, but I can remember each word of a song I have not heard in over 25 years. And recently, I have been exploring the potential for healing found in the gift of music. I am fascinated by its reach, amazed by the depth of its capacity. And oh! Now how I regret my incessant protests to piano practice that eventually wore down my weary mother who finally allowed me to quit in my teenage years!

When the magnificent workings of the human body incur injury and fail us, how incredible is it that God as master artist and designer equipped us with something we carry inside that extends beyond language into that which cannot be fully articulated, and connects us to all of the emotions of life from celebration, to mourning, to laughter, to remorse, to worship.

“I have seen patients weep or shiver as they listen to music they have never heard before,” writes Sacks. “Once one has seen such responses, one knows that there is still a self to be called upon, even if music, and only music, can do the calling.”(3)

For the believer, music is but a marvelous gift and tool for the one who created our innermost being to do the calling and remind us, to awaken, what is locked inside. We marvel at the symphony: how do we begin to marvel at the one who designed each one of its several hundred individual components and the ability to interpret and understand it in the spaces of our mind, to see its reach to the places it can heal?

Naomi Zacharias is Director of Wellspring International.

(1) Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia (New York, Random House: 2008), 255.

(2) Jordan Lite, “Oliver Sacks: Music can heal the brain” Daily News, October 29, 2007.

(3) Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia, 385.

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Joyce Meyer – God’s Vision for You

 

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. — Jeremiah 29:11 (AMPC)

God’s plan for the people of Israel was only for their good, yet they wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years on what was actually an 11-day journey. Why? Was it their enemies, their circumstances, the trials along the way, or something entirely different that kept them from arriving at their destination in a timely manner?

To really know the answer to this question, let’s look back a little. God had called the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt to go to the land He had promised to give them as a perpetual inheritance—a land that flowed with milk, honey and every good thing they could imagine—a land in which there would be no shortage of anything they needed—a land of prosperity in every realm of their existence.

But the Israelites had no positive vision for their lives—no dreams. They knew where they came from, but they didn’t know where they were going. Everything was based on what they had seen in the past or what they could presently see—they didn’t know how to see the future with eyes of faith.

We really shouldn’t view the Israelites with astonishment, because most of us unknowingly do the same thing they did; we keep dealing with the same problems over and over again. The disappointing result is that it takes us years to experience victory over something that could have and should have been dealt with quickly.

I come from a background of abuse. My childhood was filled with fear and torment, and my personality was a mess! I built up walls of protection to keep people from hurting me, not realizing that while I was locking others out, I was also locking myself in. I was filled with fear, and believed that the only way I could face life was to be in control so no one could hurt me.

As a young adult trying to live for Christ and follow the Christian lifestyle, I knew where I had come from, but I didn’t know where I was going. I felt that my future would always be marred by my past. I thought, How could anyone with a past like mine ever be all right? It’s impossible!

But Jesus had a different plan. He said, The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me . . . to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity] (Luke 4:18).

Jesus came to open the prison doors and set the captives free—and that included me. However, I did not make any progress until I started to believe that I really could be set free. I had to get rid of my negative thinking and replace it with a positive vision for my life—God’s vision for me. I had to believe that neither my past nor my present could determine my future. Only then could Jesus free me from the bondage of my past—and free me, He did. Looking back, I realize what a miracle that was!

You may have had a miserable past; you might even be in current circumstances that are extremely negative and depressing. You may be facing situations that are so bad it seems you have no real reason to hope. But I say to you boldly: Your future is not determined by your past or your present!

Most of the generation the Lord called out of Egypt never entered into the Promised Land. Instead, they died in the wilderness. To me, this is one of the saddest things that can happen to a child of God—to have so much available and yet never be able to enjoy any of it.

Start believing that God’s Word is true. Mark 9:23 reminds you that with God all things are possible. Because you serve a God who created everything you see out of the unseen realm (see Hebrews 11:3), you can give Him your nothingness and watch Him go to work on your behalf. All you have to do is have faith in Him and believe His Word—He will do the rest!

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for loving me and having a vision—a good plan—for my life. Please help me overcome any negative mindsets that are keeping me from the future You have for me, and make my life what You want it to be. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A Place of Rest

 

“So there is a full complete rest still waiting for the people of God. Christ has already entered there. He is resting from His work, just as God did after the creation. Let us do our best to go into that place of rest, too, being careful not to disobey God as the children of Israel did, thus failing to get in” (Hebrews 4:9-11).

A Christian leader was asked: “How do you handle the incredible pressure of your schedule – speaking, writing, giving leadership to a great movement that touches the lives of millions of people around the world? How do you do it? You must carry a tremendous load!”

The inquirer was surprised at the response. “No, quite honestly I don’t carry the load. I’m not under any pressure. I made a great discovery, probably the greatest discovery that a Christian can make. In the Christian life there is a place of rest which one enters by faith and obedience. No matter how great the pressure, or how terrible the testing, the supernatural resources of God sustain, empower, bless and encourage us and our Lord carries the load and fights for us.”

Though few Christians ever enter into this rest, it is available to all believers. When the Israelites were on their way to the promised land, God had already prepared the hearts of the inhabitants, filling them with fear. There is reason to believe that they would have capitulated readily. But when the twelve spies returned after forty days of checking out the land, ten of them reported, “There are giants in the land, and we felt like grasshoppers in their sight.” Only Joshua and Caleb said, “Let’s go in and take the land. God has withdrawn His blessing from the people and He will fight for us.”

But three million Israelites agreed with the majority report, and as a result, wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Why did it take so long for them to enter the land God had already given them? Because, as recorded in verse 2, they failed to mix the promises of God with faith.

Why does the average Christian not enter into a place of rest with God – that supernatural life which produces an abundance of fruit? Because he fails to mix the promises of God with faith. That is what this book, Promises, is all about – to remind us daily of our heritage as children of God and to show us how we can draw upon the mighty, inexhaustible resources of deity to live the supernatural life. Are you experiencing the life of the Spirit? Have you entered into God’s rest? If not, you can begin to do so now.

Bible Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: As an act of faith and obedience, I will enter that place of rest and I will encourage every believer with whom I have contact today to join me in the adventure.

 

 

http://www.cru.org

Denison Forum – Is the US in contact with aliens? The empowering key to a life of transforming grace

 

Haim Eshed is the former head of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s space directorate. A respected professor and retired general, he made headlines recently with his claim that “there is an agreement between the US government and the aliens. They signed a contract with us to do experiments here.”

He states that extraterrestrials from a “galactic federation” are working with American astronauts in an “underground base in the depths of Mars.” The reason they have not made their existence public before is that “they have been waiting until today for humanity to develop and reach a stage where we will understand, in general, what space and spaceships are.”

White House and Israeli officials have not yet commented, but NASA states, “We have yet to find signs of extraterrestrial life.”

A perceptive question 

Whatever your view about life on other planets, I can tell you how God feels about life on this one.

In a recent radio interview, I was asked a perceptive question: How is the manner of Jesus’ birth relevant to us twenty centuries later? My answer was that our Lord was born in the humblest way imaginable to show that he will go anywhere he is invited.

From tax collectors to prostitutes, lepers to Gentiles and even Roman soldiers, the early church included some of the most scorned people in their culture. Because they were welcomed in the family of God, we can know that all are welcome.

This simple fact is especially relevant to these pandemic days. Yesterday, more Americans died from COVID-19 than died on 9/11. A New York Times article warns that “the coronavirus winter will bring special challenges for our already battered psyches” as we deal with longer nights, indoor isolation, and holiday-related stress in addition to the escalating pandemic and loss of loved ones. Continue reading Denison Forum – Is the US in contact with aliens? The empowering key to a life of transforming grace

Charles Stanley – Confidence Amidst Distress

Psalm 46

It seems as if the world today is constantly changing. This might cause us to be filled with anxiety unless we remember that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Disturbing times should remind us we are only pilgrims on this earth. Our citizenship is in a heavenly kingdom that can never be shaken.

The commotion of this current world is nothing unprecedented. I remember 1944 being a year of tremendous turmoil in our country because of World War II. Many people anxiously listened to the evening news, fearing the death of loved ones as battles in various locations were reported.

When times are frightening and uncertain—whether personally, nationally, or globally—the place to find comfort and assurance is the Bible, especially the book of Psalms. Scripture helps us look at circumstances from God’s perspective. That reassures us of His love and care for us and lifts our eyes to a higher hope than anything this world can offer.

We all want to find peace, and the first step is to cease striving (Psalm 46:10). Remember that the Lord is always with you, and know that His kingdom is coming.

Bible in One Year: Colossians 1-4

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Our Daily Bread — The True Servant

 

Bible in a Year:

Being found in appearance as a man, [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:8

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Philippians 2:6–11

In 27 bc, the Roman ruler Octavian came before the Senate to lay down his powers. He’d won a civil war, become the sole ruler of that region of the world, and was functioning like an emperor. Yet he knew such power was viewed suspiciously. So Octavian renounced his powers before the Senate, vowing to simply be an appointed official. Their response? The Roman Senate honored the ruler by crowning him with a civic crown and naming him the servant of the Roman people. He was also given the name Augustus—the “great one.”

Paul wrote of Jesus emptying Himself and taking on the form of a servant. Augustus appeared to do the same. Or had he? Augustus only acted like he was surrendering his power but was doing it for his own gain. Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). Death on a Roman cross was the worst form of humiliation and shame.

Today, a primary reason people praise “servant leadership” as a virtue is because of Jesus. Humility wasn’t a Greek or Roman virtue. Because Jesus died on the cross for us, He’s the true Servant. He’s the true Savior.

Christ became a servant in order to save us. He “made himself nothing” (v. 7) so that we could receive something truly great—the gift of salvation and eternal life.

By:  Glenn Packiam

Why is it true that we’re never out of God’s reach? What does it mean for you to know that Jesus is the Servant who suffered and died in order to save you?

Dear Jesus, thank You for giving Your life for me. Your servanthood wasn’t a show but the reality of Your love for me. Fill my heart with love and gratitude today.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Waiting for Light

 

In ancient cities, sentinels kept vigil on the city walls throughout the night. Long, difficult hours of waiting and watching characterized the sentinel’s evenings. The watcher’s role was well understood as vital for the protection of the city and the welfare of its citizens. Morning, nonetheless, meant great relief, both for the watchmen who kept vigil throughout the darkness and for the city within the walls.

Making use of this laden imagery, biblical writers often juxtaposed the role of watchman waiting for morning and the work of the prophet. Through long, dark hours of slavery and exile, cultural stubbornness and crushing despair, the prophets kept watch, calling out injustices, calling forth awareness, peace, repentance, and the unimaginable love of a God who would not let go. Jeremiah cried out, “This is what the LORD says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.'” Isaiah expanded the imagery of the sentinel’s watch even further, suggesting watchful eyes throughout the kingdom of God, servants who hold vigil day and night, watching for light even when presently surrounded by darkness. “Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion.”(1)

 

An old man in Jerusalem named Simeon was one such sentinel. All that is known of him is that he was righteous and devout, and looked forward to the consolation of his broken land. Led by the Spirit one day, he went to the temple to offer the customary sacrifice, when he noticed an infant in the arms of a young, peasant woman. Taking the baby in his arms, he began to sing:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,

according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.”(2)

A watchman who had kept vigil through long years of darkness, Simeon sees the infant Jesus in plain sight and uses the language of a slave who has been freed. There is a sense of immediacy and relief, as if the light of morning has finally arrived after years of shadow and night, and he is at last free to leave his post.

The feast of Epiphany, the historical Christian day that celebrates the arrival of the magi to the birthplace of Jesus, tells a similar story. Matthew describes a vigilant scene not unlike that of Simeon at the temple or sentinels on the city wall. Astrologers from the east followed a lone star through a great expanse of darkness to come upon a newborn king. Their watchful journey took years. It impelled further darkness as Herod’s jealousy reared an evil demand for the murder of infant boys throughout Bethlehem. It was a solitary journey, disregarded by the masses and wrought with difficulty. But the light was real and relieving. “Nations shall come to your light,” sang the prophet of this child, “and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:3).

With those who first watched and waited for God to step from the heavens and into our darkness, Epiphany is a reminder that ours is still a world straining in shadow, with our glimpses of light, waiting. Like those who first journeyed to set their eyes on the child born to die, we move through long nights, often finding ourselves out of place, in the dark, straining to see more. The Christian story is a declaration that Jesus can transform this watching and waiting, our lives and our deaths, bringing light where death stings, where tears discourage, and darkness haunts. “I wait for the Lord,” sang the psalmist, “my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” The night is surely long, but indeed, what if the light is real?

By Jill Carattini.

(1) cf. Jeremiah 6:16-17, Isaiah 52:8.

(2) Story told in Luke 2:26-32.

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Joyce Meyer – God’s Way Is Always Best

 

For who has known the mind of the Lord and who has understood His thoughts, or who has [ever] been His counselor? — Romans 11:34 (AMPC)

We need to come to the realization that God is smarter than we are. His plan really is better—way is better than ours. I look back now at many of the frustrating times I went through trying to make things happen in my own timing and being frustrated about waiting, and I realize now that I really wasn’t ready for them. God knew I wasn’t ready yet, but I thought I was. I spent so much of my time asking, “Why, God, why?” and “When, God, when?” I asked questions only God had the answers to, and He knew I wasn’t able to handle the answers yet.

I have discovered over the years that trusting God often requires unanswered questions. When we face confusing situations, we need to say, “Lord, this does not make any sense to me, but I’m choosing to trust You. I believe You love me and that You’ll bring Your best for me at the right time.” God doesn’t need our advice in order to work; He needs our faith.

In Exodus 33:13, Moses prayed for God to show him His ways: “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You [progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, perceiving and recognizing and understanding more strongly and clearly] and that I may find favor in Your sight.”

We should pray that prayer regularly, remembering that God’s ways include His timing. When we do, He’ll give us the grace to be patient, and the wisdom to know what to do in the meantime.

Prayer Starter: Father, please help me trust Your timing and process. I don’t want to force things to happen, so give me the grace to stay patient. Thank You for showing me how to move forward, and for working behind the scenes for my good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Teach You Much

 

“But when the Father sends the Comforter instead of Me – and by the Comforter I mean the Holy Spirit – He will teach you much, as well as remind you of everything I myself have told you” (John 14:26).

Some years ago, at one of our week-long Lay Institutes for Evangelism, attended by more than 4,000 trainees, I gave a message on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Afterward, a missionary who had just retired after 20 years of service in Africa came to see me. He was very excited as he came to share how, during that meeting, he had finally found what he had sought throughout his entire Christian life.

“Today, as you spoke,” he said, “I was filled with the Spirit. For 20 years I have tried to serve God on the mission field, but I have served Him in the energy of the flesh and have had very little results. Now, though I have retired and returned to America, I want to go back to Africa.

“This time, I want to concentrate on working just with missionaries, because I know from experience that many of them are still searching for what I have sought all these years. The most important message I can take to them is how they can be filled with the Holy Spirit by faith.

“I want to teach them what you taught me so that they, in turn, will be able to teach the Africans how they too can be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. J. Edwin Orr, a leading authority on spiritual revival, describes the Holy Spirit as “the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Christ. He is the Lord of the harvest, supreme in revival, evangelism and missionary endeavor.”

“Without His consent, plans are bound to fail. It behooves us as Christians to fit our tactical operations into the plan of His strategy, which is the reviving of the church and the evangelization of the world.”

Bible Reading: John 14:13-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will look to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit for the spiritual lessons I need to learn today and claim His power to serve the Lord Jesus Christ supernaturally.

 

 

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