Denison Forum – A kicker’s failure became eternally significant

After last weekend’s divisional round, the Chiefs, Rams, Patriots, and Saints are the last four of the NFL’s thirty-two teams still in this year’s playoffs. The combined population of their cities equals 1.57 percent of the US population.

In other words, as pro football fans go, there are far more losers than winners this morning.

In our “winning isn’t everything–it’s the only thing” culture, this is tough for those of us who live in Dallas and other losing cities to wake up to. But we can learn an important life lesson from the player who epitomized losing this season.

A kick that defied all odds

Cody Parkey is a kicker for the Chicago Bears. He set an NFL rookie scoring record in 2014 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015. Earlier this season, he was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against the Vikings.

In the first round of this year’s playoffs, his Chicago Bears played last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. At the end of the game, the Bears were poised to win as Parkey lined up a forty-three-yard field goal. He had already kicked three field goals in the game. His fourth was right down the middle, but the Eagles had called time out just before the play began.

When the game resumed, Parkey’s kick struck the left upright of the goalpost. Then, defying all odds, it struck the crossbar. Then it fell backwards to the ground. The Bears lost.

The team and their fans were devastated. Only later did they learn that an Eagles player got a hand on the ball, deflecting the kick.

Continue reading Denison Forum – A kicker’s failure became eternally significant

Charles Stanley –Evidence of a Proud Heart

 

Matthew 23:1-12

Pride is deceptive. In fact, a proud person is often the last one to know the contents of his or her own heart. This was definitely true of the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus confronted. They thought of themselves as good people who kept God’s law but failed to see their desire for prominence and respect as evidence of pride.

The same is true today—our quest for recognition and validation still flows from pride. Perhaps we want someone to thank us for the work we’ve done behind the scenes, and if it’s not forthcoming, we become resentful or self-pitying. Or maybe our pride manifests itself with a superior attitude of self-importance, and we secretly consider ourselves to be better than those around us. We may even choose to associate with prominent, well-liked people while ignoring those who are less admired.

However, while we chase after prominence externally, our spirits are becoming shriveled internally because we’ve become proud. The only solution is to turn back to God and humble ourselves before Him. We do this by confessing our sin and recognizing the specific parts of our life that have been damaged by it. Then we must ask the Lord to make us continually alert to any self-glorifying attitudes that pop up so we can quickly confess and walk in obedience once again.

One of the most effective ways to overcome pride is to look at Christ’s example. There was absolutely nothing in us that warranted His love and salvation. We were worthy only of hell, yet He humbled Himself to become a man, die in our place, and offer us salvation. To Him be all the glory!

Bible in One Year: Genesis 42-45

 

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Our Daily Bread — Plight of the Crawdads

 

Bible in a Year:Genesis 31–32; Matthew 9:18–38

Always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

1 Thessalonians 5:15

Today’s Scripture & Insight: 1 Thessalonians 5:11-18

When my cousin invited me to join him to fish for crawdads (crayfish), I couldn’t help but be excited. I grinned when he handed me a plastic pail. “No lid?”

“You won’t need one,” he said, picking up the fishing rods and the small bag of chicken chunks we’d use for bait.

Later, as I watched the small crustaceans climbing over one another in a futile attempt to escape the almost-full bucket, I realized why we wouldn’t need a lid. Whenever one crawdad reached the rim, the others would pull it back down.

The plight of the crawdads reminds me how destructive it is to be selfishly concerned about our own gain instead of the benefit of a whole community. Paul understood the need for uplifting, interdependent relationships when he wrote to the believers in Thessalonica. He urged them to “warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak,” and “be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Commending their caring community (v. 11), Paul spurred them toward even more loving and peaceful relationships (vv. 13–15). By striving to create a culture of forgiveness, kindness, and compassion, their relationships with God and others would be strengthened (vv. 15, 23).

The church can grow and witness for Christ through this kind of loving unity. When believers honor God, committing to lift others up instead of pulling them down with words or actions, we and our communities thrive.

By Xochitl Dixon

 

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Streams in the Desert for Kids – Happy Just to Be … Myself

 

Philippians 4:11

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to compare yourself to others? Even if we know better, we look at someone else and think he or she has it better. How many times have you thought: If only I had the right hair or clothes or shape … If only I were taller or faster or bolder or funnier …

There’s an old story of a king who went to his garden and found everything withered and dying. He asked the oak tree what was wrong. The oak tree said it was sick of living because it was not as tall and beautiful as the pine tree. The pine was dropping needles because it couldn’t grow grapes like the grapevine. And the grapevine let itself shrivel up because it couldn’t stand straight and tall like the peach tree. Every plant in the garden was discontented and wanted to be something different, except the violet. There it stood with its happy face turned toward the sun. The king asked the little flower why it was so happy and content when every other plant in the garden was so miserable. “Well,” said the flower, “I figured that if you had wanted a big oak tree or a pine tree or a peach tree in my spot, you would have planted one; but you planted me—a violet. Since I knew you wanted a violet, I’ve made up my mind to be the best little violet I can be.”

You were made by the almighty Creator with a purpose in mind. Wishing to be anything other than who you are does nothing more than steal your time, energy, and joy. But when you see yourself how God does, you realize how great you really are. So you can stop concentrating on other people and instead focus on your own blessings. Only then will you find you are ready for all the plans and adventures God has for you.

Dear Lord, Help me stop comparing myself to other people and worrying about the things I think I lack. Thank you for all of the gifts you have given me. Show me how I can best use them for your glory. Amen.

 

Joyce Meyer – Always Constant

 

Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same yesterday and today and forever. — Hebrews 13:8 (AMP)

Adapted from the resource Ending Your Day Right Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

What is the main thing you love so much about Jesus? There are many answers to that question, of course, such as the fact He died for you on the cross so you wouldn’t have to be punished for your sins; then He rose again on the third day.

But in your daily relationship with Him, one of the things you will appreciate most about Him is the fact you can count on Him not to change.

You love Jesus and are able to trust Him because He is never changing. He has said in His Word, “This is the way I was, and this is the way I’m always going to be.”

If you can count on anything, you can count on Jesus never changing. He can change anything else that needs to be changed, but He always remains constant.

Prayer Starter: Jesus, thank You for being the constant in my life! You never change, but You are always working in my life and helping me to change. Today, I pray that You will open my spiritual eyes even further and help me to understand Your unchanging love and faithfulness in a greater way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Perfect in His Sight Promise

 

“But Christ gave Himself to God for our sins as one sacrifice for all time, and then sat down at the place of highest honor at God’s right hand, waiting for His enemies to be laid under His feet. For by that one offering He made forever perfect in the sight of God all those whom He is making Holy” (Hebrews 10:12-14).

All the sins you and I have ever committed or ever shall commit – past, present and future – are forgiven the moment we receive Christ, according to God’s Word. Think of it and rejoice!

Then you may rightly ask, “If all of my sins – past, present and future – are forgiven, why do I need to confess my sins?”

According to God’s Word, confession is an act of obedience and an expression or demonstration of faith that makes real in our experience what is already true concerning us from God’s point of view.

Through the sacrifice of Christ, He sees us as righteous and perfect. The rest of our lives on earth are spent maturing and becoming in our experience what we already are in God’s sight.

This maturing process is accelerated through the faithful study of God’s Word, prayer, witnessing for Christ, and spiritual breathing – exhaling through confessing our sins and inhaling by appropriating the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit by faith.

If you retake the throne, the control center, of your life through sin (a deliberate act of disobedience) breath spiritually. First, exhale by confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, KJV).

Next, inhale by appropriating the fullness of God’s Spirit by faith. Trust Him now to control and empower you by faith according to His command to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Bible Reading:Hebrews 10:19-25

Today’s Action Point: Today I will study God’s Word, pray and invite the Holy Spirit to lead me to someone whose heart He has prepared to receive Christ. Also, I will practice spiritual breathing whenever any attitude, action, motive or desire that is contrary to God’s will short-circuits God’s power in my life. I will confess it and by faith inhale by appropriating the fullness and power of God’s Holy Spirit.

 

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Charles Stanley –The Landmine of Pride

 

Proverbs 16:17-20

The Christian life is like a long walk that begins at salvation and ends in heaven, and along the way are obstacles to overcome and dangers to avoid. One such hazard is the spiritual landmine of pride. It is like an explosive device that’s been buried in the ground to cause great physical harm—pride may lie hidden and unrecognized in our heart, causing great spiritual damage in both our life and our relationship with the Lord.

Our enemy Satan lays spiritual landmines in our path to trip us up, and one of his most effective ones is pride. Therefore, it’s imperative that we learn to detect it quickly in order to guard against sin. Often we are slow to see and admit that we have a problem with pride, because it tends to hide behind feelings of inadequacy.

Whatever the form, pride is all about self. It may be displayed with loud self-promotion or quiet self-reflection, but the root is the same. It’s a vain attempt to fill an area of personal emptiness. But God alone can fill that void, and the only way to come to Him is in humility.

Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.” That’s why we cannot serve Him while clinging to our own self-importance. When God is given second place in our life, the work of the Holy Spirit is hindered. Then we make foolish mistakes because we are focused not on Him but on ourselves.

The key to overcoming pride is to fix our eyes on God and the depth of His character. He alone is worthy of all exaltation.

Bible in One Year: Genesis 39-41

 

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Our Daily Bread — Jesus Is Right Behind You

 

Bible in a Year:Genesis 29–30; Matthew 9:1–17

Whatever you did for one of the least of these . . . you did for me.

Matthew 25:40

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 25:37-40

My daughter was ready for school a little earlier than usual, so she asked if we could stop by the coffee shop on our way. I agreed. As we approached the drive-thru lane, I said, “Do you feel like spreading some joy this morning?” She said, “Sure.”

We placed our order, then pulled up to the window where the barista told us what we owed. I said, “We’d like to pay for the young woman’s order behind us too.” My daughter had a huge smile on her face.

In the grand scheme of things, a cup of coffee may not seem like a big deal. Or is it? I wonder, could this be one way we carry out Jesus’s desire for us to care for those He called “the least of these”? (Matthew 25:40). Here’s a thought: How about simply considering the person behind us or next in line a worthy candidate? And then do “whatever”—maybe it’s a cup of coffee, maybe it’s something more, maybe something less. But when Jesus said “whatever you did” (v. 40) that gives us a great deal of freedom in serving Him while serving others.

As we drove away we caught the faces of the young woman behind us and the barista as she handed over the coffee. They were both grinning from ear to ear.

By John Blase

Today’s Reflection

Lord, help me not to overthink serving others. Sometimes the small, simple things mean more than I’ll ever know. And help me to remember that whatever I do for others, I’m doing for You.

 

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Joyce Meyer – No More Self-Doubt

 

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. — 1 Samuel 30:6

Adapted from the resource Closer to God Each Day Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

If we don’t believe in ourselves—in the talents and abilities God has given us—who is going to? God believes in us, and it’s a good thing too; otherwise, we might never make any progress. We cannot always wait for someone else to come along and encourage us to be all we can be.

When David and his men found themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation, which the men blamed on him, David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord. Later on, that situation was totally turned around (see 1 Samuel 30:1–20).

When David was just a boy, everyone around him discouraged him concerning his ability to fight Goliath. They told him he was too young and too inexperienced, and he didn’t have the right armor or the right weapons. But David was close to God and had confidence in Him. David believed that God would be strong on his behalf and give him the victory.

Self-doubt is absolutely tormenting, but we can rid ourselves of it. Like David, we can learn to know our God—about His love, His ways, and His Word—then ultimately we can trust that He will provide us with the strength we need.

Prayer Starter: Father, You know everything about me—every insecurity, weakness and fear. Help me to be sufficient in Your love and strength today. Help me to grow stronger and more confident as I continue to know You in a greater way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Be Strong in Character

 

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2-4).

A friend of mine had been very successful in business, but after he became a Christian everything seemed to go wrong. Problem after problem seemed to plague him. Yet he never seemed to be discouraged or defeated.

As we counseled together, he assured me that there was no unconfessed sin in his life. So I rejoiced with him that God was preparing him for a very important responsibility in His kingdom. That is exactly what happened. He is now the director of a very fruitful ministry for our Lord. The problems and testing served to help equip him to be a better ambassador for Christ.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your life – physical illness, loss of loved ones, financial adversity – remember the above admonition from God’s Word. Be happy, knowing that God will work in your life to accomplish His holy purpose.

You can decide how you will respond to problems and temptations – you can either become critical and cynical, or as an act of the will, by faith, you can choose to believe that our sovereign, loving God is allowing this to happen in your life for your own good and for His glory.

Even the hairs of your head are numbered. “His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, KJV). He is tender, loving and compassionate, concerned about your every need.

Bible Reading:James 1:5-12

Today’s Action Point: When difficulties and temptations enter into my life I will – as an act of the will, by faith in God’s faithfulness to His promises – rejoice and be glad, knowing that He is always with me and will never forsake me. As I trust Him and obey Him, he will supernaturally turn tragedy to triumph, and He will change heartache and sorrow to joy and rejoicing. I will trust Him in the darkest night of circumstances.

 

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Charles Stanley –Longing for the Word

 

1 Peter 2:1-3

If you’ve ever had a newborn baby in your home, you understand the concept Peter is conveying in today’s passage. A baby doesn’t care how pretty mom is or how delightfully the nursery is decorated. There is one thing a newborn wants above all else—milk.

Is that how you feel about God’s Word? Do you long for it so that you may grow spiritually mature? Is hearing Scripture explained and taught at church something you look forward to with eagerness? Or have you lost your appetite and gotten used to digesting only on Sundays?

Often, right after someone has come to faith, there’s an initial hunger to read the Bible because everything about salvation is new and exciting. But as time passes, the novelty wears off, the problems and daily pressures of life continue just as they did previously, and passion for the Word may be replaced with the cares of this life.

If someone has truly been saved, a hunger for the Word should be evident. That’s because as believers, we have tasted the kindness of the Lord and, therefore, long to know Him more fully. Habitually nibbling on Scripture doesn’t do much to stimulate our appetite. God’s Word is an acquired taste, and the more we consume it, the greater our hunger for it will become.

If you’ve lost your desire for the Word, ask the Lord to restore your appetite, and begin reading every day. As you become more familiar with Scripture, you’ll notice your understanding and desire for it increase. Best of all, your love and devotion for your Savior and will grow as well.

Bible in One Year: Genesis 36-38

 

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Our Daily Bread — Infinite Dimensions

 

Bible in a Year: Genesis 27–28; Matthew 8:18–34

I pray that you . . . [will] grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.

Ephesians 3:17–18

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Ephesians 3:16-21

I lay still on the vinyl-covered mat and held my breath on command as the machine whirred and clicked. I knew lots of folks had endured MRIs, but for claustrophobic me, the experience required focused concentration on something—Someone—much bigger than myself.

In my mind, a phrase from Scripture—“how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18)—moved in rhythm with the machine’s hum. In Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church, he described four dimensions to God’s love in order to stress the unending parameters of His love and presence.

My position while lying down for the MRI provided a new image for my understanding. Wide: the six inches on either side of where my arms were tightly pinned to my body within the tube. Long: the distance between the cylinder’s two openings, extending out from my head and feet. High: the six inches from my nose up to the “ceiling” of the tube. Deep: the support of the tube anchored to the floor beneath me, holding me up. Four dimensions illustrating God’s presence surrounding and holding me in the MRI tube—and in every circumstance of life.

God’s love is ALL around us. Wide: He extends His arms to reach all people everywhere. Long: His love never ends. High: He lifts us up. Deep: He dips down, holding us in all situations. Nothing can separate us from Him! (Romans 8:38–39).

By Elisa Morgan

Today’s Reflection

What situations cause you to question God’s love? How will you choose to trust Him?

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Think Again: An Indispensable Prerequisite

Being raised in India while my wife, Margie, was raised in Canada, I have learned that sometimes words and ideas can get lost in translation, even with those closest to you. Often when I am with Indian friends or colleagues, one of them will make a remark in Hindi that elicits fits of laughter among those of us who understand the language.

Margie will invariably ask, “What did he say?” I attempt to translate the humor, knowing very well her predictable reaction: a blank stare followed by, “But what was so funny?”

Language and culture have that unique capacity to open a world of imagination and a wealth of memory. Even though I left India several decades ago, there are some concepts the Hindi language captures for me that English cannot.

Similarly, the same word may mean different ideas to different people. To a professor of philosophy, “reason” may mean a sound argument. To a high school teacher in India, “reason” may mean cultural respect for one’s own ancestral beliefs.

So, whether we are expressing humor or discussing ultimate issues, we are wise to heed the psalmist’s injunction: “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). “The tongue has the power of life and death,” wrote Solomon (Proverbs 18:21). A few verses earlier he cautions, “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (verse 13).

With this biblical wisdom, we must keep in mind that behind every belief is a believer and behind every question is a questioner. The belief is part of the worldview, and the worldview is not always well scrutinized by reason. Cultures carry huge connections to the past. Respect must be given.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Think Again: An Indispensable Prerequisite

Joyce Meyer – From Faith to Faith

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed in a way that awakens more faith]. As it is written and forever remains written, “THE JUST and UPRIGHT SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” — Romans 1:17 (AMP)

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

Faith is a word the apostle Paul used often in his writing. When writing to the Thessalonians, he wanted to know about their faith.

While the word faith means belief or absolute trust, it’s more than that—the word also implies loyalty and commitment.

Faith means being convinced that something is true. In 1 Corinthians 15:17, the apostle told the Corinthians that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, their faith was meaningless. He was saying that all they believed was utterly useless. True faith acknowledges that the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection is true.

True faith begins when we’re receptive—when we’re willing to listen. It starts with a kind of mental assent—it seems reasonable that it’s true. But that’s not true faith. True faith happens when we say, “Not only does it make sense to me, but I’m willing to stake my life on it.”

Paul quoted from Habakkuk 2:4, saying that the just—the righteous—shall live by faith. One way to think of the just is to think of those who were “justified,” or made right, by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Continue reading Joyce Meyer – From Faith to Faith

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Love Without Limit

 

“I have given them the glory You gave Me – the glorious unity of being one, as We are – I in them and You in Me, all being perfected into one – so that the world will know You sent Me and will understand that You love them as much as You love Me” (John 17:22,23).

One day, as I was reading this prayer of Jesus to God the Father, I leaped from my chair in excitement when I realized that God loves me as much as He loves His only begotten Son!

What is more, He loves us unconditionally. That means He loves us not because we are good, or worthy of His love, but simply because of who He is.

Of course, the miracle of it all is that when Jesus, who is the incarnation of God’s love, comes to live within us, that same supernatural love becomes operative within us, enabling us to love others supernaturally as well.

Agape (sacrificial, supernatural and unconditional love) is best described in the well-known and oft-quoted 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians:

“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.”

Bible Reading:John 17:15-21

Today’s Action Point: When things go wrong today – or any day – I will choose to remember that God loves me just as much as He loves His only begotten Son! And I will tell everyone who will listen about God’s supernatural love for them.

 

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Max Lucado – Worry Stoppers to Bring Peace

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Here are eight worry-stoppers, found in the letters of the word P-E-A-C-E-F-U-L.

Pray, first.  “Casting the whole of your care upon Him …”

Easy, now.  “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”

Act on it.  Be a doer, not a stewer.

Compile a worry list.  Keep a list of things that trouble you.  How many have turned into a reality?

Evaluate your worry categories.  Pray specifically about them.

Focus on today.  God meets daily needs daily.

Unleash a worry army.  Ask a few loved ones to pray with you and for you.

Let God be enough. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else.”

Eight steps. P-E-A-C-E-F-U-L.

Read more Fearless

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Jeff Bezos’ affair: The largest divorce settlement in history?

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has reportedly been dating an actress and helicopter pilot named Lauren Sanchez for four months. The problem is, Bezos has been married to his wife, MacKenzie, for twenty-five years.

Yesterday, the two announced their plans to divorce. Bezos is worth $137 billion. Since the couple has no prenuptial agreement, their divorce settlement may be the largest in history.

In other news, officials have determined that a sinkhole that cost $75 million to fix was caused by human error.

Water was released too quickly into sewage pipes, eventually causing the ground to collapse into a sinkhole that grew to 100 feet wide and 250 feet long. Nearly two dozen homes in a neighborhood north of Detroit were evacuated; a major roadway was closed for almost a year for repairs.

We may not see the consequences of our sins today, but that makes them no less dangerous.

We must not be “outwitted by Satan”

The Lord warned Adam that he must not eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” for “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

However, Adam did not die on the day he ate from the forbidden fruit. In fact, he lived for a total of 930 years (Genesis 5:5). For many centuries, he might have wondered if God’s warning would come to pass.

A delay in the consequences of sin can tempt us to sin further. Many of our sins are committed in the belief that no one will know, that we will get away with this. The longer we sin without apparent consequences, the more emboldened we become.

This is because we misunderstand the nature of sin and its results.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Jeff Bezos’ affair: The largest divorce settlement in history?

Charles Stanley – Dealing With Guilty Feelings

 

Psalm 32:1-7

Guilt comes from a feeling of responsibility for some wrongdoing. Conviction can result from the Holy Spirit’s efforts to turn us away from sin and guide us to our heavenly Father. But not all guilt stems from ungodly actions.

False guilt, which is not prompted by sin, can surface for a variety of reasons, such as disappointment in one’s own performance, a sense of shame over past events, or criticism from others for unmet expectations. Rejection or a pattern of abuse from childhood can also trigger this emotion. False guilt is a powerful weapon the enemy uses to direct our thoughts away from the Lord.

Whether false or real, the emotion of guilt divides our mind, drains our energy, and creates a sense of insecurity. If we allow it to linger, we can start to have doubts about God’s goodness and love for us. Depression and hopelessness may follow. To cope, some people develop compulsive behaviors in an attempt to replace self-reproach with something pleasurable. Excessive amounts of food, television, internet, shopping, and exercise are common ways people try to push away self-condemning thoughts.

Addressing guilt quickly is important. Acknowledge the emotion to the Lord, and identify the reason behind it. If you’ve violated God’s law, ask His forgiveness, and take steps to change the behavior. If you discover false guilt, confess it and ask God to adjust your thinking to match His. In either case, praise Him because He doesn’t want His children carrying unnecessary burdens and has promised to forgive our sins.

Bible in One Year: Genesis 32-35

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Our Welcoming God

 

Bible in a Year:Genesis 25–26; Matthew 8:1–17

God does not show favoritism.

Acts 10:34

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Acts 10:34-38

Our church meets in an old elementary school, one that closed in 1958 rather than obey a US court order to integrate (the act of having African-American students attend schools previously attended by only Caucasian students). The following year, the school reopened and Elva, now a member of our church, was one of those black students who were thrust into a white world. “I was taken out of my safe community, with teachers who were part of our life,” Elva recalls, “and placed in a scary environment in a class with only one other black student.” Elva suffered because she was different, but she became a woman of courage, faith, and forgiveness.

Her witness is profound because of how much evil she endured at the hands of some members of a society that denied the truth that every human being, regardless of race or heritage, is loved by God. Some members of the early church struggled with this same truth, believing that certain people were, by birth, loved by God while others were rejected. After receiving a divine vision, however, Peter stunned everyone who would listen with this astounding revelation: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34–35).

God opens His arms wide to extend love to everyone. May we do the same in His power.

By Winn Collier

Today’s Reflection

Consider your neighborhood, your family, and your social sphere. Where do you find a temptation to exclude others? Why?

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Love Stories

Driving to work one day, a commercial on the radio offered the compelling thought of “recess time” for adults. Immediately, memories of school came to my mind: the daily struggles of learning and discipline, math and reading, tests and exercises. “Was the strain of school any different from the chores and deadlines that bombard you today,” the advertiser seemed to ask effectively. “And yet, the refreshing reward of afternoon free time and recess: Where has that gone?” In fact, the commercial’s invitation was to a steakhouse that promised the delight of recess for those craving a break, though it certainly prompted the thoughts of much more. The nostalgic use of my own memory was powerfully utilized to urge me not to miss out on life itself, via missing out on recess, store-bought relaxation, and steak.

The world of advertising continues to woo us with packaged worldviews and lifestyles, and this time of year the packaging is particularly eye-catching. We are led to believe that if we buy this product, experience this item, or go to this place in this vehicle, then, and maybe only then, we will really live into this new year.

I do not doubt that there are people who would claim to be satisfied by the pursuit of materialism as a way of life. Nonetheless, we have an abundance of evidence clearly stating the futility of pursuing these ends. If we are purely material beings with our lives confined to the years we have on earth, then perhaps living for pleasure might be a legitimate goal. Yet it seems that the human spirit cannot be reduced to mere matter. Such a contrast is seen in the movie Chariots of Fire when the vision of life modeled by Harold Abrams—who lives for success in this world alone—is set in sharp relief by Eric Liddel, who runs for the glory of God and in running feels God’s delight. In our best moments, we often recognize that we are somehow destined for higher, greater, more enduring things.

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