Words of Hope – Daily Devotional – Salt?

 

Read: Matthew 5:13-14

You are the salt of the earth. (v. 13)

The book chosen for our book club bore the title Salt. I thought, “There must be some mistake. What can be interesting to learn about salt?” Over the next few weeks of reading I was about to find out. Salt processing goes back about 6,000 years and was prized by the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Hittites, and Egyptians. The scarcity and universal need for salt caused nations to go to war over it. At one point, salt as a trade commodity was of greater value than platinum. I could hear the author say, “So there!”

When Jesus addresses you and me as salt, it says something about the high value he places on us and our importance in our communities. Salt preserves what is valuable and adds flavor. The metaphor speaks to our calling as Christians in the surrounding culture with its ever-changing, ever the same, boring decay and corruption.

Have you ever sprinkled salt on your food and couldn’t taste any difference? Disappointing, right? Jesus expects us to make a difference in the world. We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). We must put hands and feet to that prayer every day. When we lose the tang of living out the gospel, the world suffers further spiritual decay. It’s so easy to complain about how things are getting worse. Yet, instead of faulting the world, let’s check our Christian distinctiveness. Have we lost it? —Chic Broersma

Prayer: Lord, without calling attention to myself, help me to make a difference for you and the gospel every day.

 

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Charles Stanley – Ignoring the Conscience

 

1 Timothy 1:18-19; 1 Timothy 4:1-2

Are you making certain choices today that your conscience would not have allowed in the past? If so, you may have become desensitized. That is a dangerous place to be.

As we discussed yesterday, God gave us an internal sense of right and wrong to use along with the Holy Spirit’s guidance when making daily choices. The conscience serves as an “alarm system,” intervening when a Christian is about to take part in ungodly behavior. In that way, it offers protection. But sin can throw off the system’s sensitivity.

The insidious process begins if we choose to disobey and then refuse to deal with our rebellion. The conscience warns us repeatedly, but it will eventually become silenced and ineffective if we persist in ignoring the distress signal. When that happens, there are no longer any signals from the heart to point us back toward godliness—in other words, the conscience has become seared.

This situation is akin to removing all traffic lights from a busy intersection: it is a recipe for disaster. If you are at this place, get on your knees and repent, immersing yourself in God’s Word and bathing your life in prayer. Pursue accountability and fellowship with other believers. A healthy conscience is worth the effort.

Are your internal signals in good working order, or have they been stifled? Don’t delay. Scripture warns us that we have a real enemy who desires to lure us away from godliness and into destruction. God uses a clear conscience to guide, protect, and lead us into His light and peace.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 15-18

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Our Daily Bread — Humble Love

 

Read: Philippians 2:1–11 | Bible in a Year: Ezra 6–8; John 21

The greatest among you will be your servant. Matthew 23:11

When Benjamin Franklin was a young man he made a list of twelve virtues he desired to grow in over the course of his life. He showed it to a friend, who suggested he add “humility” to it. Franklin liked the idea. He then added some guidelines to help him with each item on the list. Among Franklin’s thoughts about humility, he held up Jesus as an example to emulate.

Jesus shows us the ultimate example of humility. God’s Word tells us, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:5–7).

Jesus demonstrated the greatest humility of all. Though eternally with the Father, He chose to bend beneath a cross in love so that through His death He might lift any who receive Him into the joy of His presence.

We imitate Jesus’s humility when we seek to serve our heavenly Father by serving others. Jesus’s kindness helps us catch a breathtaking glimpse of the beauty of setting ourselves aside to attend to others’ needs. Aiming for humility isn’t easy in our “me first” world. But as we rest securely in our Savior’s love, He will give us everything we need to follow Him.

Beautiful Savior, I am Your servant. Please help me to live in Your love and be a blessing to someone today.

We can serve because we are loved.

By James Banks

INSIGHT

Philippians 2 teaches us that how we behave is rooted in what we believe. Paul says the call to humble love and service is built on the example of Jesus. We are to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” He then adds, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (vv. 2–4). This type of living does not come naturally. Only when we allow the Holy Spirit to enable us can we live out the humble love expressed perfectly by Christ.

For more, get our free download, The Mind of Christ.

Bill Crowder

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Comprehending Darkness

Within the dark and heavy world of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, the coinciding stories of each character shift around themes of grace and legalism. The stories are immensely honest, such that we find ourselves somewhere in the novel, or perhaps all through it. The darkness is overwhelming because it is all too close to home, maybe as close as our own hearts. But the light is also real, and it stings our eyes and seeps into our hearts.

In this dark and honest world, life is not fair, it is not easy and the stories don’t always go where you want them to go. Yet, the words of Victor Hugo himself push further: “Will the future ever arrive?” he asks, “Should we continue to look upwards? Is the light we can see in the sky one of those which will presently be extinguished? The ideal is terrifying to behold, lost as it is in the depths, small, isolated, a pin-point, brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it; nevertheless, no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.” The lives of Jean Valjean, Javert, and Cosette force us to perceive things we have maybe only half perceived, such that whatever we knew of shame and mercy and forgiveness are never the same. Their lives seemingly ask us to be aware of the brilliance of even the smallest of lights in the midst of a devastating darkness.

It is said of Christ in the Gospel of John, “In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”(1) Literally, John says that the light shines and the darkness could not “lay hold of it”; the darkness could not master it. Undoubtedly, as John penned the words that testified to the events which had unfolded before his eyes, his mind hastened back to the Cross, the darkness of that day—the unfairness, the ugliness, the confusion and regret of that overwhelming scene. And then he says boldly: Even in the jaws of darkness on the cross, the light of the world did not go out. The Light was not mastered by even the darkest moment in time.

His illustration is weighted with the reality of the waves and particles of light. Darkness cannot overpower it. It cannot catch it. It cannot comprehend it. And so John begins his testimony: Darkness could not grasp the one who is the light and life of men. In Christ is the life that death cannot understand, the light that cannot be overcome.(2)

James Stewart, the great Scottish theologian, challenged readers to ponder this: Jesus Christ is light incomprehensible by darkness. Writes Stewart, “The very triumphs of his foes Jesus used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to serve his ends, not theirs. They nailed him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet. They gave him a cross, not guessing that Jesus would make it a throne.”(3)

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Joyce Meyer – Self-Acceptance

 

For those whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. — Proverbs 3:12

Perhaps you have been struggling with accepting yourself. You see the areas in yourself where change is necessary. You desire to be like Jesus. Yet it is very difficult for you to think or say, “I accept myself.” You feel that to do so would be to accept all that is wrong with you, but that is not the case. We can accept and embrace ourselves as God’s unique creation, and still not like everything we do.

God will change us, but we cannot even begin the process of change until this issue of self-acceptance is settled in our individual lives. When we truly believe that God loves us unconditionally just as we are, then we will have a closeness to Him, and we will be willing to receive His correction, which is necessary for true change.

Change requires corrections—people who do not know they are loved have a very difficult time receiving correction. Correction is merely God giving us divine direction for our lives. He is guiding us to better things, but if we are insecure we will always feel condemned by correction instead of joyfully embracing it.

God does not approve of all of our actions, but He does love and approve of us as His beloved children. Be patient with yourself. Keep pressing on and believe that you are changing every day.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for Your unconditional love and acceptance. Help me to receive Your love and truly love myself as Your beloved child. Allow me to always view Your correction as a sign of Your love and affection for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Produce Lovely Fruit

 

“You didn’t choose Me! I chose you! I appointed you to go and produce lovely fruit always, so that no matter what you ask for from the Father, using My name, He will give it to you” (John 15:16).

Some time ago I asked a leading theologian and dean of faculty of a renowned theological seminary if he felt that one could be a Spirit-filled person without sharing Christ as a way of life.

His answer was an emphatic, “No!” On what basis could he make such a strong statement? The answer is obvious. Our Savior came to “seek and to save the lost” and He has “chosen and ordained” us to share the good news of His love and forgiveness with everyone, everywhere.

To be unwilling to witness for Christ with our lips is to disobey this command just as much as to be unwilling to witness for Him by living holy lives is to disobey His command. In neither case can the disobedient Christian expect God to control and empower his life.

There are those who say, “I witness for Christ by living a good life.” But it is not enough to live a good life. Many non-Christians live fine, moral, ethical lives.

According to the Lord Jesus, the only way we can demonstrate that we are truly following Him is to produce fruit, which includes introducing others to our Savior as well as living holy lives. And the only way we can produce fruit is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Bible Reading:John 15:7-15

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: My part of the “bargain” is to share the good news which will produce lovely fruit; God’s part is to provide the wisdom, love and power, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, to be a fruitful witness. “Lord help me to be faithful in my part, knowing You will be faithful in Yours.”

 

 

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Max Lucado – A Brand New Idea

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

God made you and broke the mold! Every single baby is a brand-new idea from the mind of God. Scan history for your replica; you won’t find it. God tailor-made you. You aren’t one of many bricks in the mason’s pile or one of a dozen bolts in the mechanic’s drawer. You are it!  And if you aren’t you, we don’t get you. The world misses out.

You offer a gift to society that no one else brings. When you and I do the most what we do the best for the glory of God, the Bible says that we are “marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body” (Romans 12:5). You play no small part, because there is no small part to be played. God “shaped each person in turn” (Psalm 33:15). We need you to be you. And YOU need you to be you!

Read more Cure for the Common Life

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Denison Forum – Transgender man’s baby could be first person without legal mother

My father was born on this day in 1924, one day after George H. W. Bush. While my father died in 1979, Mr. Bush is now the first US president to reach ninety-four years of age.

I turned sixty earlier this year. When my father and Mr. Bush were my age, it’s hard to imagine that they could have imagined a story like this one:

A transgender man recently gave birth to a baby in the UK. British law states that those who give birth to children can only be noted as mothers on official documents. The parent has complained of discrimination. As a result, the baby could become the first person born in England and Wales not to have a legal mother.

Two verses we need today

The twenty-first century has brought remarkable advances for advancing the Great Commission. Christians can use digital technology to reach people previously inaccessible to our mission. We can use social media to win the lost and technology to disciple believers.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Transgender man’s baby could be first person without legal mother

Charles Stanley – A Clear Conscience

 

Acts 24:10-16

When facing hard decisions, do you pay attention to your conscience? And is it necessarily wise to trust this inner voice?

God gave everyone an internal sense of right and wrong. In fact, reflecting His truth inwardly is one way that He reveals Himself to mankind. The conscience is a divine alarm system that warns us of oncoming danger or consequences. Its primary purpose is protection and guidance.

The problem, however, is that sin warps perception and can lead us astray. So it’s important to understand the difference between following your heart and allowing a clear conscience to help with decisions. To make a determination, ask, What is the greatest influence on my morality? If the world’s system of what is acceptable has infiltrated your heart, then your conscience cannot be trusted. But if you have allowed God’s Word to permeate and transform your thinking (Rom. 12:2), that inner voice is likely trustworthy.

The Holy Spirit, along with a divinely informed conscience, guides believers. In order to keep that internal guidance system healthy, we should continually meditate on Scripture. The Ten Commandments are a solid basis for morality, and we are wise to internalize them—especially the two Jesus highlighted: to love God above all else and to love others (Matt. 22:36-40).

What would you say has the greatest impact on your belief system? Is it the truth of Scripture? Or do the world’s standards of right and wrong infect your heart? Almighty God knows what is best for you, His child—and He provided a conscience to guide you toward wise decisions.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 8-14

 

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Our Daily Bread — Called by Name

Read: John 20:11–18 | Bible in a Year: Ezra 3–5; John 20

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” John 20:16

Advertisers have concluded that the most attention-grabbing word that viewers react to is their own name. Thus a television channel in the UK has introduced personalized advertisements with their online streaming services.

We might enjoy hearing our name on television, but it doesn’t mean much without the intimacy that comes when someone who loves us says our name.

Mary Magdalene’s attention was arrested when, at the tomb where Jesus’s body had been laid after He was crucified on the cross, He spoke her name (John 20:16). With that single word, she turned in recognition to the Teacher whom she loved and followed, I imagine with a rush of disbelief and joy. The familiarity with which He spoke her name confirmed for her beyond a doubt that the One who’d known her perfectly was alive and not dead.

Although Mary shared a unique and special moment with Jesus, we too are personally loved by God. Jesus told Mary that He would ascend to His Father (v. 17), but He had also told His disciples that He would not leave them alone (John 14:15–18). God would send the Holy Spirit to live and dwell in His children (see Acts 2:1–13).

God’s story doesn’t change. Whether then or now, He knows those whom He loves (see John 10:14–15). He calls us by name.

Loving Father, living Jesus, comforting Holy Spirit, thank You that You know me completely, and that You love me unceasingly.

The God who created the cosmos also made you, and He calls you by name.

By Amy Boucher Pye

INSIGHT

God knows us, and He loves us. That’s easy to say but harder to believe sometimes—especially when we feel crippled by grief, when we feel completely alone.

This beautiful passage (John 20:11–18) can remind us that we can be honest with God. We don’t need to pretend to be happy. We can bring our pain to Him, exactly as it is. Tell Him why we’re crying (vv. 13, 15); tell Him when He seems far away. He loves us and wants us to run to Him in our pain (1 Peter 5:7). When we do, we can experience the tender love of our Father knowing and holding us in even those most painful places (John 20:16). And we can share with others how He brought joy even out of our weeping (v. 18).

Monica Brands

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Great Dichotomy

Most scholars agree that the Enlightenment or “Age of Reason,” which began in the early seventeenth century, set up a great dichotomy that persists in modern time.(1) The great “dichotomy” of the Enlightenment entailed the separation of the public and private realms. The public realm was the world of ascertained by reason alone. Missiologist Lesslie Newbigin explains, “The thinkers of the Enlightenment spoke of their age as the age of reason…by which human beings could attain (at least in principle) to a complete understanding of, and thus a full mastery of, nature—of reality in all its forms. Reason, so understood, is sovereign in this enterprise.”(2) In the realm of reason, therefore, revelation from a divine realm was not needed. Human reason could search out and know all the facts about reality, and “no alleged divine revelation, no tradition however ancient, and no dogma however hallowed has the right to veto its exercise.”(3)

The realm of religious belief was now relegated to the realm of private value and private purpose. It wasn’t that the Enlightenment dichotomy cut out God. Rather, it created a distinction between “natural” religion—God’s existence and the moral laws known by all and demonstrable by reason—and “revealed” religion—doctrines as taught by the Bible and the church. The latter realm, dominant in the Middle Ages and the Reformation, came under increasing attack and was eventually relegated to private expression and personal feelings.

Fueled by scientific and philosophical discoveries, the view of the world as the venue of God’s providence and rule, shifted to the view that sovereign reason could discover all that was necessary to advance humanity toward its highest destiny. All of Christianity’s supernatural claims and all of its revelatory content were unnecessary in a world where the Creator had endowed human beings with enough reason to discern what was important simply through the study of the natural world. As such, the autonomous, rational human became the center of truth and knowledge.

What emerged from this dichotomy was the belief that the real world was a world of cause and effect, of material bodies guided solely by mathematically stable laws. Discovering the cause of something was to have explained it in its totality. There was no need to invoke any supernatural “purpose” or “design” as an explanation any longer.

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Joyce Meyer – Reminders

 

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]. — 2 Timothy 1:7

Adapted from the resource Battlefield Of The Mind Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

It doesn’t matter what kind of problem we have in our lives, we need self-control and discipline to gain and maintain the victory. I believe this is especially true with regard to our thought life and the battle for our mind. What begins in the mind eventually comes out of the mouth, and before we know it, we’re telling anyone who will listen how we feel. We have to discipline our mind, our mouth, our feelings, and our actions so that they are all in agreement with what the Word of God says.

Every quality of God that is in you and me, God Himself planted in us in the form of a seed the day we accepted Christ (see Colossians 2:10). Over time and through life’s experiences, the seeds of Christ’s character begin to grow and produce the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22–23).

I have found that it is virtually impossible to operate in any of the other eight fruit of the Spirit unless we are exercising self-control. How can you and I remain patient, for example, in the midst of an upsetting situation unless we exercise restraint? Or how can we walk in love and believe the best of someone after they have repeatedly hurt us unless we use the fruit of self-control?

As Christians, we have the fruit of the Spirit in us, but we must purposely choose to exercise them. Not choosing to exercise the fruit of the Spirit is what produces carnal Christians—those who are under the control of ordinary impulses and walk after the desires of the flesh (see 1 Corinthians 3:3). Whatever we exercise the most becomes the strongest.

Our thoughts and words are two areas in which the Holy Spirit is constantly prompting us to exercise self-control. The Bible says that “. . . as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he,” and “out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks” (Proverbs 23:7Luke 6:45 AMPC). Satan is constantly trying to get us to accept wrong thoughts about everything from God’s love for us to what terrible thing is going to happen to us next. Why? Because he knows that once we start accepting and believing his lies, it is just a matter of time until we begin to speak them out of our mouths. And when we speak wrong things, we open the door for wrong things to come into our lives (see Proverbs 18:20–21).

What if, instead of allowing our minds to go over all of the things that have hurt us, we would remind ourselves to think about all the good things God has brought into our lives? When we allow Satan to fill our minds with worry, anxiety, and doubt, we wear out our ability to make good decisions. Worry is also thankless by nature. I’ve noticed that people who worry rarely see much good in life. They talk about tragedy, failures, sickness, and loss. They seem unable to focus on the good things that they still have in life.

Try this. Each day, focus on the things God has done for you in the past. This will make it easier for you to expect good things in the future. As I wrote those words, I thought of the memorials mentioned in the Old Testament. Often the people stacked up heaps of stones as reminders that God had delivered them or appeared to them. As they looked backward and remembered, they were able to look forward and believe.

The psalmist wrote, “O my God, my life is cast down upon me [and I find the burden more than I can bear]; therefore will I [earnestly] remember You from the land of the Jordan [River] and the [summits of Mount] Hermon” (Psalm 42:6 AMPC). He was reminding himself of past victories. When he was having problems, he recalled God’s great work in the lives of the people.

When doubts try to sneak in, you can do what the psalmist did: You can look back and remember that God has always been with His people. All of us have had times when we wondered if we’d make it. But we did. So will you.

Prayer Starter: My great God, forgive me for allowing the little things of life to distract me and to take my thoughts away from You. Through Jesus Christ, help me always to remember that You are with me in the good times and in the bad times. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Real Freedom

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36, KJV).

A dedicated, but defeated, young missionary returned from the field devastated because of his failure; first, to live the Christian life; and second, to introduce others to the Savior. He came to my office for counsel.

I explained to him that the Christian life is simply a matter of surrendering our lives to the risen Christ and appropriating the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit by faith. “Relax,” I said. “Let the Lord Jesus Christ live and love through you. Let Him seek and save the lost through your life.”

He became very impatient with me. “You dilute and distort the gospel,” he insisted. “It really costs to serve Jesus. I have made great sacrifices on the mission field. I have worked day and night. I struggled. It has cost me my health – though I am prepared to die for Christ – but you make it too easy, and I cannot accept what your are saying.” He left my office in anger.

Later he called for another appointment, saying, “I don’t agree with you, but there’s a quality in your life that I want for myself, and I’d like to talk further.”

Again I explained, “The just shall live by faith. All the supernatural resources of God are available to us by faith, not by our sacrifice and good works – though good works must follow faith, for faith without works is dead.”

As we talked, his attitude began to change. Then some days later I received a letter filled with praise, worship and adoration to God as he described the miracle that had taken place in his life. He had discovered the liberating truth of the principle that God’s grace is available to us by faith. The Christian life is supernatural. No individual is capable of living it apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus explains it in John 15:4,5: “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches…without Me ye can do nothing.”

It is His supernatural life, in all of its resurrection power, released through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, that enables us to live supernatural lives for the glory of God. Only then can we be free, for the Son alone can liberate us.

Bible Reading:Romans 8:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: By faith, I shall act upon my rights as a child of God and claim the supernatural power of the Son of God. Knowing that He has already set me free, through His death and resurrection, I am confident that He will enable me to experience that freedom, moment by moment, so that I may live the supernatural life to which I have been called.

 

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Max Lucado – Living in Your Sweet Spot

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Are you living in your sweet spot? Doing what you do well—what you’ve always loved to do? That last question trips up a lot of folks. God wouldn’t let me do what I like to do—would he?  Yes, he would. “God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13).   Scripture says, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Your Father is too gracious to assign you to a life of misery. See your desires as gifts to heed rather than longings to suppress. What have you always done well and loved to do? Read your life backward. Re-relish your moments of success and satisfaction. In the merger of the two, you will find your uniqueness!

Read more Cure for the Common Life

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – My reflections on the Singapore Summit

“Nice to meet you, Mr. President.” With these words, Kim Jong Un shook hands with Donald Trump as the two made history in Singapore.

Before the summit, the sitting heads of the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had never met. The summit began last night at 9 p.m. ET (9 a.m. Tuesday morning in Singapore) and lasted for four hours. The two met before a row of alternating US and North Korean flags, then sat down for a thirty-eight-minute, one-on-one meeting.

Their top advisers then joined them for another two hours of talks. The delegations concluded by sharing lunch together. Afterward, Mr. Kim announced, “The world will see a major change.”

“We’re going to have a great discussion”

Mr. Trump told reporters at the outset of the summit, “We’re going to have a great discussion. It’s my honor and we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.” Mr. Kim added that “old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles in our way forward, but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”

The two signed a “joint statement” in which “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

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Charles Stanley – No Longer I, But Christ

 

Galatians 2:20

Hudson Taylor was a missionary in China during the mid-1800s. At one point, he felt overwhelmed with financial concerns, the responsibilities of running a mission, and the ever-increasing pile of mail awaiting his attention. All the letters he wrote to friends and family were filled with defeat and discouragement.

Seeing his need, a missionary friend wrote back to him, asking, “Hudson, when you think about Jesus, does He have a furrowed brow? Is He worried and anxious because He doesn’t know what’s going to happen next or if there will be enough money?” Then he added, “When your life becomes Jesus’ life, there’s no need to worry, because it will no longer be Hudson who bears the burdens but Jesus, and He’ll never be swamped by problems.”

God changed Hudson Taylor in that moment. His circumstances were the same; in fact, the problems became greater, but there was a difference in Taylor’s response. Whereas before he was fretting and wrestling, now he was resting in the Lord and trusting with a calm, quiet, and peaceful spirit. Those who knew him could discern the dramatic change.

Sometimes we think that being crucified with Christ is all about what we give up—practicing self-denial and saying no to sin, temptations, and worldly pleasures. But it also includes living in the power of His resurrected life. Jesus Christ makes His abode in us, empowering us to overcome sin and live righteously. But He also carries our burdens and encourages our spirits to trust Him. Just as we are saved by faith, so also we live by faith, trusting the Lord day by day with all our needs and concerns.

Bible in One Year: Psalm 1-7

 

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Our Daily Bread — Advice from My Father

 

Read: Proverbs 3:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Ezra 1–2; John 19:23–42

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

After being laid off from an editorial job, I prayed, asking for God to help me find a new one. But when weeks went by and nothing came of my attempts at networking and filling out applications, I began to pout. “Don’t You know how important it is that I have a job?” I asked God, my arms folded in protest at my seemingly unanswered prayer.

When I talked to my father, who had often reminded me about believing God’s promises, about my job situation, he said, “I want you to get to the point where you trust what God says.”

My father’s advice reminds me of Proverbs 3, which includes wise advice from a parent to a beloved child. This familiar passage was especially applicable to my situation: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). To “make . . . paths straight” means God will guide us toward His goals for our growth. His ultimate goal is that I become more like Him.

This does not mean that the paths He chooses will be easy. But I can choose to trust that His direction and timing are ultimately for my good.

Are you waiting on God for an answer? Choose to draw near to Him and trust that He will guide you.

Lord, thank You for guiding and caring for us every step of the way. Help us to trust in You daily.

Your Father in heaven knows what’s best for you.

By Linda Washington

INSIGHT

The first nine chapters of Proverbs don’t follow the same format (pithy sayings; poetry couplets) that the rest of the book follows. The beginning chapters are a father’s encouragement to his son. The father tells his son of the benefits of wisdom, of its ability to make life more pleasant and fulfilling. Wisdom and folly are personified and invite the young man to pursue them. But why is this important? It seems obvious that wisdom is better than folly, so why go to such lengths to convince a child of the need to pursue wisdom?

The answer is experiential. You see, folly is the easier of the two, the more natural. As we read chapters 10–31, we see what the better choice is. But folly is far simpler to choose—it seems hardwired into us. Whether it’s a harsh word, a selfish action, or self-indulgence, folly is always ready to embrace us. That’s why the father takes such time to encourage his son to pursue wisdom. Wisdom isn’t restricted to big decisions, however; we need it for every action we take and every word we speak.

How can we pursue wisdom today?

J.R. Hudberg

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Better Imagination

 

Whether compelling the visions of a child or inspiring music or architecture, the power of the imagination is often clear:

O hark, O hear! How thin and clear,

And thinner, clearer, farther going!

O sweet and far from cliff and scar

The horns of Elfland faintly blowing.(1)

But what of the mere presence of the imagination? “I do not think the resemblance between the Christian and the merely imaginative experience is accidental,” wrote Lewis. “I think that all things, in their way, reflect heavenly truth, the imagination not least.”(2) Certainly, this taste of a richer fare was sensed in the formative imaginations at which Lewis supped long before he knew he was starving for their Host. Writes Lewis:

“Chesterton had more sense than all the other moderns put together; bating, of course, his Christianity. Johnson was one of the few authors whom I felt I could trust utterly; curiously enough, he had the same kink. Spenser and Milton by a strange coincidence had it too. Even among ancient authors the same paradox was to be found. The most religious (Plato, Aeschylus, Virgil) were clearly those on whom I could really feed. On the other hand, those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete—Shaw and Wells and Mill and Gibbon and Voltaire—all seemed a little thin; what as boys we called ‘tinny.’ It wasn’t that I didn’t like them. They were all (especially Gibbon) entertaining; but hardly more. There seemed to be no depth in them. They were too simple. The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books.”(3)

And while Lewis would come to see that this “lower life of the imagination is not a beginning of, nor a step toward, the higher life of the spirit,” he is equally certain that God in God’s mercy can profoundly make it such a beginning.(4) My own encounter of the great imagination of C.S. Lewis is similar to a testimony given at his funeral, namely, that “his real power was not proof; it was depiction. There lived in his writings a Christian universe that could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home and in which he made his reader at home.”(5) I believe I probably first loved God as an untame Lion, not because the God I wished for was kinder than the God who is, but because I did not yet see that my deficient vision of God was the vision that needed a better imagination. As Lewis later wrote of his intense love of all Norse mythology, “[A]t the time, Asgard and the Valkyries seemed to me incomparably more important than anything else in my experience…More shockingly, they seemed much more important than my steadily growing doubts about Christianity. This may have been—in part, no doubt was—penal blindness; yet that might not be the whole story. If the Northernness seemed then a bigger thing than my religion, that may partly have been because my attitude toward it contained elements which my religion ought to have contained and did not.”(6)

Even so, in moments of moral crisis, we do not pause to ask what Jane Erye would do, I once heard a writer say. She had referenced the Brian Nichol’s story—the gunman who went on a shooting spree in Atlanta and ended up holding a woman hostage in her apartment where she read to him from The Purpose Driven Life and eventually convinced him to turn himself in. She then asked if this story would have turned out the same if the young girl had read to him from Moby Dick or War and Peace or any of the great classics of history. Her point was clear: the influence of art and imagination is usually not in the thick of things, but on the margins of culture; nor it is always clear and obvious, but often dense and unsettling. And yet there are quite arguably characters and stories that indeed become of moral significance, pulling us into worlds that call for attention, compassion, and consideration. Long before I had any idea about the word “allegory” or the concept of good or bad literature, Narnian kings, talking beavers, and the Queen of Glome began appearing in my dreams, beckoning me to another place. In the aftermath of death and subsequent disappointment over the miracle we did not get, it was Aslan’s empathetic tear for the grieving Digory that came to mind when all seemed lost. For Lewis, it was the bright shadow coming out of a George MacDonald book that found him mercifully in the margins. “In the depth of my disgraces, in the then invincible ignorance of my intellect, all this was given me without asking, even without consent. That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized; the rest of me, not unnaturally, took longer. I had not the faintest notion what I had let myself in for by buying Phantastes.”(6) But the Spirit no doubt mercifully did.

It is quite true that a young materialist or pessimist, atheist or agnostic who wishes to stay this way cannot be too careful in choosing what to read. God is unscrupulous, as Lewis attests, willing to use our own imaginations against us, our own pens to probe the wounds. If imagination is not the property of materialism, but the playground of heaven, it is nonetheless not the thing itself. But the hopeful signs of God’s own compelling imagination are everywhere—beautiful and terrible, inviting and transforming. It is the encounter with the Gate, not the signs along the way, that transforms the entire journey. It is said that Lewis became more like himself when he finally kneeled and admitted that God was God—”as though the key to his own hidden and locked-away personality was given to him.”(7) Everything is intensified—his loves, his responses, Jack himself—as the one brought in kicking and screaming discovered in Christ and his kingdom the world of Joy he had only before heard feebly. The faint horns of Elfland give way to the resounding glory of the creator and wonders beyond our imagining.

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

(1) Lewis, C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (Orlando: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1955), 167.

(2) Lewis, 213-214.

(3) Lewis, 167.

(4) Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis (San Francisco: Harper, 2005), 312.

(5) Lewis, 76.

(6) Lewis, 181.

(7) Jacobs, 131.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – It’s Time to Stretch

 

For we walk by faith…not by sight…. — 2 Corinthians 5:7

Adapted from the resource Wake Up To The Word Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Stretch means “extended; exerted to the utmost.” When you follow God into something new in your life, you may feel stretched.

Perhaps you receive a job promotion, and you know you don’t have all the natural skills and knowledge you need to do the new job well. Then you become worried because you think you’re in over your head. The job may be over your head, but it’s not bigger than God. If He leads you into it, He will help you fulfill the responsibilities that go with it. God’s power and presence enable us to do things we can’t do on our own.

It’s important to remember God is on your side as you go into new situations, because fear and doubt will always be lying in wait to try to keep you from following Him. Don’t let those things hold you back. Remember that God is with you and He’s bigger than any problem you may face. Don’t be afraid to stretch your faith because it will give you greater capacity to fulfill your God-given potential.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to lean on You and walk forward with faith when I feel “over my head.” Help me to stretch and be all that I can be in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

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.

 

http://www.cru.org

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