Our Daily Bread — How to Rebuild

 

Bible in a Year:

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

Nehemiah 2:18

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Nehemiah 2:11–18

It was nighttime when the leader set out by horseback to inspect the work that lay ahead. As he toured the destruction all around him, he saw city walls that had been destroyed and gates that had been burned. In some areas, the vast debris made it tough for his horse to get through. Saddened, the rider turned toward home.

When it came time to report the damage to the officials of the city, he began by saying, “You see the trouble we are in” (Nehemiah 2:17). He reported that the city was in ruins, and the protecting city wall had been rendered useless.

But then he made a statement that energized the troubled citizens: “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me.” Immediately, the people replied, “Let us start rebuilding” (v. 18).

And they did.

With faith in God and all-out effort, despite enemy opposition and a seemingly impossible task, the people of Jerusalem—under Nehemiah’s leadership—rebuilt the wall in just fifty-two days (6:15).

As you consider your circumstances, is there something that looks difficult but that you know God wants you to do? A sin you can’t seem to get rid of? A relationship rift that’s not God-honoring? A task for Him that looks too hard?

Ask God for guidance (2:4–5), analyze the problem (vv. 11–15), and recognize His involvement (v. 18). Then start rebuilding.

By:  Dave Branon

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Critical Care

 

The “doorknob phenomenon” is an occurrence many physicians know well. Doctors can proceed meticulously through complete examinations and medical histories, taking care to hear a patient’s questions and concerns, but it is often in the last thirty seconds of the appointment that the most helpful information is revealed. When a doctor’s hand is on the doorknob, body halfway out the door, vital inquiries are often made; when a patient is nearly outside the office, crucial information is shared almost in passing. Many have speculated as to the reasons behind the doorknob phenomenon (which is perhaps not limited to the field of medicine), though a cure seems unlikely. Until then, words uttered on the threshold remain a valuable entity to the physician.

If I can speak on behalf of patients (perhaps I’ve been a perpetrator of the phenomenon myself), I would note that the doorway marks our last chance to be heard. Whatever the reason for not speaking up until that point—fear, discomfort, shame, denial—we know the criticalness of that moment. In thirty seconds, we will no longer be in the presence of one who might offer healing or hope or change. At the threshold between doctor’s office and daily life, the right words are imperative; time is of the essence.

One of the many names for God used by the writers of the Bible is the Great Physician. It is curious to think of how the doorknob phenomenon might apply. Perhaps there are times in prayer when the prayer feels as if we are moving down sterile lists of conditions and information. Work. Finances. Mom. Jack. Future. Of course, while bringing to God in prayer a laundry list of concerns with repeated perseverance is at times both necessary and helpful, perhaps there are also times when we have silenced the greater diagnosis with the words we have chosen to leave unspoken. Can a physician heal wounds we will not show, symptoms we will not mention, wounds we cannot find the words to explain?

Thankfully, mercifully, yes. The Great Physician can heal wounds one cannot even articulate. Scripture writers speak of a God who hears even our groanings too deep for words. On the other hand, choosing to leave out certain details is hardly helpful before any doctor. Can God begin the work that needs to be done if we won’t really come near as a patient? Is there a cure for those who do not seek it? Mercifully, there is a physician who seeks us.

The ancient prophet Jeremiah once cried, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? No healing for the wound of my people?” Jeremiah lived during one of the most troublesome periods of Hebrew history. He stood on the threshold between a people sick with rebellion and despair and the great Physician to whom they refused to cry out in honesty.

“I have listened attentively,” the LORD declared, “but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.”(1) His words describe behavior a doctor likely recognizes. A patient who complains of a cough while a fatal wound is bleeding will neither find respite for the cough nor her unspoken pain, and of course, a good physician would not treat the cough until the bleeding has been stopped.

In Jeremiah’s day, as in our own, the promise of a quick and effortless remedy was cunningly presented in many ways. Of these “prophets of deceit” God declared, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”(2) There are some promises that are quite easy to stand beside but crumble under the weight of us. To stand in honesty before a physician is more difficult. To stand in honesty with the greatest of Physicians is to submit to a kindness that may undo us. It is to ask to be made well, to be made new, to be made truly human by the Son with human hands, knowing that the way to my remedy rests in his own wounded hands.

The great Christmas hymn places before us this powerful resolution:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessing flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found.(3)

The woundedness of humanity is serious: cries of injustice, the wounds of racism, despair and lament at cancers around us, the devastating marks of our own failings left shamefully upon others and ourselves. This cannot be bandaged as anything less than a mortal wound. But the threshold is now. Christ comes near. He weeps with us, ready to address the indications of our illness, imparting healing and kindness. In the coming of Christ, God offers a cure extending as far as the wound can ever fester.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Jeremiah 8:6.
(2) Jeremiah 8:11.
(3) Isaac Watts, Joy to the World, 1719.

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Joyce Meyer – Taking Responsibility for Yourself

 

But they will have to give an account to Him Who is ready to judge and pass sentence on the living and the dead. — 1 Peter 4:5 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource New Day, New You – by Joyce Meyer

Many years ago, I had an employer who took advantage of me. He required me to work so many hours that I had virtually no time to spend with my family. I was constantly worn out and never had time for myself. He never showed appreciation and always expected more. If I even mildly indicated that I might not be able to comply with one of his requests, his anger would start to surface, and I would end up caving in and agree to do whatever he had asked.

As I was praying about the situation one day and moaning to God about how unfair it was, He said, “What your boss is doing is wrong, but you not confronting him is just as wrong.” This was hard for me to hear. Like most people, I wanted to blame someone else for my lack of courage. Had I not been a people-pleaser, and had I not been afraid, I would have saved myself about five years of being so stressed that it eventually made me very sick. My boss wasn’t my problem; I was my problem.

It’s important to realize that God has given you authority first and foremost over your own life. If you don’t accept and exercise that authority, you may spend your life blaming others for things you should be doing something about. Your job is to make your own decisions according to what you believe God’s will is for you.

On Judgment Day, God will not ask anyone else to give an account of your life, He will only ask you (see Matthew 12:36; 1 Peter 4:5). What if Jesus were to ask you why you never got around to fulfilling His call on your life? Would you tell Him people took advantage of you your whole life, and you just couldn’t do anything about it? Would you say that you were so busy keeping people happy that you just never got around to pleasing Him? If you did, how do you think He’d respond?

I want to encourage you to take some time today and ask God to show you if there’s anything you need to reevaluate and regain control of in your life. He’s promised to lead, guide and strengthen you, so you can trust that whatever He shows you, He’ll help you overcome (see Isaiah 30:21; 41:10).

Prayer Starter: Father, please show me where I need to grow in taking responsibility for my own life and decisions. Thank You for giving me the wisdom and strength to begin fulfilling the purpose You have for my life. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – We Are Kings

 

“The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to be king over all, but all who will take God’s gift of forgiveness and acquittal are kings of life because of this one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

Jack protested angrily, “Why should I be held accountable for the sin of Adam? Why should I be judged and condemned to eternal punishment because of the disobedience of someone who lived centuries ago? I resent that his action should involve me.” I asked my young student friend if he remembered the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor followed by the declaration of war by then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Yes,” he said, “I’m a student of history and I remember that event very well.” I reminded Jack that every able-bodied man who was of age was automatically conscripted to join the United States Army to do battle against Japan. “Yes,” he said, “I know.”

“Don’t you think it unfair, following your logic, that the President of the United States should make a decision that would affect young men like yourself? Remember that tens of thousands of them died on the field of battle. Was that fair?”

“Well,” he replied, “that was the only decision that could be made. We had to protect our homeland. We had been attacked and had to defend ourselves.”

“So it was with Adam,” I explained. “The wisdom of the Almighty Creator was attacked by Satan in the Garden of Eden and the battle was lost when Adam and Eve, the epitome of God’s creation, surrendered to Satan’s tempting lies. God, in His sovereignty, wisdom and grace caused the results of the disobedience of Adam to be borne by the rest of us in the human race. But the judgement of God which demands penalty for sin was intercepted by God’s love. While we were yet in our sins God proved His love for us by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die for us. Now, through accepting God’s free gift by faith, we can become kings of life because of this one man, Jesus Christ.”

Simply stated, one man, Adam, through his disobedience to God, introduced sin into the world, and one man, Jesus Christ, through his obedience to God, paid the penalty for that sin for all who would believe and trust in Him.

Bible Reading: Romans 5:14-21

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Christ has overcome the sin I inherited from Adam by liberating me from the king of death, and making me a king of light. As an expression of my deep gratitude for His love and grace, I will seek every opportunity to communicate this good news to others who still live in darkness that they, too, may enjoy the abundant supernatural life which I now enjoy.

 

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Max Lucado – The Space of Grace

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Revenge builds a lonely house. Space enough for one person. The lives of its tenants are reduced to one goal: make someone miserable. They do—themselves! Keep a sharp eye out for the weeds of bitter discontent. God’s healing includes a move out of the house of spite, toward the spacious ways of grace, away from hardness toward forgiveness.  Can He really?  you wonder. Can He clean up this mess?  This history of sexual abuse?  This raw anger at the father who left my mother?  Can God heal this ancient hurt in my heart?

Begin the process of forgiveness. Turn your attention away from what they did to you to what Jesus did for you, and stay the course. You’ll spend less time in the spite house and more in the grace house. You’re going to love the space of grace. You’ll get through this.

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Denison Forum – Super Bowl champion stages prayer event in Boston: A question every American should ask

 

Boston Common is one of my favorite places in America. Founded in 1634, it is the oldest park in the United States.

Colonial militia mustered here for the Revolution; George Washington came to the park to celebrate our nation’s independence. In the 1860s, the park was used for Civil War recruitment and antislavery meetings. Victory gardens sprouted during World War I; most of the Common’s iron fencing was donated to the war cause during World War II.

I remember vividly my visit to the Common some years ago. Everywhere I looked, history looked back.

Yesterday, however, the Common looked forward with a message every American needs to hear and a question every American needs to ask.

Boston Pray: Seeking Unity and Justice 

Benjamin Watson played tight end in college. Upon graduation, his Wonderlic score (measuring math, vocabulary, and reasoning) tied for the third highest in National Football League history. He was drafted in the first round by the New England Patriots; his team went on to win Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005. He played sixteen seasons in the NFL.

Watson met his wife through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the University of Georgia. He has defended the unborn boldly and been outspoken about his faith for many years.

Yesterday, however, his faithful leadership may have been more crucial than ever.

Watson leveraged his influence to sponsor Boston Pray: Seeking Unity and Justice. The event’s Facebook page explained: “As Christians in and around Boston, we are grieved by the recent murders of unarmed African Americans, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the systematic oppression of those peoples. We recognize that the underlying sin of racism is plaguing our city and nation.

“This is a crucial time for Christians to come together across boundaries to be a catalytic voice for kindness, justice, and righteousness. All are welcome to join in united prayer, scripture, and song in the Parkman Bandstand of the Boston Common on Sunday, June 14 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Please wear a mask and take care to physically distance from others, and help us to spread the word!”

I watched the livestreamed service and was deeply impressed. The crowd included African Americans, Anglos, Hispanics, and Asians. They applauded and prayed for the police and local leaders before interceding for our nation. Watson noted that we need awareness, advocacy, and action, then closed by inviting those attending to trust in Christ personally as their Savior.

How to “delight” God 

Watson began yesterday’s service by quoting Jeremiah 9:24: “Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

“Steadfast love” is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek agape, referring to unconditional love. “Justice” points to actions that arise from a just nature. “Righteousness” refers to honest behavior.

As the New American Commentary notes, “These three terms express the very heart of Hebrew religion. They are not only the attributes of God; he delights in those who manifest these same qualities.”

As a result, God “practices” them—the Hebrew means to produce and exercise. He does this “in the earth,” at all times, and in all places with all people without exception.

Now he calls us to do what he does, testifying that “in these things I delight.” He wants us to find ways to love others unconditionally, without regard for their race or any other characteristic. And he wants us to express this love by seeking justice for them and acting honestly with them.

“Two generations from being forgotten” 

Here’s a question every American should ask themselves: What can we do to answer God’s call to inclusive love and racial justice that we could not do before George Floyd’s tragic death?

Benjamin Watson, as a Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, has an obvious platform in Boston. But if he had called for an hour of prayer and worship before Mr. Floyd’s death, how many people would have taken note? In response to the events of recent weeks, his prophetic leadership has made a profound impact in Boston and around the world.

Like Watson, you and I have been entrusted with influence by our Lord. He holds us responsible for producing “steadfast love, justice, and righteousness” in our culture.

In fact, we will stand before Jesus one day in judgment, where each of us will receive “what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, we will learn that all we do to serve others, we do for him (Matthew 25:40).

Benjamin Watson recently declared, “Our ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God.” He suggested, “If you ever think you’re too important, ask your kid about your grandfather, she doesn’t know him. That’s how fast we are here. You are two generations from being forgotten.”

As a result, he noted, it is vital that we realize “we are part of a larger body, globally, internationally, and it’s simply our turn to carry the torch.”

What torch will you carry today?

 

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Charles Stanley – Our Faithful Teacher

 

2 Timothy 3:14-17

Think about all the teachers who have impacted your life. Have you ever considered that the Bible exceeds them all? It not only teaches who God is and how to be saved but also tells us how the Lord wants us to live as Christians.

This indispensable resource offers encouragement and practical guidance for whatever we face. For instance, God’s Word tells how to handle temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), teaches the value of adversity (James 1:2-4), and explains how to live righteously (Eph. 4:17-32). In addition, it assures us nothing can separate us from Christ’s love (Rom. 8:38-39). All that we need for life and godliness can be found in its pages.

So, instead of calling a friend, searching the internet, or reading a self-help book when direction is needed, we should first go to God’s Word. And then we should ask ourselves, Am I listening to its teaching?

But the Bible isn’t just for instruction; it’s also for correction and confrontation, so we should be open to that kind of teaching as well. That means an even more challenging question is, Am I heeding the Bible’s reproof?

Scripture is a great resource only if our hearts are receptive to its wisdom, and we must have the humility to accept any kind of teaching it offers. Only then can we be fully trained in righteousness by the Scriptures.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 1-7

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Perspectives from Above

 

Bible in a Year:

I will not yield my glory to another.

Isaiah 48:11

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Isaiah 48:5–11, 17

When Peter Welch was a young boy in the 1970s, using a metal detector was only a hobby. But since 1990, he’s been leading people from around the world on metal-detecting excursions. They’ve made thousands of discoveries—swords, ancient jewelry, coins. Using “Google Earth,” a computer program based on satellite imagery, they look for patterns in the landscape on farmland in the United Kingdom. It shows them where roads, buildings, and other structures may have been centuries ago. Peter says, “To have a perspective from above opens a whole new world.”

God’s people in Isaiah’s day needed “a perspective from above.” They prided themselves on being His people yet were disobedient and refused to give up their idols. God had another perspective. Despite their rebellion, He would rescue them from captivity to Babylon. Why? “For my own sake, . . . I will not yield my glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11). God’s perspective from above is that life is for His glory and purpose—not ours. Our attention is to be given to Him and His plans and to pointing others to praise Him too.

Having God’s glory as our own life’s perspective opens a whole new world. Only He knows what we will discover about Him and what He has for us. God will teach us what is good for us and lead us along the paths we should follow (v. 17).

By:  Anne Cetas

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Harmless Petty Sins

A familiar fable tells of the hunter who lost his life to the leopard he himself had saved as a pet for his children when the leopard was just a cub. The moral of the story can be deduced easily from the title, Little Leopards Become Big Leopards; or else, sin is easier to deal with before it becomes a habitual practice that eventually defines our lives.(1) Though the story as it stands is a beautiful illustration of a profound truth, there is a deeper lesson regarding the nature of sin that is easily concealed by this line of thinking and which, I believe, lies at the very essence of the Christian call to Christ-likeness. The problem is that the parallel between little harmless leopard cubs and little harmless sins can be dangerously deceptive.

Whereas leopard cubs are indeed harmless, there is no stage of development at which sin can be said to be harmless, for individual acts of sin are merely the symptoms of the true condition of our hearts. It is not accidental that the call to Christian growth in the Scriptures repeatedly zeros-in on such seemingly benign “human shortcomings” as bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander, and malicious behavior (Ephesians 4:31). In his watershed address, The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus placed a great deal of emphasis on lust, anger, and contempt—behaviors and attitudes that would probably not rank high on our lists of problems in need of urgent resolution. Armed with firm and sometimes unconscious categories of serious versus tolerable sins, we gloss over lists of vices in the Scriptures because they seem to be of little consequence to life as we experience it.

But when we fail to grasp the subtleties of sin, we run the risk of rendering much of biblical wisdom irrelevant to our daily life and practice. While we appreciate the uniqueness and necessity of the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf, his specific teachings can at times appear to be farfetched and the emphasis misplaced. Does it not seem incredible that the God who made this world would visit it in its brokenness, dwell among us for over thirty years, and then leave behind the command that we must be nice to each other? Can the problems of the world really be solved by having people “turn the other cheek” and “get rid of anger and malice”?

 

Unfortunately, those “little” sins are not only the mere symptoms of a much bigger problem; they are also effective means of alienating us from God and other human beings. How many careers have been ruined only because of jealousy? How many people have been deprived of genuine help as a result of the seemingly side-comment of someone who secretly despised them? How many relationships have been destroyed by bitterness? How many churches have split up because of selfish ambitions couched in pietistic terms? How much evil has resulted from misinformation, a little coloring around the edges of truth? And have you noticed how much we can control other people just through our body language? From the political arena to the basic family unit, the worst enemy of human harmony is not spectacular wickedness but those seemingly harmless petty sins routinely assumed to be part of what it means to be human.

According to a NASA scientist, a two-degree miscalculation when launching a spacecraft to the moon would send the spacecraft 11,121 miles away from the moon: all one has to do is take time and distance into account.(2) How perceptive then was George MacDonald when he uttered these chilling words, “A man may sink by such slow degrees that, long after he is a devil, he may go on being a good churchman or a good dissenter, and thinking himself a good Christian”!(3) Similarly, C.S. Lewis warned that cards are a welcome substitute for murder if the former will set the believer on a path away from God. “Indeed,” he wrote, “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”(4) This is as true as much for the individual as for communities.

Now the decisive path out of this quandary is not just a greater resolve to be obedient to God. Such a response is usually motivated by guilt, and the duration of our effort will be directly proportional to the amount of guilt we feel: we will be right back where we started from when the guilt is no longer as strong. The appropriate response must begin with a greater appreciation of the holiness of God and a clear vision of life in God. It is only along the path of Christ-likeness that the true nature of sin is revealed and its appeal blunted. Yes, brazen sinfulness is appallingly evil and destructive, but it only makes a louder growl in a forest populated by stealthier, deadly hunters masquerading as little leopards. It is no idle, perfunctory pastime to pray with King David:

Search us, O God, and know our hearts;
Test us and know our thoughts.
Point out anything in us that offends you,
And lead us along the path of everlasting life.

J.M. Njoroge is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Nairobi, Georgia.

(1) For example, Paul White’s, Little Leopards Become Big Leopards, published by African Christian Press.
(2) John Trent, Heartshift: The Two Degree Difference That Will Change Your Heart, Your Home, and Your Health (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2004), 17.
(3)George MacDonald, in George MacDonald: An Anthology by C. S. Lewis (New York: Dolphin Books, 1962), 118.
(4) C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, in A C.S. Lewis Treasury: Three Classics in One Volume (New York: Harcourt & Company, 1988), 250.

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Joyce Meyer – Shake It Off

 

But [as for me personally] it matters very little to me that I should be put on trial by you [on this point], and that you or any other human tribunal should investigate and question and cross-question me. I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself. . . . It is the Lord [Himself] Who examines and judges me. — 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource The Confident Woman – by Joyce Meyer

No matter what you do in life, there will always be someone who criticizes you, so you need to learn how to let it go and not let it bother you. Criticism is very difficult for most of us, and it’s easy for our self-image to be damaged by one critical remark. But it is possible to learn how not to let ourselves be negatively affected by others’ negative words. Every great man or woman has had to learn how to cope with criticism. We have to know our own hearts and not allow others’ judgment of us to keep us from moving forward.

People love you when you’re doing everything they want you to do, but they’re quick to criticize when even one little thing goes wrong. The apostle Paul experienced criticism about countless things, but he said that he wasn’t the least bit concerned about the opinions of others. He said that he did not even judge himself, but he knew he was in God’s hands and that in the end he would stand before God, and only He would judge his life.

Prayer Starter: Jesus, when criticism comes, please help me remember that You’re my only judge, and I don’t need to live to please people. Thank You for healing my hurts and giving me grace to let them go. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – How to Save Your Life

 

“And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23,24, KJV).

Martin Luther once told the maidens and housewives of Germany that in scrubbing floors and going about their household duties they were accomplishing just as great a work in the sight of heaven as the monks and priests with their penances and holy offices.

In the 15th century, a woman – Margery Baxter – had said the same thing couched in different terms.

“If ye desire to see the true cross of Christ,” she said, “I will show it to you at home in your own house.”

Stretching out her arms, she continued, “This is the true cross of Christ, thou mightest and mayest behold and worship in thine own house. Therefore, it is but vain to run to the church to worship dead crosses.”

Her message was plain: holiness is in our daily service.

Your life and mine are worshiping Christ today to the degree that we practice the presence of God in every minute detail of our lives throughout the day. We are taking up our cross when we shine for Jesus just where we are, obediently serving Him and sharing His good news with others.

If you and I want to save our lives, we do well to lose them in obedient service to the Lord Jesus Christ, allowing His indwelling Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.

Bible Reading: John 12:23-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will take up my cross today – shining just where He puts me at this point in my life.

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Max Lucado – Try Defiant Joy

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

My friend Rob cried freely telling his story about his young son’s challenging life.  Daniel was born with a double cleft palate, dramatically disfiguring his face.  He had surgery, but the evidence remains, so people constantly notice and occasionally make remarks.  Daniel, however, is unfazed.  He just tells people God made him this way so what’s the big deal?

He was named student of the week, and so was asked to bring something to show his classmates for show and tell.  Daniel told his mom he wanted to take the pictures that showed his face prior to the surgery.  His mom was concerned.  “Won’t that make you feel a bit funny?” she asked.  But Daniel insisted, “Oh, no, I want everyone to see what God did for me!”  Try Daniel’s defiant joy and see what happens.  God has handed you a cup of blessings.  Sweeten it with a heaping spoonful of gratitude!

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Denison Forum – HBO removes Gone with the Wind: How to approach media with purpose rather than fear

 

HBO Max recently announced that they would temporarily remove Gone with the Wind from its offerings in response to recent backlash over its portrayal of life in the antebellum South. The film, despite its status as a classic, has also served as a lightning rod for accusations of ignoring the evils of slavery and glorifying racial discrimination.

A spokesperson for the company justified their decision with the argument that “Gone with the Wind is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society. These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions was irresponsible.”

HBO will offer the film again when they can pair it with a discussion of the story’s historical context, though the movie itself will not be changed. As the spokesperson noted, “to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. If we are to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.”

Regardless of whether or not you agree with HBO’s decision, they did get at least one thing right: ignoring history doesn’t change what happened, it just makes us more likely to repeat it.

The subtle influence of media

One of recent history’s most important lessons is that what we see in films, on TV, or consume via other forms of media has a way of shaping our thoughts that few other influences can match.

That basic principle is part of why HBO fears people watching Gone with the Wind might be ever so slightly more prone to underestimate the horrors of slavery or look wistfully at a time when equality among the races was a concept few valued.

It’s also what has often led Christians to be justifiably concerned with the normalization of LGBTQ+ lifestyles in movies and television.

A recent example of that fear is the new animated short on Disney+ titled Out. The 9-minute film is the first time Pixar Animation Studios has featured an openly homosexual main character, and it chronicles his journey towards telling his parents that he’s gay. And while it’s not available under the kids profile setting, it is made with the same basic animation qualities as other programs that are geared towards children.

Given the pervasiveness of media and it’s subtle—yet consistent—influence on our thinking, it’s more important than ever to have a plan in place for how we’ll consume it. To that end, what are some practical steps we can take to guard against the waves of culture slowly ebbing away at our faithfulness to God’s truth without going so far in the opposite direction that we act as though those waves don’t exist?

Don’t run from the issues

First, we need to accept that the issues are real and see that reality as an opportunity rather than a threat. Throughout his ministry, Jesus never shied away from dealing with difficult topics and was often able to use them to help people better understand the Lord.

For example, he used the incipient racism of his day to teach people about God’s love in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). He used the legalism of the religious leaders to show people the limitations of trying to make themselves right with God in their own strength (Luke 11:37-52). And he used the Jewish hatred of Roman taxes to remind them that every part of their lives should be dedicated to the Lord (Mark 12:13-16).

In the same way, we shouldn’t be afraid of the issues commonly brought up in the media. Rather, we should view them as opportunities to teach people about God.

That doesn’t mean they’ll always accept his truth, and the opposite is likely to be true as often as not. But if we willingly cut ourselves out of the conversation, then we also give up the right to lament when society seems to move steadily away from the Lord.

After all, if God’s people won’t speak up for him, who will?

Own your influence

Lastly, we need to take ownership of our own spheres of influence.

If you’re worried about your kids, for example, accepting unbiblical truths because they see them on TV or in a movie, then don’t let those mediums be the dominant voice in their lives. That doesn’t mean ignoring the topics or even restricting those shows. If we don’t bring them up, someone else will. It’s up to us to take responsibility for what we see.

If you feel like your kids are old enough to have the conversation about homosexuality, for example, Out could present a great opportunity to broach the subject. (For help preparing for that discussion, see What does the Bible say about homosexuality?) In the same way, Gone with the Wind could be a good (albeit long) chance to show how people used to see slavery and life in the South, while also discussing the flaws inherent to the portrayal of both.

And the same is true for addressing these subjects in your own life as well. If we neglect to take responsibility for the media we take in and the subjects they depict, then we will inevitably be swayed into acceptance. Instead, own those choices and ask the Lord to guide you in seeing the world—media included—through the lens of Scripture.

God is here to help, but he’s not going to do it for you.

Act with caution rather than fear

History has shown that media has the innate ability to sway public thinking in a powerful way. Thoughts shift over time to better align with what we see or read, yet the shift is often so subtle that it can only be seen in hindsight.

That’s why it’s so important for Christians to approach all media with caution.

Caution, however, should not equate to fear.

While there will be times that God leads us to simply avoid a particular film or show, ideas should never frighten us. Rather, if guided by the Lord, they can be avenues through which we can help people know him better.

So whether it’s Gone with the Wind, Out, or any other form of media, check with God before you decide that he won’t use it to advance his kingdom.

His answer might surprise you.

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/

Charles Stanley – The Gift of Eternal Life

 

1 John 5:6-13

The Bible tells us that we are helpless to save ourselves. The only way to receive the gift of salvation is to agree with the testimony of Scripture: God the Father sent His Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins.
Jesus Christ paid in full the debt we owed for our transgressions (Isa. 53:5; Rom. 6:23). His gift of salvation is:

Freely Given. The guilt of our sin has been removed without cost to us. There is no act so vile that it is not covered by the cross of Christ, and there is no deed so good that could achieve salvation.

Fully Sufficient. Christ’s death paid for all sin—past, present, and future. Nothing is required of us except to believe in Jesus.

Forever Ours. Having received our salvation, we do not have to work to keep it. This precious gift is permanently ours, and it guarantees that we are irrevocably members of God’s family.

Our feelings do not determine whether we are saved or not; the only thing that matters is what God says—and what we believe. Have you put your faith in Jesus? If so, then according to God’s biblical promises and the Holy Spirit’s affirmation, you can know that eternal life is yours. Won’t you thank God today for this remarkable gift?

Bible in One Year: Job 39-42

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — “God Stuff”

 

Bible in a Year:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

1 Peter 3:15

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Peter 3:13–18

Most of Mike’s co-workers knew little about Christianity, nor did they seem to care. But they knew he cared. One day near the Easter season, someone casually mentioned that they’d heard Easter had something to do with Passover and wondered what the connection was. “Hey, Mike!” he said. “You know about this God stuff. What’s Passover?”

So Mike explained how God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. He told them about the ten plagues, including the death of the firstborn in every household. He explained how the death angel “passed over” the houses whose doorframes were covered by the blood of a sacrificed lamb. Then he shared how Jesus was later crucified at the Passover season as the once-and-for-all sacrificial Lamb. Suddenly Mike realized, Hey, I’m witnessing!

Peter the disciple gave advice to a church in a culture that didn’t know about God. He said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

Because Mike had been open about his faith, he got the chance to share that faith naturally, and he could do so with “gentleness and respect” (v. 15).

We can too. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we can explain in simple terms what matters most in life—that “stuff” about God.

By:  Tim Gustafson

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Lazarus Waits, Rachel Weeps

 

Jesus tells the story of a rich man who is content to live comfortably with the great chasm between his success and a poor man’s predicament. At his own gate each day, the man passes a beggar named Lazarus, who is covered in sores and waits with the hope that he might be satisfied with something that falls from the rich man’s table. But as Jesus describes the rich man, he sees neither Lazarus nor his plight. Ironically, when the rich man dies and is suffering in Hades with his own agony and aspirations, he still chooses to view Lazarus as inferior, worthy only of being a servant. “Father Abraham, have mercy on me,” he pleads, “and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony.”(1) Twice he makes it clear in his requests that he sees the man who sat at his gate as subordinate at best. Having refused all his days to see the waiting Lazarus as a fellow soul, a suffering neighbor, the chasms the rich man allowed in life had now grown fixed in death.

Another story that emerges from the life of Jesus came before he was old enough to tell stories of his own. The prophet Isaiah told of a child who would be born for the people, a son given to the world with authority resting on his shoulders. Hundreds of years later, in Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, this prophecy was being fulfilled: The angel had appeared. A child was born. The magi had come. The ancient story was taking shape in a field in Bethlehem. But when Herod learned from the magi that a king would be born, he gave orders to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. At this murderous edict, another prophecy, this one spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, was sadly fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping; Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”(2) While the escape of Mary and Joseph to Egypt allowed Jesus to tell the story of Lazarus years later, the cost, as Rachel and all the mothers’ who didn’t escape knew well, was wrenchingly great.

 

Of the many objections to Christianity, one that stands out in my mind as troubling is the argument that to be Christian is to withdraw from the world around us, to follow fairy tales with wishful hearts and myths that insist we stop thinking and believe that all will be right in the end because God says so. In such a vein, Karl Marx depicts Christianity as a kind of drug that anesthetizes people to the suffering in the world and the wretchedness of life. Likewise, in Sigmund Freud’s estimation, belief in God functions as an infantile dream that helps us evade the pain and helplessness we both feel and see around us. I don’t find these critiques and others like them troubling because I find them accurate of the kingdom Jesus described in any way. I find them troubling because so many Christians live as if Freud and Marx are quite right in their analyses.

In some impervious boxes and minimalist depictions of the Christian story, we can comfortably live as if in our own world, blind and unconcerned with the world of suffering around us, intent to tell our feel-good stories while withdrawing from the harder scenes of life. In fact, to pretend as if Christianity does not at times function as a wishful escape from the world is perhaps another kind of wishful thinking. There are some critiques of Christianity we ignore at our own peril.

But in reality the stories Jesus left us with reach unapologetically beyond wishful thinking; his proclamations of the kingdom among us are far from declarations of escapism. The story of Rachel weeping for her slaughtered children and Lazarus waiting in agony at the gate of someone who could make a difference are two stories among many that refuse to let us sweep the suffering of the world under the rug of apathy. The fact that they are included in the gospel that brings us the hope of Christ is not only what makes that hope endurable, but what proves Freud and Marx entirely wrong. Jesus embodies the kind of hope that can reach even the most hopeless among us. He hasn’t overlooked the suffering of the world anymore than he has invited his followers to do so. It is a part of the very story he tells; it is a story written on his own scarred hands and feet.

Thus, precisely because the faith Christians proclaim is not a drug that anesthetizes or a dream that deludes, we must tell the whole story and not merely the parts that lessen our own pain. We must also live as people watchful and ready to be near those who weep and wait—the poor, the demoralized, and the suffering. There are far too many Rachels who are still weeping and Lazaruses who are still waiting, waiting for men and women of faith to inhabit the good news they proclaim, to live into the startlingly real identity of Christ himself.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Luke 16:24.
(2) Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18.

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Joyce Meyer – Give Thanks in Every Situation

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. — Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Adapted from the resource Healing the Soul of a Woman – by Joyce Meyer

The apostle Paul teaches us to be thankful in every situation, no matter what our circumstances are—in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, he actually says this is God’s will for us. But when our soul has been wounded, we definitely don’t feel like being thankful. Sometimes all we can do is be grateful that God is getting us through a situation, keeping us and sustaining us every day. Even when we’re on a really difficult journey, we can thank Him for walking with us every step of the way.

The more God heals our soul, the more grateful we can be. Every new level of healing and wholeness we experience is a reason to thank God. But the question is: Can we thank God before we see the big breakthroughs we long for? Can we use our faith to believe He will move in our lives and be grateful for that?

In Exodus 15:20–21, Moses’ sister, Miriam, sings a song of praise to God for parting the Red Sea, taking the Israelites through it on dry ground, and then putting the waters back together so the Egyptians that were chasing them drowned. It’s great that Miriam took time to thank and praise God after He did something amazing—we should always thank God when He comes through for us. The real challenge, though, is to be grateful and worship Him before we see what we’re believing Him for. I want to encourage you: Don’t wait to praise and thank God until after you have victory—decide to worship Him in advance. This will help you develop the habit of thanking God in all kinds of circumstances, which in turn cultivates gratitude.

When Paul teaches us to give thanks “in every situation,” he’s encouraging us to develop a lifestyle of thanksgiving. We are to thank God throughout the day for everything He does for us, all the ways He helps us, and everything He’s promised us. Giving thanks to Him shouldn’t be something we only do once a day when we sit down to a meal, once a week at church, or just before we go to sleep as we try to think of all the good things He’s done for us that day. I often say, “Pray your way through the day,” to help encourage people to develop a lifestyle of prayer, but it’s just as important to thank your way through each day. The more thankful you become, the more aware you are of God’s blessings in your life. When you go through life with a growing awareness of His blessings, thanking Him often, every day is easier, happier, and better.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for all the ways You’ve blessed me and are helping me today. Please help me to always be aware of Your presence and grateful for Your work in my life. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You’ve Already Won

 

“Dear young friends, you belong to God and have already won your fight with those who are against Christ, because there is someone in your hearts who is stronger than any evil teacher in this wicked world” (1 John 4:4).

“I am afraid of Satan,” a young minister once told me.

“You should be afraid of Satan,” I responded, “if you insist on controlling your own life. But not if you are willing to let Christ control your life. The Bible says, ‘Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.'”

My friend lived in a city where one of the largest zoos in the world was located.

“What do you do with lions in your city?” I asked.

“We keep them in cages,” he replied.

“You can visit the lion in its cage at the zoo,” I explained, “and it cannot hurt you, even if you are close to the cage. But stay out of that cage, or the lion will make mincemeat out of you.”

Satan is in a “cage.” He was defeated 2,000 years ago when Christ died on the cross for our sins. Victory is now ours. We do not look forward to victory, but we move from victory, the victory of the cross.

Satan has no power except that which God allows him to have. Do not be afraid of him, but do stay away from him. Avoid his every effort to tempt and mislead you. Remember, that choice is up to you.

Bible Reading: I John 2:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will with God’s help, stay out of Satan’s “cage,” choosing rather to enlist God’s indwelling Holy Spirit to fight for me in the supernatural battle against the satanic forces which surround me.

 

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Thank God for the Night

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

 

God notices the grateful heart.  He took a praise-singing shepherd boy and made him a king. There’s no hint of God getting out of sorts if we aren’t thankful, but there is evidence that we’re affected by our own ingratitude.  What of the disastrous days?  The nights I can’t sleep and the hours I can’t rest?  Are we still grateful then?  Jesus was.

The Bible records, “On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).  It’s not often you see the words betrayed and thanks in the same sentence, much less in the same heart.  In the midst of the darkest night of the human soul, Jesus found a way to give thanks.  Anyone can thank God for the light.  Jesus teaches us to thank God for the night.  And He says to us, “you’ll get through this,” and we will.

Read more You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Turbulent Times

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – Can people spread coronavirus without symptoms? An update on COVID-19 and learning to grow amidst daily danger

In light of the protests and charged conversations regarding race, it can be easy to forget that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. Many fear the mass demonstrations will soon bring the coronavirus back to the forefront of our minds, though. To that end, where do we stand when it comes to COVID-19?

The answer is both encouraging and confusing.

A scientist with the World Health Organization, for example, recently stated that asymptomatic people “rarely transmit” the virus to others. If true, that’s great news, as one of the primary fears with coronavirus is that even healthy-looking people could get others sick.

The WHO clarified yesterday, however, that while asymptomatic people are unlikely to spread the virus, pre-symptomatic people—those who will eventually show symptoms but haven’t yet—can still infect others.

So, essentially, if you aren’t showing symptoms you are unlikely to get anyone else sick unless you will eventually show symptoms, which you can’t know at the time.

Ultimately, they still recommend wearing masks in public and limiting your exposure to large crowds.

COVID-19 may have started in August? 

There have also been new developments with regard to when COVID-19 first appeared. A recent study from Harvard Medical School used satellite images of parking lots at six hospitals in Wuhan, China to show that, compared with previous years, there “was a steep increase in occupancies from August 2019, which culminated with a peak in December 2019.” The highest daily occupancies occurred between September and October.

That data, taken in conjunction with an increase in online searches for coronavirus-related symptoms, including those unique to the virus, led the study’s authors to conclude that the virus likely originated earlier than the previously reported date of late December.

Beijing, however, has dismissed the study as “ridiculous” and others have claimed that, while it offers some interesting evidence, it’s far from conclusive.

Acquiring a more precise knowledge of when the virus originated could be an important step toward understanding how it has spread and how we can best fight it. But, in the end, the only thing it seems we can be certain of is that we still can’t be certain.

Some good news amidst troubling times

Despite the mixed messages, it does seem like genuine progress has been made in at least containing the virus. Places like New York City that were once devastated by illness are now hitting their desired benchmarks and, while there are still problem areas around the country, there is more hope now than in months past that we’ll be able to resume some semblance of normalcy in the not too distant future.

That future isn’t here yet, though. And in these uncertain times, it can be easy to become either complacent or discouraged as life seems to spin out of our control.

There’s a basic anxiety that goes along with knowing that simply leaving your house is a dangerous decision. And even if you learn to accept that danger as a necessary part of life, it remains in the back of your mind, producing stress and making everything else just a bit more difficult.

Of course, leaving the house has always been dangerous to some extent. But when that danger seemed within our control, when it came more from random accidents than simply getting coughed on, it didn’t bother us as much. I think the reason is that even when those feelings of control are misplaced, they still imbue us with a sense of protection and security to which many have grown accustomed.

A lesson from the ancient Israelites

If there was ever a people group who knew what it was like to live with the constant reminder that protection and security were not guaranteed, it was the ancient Israelites. Whether it was the decades spent wandering in the wilderness, the enemies that made them feel like “grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:33), or the strange battle plans that made no earthly sense (Joshua 6), the Israelites were forced to approach every day with a very clear understanding of their need for God.

Now, that doesn’t mean they appreciated that fact, as evidenced from the multiple times they complained so much, the Lord told Moses he was ready to destroy them (Exodus 33:5, Numbers 14:11).

Still, God was able to accomplish amazing things through the Hebrew people, and it was in large part because they were forced to depend on him. And the same was true for the first generations of Christians as well (Acts 17:6).

How to grow from daily danger

Most of us are likely anxious for a cure or treatment that will reduce the threat of COVID-19 and allow our lives to resume without masks, public restrictions, and the myriad other daily inconveniences brought on by the virus. Until that day comes, however, let’s allow God to redeem these times by learning to live with a greater dependency on him.

After all, our need for his presence and guidance isn’t going to dissipate when the threat of the coronavirus does. Learning to embrace that need now will better equip us for the days ahead when leaning on God will feel less necessary.

It may seem counterintuitive, but these difficult days might be the easiest time for us to make that choice.

Let’s be sure we don’t waste them.

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/

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