Denison Forum – Novak Djokovic, floods in Louisiana, and outages in NYC: The power of perseverance

 

Novak Djokovic won the longest Wimbledon final in tournament history yesterday by defeating Roger Federer in a match lasting nearly five hours. “I hope I give some people a chance to believe that at 37 it’s not over yet,” Federer said after losing the fifth set, thirteen games to twelve. “I gave it all I had and I still feel alright.”

There are times when perseverance is the only way to confront adversity. Consider two other examples in the news.

Forecasters are warning of the potential for “dangerous, life-threatening flooding” as Tropical Storm Barry continues to creep northward across Louisiana. Coast Guard helicopters rescued people stranded on rooftops while Louisiana’s National Guard deployed some three thousand soldiers around the state. More than 51,000 customers in the state are still without power this morning.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers are recovering from a massive blackout over the weekend that affected more than 72,000 Con Edison customers along thirty blocks from Times Square to the Upper West Side. The outage shut down Broadway shows and a Jennifer Lopez concert in Madison Square Garden.

After Hamilton was canceled, its cast sang from the windows of their theater to crowds on the street below. When Carnegie Hall was evacuated, the musicians moved their concert to the street outside. The cause of the outage is still under investigation this morning.

Landing on an asteroid

In a day when humans can land a spacecraft on an asteroid and cameras can automatically translate signs for travelers, it is hard to understand why we must live at the mercy of forces we cannot predict or control. But we do.

Neither Novak Djokovic nor Roger Federer deserved to lose yesterday’s magnificent Wimbledon final. Victims of the storms in Louisiana and power outages in New York City did nothing to cause their plight. You are probably dealing with challenges today you did not expect or deserve.

When we are treated unfairly, it’s only natural to blame someone. In the Garden of Eden, Adam blamed Eve, then Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:12–13). When Cain killed Abel, he blamed God for his punishment (Genesis 4:13–14). The Israelites in the wilderness complained to Moses when they ran out of water (Exodus 17:1–3); Moses then complained to God (v. 4).

“You have not passed this way before”

In Seven Types of Atheism, John Gray defines an atheist as “anyone with no use for the idea of a divine mind that has fashioned the world.” Some atheists consider religion to be an erroneous hypothesis and want to deify science; others claim humans are gradually improving and have no need of a deity; still others believe that the world is nothing more than “a progress towards death.”

Continue reading Denison Forum – Novak Djokovic, floods in Louisiana, and outages in NYC: The power of perseverance

Charles Stanley – Unshakeable Foundation

 

2 Peter 3:10-13

With each passing year, the instability in the world seems more and more apparent. Natural and man-made catastrophes claim lives; political balance shifts; wealth and status come and go. It all causes us to ask, Is anything unshakeable?

As overwhelming as these things seem, let me give you an even bigger example. In today’s passage, we read that the heavens and earth will be shaken. It will all be destroyed—burned, to be exact. Thankfully, we have the promise that God will create new heavens and a new earth, but in the meantime our world will undergo great turmoil.

Instability can create feelings of insecurity and fear unless we latch onto the truths God has given us. The Bible refers to Jesus as a rock and firm foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11; Eph. 2:20). And we know that God is unchangeable and sovereign; nothing can undermine or move Him. His Word is truth, and it will last forever.

As Christians, we know that our eternal relationship with God is secure. We’ve been adopted as His children, and nothing can rob us of this position. What’s more, believers are assured of an eternal home with Him. Though we may at times feel unsettled by our circumstances, we can rejoice when trials bring us humbly to the cross of Jesus, where we will find peace and safety.

What assurance we have as God’s children! We can rest in peace and full confidence, knowing that our hearts are secure in Jesus Christ. As King David said in Psalm 16:8, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Bible in One Year: Psalm 79-84

 

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Our Daily Bread — Your Eulogy

 

Bible in a Year:Job 5–7; Acts 8:1–25

Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:2

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Ecclesiastes 7:1–6

My heart is full from attending the funeral of a faithful woman. Her life wasn’t spectacular. She wasn’t known widely outside her church, neighbors, and friends. But she loved Jesus, her seven children, and her twenty-five grandchildren. She laughed easily, served generously, and could hit a softball a long way.

Ecclesiastes says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting” (7:2). “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning” because there we learn what matters most (7:4). New York Times columnist David Brooks says there are two kinds of virtues: those that look good on a résumé and those you want said at your funeral. Sometimes these overlap, though often they seem to compete. When in doubt, always choose the eulogy virtues.

The woman in the casket didn’t have a résumé, but her children testified that “she rocked Proverbs 31” and its description of a godly woman. She inspired them to love Jesus and care for others. As Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), so they challenged us to imitate their mother’s life as she imitated Jesus.

What will be said at your funeral? What do you want said? It’s not too late to develop eulogy virtues. Rest in Jesus. His salvation frees us to live for what matters most.

By Mike Wittmer

Reflect & Pray

Are you living out things that will affect your résumé or your eulogy? How would your life change if you lived each day with your eulogy in mind?

Father, give me the courage to live for what matters most.

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Another Transaction

There are a great many companies that think very highly of you and all that you deserve. You deserve the best. You have earned a vacation. You deserve to splurge on this because you’re worth it. Whether in plenty or times of economic downturn, flattery actually remains one of the most effective psychological drivers that compounds debt. In a HSBC Direct survey during one such downturn, forty-two percent of the consumers interviewed said they had splurged on themselves in the past month despite hardship. Twenty-eight percent cited their reason for the splurge as simply “because I deserve it.”(1)

Of course, each of us who has ever bought into the idea that L’Oreal thinks I am worth it or BMW believes I deserve the ultimate driving experience probably realizes that we have done exactly that: we have bought the idea, paid for both the product and the flattering suggestion. No one is giving away these things because they think we are worth it; their flattery is quite literally calculated. In effect, it’s not that they think so highly of us, so much as that they want us to think highly of ourselves. Whether we see through this empty sycophancy or not, Geoff Mulgan believes it is working: “‘[B]ecause you’re worth it’ has come to epitomise banal narcissism of early 21st century capitalism; easy indulgence and effortless self-love all available at a flick of the credit card.”(2) The enticing words are an invitation to reward ourselves, and it just so happens we agree that we’re worth it—and they are glad.

There is of course much that can be drawn from reflecting on the intemperate desires of a consumer culture and the imagination fostered within its confines. A consumerist view of the world holds a very particular view of humanity and its worth. Beside this prominent vision, the drama of the Christian story fosters another imagination, along with the space and invitation to try on its counterintuitive system of worth. The invitation of a creator who so values creation that he steps into it is one that presents every opportunity to question the psychological drivers of empty flattery and consumer seduction. The Father gives us in Christ a mediator, an advocate, a vicarious redeemer of human identity in human form. While the imagination of a consumer promises flattery, the free invitation of Christ gives a startling commentary on a similar kind of compliment, within a very different transaction. Choosing to become human, Christ has indeed proclaimed our worth. But there is nothing required to accept this unfathomable gesture of a God who takes on flesh.

Peering through the accolade proclaimed in Christ does, however, confront the very banal narcissism that epitomizes our numbed consumer hearts and imaginations. In the words of one observer: “When I look at narcissism I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”(3) Given the highly countercultural alternative of discovering worth in the son of an ordinary peasant woman, we may find that we in fact prefer the consumer transaction that tells us that being human is about what we can buy. We may find that there is something comforting and familiar in paying for our sense of worth and value. We might find it baffling to accept the idea that something deemed a gift could come to us fragile and broken. Or maybe it is the personal nature of his humanness that we find altogether unnerving—namely, Jesus was not simply born a child in first century Bethlehem; he was born a child in first century Bethlehem for you. It is perhaps far easier to accept an empty compliment.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Another Transaction

Joyce Meyer – You Are at a Place of Prayer

 

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. — 1 Corinthians 3:9

Adapted from the resource My Time with God Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Under the Old Covenant, the temple was the house of God, the place of prayer for His people, the children of Israel. The temple had three compartments, one of which was the Holy of Holies, and it held the presence of God! Amazingly, now our renewed and sanctified spirit is the place where His presence dwells!

Under the New Covenant, the apostle Paul tells us that God’s presence is now a mystery revealed, which is of Christ in us, “the Hope of glory” (see Colossians 1:27).

Because of the union you now have with Christ, you can be close to God because you are God’s living temple. You are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, a building still under construction, but nonetheless His house, His tabernacle. Paul goes to great length in encouraging us to live a holy life because we are the temple of God.

Whereas the children of Israel had to go to a specific place to offer their worship with detailed instructions, we have the incredible privilege of worshiping God anywhere and at any time. Therefore, we can be called a house of prayer.

Prayer Starter: Oh, Lord, I thank You for Your Holy Spirit Who lives inside of me. Thank You that Your awesome presence goes with me everywhere I go! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Knowledge and Wisdom

 

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere” (James 3:17).

“Donkeys laden with books,” a phrase in rabbinical literature, is descriptive of those who know much but still remain fools.

Another expression says that “knowledge is power.” True, but how is the knowledge used – beneficially or malevolently? That is a vitally important question. We have more knowledge than ever before, but a few would claim that we have more wisdom.

Going faster and faster, we may be still going astray. Just as grapes are not picked from a bramble bush, neither can the good life be harvested from sowing wild oats.

For a nation of people, many of whom are “educated beyond their intelligence,” as an anonymous wit once observed, America sorely lacks a sufficiency of men with real wisdom – that which is given by the Lord Himself.

In our modern education, we seem to be preoccupied with the accumulation of knowledge, to the neglect of that wisdom which alone can save us from the misuse of knowledge.

William Lyon Phelps, famous English professor at Yale University and a godly statesman, once said, “If I could choose between a knowledge of the Bible and a college education, I would readily choose the knowledge of the Bible.”

If we lack wisdom, God’s wisdom, we need only ask of Him and He will grant it when we ask in faith, according to His promise in James 1:5.

Bible Reading: James 3:13-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: In order to live a supernatural life I’ll look for divine wisdom from the proper source – God, His Word, and His indwelling Holy Spirit.

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Max Lucado – Filled Up With God’s Love

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

When Christ rose from the dead, he never reminded the disciples of their betrayal and desertion.  They outran the guards, but they couldn’t outrun the love of Christ.

Desert God—he’ll still love you.  Deny God—he’ll still love you.  Doubt God—he’ll still love you.  You have never lived a loveless day.  Not one!  You never leave God’s mind, escape his sight, or flee his thoughts.  He knows you better than you know you, and he loves you still.

The greatest discovery in the universe is the greatest love in the universe—and that is God’s love.  Remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:38,  “Nothing can separate us from his love.”  Step to the well of God’s love and drink up.  Once filled by his love, you’ll never be the same.

Read more Come Thirsty

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Denison Forum – The Democratic debates and becoming a ‘happiness hunter’: The surprising source of true happiness

 

The Democratic Party’s presidential debates begin tonight. According to the Wall Street Journal, this is the largest Democratic presidential field in modern history. The candidates are hoping to differentiate themselves from each other and make an impact on the voting public.

Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, explains: “The biggest question is who is driving the news. Who is getting attention.” Dan Pfeiffer, a former adviser to Barack Obama, added: “They need moments to create attention and virality to increase their poll numbers and, more importantly, get the online donor number up.”

There is much in the news we could be discussing this morning, from the border crisis (which I plan to address later this week) to the ongoing tensions with Iran to the Middle East peace plan. But this week’s debates will make headlines both for what the candidates say that is memorable and what they say that is regrettable.

Meanwhile, a story receiving less attention caught my eye as a parable for our contentious times.

Finding the “secret to happiness” in Denmark

If you’re unhappy with your job, perhaps you’d like to become a “happiness hunter.” Furniture chain Ikea is looking for someone willing to live for two weeks in Denmark and get paid in money and meatballs to help them “find all the keys to a real home of happiness.”

Continue reading Denison Forum – The Democratic debates and becoming a ‘happiness hunter’: The surprising source of true happiness

Charles Stanley – Things That Cannot be Shaken

 

Hebrews 12:25-29

In general, people like security. We seek what is comfortable. Yet the reality of our world is that much instability exists. For example, finances, health, and even a country’s ability to survive are not guaranteed.

When our foundation is shaken, we often feel overwhelmed. Sometimes Satan causes the difficulty—with God’s permission, of course. At other times, challenging circumstances are brought about by the Lord’s hand. Regardless of the source, we have the promise in Romans 8:28 that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” And in either case, the Almighty’s purpose remains: to glorify Himself in our world and in our lives.

There are different reasons that the Lord permits turmoil, but for now, let’s focus on one: He will not allow anything that enables man to seem self-sufficient in his own eyes. Therefore, God may lovingly allow enough trouble for us to realize our need of Him. Consider the trials the Israelites faced each time they turned away from the Lord to worship other gods. In many ways, we do the same thing today. Individually, in our churches, and as a nation, we often glorify “gods” like money or status. But the One who created us will not tolerate this.

In our pride, we tend to think we’re able to manage without God. But out of love, He may stir up our life to reveal our dependence upon Him. If you are basing your security on anything except Jesus Christ—even something as seemingly innocent as comfort—it will prove to be sinking sand.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 76-78

 

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Our Daily Bread — Vanity on Fire

 

Bible in a Year:Job 3–4; Acts 7:44–60

Create in me a pure heart, O God.

Psalm 51:10

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Matthew 5:21–30

In February 1497, a Monk named Girolamo Savonarola started a fire. Leading up to this, he and his followers spent several months collecting items that they thought might entice people to sin or neglect their religious duties—including artwork, cosmetics, instruments, and dresses. On the appointed day, thousands of vanity items were gathered at a public square in Florence, Italy, and set on fire. The event has come to be known as the Bonfire of the Vanities.

Savonarola might have found inspiration for his extreme actions in some shocking statements from the Sermon on the Mount. “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away,” said Jesus. “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29–30). But if we interpret Jesus’s words literally, we miss the point of the message. The entire sermon is a lesson on going deeper than the surface, to focus on the state of our hearts rather than blaming our behavior on external distractions and temptations.

The Bonfire of the Vanities made a great show of destroying belongings and works of art, but it is unlikely that the hearts of those involved were changed in the process. Only God can change a heart. That’s why the psalmist prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). It’s our heart that counts.

By Remi Oyedele

Reflect & Pray

What behaviors or distractions might be on your list of “vanities”? How do you try to “manage” them?

Holy God, please give me the grace to surrender my heart to You and yield my life’s vanities to the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Befriending Lament

 

I had dinner with my 84 year-old neighbor last week. Recently widowed, he has been alone and fending for himself. When we ran into him walking, I asked him what he might need. Immediately, he said that he had been eating the same thing for weeks and weeks because that is the only thing he knew how to make, and would we be willing to come and show him how to roast a chicken? So my husband and I showed up with ingredients in hand and set out to prepare a meal he could replicate so that he had some variety in his diet.

Not only was my neighbor recently widowed, but he had also had an orthopedic surgery that has left him in quite a bit of pain and without the strength and use of his bones and muscles in the way he once was able to use them. An avid tennis player all throughout his life, the agility that propelled him back and forth across the court had left him. What remained were brittle bones and fraying tendons. He could barely hobble around the night we made him dinner, and he had to keep sitting down because he was in so much pain. Even with two surgeries to correct the years of tennis playing, he still told me that he hoped he would die on the tennis court playing the game he loved.

While I know intellectually that bodies grow old and die, it is hard not to think of the aging process as a kind of betrayal. Those limbs, muscles, bones, and tendons that support and empower throughout life, now become the very instruments of treason as they tear, break, and decay, being worn down by life itself. While we fight the aging process in every conceivable manner, our bodies stay on automatic pilot and simply follow a course that is inevitable. To be sure, there are always those individuals who live long into their 90’s and 100’s—their bodies seemingly impervious to the ravages of aging. We marvel at their longevity, especially at those centenarians who drank pots of coffee, or ate bacon and eggs every day, ignoring their doctor’s warnings of a shortened life span. And yet, one day their bodies will also give them away to death.

But one doesn’t have to be old to experience bodily betrayal. The young succumb to various illnesses just as the old do. We all know those individuals who have died far too soon, the victims of cells gone awry or bodily system failure. And the mystery of ‘premature’ illness or death surely strikes at the confidence of all who appear healthy. Whether old or young, all go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Befriending Lament

Joyce Meyer – A Doubtful Mind

 

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. — 1 Kings 18:21

Adapted from the resource Love Out Loud Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Like many people, I assumed that doubt and unbelief were the same, because we usually put them in the same context. In recent years, however, I’ve learned that there is a difference. Obviously, doubt and unbelief do not honor God, but I want to show you how they function in different ways.

The story of the prophet Elijah is an excellent picture of doubt at work. King Ahab was the most evil leader the people had known. Elijah declared that because of Ahab’s wickedness, no rain would fall until he, the prophet, said so. For the next three-and-a-half years, drought scourged the land.

Now, that’s a pretty clear picture. There had been sufficient rain before Elijah’s declaration—but after he spoke, the skies quit yielding water. That is pretty obvious. Who would question God or His prophet? But apparently, the people’s fear of Ahab—as well as the lack of rainfall—caused their minds to be filled with questions.

Elijah finally called all the people together, along with the king and the false prophets, and asked them why they doubted. Why were they caught between two possible answers? That’s what doubt really is. Doubt isn’t simply unbelief—it’s more of an attitude that says, “I believe, but . . .” or, “I want to believe, but . . .”

Doubt often comes to reside where faith once lived. Doubt is active opposition to faith, and it tries to push faith aside. The people had believed the prophet, but as time wore on—three-and-a-half years—apparently questions arose, and uncertainty crept in.

If Elijah really did this, he ought to stop it right now. Maybe it just happened. Or, How do we really know that was the word of God? As soon as they seriously asked themselves these questions, they opened the door for Satan to bring doubt into their minds.

Doubt never comes from God—it is always in opposition to His will.

In writing to the Romans, Paul pointed out that the Lord gives each of us a measure of faith (see Romans 12:3). When we cling to that faith, we push away doubts. But when we allow questions to enter in—any kind of uncertainty that takes our minds away from God’s wonderful work in our lives—that’s doubt.

It is also a subtle, sneaky entry point for our enemy. He plants doubt in our minds, hoping it will cause us to oppose God. We probably don’t think of doubt as something that strong, but it is—it’s the first step of opposition to what God declares. That’s why we need to know God’s Word. If we know the Word, we can recognize it when the devil lies to us and causes us to question.

Elijah wouldn’t allow the people of his day to move back and forth from doubt to belief. He made the options clear: Believe the true God or believe a false idol. Don’t fall into the trap of saying you believe in God when your heart is filled with doubts and questions. Choose true faith and say, “Lord, I believe. I may not always understand, but I trust You.”

Prayer Starter: True and faithful God, in the past, I’ve been weak, allowing Satan to make me question You, Your love, and Your plans for my life. Not only do I ask You to forgive me, but I also ask You to teach me Your Word and strengthen me so that Satan can never trick me again. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Crown of Life

 

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him” (James 1:12, KJV).

In Christian art, the crown is usually pictured entwined with the cross. This suggests that endurance of trial leads to victory, as the above verse indicates.

Temptation often comes at our weakest – rather than our strongest – moments. When we have reached the limit of our love and our patience, for example, we are tempted to be unlike Christ in one way or another. Remember, Jesus’ temptation began after forty days of fasting.

People usually are impressed – favorably or unfavorably – when they see how we act under pressure. It is possible for one weak act to spoil a whole lifetime of witness.

The beatitude, or blessing, in Matthew 5:10; says, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (KJV). The crown of life is promised to those who successfully stand up under the testing of their faith. The Christian life is a spiritual conflict from the moment of birth until we go to be with the Lord. The flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. There is absolutely no hope for victory until one discovers the availability of the supernatural resources of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

A young student who came to me for counsel said, “I have given up. I can’t live the Christian life. There is no hope for me.”

“Good,” I replied. “At last you have recognized that you cannot live the Christian life. Now there is hope for you, for the Christian life is a supernatural life and the only one who can live it is Jesus Christ Himself.”

Surrender your life totally, completely to Him and recognize moment by moment, day by day, that the Holy Spirit is the only one who will enable you to endure temptation. By faith you must draw upon His supernatural resources to live a supernatural life. Only then will you be victorious and fruitful for the glory of God.

Bible Reading: James 5:7-11

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today and every day I will remember to draw upon the supernatural resources of the indwelling Christ who will enable me to be victorious over temptation and to live the supernatural life as a testimony to His faithfulness.

 

 

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Max Lucado – Receive His Love

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

In Romans chapter 8,  Paul asks five life-changing questions:

  1. “Won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?”

God won’t leave us to fend for ourselves.

  1. “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”

God’s presence tilts the scales of security forever in our direction.

  1. “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own?”

Once God accepts you, what other opinion matters?

  1. “Who then will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus?”

The answer is NO!  Christ sits next to God as our divine defense attorney who mutes the voices of our accusers.

  1. “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?”

Paul’s “Eureka!” conclusion:  Nothing and no one can drive a wedge between you and God’s love!

Read more Come Thirsty

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Denison Forum – Life on Mars and ‘hornlike spikes’: Why Americans trust science over religion

Is there life on Mars?

NASA’s Curiosity rover found what the New York Times calls “startlingly high amounts of methane in the Martian air” last week. As the Times explains, this type of gas on Earth is “usually produced by living things.”

The mission’s controllers sent new instructions to the rover to follow up on the readings. When the results came back yesterday, the methane spike had disappeared.

In addition, a glowing object was photographed hovering just above the surface of Mars earlier this month. Whatever it was, it seemed to be moving quickly.

However, NASA notes that such images are seen nearly every week and “can be caused by cosmic-ray hits or sunlight glinting from rock surfaces.” And methane gas can be produced by geological forces that have no connection to biological life.

Are “hornlike spikes” caused by cell phones?

In other science news that turned out not to be news, the Washington Post recently reported that “young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls.” The Post cites researchers who argued that such bone growth points to shifting body posture brought about by the use of modern technology.

Not so fast, according to the Smithsonian. Other scientists noted that these bone growths have been known for centuries; one stated that she has seen “plenty” of them “in the early Medieval skulls I’ve studied.” They noted that such growths can be genetic or occur through trauma.

Such stories remind us that science is not infallible. Experts can interpret the same evidence in widely different ways.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Life on Mars and ‘hornlike spikes’: Why Americans trust science over religion

Charles Stanley – Jesus Identifies With Our Needs

 

Hebrews 4:14-16

We often forget that during His stay on earth, Jesus experienced need just as we do. Although Christ was fully God, He was at the same time completely human, with all of humanity’s weaknesses and shortcomings. Though He didn’t sin, He identified with our suffering.

When Jesus had finished a 40-day fast in the wilderness, He experienced physical hunger and an onslaught of temptation from the devil (Matt. 4:1-2). Later, after an exhausting day of healing people and feeding a crowd of more than 5,000, the Son of God required time alone with His Father for spiritual strength and refreshment (Matt. 14:23). And in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ was under tremendous spiritual and emotional pressure as He faced the daunting task of paying for the sins of mankind through His death on a cross (Matt. 26:38-39).

In each weakness, Jesus turned to His Father. The Word of God was His defense in temptation, prayer was His source of strength for ministry, and submission to the Father’s will was His pathway to victory over sin and death. By passing through every difficult situation without sin, He became our Great High Priest, who intercedes for us and invites us to draw near to God’s throne for help in time of need.

Whatever your needs may be, you can follow Christ’s example and experience the Father’s provision. The Word of God is your protection, prayer is your strength, and submission to the Father is the way to victory over sin. Draw near with confidence, and let the Lord shower you with His grace.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 71-75

 

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Our Daily Bread — Playing with Joy

 

Bible in a Year:Job 1–2; Acts 7:22–43

The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy.

Galatians 5:22

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Galatians 5:22–26

One of our sons, Brian, is a high school basketball coach. One year, as his team was dribbling its way through the Washington State Basketball Tournament, well-meaning folks around town asked, “Are you going to win it all this year?” Both players and coaches felt the pressure, so Brian adopted a motto: “Play with joy!”

I thought of the apostle Paul’s last words to the elders of Ephesus: “That I may finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24 nkjv). His aim was to complete the tasks Jesus had given him. I have made these words my motto and my prayer: “May I run and finish my race with joy.” Or as Brian says, “May I play with joy!” And by the way, Brian’s team did win the state championship that year.

We all have good reasons to get grouchy: discouraging news, everyday stresses, health problems. Nevertheless, God can give us a joy that transcends these conditions if we ask Him. We can have what Jesus called, “my joy” (John 15:11).

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of Jesus (Galatians 5:22). So we must remember each morning to ask Him to help us: “May I play with joy!” Author Richard Foster said, “To pray is to change. This is a great grace. How good of God to provide a path whereby our lives can be taken over by . . . joy.”

By David H. Roper

Reflect & Pray

What causes you to be discouraged? Where do you find your joy?

I turn my eyes to You, God. I’m grateful I can count on Your faithfulness to me. Please bring me into Your joy.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Foreign and Belonging

I have not spent much of my life as a foreigner, though my short bouts with being a cultural outsider remind me of the difficulty of always feeling on the outside of the circle. Just as the distance between outside and inside seems to be closing, something happens or something is said and you are reminded again that you do not really belong. On a visit with Wellspring International to Northern Uganda some years ago, the thought never left us. Everywhere the director and I went, children seemed to sing of “munos,” a term essentially (and affectionately) meaning “whiteys.” It made us smile every time we heard it. But even when communicated playfully, it can be both humbling and humiliating to always carry with you the sober thought: I am out of place.

The book of Ruth scarcely neglects an opportunity to point out this reality. Long after hearers of the story are well acquainted with who Ruth is and where she is from, long after she is living in Judah, she continues to be referred to as “Ruth the Moabite” or even merely “the Moabite woman.” Her perpetual status as an outsider brings to mind the vision of Keats and the “song that found a path/ through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home/ She stood in tears amid the alien corn.”

And yet, while Ruth was undoubtedly as aware of being the foreigner as much as those around her were aware of it, she did nothing to suggest a longing to return to Moab. Her words and actions in Judah are as steadfast as her initial vow to Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17a). This is Ruth’s pledge to her mother-in-law, repeatedly.

In these early pages of the story, little is known about Naomi’s God or her people. The brief mention of each comes as a distant report: “Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food” (1:6). Moreover, Naomi’s first mention of the God of her people holds a similar sense of detachment. Though she recognizes God’s sovereignty over her situation, it is blurred with bitterness: “The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. For I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty” (1:20-21). Her description was hardly a compelling glimpse for the outsider looking in.

And yet, Ruth clearly embraces all of Naomi: the people who would only see her as the foreigner and the God who was not her own. In fact, ironically, it is Ruth the Moabite whose voice is the first in the story to call on the divine name. After her resolute declaration of loyalty to her mother-in-law, Ruth adds the plea, “May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (1:17b). It is the foreigner who has taken Yahweh to be her God and calls on this God accordingly. In fact, it is this foreigner whose adoption into God’s presence can be traced in blood all the way to the throne of King David and to the reign of Christ. Ruth the Moabite is forever remembered an outsider. But at the same time, she is remembered a woman with a crucial link to the Son of God.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Foreign and Belonging

Joyce Meyer – God Knows You Intimately

 

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. — Psalm 139:4

Adapted from the resource Hearing from God Each Morning Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Because we relate to God as individuals—and that’s the way He wants it—we also pray as individuals. Even when we pray corporately with others, we are still individuals; we simply join our hearts with others as one voice.

During these corporate prayer times, I believe God wants our hearts to be in unity much more than He wants our methods to be the same.

When we say, “Lord, teach me to pray,” we are asking Him to teach us to pray in a distinctly personal way and to enable our prayers to be easy, natural expressions of who we are. We are not supposed to check our individuality at the door of the prayer closet. We need to go to God just the way we are and give Him the pleasure of enjoying the company of the “original” He has made each of us to be.

We need to approach God with our strengths, weaknesses, uniqueness, and everything else that so wonderfully distinguishes us from all the other people in the world.

God enjoys meeting us where we are, developing a personal relationship with us, and helping us grow to become everything He wants us to be. It is refreshing to realize that we can come to God just as we are and be relaxed in His presence.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You that I can approach You just as I am and have a unique, personal relationship with You. Help me to continually be more comfortable as I come to You to talk, worship, or simply relax in Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Never Fails nor Forsakes

 

“Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never, never fail you nor forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5).

Malcolm Muggeridge, one of England’s leading intellectuals, came to our Christian Embassy headquarters for lunch one day. Together we talked about the things of God – the Christian adventure. On that day, he offered little hope for the future of the Western world.

“We are,” he said, “like a pan of frogs in cold water placed over a low flame. As the flame warms the water, the frogs relax. And by the time the water is boiling, it is too late for them to jump out of the pan. They are boiled alive. In contrast, if the frogs were placed in a pan of boiling water, they would leap out instantly.”

He continued by explaining that the average person in America and in Western Europe was being destroyed by materialism, the love of money and the love of things. People are greedy and are grasping for more than they have. Our appetites know no bounds; we have become insatiable.

As a result, no doubt there is more vital Christianity in Eastern Germany than in Western Germany, in Poland than in Italy, in the Soviet Union than in England. The Christians who are willing to pay the price of persecution in these countries have learned to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and to be satisfied with what they have.

With the apostle Paul, they are able to say, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11, KJV). You will observe that the admonition was to stay away from the love of money. There is nothing wrong with money. Thank God for able, dedicated, godly men and women to whom God has given the ability to make money, but who recognize that there is no satisfaction or fulfillment in making money. It is in the stewardship of that which God has entrusted to them that they find fulfillment and true meaning to life.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 5:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With the certainty that God will never, never fail me nor forsake me, I will seek to find fulfillment and meaning in my life in Christ and not in materialism. I will encourage others to do the same today.

 

http://www.cru.org

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