Tag Archives: current-events

Charles Stanley – When We Are to Blame

Charles Stanley

Luke 15:11-32

As we saw yesterday, some needs are universal—necessities that are common to all people. Today, let’s focus on needs of a different kind: those that arise when we are to blame.

Think about the prodigal son. This young man had everything he could possibly want—he lived in a beautiful home, had plenty of food, and was raised in a wealthy and popular family. However, he unwisely set his eye on the one thing he didn’t have: prestige. He wanted to be his own man and get out from under the shadow of his father and older brother. Despite having the finest things in life, he wanted independence.

The result? This young man had a wonderful time, but only for a little while. He desired the joys that went along with success but paid no attention whatsoever to the responsibilities wealth required. Therefore, he drove himself into a world of pain and need that he’d never before experienced. And he had no one to blame but himself.

Hurting, hungry, and alone, the prodigal knew full well how and where his needs would be met. Then, accepting the blame, he turned and made the journey home.

When we are hurting, we often try to find someone else to blame. It can be heartbreaking to realize the fault is actually our own. When this describes your situation, can you, like the prodigal son, swallow your pride and turn back toward your heavenly Father? If you do, you’ll discover He’s already running out to meet you, ready to supply your needs again.

 

Joyce Meyer – Take Time to Get to Know People

Joyce meyer

Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously.—John 7:24

Today’s verse is a very clear, specific word from God to us. He tells us not to judge people superficially or by appearances.

For years I was the kind of person who made snap judgments. God seriously dealt with me about it several times, and I finally realized the danger of judging hastily and superficially.

Before we judge people, we must take time to get to know who they really are. Otherwise, (1) we can approve of someone because they appear to be something, when in fact they are not; or (2) we can disapprove of someone because of some outward appearance or action, when that individual is actually a wonderful person inside.

We all have our little quirks, our odd little actions, behaviors, and ways that are not easily understood by others. God Himself does not judge by appearances and we need to follow His example.

David would never have been chosen to be king if people had judged superficially. Even his own family disregarded him. But God saw David’s heart, the heart of a shepherd. God saw a worshipper, someone who had a heart for Him, someone who was pliable and moldable in His hand. These are qualities God values, but they aren’t always obvious at a glance.

I encourage you to seek God and let the Holy Spirit speak to you about people. He knows their hearts, and He will tell you whether to beware or pursue a relationship with them. Trust Him, not your own judgment, to lead you as you get to know people and develop relationships.

God’s word for you today: Have the same attitude toward others that you would like them to have toward you.

Our Daily Bread — Good-Behavior Rewards

Our Daily Bread

2 Corinthians 5:1-11

We make it our aim . . . to be well pleasing to [God]. —2 Corinthians 5:9

In a children’s ministry in my church, we hand out cards to the kids when we notice their good behavior. They collect the cards and receive prizes for the good choices they’ve made. We are trying to reinforce good behavior rather than focusing on bad behavior.

When one leader handed a card to 11-year-old Tyree, he responded, “No, thanks. I don’t need one; I want to behave well, and I don’t need a reward for that.” For him, doing the right thing was its own reward. He definitely has good values ingrained in him, and he wants to live them out—prize or not.

As believers in Jesus, we will receive rewards one day. Second Corinthians 5:10 says that everyone will “receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” But to get a reward should not be our motivation for right living. Neither is it to earn salvation. Living out of love for God and pleasing Him should be our heart’s desire.

When we love God, we make it our aim to please Him who first loved us (1 John 4:19) and to serve Him with pure motives (Prov. 16:2; 1 Cor. 4:5). The best reward will be to be with Him! —Anne Cetas

In all I think and say and do,

I long, O God, to honor You;

But may my highest motive be

To love the Christ who died for me. —D. DeHaan

Our desire to please God is our highest motive for obeying Him.

Bible in a year: Jeremiah 34-36; Hebrews 2

Joyce Meyer – Never Go to Bed Angry

Joyce meyer

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.  —Ephesians 4:26

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m glad this verse is in the Bible because it helps us to build character by giving us a guideline to follow in handling our anger: let go of anger before bedtime. There is only one problem. What happens when we become good and mad just before bedtime? If we become mad in the morning, at least we have all day to get over it. But when we become mad close to bedtime, we have to make a quick decision.

Why is it so bad for us to go to bed angry? I think it is because while we sleep, what we are angry about has time to get a hold on us and take root in us. But the Word says, Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him] (Ephesians 4:27).

This verse tells us what happens if we refuse to get over our anger by bedtime: It opens a door for the devil and gives Satan a foothold. Once Satan gets a foothold in our lives, then he can move on to a stronghold.

You may wonder, “Well, if I am mad, what should I do about it?” Get over it! You may think, “That’s easy for you to say, but you’re not in my situation.” I may not be in your situation, but you are not in my situation either. We all have different situations. If you are going to live a joyful, victorious life, you have to do so by choice and not by feeling.

In Deuteronomy 30:19 the Lord tells us, I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life. Choose life by refusing to give in to anger. Take responsibility for your anger and learn to deal with it—process it and bring closure to it, and that will relieve the pressure.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Total Gift

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Can you imagine life without God’s gift of grace? Unfortunately, many live without it. According to a survey from LifeWay Research, 47 percent of Americans feel the weight of a bad choice from their past, even though a majority believe God gives second chances. Nearly 19 percent believe God gives a second chance when a person depends only on Him, followed closely by when a person makes restitution (18 percent), does enough good (15 percent) or promises not to repeat the mistake (11 percent).

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.

I Corinthians 1:4

Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” The work of salvation is for God’s glory and is not accomplished by human effort. Salvation is fully a gift from God!

Of course, when someone gives you a gift, you say, “Thank you.” So every day thank God for His total gift of grace in your life…and for the second chances He has given you. Thank Him also for the grace He has bestowed on this country. Then pray that the nation’s leaders will discover this priceless gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Recommended Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

Max Lucado – Jesus Knows How You Feel

Max Lucado

Remember when you sought a night’s rest and got a colicky baby? Remember when you sought to catch up at the office and got even further behind? And you can add to the list of interruptions sorrow, excitement, and bedlam.  Sound familiar?

Take comfort—it happened to Jesus too. You may have trouble believing that. You probably believe Jesus knows what it means to endure heavy-duty tragedies.  You’re no doubt convinced Jesus is acquainted with sorrow and has wrestled with fear.  Most people accept that. But can God relate to the hassles and headaches of my life? Of your life?

For some reason this is harder to believe. But Jesus knows how you feel. His eyes have grown weary. His heart has grown heavy. He has had to climb out of bed with a sore throat. He has been kept awake late and has gotten up early.

Jesus knows how you feel!

from Lucado Inspirational Reader

Our Daily Bread — Be Still

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 46

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! —Psalm 46:10

Eric Liddell, memorialized in the film Chariots of Fire, won a gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics before going to China as a missionary. Some years later, with the outbreak of World War II, Liddell sent his family to safety in Canada, but he remained in China. Soon Liddell and other foreign missionaries were interned in a Japanese detainment camp. After months of captivity, he developed what doctors feared was a brain tumor.

Every Sunday afternoon a band would play near the hospital, so one day Liddell requested they play the hymn “Be Still, My Soul.” As he listened, I wonder if Eric pondered these words from the song: Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on / When we shall be forever with the Lord. / When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, / Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. / Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past / All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

That beautiful hymn, so comforting to Eric as he faced an illness that led to his death 3 days later, expresses a great reality of Scripture. In Psalm 46:10, David wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In our darkest moments, we can rest, for our Lord conquered death on our behalf. Be still, and allow Him to calm your greatest fears. —Bill Crowder

Teach me, Lord, to still my soul before You. Help

me to bear patiently the trials I face, and to

leave everything to You to direct and provide.

I know that You will always remain faithful.

God’s whisper of comfort quiets the noise of our trials.

Bible in a year: Jeremiah 30-31; Philemon

 

John MacArthur – Having a Faith That Responds

John MacArthur

“Faith is . . . the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

When the writer said, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”, he used two parallel and almost identical phrases to define faith.

We’ve seen that faith is the assurance that all God’s promises will come to pass in His time. “The conviction of things not seen” takes the same truth a step further by implying a response to what we believe and are assured of.

James addressed the issue this way: “Someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’. . . But are you willing to recognize . . . that faith without works is useless? . . . For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:18, 26). In other words, a non-responsive faith is no faith at all.

Noah had a responsive faith. He had never seen rain because rain didn’t exist prior to the Flood. Perhaps he knew nothing about building a ship. Still, he followed God’s instructions and endured 120 years of hard work and ridicule because he believed God was telling the truth. His work was a testimony to that belief.

Moses considered “the reproach of Christ [Messiah] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26). Messiah wouldn’t come to earth for another 1,400 years, but Moses forsook the wealth and benefits of Egypt to pursue the messianic hope.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when faced with a life- threatening choice, chose to act on their faith in God, whom they couldn’t see, rather than bow to Nebuchadnezzar, whom they could see all too well (Dan. 3). Even if it meant physical death, they wouldn’t compromise their beliefs.

I pray that the choices you make today will show you are a person of strong faith and convictions.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Ask God to increase and strengthen your faith through the events of this day.

Look for specific opportunities to trust Him more fully.

For Further Study:

Read Daniel 3:1-20. How was the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tested?

 

 

John MacArthur – The Hope That Assures

John MacArthur

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1).

Faith is the solid ground on which we stand as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises.

An elderly man who, on his seventy-fifth birthday, received an invitation to fly over the little West Virginia town in which he had spent his entire life. Although he had never before flown, the man accepted the gracious offer.

After circling the town for about twenty minutes, the pilot safely returned his passenger to the ground. The man’s grandson greeted him excitedly, asking, “Were you scared, Grandpa?” “No,” he replied sheepishly, “but I never did put my full weight down.”

Unlike that hesitant grandfather, true faith trusts fully in its object. For the Christian, that means resting in God and His promises. That’s the primary characteristic of each faithful individual listed in Hebrews 11. They all believed God and responded accordingly.

People often confuse faith with a wistful longing that something, however unlikely, will come to pass in the future. But “assurance” in Hebrews 11:1 speaks of essence and reality– the real thing, as opposed to mere appearance. Faith, then, involves absolute certainty.

For example, the Old Testament saints had the promise of a coming Messiah who would take away sin. They believed God, even though their understanding of Messiah was incomplete and somewhat vague. They knew their hopes would be fulfilled, and that assurance dominated their lives.

It’s the same for New Testament believers. Peter said, “Though you have not seen [Christ], you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9).

Man’s natural tendency is to trust only in the things he can see, hear, touch, or taste. But our physical senses may lie, whereas God cannot (Titus 1:2). Far better to believe God and trust in His promises.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Which promises of God are especially meaningful to you today? Thank Him for them and reaffirm your commitment to living on the basis of His Word.

For Further Study:

Skim Hebrews 11 and note all the divine promises you find there. To gain a fuller understanding of each one, find other Scripture references that mention the same promises.

 

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Mystery Man

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Even to this day, no one really knows why he did it, although millions annually visit the complex of museums bearing his name. When Englishman James Smithson died in 1829, his will provided for his estate of about $500,000 to be gifted to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Smithson was an obscure scientist known by few. You may not know much about Smithson, but you certainly know of his deeds.

Give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

I Chronicles 16:8

If the Lord is your Savior, his works and wonders are obvious to you. Yet most of the world knows no more about Jesus than they do about James Smithson. In this month of thanksgiving, how will you “make known his deeds among the peoples?”

Today, pray that your life might be used to draw others to the gift of eternal life offered by God. James Smithson, the mystery man, impacted generations of Americans with his thoughtful generosity. As you follow God’s perfect will for your life, your spiritual legacy shall be even greater!

Recommended Reading: I Timothy 4:4-10

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Mere Christianity

Ravi Z

“I can’t believe how many children there are here,” I leaned and whispered to my husband. We were visitors at a church whose smallest members were helping with the service that morning. A young girl, no more than 8, stood at the front of the altar beside the minister. As she began to speak, her voice echoed the eagerness that her countenance gave away. “Join me in saying the Apostles’ Creed,” she said with a tone that caused me to heed the invitation differently:

I believe God made the world, the sky, the stars, the animals, and all the people in the world. I believe that God’s Son, Jesus, came into the world from heaven. That’s what we remember on Christmas.

Thus began the Apostles’ Creed reworded for children, and in these almost familiar lines were the tenents of the Christian faith, the reminder of all that Christians remember from Christmas to Easter. The little girl’s voice rose above the sounds of a congregation speaking in unison. She was clearly excited by the assignment she had been given. She seemed equally excited by the words of the Creed, the statements of belief shared with the very adults she was leading. It was a creed led in such a way as to remind everyone present that the call of Christ is one a child can answer. The substance to Christian hope is a simple, though profound, reality.

The word creed comes from the Latin word credo, meaning, “I believe.” When asked by Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response was his creed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”(1) The earliest creeds were used as baptismal vows, affirmations of belief in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For persons standing on the precipice of faith, the creed was the statement with which they prepared themselves to jump, and in so doing, found they had been given something on which to stand. As Martin Luther noted of the Apostles’ Creed, the most common of ancient confessions, “Christian truth could not possibly be put into a shorter and clearer statement.”

In dire contrast to this ancient attempt to develop concise affirmations of Christian belief is the call among us for a simplified faith that lessens the significance of Jesus’s birth, life, and death, while focusing more on the responsibility his life imparts. Whether or not he was really born or buried, whether he was fully human and fully divine is thought nonessential; the obligation to respond, the need to build relationships, the call to follow, is considered more important. The creeds say so much more than this. Christmas and Easter say so much more than goodwill and forgiveness.

In the letter to the Hebrews, the affirmation is given that faith gives substance to our hopes and makes certain the realities we do not see. Those who first said “credo” did so with the assurance that their lives were dramatically about to change. They were saying in these vows that their beliefs were worth the chance of persecution, suffering, and even death. In their confession of faith was the conviction that what is true is of greater substance than fear or self. They went to their baptisms knowing that the birth, life, and death of Christ was the hope on which they must live and die and believe.

The lines of the Apostles’ Creed, the mere Christianity that men, women, and children continue to stand on, repeat this stirring hope and sounding joy:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell, and on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

This is no mere Christianity. This is the story we welcome into a manger and receive from the tomb. This is what we remember on Christmas and every day after.

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

(1) See Matthew 16:15-16.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A Place Prepared for You

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“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3, KJV).

Recently my 93-year-old father went to be with the Lord. Though I was saddened to realize that I would never see him again in this life, and I shed a few tears of sorrow for myself, at the same time I rejoiced in the knowledge that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

My father is now rejoicing in the presence of our wonderful God and Savior. One day I shall join with him, my mother (who is still living at 93), all my brothers and sisters who have declared their faith in Christ, and multitudes of other loved ones, friends and saints to spend eternity in that place where “eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard…what God hath prepared for those who love Him.”

“I cannot think what we shall find to do in heaven,” mused Martin Luther. “No change, no work, no eating, no drinking, nothing to do.”

“Yes,” responded a friend, “‘Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.'”

“Why, of course,” said Luther, “that sight will give us quite enough to do!”

Joy of joys, you and I not only have been given purpose and power for living the supernatural, abundant life – by the indwelling Holy Spirit – but we have also been promised a place in His presence when this life is over. And, as Luther realized, we will then worship Him face to face throughout the endless ages of eternity.

We need not know exactly what heaven will be like; we need only know who will be there – our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. That assurance and anticipation should motivate us to live the kind of supernatural life that burdens and concerns us about the needs of others, moment by moment, day by day.

Bible Reading: John 14:27-31

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will meditate on the glory and beauty of my heavenly Father and my eternal home where I shall worship and have fellowship with my Lord throughout eternity. I will encourage loved ones, friends and strangers alike to prepare to go there also when their work on earth is done

 

Greg Laurie – Another Kind of Courage

greglaurie

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. —1 Corinthians 16:13

What is courage? Courage has been defined as bravery. It also has been defined as fear that has said its prayers. Mark Twain said, “Courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.” A courageous person is not someone who is fearless. (That is, effectively, a stupid person.) A courageous person is someone who can control his or her fear and then do the right thing. It is overcoming the fear that we naturally have.

We no doubt see courage on display among those who are first responders. Certainly the brave soldiers serving our country display courage every day. And we read periodically of acts of heroism, although I wish we could read more often about them because they happen all the time.

But there are other kinds of courage too. There is moral courage, which is the ability to do right in the face of opposition or discouragement. Having moral courage means being an honest person. It means having integrity. It means that you don’t cheat on the test. You don’t cheat on your taxes. And you don’t cheat on your spouse. Moral courage is honoring the vows you made to your wife or your husband when you said, “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish. . . .”

It also takes courage to follow Jesus Christ. We are living in an ABC culture today: anything but Christ. People are fine with whatever you believe, until you say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, and I believe the Bible is the Word of God.” At best you become persona non grata. At worst you are public enemy number one. It takes courage to stand up for Jesus Christ, wherever you are. We need more moral courage today.

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Starting With a Question

 

Ravi Z

Starting with a question seems like a good idea to most people: it helps to bring a sharper focus, it’s conversational, it reveals gaps in knowledge, and it’s quite natural.(1) Kids seem to use questions instinctively to find out about the world. Of course, there are lazy questions and there are thoughtful questions. The difference is hard to explain, but anyone who has ever heard or asked a great question, asked at the right time, will immediately know why good, careful, thoughtful questions are always worth asking.

 When it comes to questions about faith, Christians have often pointed to the example of God asking Adam and Eve, ‘Where are you?’ (Genesis 3:9), and the way in which Jesus interacts with people in the New Testament. Here are just a few of the questions of Jesus:

 What are you looking for? What do you want me to do for you? Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me? If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Do you want to be well? Do you see this woman? What good is it to gain the whole world but forfeit your soul? Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Who is greater, the one seated at the table, or the one who serves? Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? Which of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God? Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do what I command? Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For which of these good works are you trying to stone me? Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? Would you like some breakfast? Have you come to believe because you have seen me? I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? Do you love me?

 Perhaps starting with questions isn’t such a bad idea after all, is it? Even so, some may be suspicious of starting with questions. Some may find them leading or loaded. Others may be worried about being unfaithful to God if they use and engage properly with questions. But, as you can see, Jesus used questions, which, for me, is the strongest reason to use them. And when Jesus asked a question it suddenly brought everything into focus, not just for the one he was asking, but for everyone listening as well. Jesus’s often subversive questions summarize and lift up the prevailing authority structures, symbols, and assumptions. His questions lift them high up into the air for inspection, so that everyone can see more clearly the motives, traditions, assumptions, and all the wildness that often rages under the surface.

 Questions can help us to concentrate, pay attention, and think together. A good question can transform a meandering discussion into a life-changing moment, when reality breaks through illusion. In these moments, when we gently ask the right questions of ourselves or others, we can sometimes get under a question, and meet the one behind it. In the words of T.S. Eliot, “Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger. Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.” The message of Christ comes in power, reality, and compassion and is able to answer the deeper questions that come bursting out when the door is opened.

 Tom Price is Academic Tutor at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Europe.

 (1) Article adapted from “Starting With Questions” Pulse, Issue 8 (Summer 2011), pp. 12-13.

John MacArthur – Training in Righteousness

John MacArthur

“All Scripture is . . . profitable for . . . training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

We conclude our study of the character and benefits of God’s Word by focusing on the benefit that ties all the others together: training in righteousness. Everything the Word accomplishes in you through teaching, reproof, and correction is aimed at increasing your righteousness so you’ll “be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV).

“Training” refers to training or educating a child. The New Testament also uses the term to speak of chastening, which is another important element in both child rearing and spiritual growth (Heb. 12:5-11). The idea is that from spiritual infancy to maturity, Scripture trains and educates believers in godly living.

Scripture is your spiritual nourishment. Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Peter exhorted us to be like newborn babes, longing “for the pure milk of the word, that by it [we] may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2).

You should crave the Word just like a baby craves milk. But Peter prefaced that statement with an exhortation to put “aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (v. 1). That’s the prerequisite. James taught the same principle: “Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word” (James 1:21). Attempting to feast on Scripture without confessing your sin is like attempting to eat a meal while wearing a muzzle.

Either the Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Word. Deal with sin immediately so it doesn’t spoil your appetite for God’s Word. And even if you know the Bible well, be regularly refreshed by its power and reminded of its truths. That’s the key to enjoying spiritual health and victory.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the nourishment His Word provides.

Seek His wisdom and grace in dealing with personal sin. Don’t ignore it, for it will diminish your desire for biblical truth.

For Further Study:

Read Philippians 3:1 and 2 Peter 1:12-15.

What did Paul and Peter say about the importance of being reminded of biblical truths you’ve already learned?

Do you follow that advice?

Charles Stanley – Receiving the Good Things in Life

Charles Stanley

Psalm 34:8-10

Two conflicting opinions about material wealth exist among believers. One says that to be truly spiritual, a Christian must keep few worldly goods. Proponents of the opposite idea think that prosperity is a sign of God’s favor and, therefore, a desired possession can be claimed by faith. Bewildered, many followers of Jesus wonder, Which of the two is the correct approach? But neither answer gives the full picture.

A hindrance to answering the question is our common view of what constitutes “good things”; usually these are defined as items and experiences that make us feel happy. From God’s perspective, however, the good things in life are those that fit into His individualized purpose and plan for us. His will could include prosperity, robust health, talents, and opportunities. But more than likely, the Lord’s plan involves some periods of trouble and need, and He considers those times valuable too.

When our vision of what is truly good clears, we are ready to understand how to receive God’s blessings. The key to receiv- ing life’s good things is to seek the Lord Himself rather than just the treasures He has to give. We often approach God with an empty basket rather than an open heart; we tell Him what we need and wait for the bin to be filled. But an open heart says, “God, I just want more of You.”

According to Psalm 34:8, God is good, and James 1:17 says that He is the source of “every good and perfect gift.” Giving blessings from His storehouse is in God’s nature, but He wants His children to seek Him above all else.

 

Our Daily Bread — The Last Chapter

Our Daily Bread

Revelation 22:6-20

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. —Philippians 4:5

I have a friend who reads the last chapter first when she starts a new thriller. “Takes the anxiety out of reading,” she claims. So with Christians: Because we know the end of the story, we can be centers of peace in the midst of utter chaos, calm in the face of disaster.

The apostle Paul calls this attitude “moderation” in Philippians 4:5 (KJV). It’s a term that implies “peace under pressure.” It refers to the calm and deliberate strength with which we meet the disquieting circumstances of our days. Kingdoms may fall, friends may falter, churches may fold, oceans may rise, and mountains may crumble, but we can be at peace.

How do we maintain such composure? By remembering that “the Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5); He is near. Our Lord is standing just outside the door ready to burst through and turn everything that’s wrong right-side up. Then this world and all its troubles will become the kingdom of our Lord, and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).

Jesus said, “Surely I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20). Today could be the day! It’s the very last thing He said in the very last chapter of His book. —David Roper

Lord, thank You for dispelling the fear from our lives

by letting us know the end of the story. We can rest

in the assurance that as Your followers we will one

day be with You in Your glorious, eternal kingdom.

No doctrine is more closely linked to practical daily living than that of the Lord’s return.

Bible in a year: Jeremiah 20-21; 2 Timothy 4

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Threads of a Redeemed Heart

Ravi Z

Threads of a Redeemed Heart

Posted by Ravi Zacharias on August 28, 2013 – RZIM

One of the cardinal distinctions of the Judeo-Christian worldview versus other worldviews is that no amount of moral capacity can get us back into a right relationship with God. Herein lies the difference between the moralizing religions and Jesus’s offer to us. Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.

Some years ago, I read an article in an in-flight magazine on the subject of ethics. It began with a provocative story undoubtedly designed to instantly gain the attention of the reader. It worked. The writer described a man aboard a plane who propositioned a woman sitting next to him for one million dollars. She glared at him but pursued the conversation and began to entertain the possibility of so easily becoming a millionaire. The pair set the time, terms, and conditions. Just before he left the plane, he sputtered, “I—I have to admit, ma’am, I have sort of, ah, led you into a lie. I, um, I really don’t have a million dollars. Would you consider the proposition for just—ah, say—ah, ten dollars?”

On the verge of smacking him across the face for such an insult, she snapped back, “What do you think I am?”

“That has already been established,” he replied. “Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

I have to admit that when I read this little anecdote, I felt more disgusted with the man who did the propositioning than with the woman who was propositioned. I sensed something mean-spirited about the man who made the offer. He obviously had set her up for the kill. It seemed like one of those manufactured stories where you start with the endgame in view and move backward to the start.

But as I reflected on the writer’s conclusion—namely, that everyone has his or her price—I questioned the assumption. While we all may have a price on some matters, I’m equally certain that there are other matters on which no price is right and no sum of money would cause one to budge. Would a man who truly loved his wife or his daughters sell them for a certain price? I think the answer is an overwhelming “absolutely not!”

But then another thought entered my mind. What does one make of the charge that God himself has set up a scheme in human relations where the entire game is fixed? Perhaps Adam and Eve could not have resisted the wiles of the devil; perhaps sooner or later the fall would have ensued. Isn’t this the way it sometimes appears? First, it is, “Don’t look.” Then it is, “Don’t touch.” At least, that’s the way the skeptic frames the scheme. One form of desire or another would soon find the price match, and Adam or Eve would succumb.

The garden may have changed, but the tantalizing trade-offs continue as we barter away our souls. This dreadful moral conflict rages within cultures and communities and within each human heart. What is this moral plan about anyway? How does God demand moral rectitude in the pattern he is weaving for you and me in the vast design of the universe, when it seems both impossible and artificial?

The Systemic Difference

The fundamental difference between a naturalist worldview and a religious worldview is the moral framework. While a naturalist may choose to be a moral person, no compelling rational reason exists why one should not be amoral. Reason simply does not dictate here. Pragmatism may, but reason alone doesn’t allow one to defend one way over another. Prominent Canadian atheist Kai Nielson said it well:

We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view, or that really rational persons unhoodwinked by myth or ideology need not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me. . . . Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.1

In every religion except Christianity, morality is a means of attainment.

Bertrand Russell admitted that he could not live as though ethical values were simply a matter of personal taste. That’s why he found his own views incredible. “I do not know the solution,” he concluded.2 Frederick Nietzsche also said as much: “I, too, have to end up worshipping at the altar where God’s name is truth.” 3 While we cannot escape the moral “stranglehold” our moral bent puts us into, neither can naturalism explain either the inclination toward morality or the conclusion.

So extreme a problem has this created for the naturalist that some have gone to great lengths to deduce even that there is no such thing as good or evil; all of us merely dance to our DNA. This sits very comfortably with them until they irresistibly raise the question of all the “evil” that religion has engendered.

The debate gains rational grounds in the realm of religion, which is why it is critical to understand the similarities and foundational differences between various religions. In every religion except Christianity, morality is a means of attainment.

In Hinduism, for example, every birth is considered a rebirth, and every rebirth is a means to pay for the previous life’s shortcomings. To make up for this obvious debit-and-credit approach, Hinduism established the caste system to justify its fatalistic belief. Karma is systemic to the Hindu belief. You cannot be a Hindu and dismiss the reality of karma.

In Buddhism, while every birth is a rebirth, the intrinsic payback is impersonal because Buddhism has no essential self that exists or survives. Life is a force carried forward through reincarnations, and the day you learn there is no essential self and you quit desiring anything is the day that evil dies and suffering ends for you. The extinguishing of self and desire through a moral walk brings the ultimate victory over your imaginary individuality and your suffering. Karma is intrinsic to Buddhism as well, but there is a different doctrine of self at work. While in Hinduism every birth is a rebirth, in Buddhism every birth is a rebirth of an impersonal karma. Only the best of Buddhist scholars are even qualified to discuss these very intricate ideas.

In Islam, the system of tithing, the tax system, the way women are clothed—all the way to the legal structure and the ultimate punishment reserved for apostasy—express the moral framework in which this religion operates. Even then, heaven is not assured (which, ironically, is sensuous in its experience). Only Allah makes the decision about whether an individual gets rewarded with heaven.

In the early days of Israel’s formation, moral imperatives extended to every detail of life. Hundreds of laws covered everything from morals to diet to ceremony.

“Who gives whom the right to pronounce the other evil?” I have heard this question countless times. The very word “morality” has become a lightning-rod theme. “Who is to say what is good? How audacious that anyone should lay claim to an absolute!” This lies at the core of our entire moral predicament.

In short, while moral rectitude differs in its details, it is, nevertheless, a factor in determining future blessing or retribution. For the most part, both theistic and pantheistic religions conveyed that idea.

But for the later Hebrews and, in turn, the Christians, two realities make a crucial systemic and distinguishing difference. First and foremost, God is the author of moral boundaries, not man and not culture. Here, Islam and Judaism find a little common ground, at least as the basis. But there the superficial similarities end because the two differ drastically on the very possibility of ascribing attributes to God, the idea of fellowship with God, the entailments of violating his law, and the prescription for restoration. God is so transcendent in Islam that any analogical reference to him in human terms runs the risk of blasphemy.

The book of Genesis, on the other hand, shows God in close fellowship with his human creation. It also gives numerous possibilities to the first creation, with just one restriction: no eating of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam and Eve violated that restriction, the second injunction took effect: they were not to eat the fruit from the tree of life. When you look carefully at those two boundaries, one following the other, you understand what is going on. Eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil basically gave humanity the power to redefine everything. God had given language, identification, and reality to humankind. He imparted to humans the power to name the animals. But essential to the created order was a moral framework that the creation was not to name or define. This was the prerogative of the Creator, not of the creation. I believe that this is what is at stake here.

Does mankind have a right to define what is good and what is evil? Have you never heard this refrain in culture after culture: “What right does any culture have to dictate to another culture what is good?” Embedded in that charge is always another charge: “The evil things that have happened in your culture deny you the prerogative to dictate to anyone else.”

Anyone living at the time and old enough to recall will never forget the outrage of some members of the media when President Ronald Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” or when President George W. Bush branded three nations as forming an “axis of evil.” Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, in the meantime, remained well within his own comfort zone when he pronounced the United States as a “satanic power,” according to the same members of the media.

Such moralizing goes on, always with the same bottom line: “Who gives whom the right to pronounce the other evil?” I have heard this question countless times. The very word “morality” has become a lightning-rod theme. “Who is to say what is good? How audacious that anyone should lay claim to an absolute!” This lies at the core of our entire moral predicament, and it is truly fascinating, isn’t it? But we find an interesting twist here, because this selective denial of absolutes in morality does not carry over into the sciences.

The Contradictory Approaches

In his book Glimpsing the Face of God, Alister McGrath points out an obvious truth that most miss.4 He uses the illustration of chemical formulas. Every molecule of water has two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. The formula H2O remains true, no matter what race of people or what gender analyzes it. Can one really say, “It’s not fair to oxygen that there are two atoms of hydrogen in water; so to be fair, there should be two atoms of oxygen as well”? You can give two atoms of oxygen, if you want to—but if you drink it, it will bleach your insides (if not worse), because that would make it hydrogen peroxide and not water. Naming and actual reality have a direct connection in physics, even as they do in morality and in metaphysics.

So the question arises, Why do we readily accept the restrictive absolutes of chemical structures but refuse to carry these absolutes into our moral framework? The answer is obvious: we simply do not want anyone else to dictate our moral sensitivities; we wish to define them ourselves. This is at the heart of our rejecting of God’s first injunction. It has very little to do with the tree and everything to do with the seed of our rebellion, namely, autonomy. We wish to be a law unto ourselves.

Of course, we also wish to have control over the tree of life. We desire perpetual and autonomous existence—in effect, wanting to play God. Even though we did not author creation, we wish to author morality and take the reins of life. Combine the two attitudes, and it boils down to this: we want to live forever on our own terms.

In the first chapter of this book, I referred to the address I delivered at a prestigious university on the subject “What Does It Mean to Be Human?” A professor of medical ethics from another university had the next presentation. It didn’t take long to sense that we were poles apart in our starting point. After listening to her views (neither medical nor ethical, it seemed to me, but rather just moral autonomy masquerading as science), she paid me the ultimate compliment. She said, “I have never met anybody with whom I have disagreed more.” So I chose to agree with her on that point.

During the question and answer time that followed, a few things emerged. The first was her confident but naive optimism that, with all the tools in our hands, we could shape our future in genetics and engineer whatever we want to. She spoke in very altruistic terms about everything from the elimination of disease to the utilization of human cloning. Her arrogance, pathetic in its ignorance, added insult to injury when she gave not one whit of objective basis for what her ethical standards would be with regard to all of this.

When the organizers opened the floor to questions, one woman stood and said to me, “I was very offended by your comment that the heart of humanity is evil.” Between the professor, who placed the power to live or die in human hands, and the questioner, who denied the depravity of the human heart, we had the garden of Eden in front of our eyes all over again. In Adam and Eve’s defense, they, at least, felt ashamed after they had made the wrong choice. By contrast, our brilliant contemporaries have a chest-out, clenched-fist audacity and think that by shouting louder their arguments become truer.

I recall that Malcolm Muggeridge once said that human depravity is at once the most empirically verifiable fact yet most staunchly resisted datum by our intellectuals. For them, H2O as the formula for water is indisputable; but in ethics, man is still the measure—without stating which man. This is the fundamental difference between a transcendent worldview and a humanistic one.

But the question arises as to what makes the Christian framework unique. Here we see the second cardinal difference between the Judeo-Christian worldview and the others. It is simply this: no amount of moral capacity can get us back into a right relationship with God.

The Christian faith, simply stated, reminds us that our fundamental problem is not moral; rather, our fundamental problem is spiritual. It is not just that we are immoral, but that a moral life alone cannot bridge what separates us from God. Herein lies the cardinal difference between the moralizing religions and Jesus’ offer to us. Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.

Worldviews Apart

A brief glance at the basis of the laws that have come down to us through religious history gives us a clue. The Code of Hammurabi, originating in Eastern Mesopotamia, is one of the oldest legal codes we have, dating back to about 2500 BC. In addition to the preamble and the epilogue, it contains 282 prescriptions for conduct dealing with a wide range of situations. The last of the codes reads as follows: “If a slave say to his master, ‘I am not your slave,’ if they convict him, his master shall cut off his ear.”

About a thousand years after this came the Laws of Manu, considered an arm of Vedic teaching. This codebook begins by telling us how ten sages went to the teacher Manu and asked him what laws should govern the four castes. The response came in 2,684 verses covering several chapters.

A few centuries later emerged the teachings of the Buddha, who rejected the caste system and built his prescription for conduct on “the four noble truths”:

1. the fact of suffering

2. the cause of suffering

3. the cessation of suffering

4. the eightfold path that can end suffering

About a millennium later came Muhammad in the sixth century after Christ. His instructions came in the “five pillars [or injunctions]” of Islam: the Creed; the Prayers; the Tithe; the Fast; and the Pilgrimage (some add Jihad as the sixth). All of these are prescribed in specific ways. The injunctions address every detail imaginable. The Hadith (a narrative record of the sayings and traditions of Muhammad) became the basis of the practices and customs of all Muslims.

Approximately fourteen centuries before Christ (scholars debate the exact date), the Hebrew people received the Ten Commandments. An extraordinary first line gives the basis of the Ten Laws: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2 – 3).

To miss this preamble is to miss the entire content of the Mosaic law. It provides the clue to each of the systems of law that have emerged through time. Here the Hebrew-Christian worldview stands distinct and definitively different. Redemption precedes morality, and not the other way around. While every moral law ever given to humanity provides a set of rules to abide by in order to avoid punishment or some other retribution, the moral law in the Bible hangs on the redemption of humanity provided by God.

Something else emerges with stark difference. If you notice, the moral law in the other legal codes separates people (the Laws of Manu, the caste system, the Code of Hammurabi with the slave/owner distinction). In Islam, the violator is inferior to the obedient one. By contrast, in the Hebrew-Christian tradition, the law unifies people. No one is made righteous before God by keeping the law. It is only following redemption that we can truly understand the moral law for what it is—a mirror that indicts and calls the heart to seek God’s help. This makes moral reasoning the fruit of spiritual understanding and not the cause of it.

The first four of the Ten Commandments have to do with our worship of God, while the next six deal with our resulting responsibilities to our fellow human beings. These commandments base a moral imperative on our spiritual commitment, first toward God and second toward humanity. This logic is unbreakable. We see the various components come into place—the exclusivity and supremacy of one God; the sacredness of his very name; the entanglement of means as they become ends in themselves; the sanctity of time as God gives it to us.

Taken in a single dimension, the Ten Commandments show us the transcending reality of God’s existence and his distance from us. We cannot truly live without understanding this distance and who God is. Within this framework we learn that God blesses and judges, that his judgments can last generations from the deed, that his love deserves our ultimate pursuit, that worship is both timely and timeless. The human condition in and of itself cannot touch this reality. Any life that does not see its need for redemption will not understand the truth about morality.

A Universe Framed

When you look at the first book of the Bible, you begin to see very quickly what God meant when he pronounced his creation “good.” God intended to create something good so that his creation would display his very creative power and his communion goal. Those twin realities framed the universe.

Human beings are born creators. They fashion their tools, discover new ways of doing things, find shortcuts, and revel in their new inventions. This genius reflects the very character of God and the capacity imbued by him to humanity. But here one also comes up against a serious challenge. Do boundaries have to be drawn, and do man’s goals have to fit within those boundaries?

Recently, while sitting in the departure area of an airport, I read an advertisement that boasted, “No boundaries: Just possibilities.” A tantalizing thought indeed. Are there really no boundaries to anything? If no boundaries exist for me, does it follow that no boundaries exist for everyone else? The most fascinating thing about the created order is that God set but one stipulation for humanity. Once humanity violated that single rule and took charge, however, hundreds of laws had to be passed, because each injunction could die the death of a thousand qualifications through constant exceptions to the rule.

The question arises as to what makes the Christian framework unique. Here we see the second cardinal difference between the Judeo-Christian worldview and the others. It is simply this: no amount of moral capacity can get us back into a right relationship with God. The Christian faith, simply stated, reminds us that our fundamental problem is not moral; rather, our fundamental problem is spiritual.

The bane of my life is flying. I have to get on a plane at least two or three times a week. The wordiness of what we are not allowed to do while on board always intrigues me. The passenger hears that to tamper with, disable, or destroy the smoke detector in the bathroom of an airplane is a criminal offense. But could someone really destroy or disable it without tampering with it? The answer is yes, if it could be done without touching the device. But then again, the whole idea of tampering with the smoke detector really deals with its effectiveness in detecting smoke, doesn’t it? Ah, but that’s where we get into technicalities in a court of law. This manipulation of wording and morality lies at the core of all autonomy. The moral law will always stand over and above and against a heart that seeks to be its own guide.

One of my colleagues in ministry recently told me of a visit he had made to a mutual friend in Cape Town, South Africa. As they were enjoying the evening together, they heard a huge crash. It took them a few moments to locate its source, and when they went outside, they saw in the front of their driveway a car that had been literally smashed off its undercarriage. Someone hurtling along at a high rate of speed had missed a turn and had run headlong into the parked car. The driver, however, had managed to speed off.

My friends noticed a huge puddle of water at the scene and deduced that the fleeing culprit must have damaged his radiator and could not have gone far. So they jumped into their car and drove a hundred yards to a street corner. As they rounded the corner, they saw a steaming vehicle on the side of the road, with two teenagers standing alongside, looking shaken and bewildered and at a loss for what to do. It turned out that they had taken their dad’s brand-new, high-priced vehicle without his knowledge. My friend Peter, a very successful businessman, as well as a very tenderhearted follower of Jesus Christ, pulled over next to the young men.

Seeing them so shaken, Peter said, “May I pray with you and ask God to comfort you and see you through this ordeal?” The young men looked rather surprised but nodded their heads. Peter put his hands on their shoulders and prayed for them. No sooner had Peter said his “Amen” than one of the young fellows said, “If God loves me, why did he let this happen to me?”

Imagine the series of duplicitous acts that preceded that question, and you see the human heart for what it is. Did God set this boy up, or did the boy set God up? You see, when you understand that God determines the moral framework and that any violation of it is to usurp God, you learn that it is not God who has stacked the deck; the issue is our own desire to take God’s place.

In this story, we see all the elements of the human fall and the power of a redeemed heart. Morality alone would dictate that he gets what he deserves. A redeemed heart says, “Let me bind his wounds because what needs attention is his soul.” Morality alone says, “There is nothing reasonable in the man’s request.” The redeemed heart says, “The reason by which we live is the heart of mercy that does not keep a ledger.”

What Place, Then, for Morality?

While at a conference in another country, I was approached by a young woman, who asked if she could talk to me privately. Once we found a couple of chairs and sat down to talk, I learned that she was miles away from the land of her birth and had lived through some horrendous experiences. She had a beautiful mother, but her father, as she worded it, did not have the same admirable looks. Through an arranged marriage, they had begun their lives together, but the father always resented his wife’s looks and the many compliments given to her, while none ever came his way. His distorted thinking took him beyond jealousy to fears that some man might lure her away, and so he made his plan to snuff out any such possibility. One day, he returned home, and while talking to his wife in their bedroom, he reached into his bag, grabbed a bottle of acid, and flung the contents into her face. In one instant, he turned his wife’s face from beautiful to horrendously scarred. He then turned and fled from the house.

At the point of our conversation, two decades had gone by since mother and daughter had last seen him. The young woman, now in her twenties, had been a little girl when this tragic event took place, and yet the bitterness in her heart remained as fresh as the day she saw her mother’s face turned from beauty to ugliness—so hideous that it forced the little one to cover her own face so she wouldn’t have to see what had been done.

But the story did not end there. Just a few days before our conversation, the mother, who had raised the family on her own, had heard from the husband who had deserted her. He was dying of cancer and living alone. He wondered if she would take him back and care for him in this last stage of his illness. The audacious plea outraged this young woman. But the mother, a devout follower of Jesus Christ, pleaded with her children to let her take him back and care for him as he prepared to die.

In this story, we see all the elements of the human fall and the power of a redeemed heart. Morality alone would dictate that he gets what he deserves. A redeemed heart says, “Let me bind his wounds because what needs attention is his soul.” Morality alone says, “There is nothing reasonable in the man’s request.” The redeemed heart says, “The reason by which we live is the heart of mercy that does not keep a ledger.” Morality says, “It’s all about whether you think it’s right or not.” The redeemed heart says, “What would God have me do in this situation?” Morality says, “Make your own judgments.” The redeemed heart says, “Don’t make a judgment unless you are willing to be judged by the same standard.” In short, morality is a double-edged sword. It cuts the very one who wields it, even as it seeks to mangle the other.

I have often wondered if many who name the name of Jesus have missed this truth. I think, too, that in missing this, we miss the larger point often hidden in what appears to be the main point. When we stand before God, it would not surprise me to find out that the real point of the story of the prodigal son was really the older brother; that the real point of the good Samaritan was the priest and the Levite who went on their way; that the real point of the women arriving first at the tomb was that the disciples hadn’t; that the real point of the story of Job was the moralizing friends. Those who play by the rules sometimes think that this is all there is to it and that they merit their due reward. Yet God repeatedly points out that without the redemption of the heart, all moralizing is hollow.

In the garden it was not we who were set up but we who tried to set God up by blaming him for the situation and then wishing to redefine everything. Had we obeyed everything, we still would have lost if we had errantly concluded that we deserved what the garden offered. What, then, of the moral law in the believer?

How does this work out in my own life? What place does the moral law have? The threads are many, the pattern complex—but the analysis is simple. Your moral framework is critical in the respect you show for yourself and your fellow human beings. Think of it as the coinage of your life and your day-to-day living. But this coinage has no value if it is not based on the riches of God’s plan for your spiritual well-being.

Morality is the fruit of your knowledge of God, conscious or otherwise. But it can never be the root of your claim before God. Morality can build pride as well as philanthropy; true spirituality will never submit to pride. Having said all that, morality is still the ground from within which the creative spirit of art and other disciplines may grow. But if they grow to exaggerate who we are, then it is morality for morality’s sake. If it sprouts toward heaven, it points others to God.

The moral law also serves as a profound reminder that in God there is no contradiction. The moral law stands as a consistent, contradiction-free expression of God’s character. If I violate this law, I bring contradiction into my own life, and my life begins to fall apart. This is why a humble spirit, as it honors God, realizes how near and yet how far it is from God.

Point Others to the Source

C. S. Lewis has a remarkable little illustration in his book The Screwtape Letters. The senior devil is coaching the younger one on how to seduce a person who hangs between belief and disbelief in the Enemy (the Enemy here being God). So the younger one sets to work on keeping this man from turning to God. But in the end, after all the tricks and seductions, the individual is “lost to the Enemy.” When the defeated junior devil returns, the senior one laments and asks, “How did this happen? How did you let this one get away?”

“I don’t know,” says the young imp. “But every morning he used to take a long walk, just to be quiet and reflective. And then, every evening he would read a good book. Somehow during those books and walks, the Enemy must have gotten his voice through to him.”

“That’s where you made your mistake,” says the veteran. “You should have allowed him to take that walk purely for physical exercise. You should have had him read that book just so he could quote it to others. In allowing him to enjoy pure pleasures, you put him within the Enemy’s reach.”5

Lewis’s brilliant insight applies to morality as well. Pure morality points you to the purest one of all. When impure, it points you to yourself. The purer your habits, the closer to God you will come. Moralizing from impure motives takes you away from God.

Let all goodness draw you nearer, and let all goodness flow from you to point others to the source of all goodness. God’s conditions in the garden of Eden were not a setup, any more than the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was a setup or that the long journey to Egypt was a setup. God wants us to understand our own hearts, and nothing shows this more than the stringent demands of a law that discloses we are not God — and neither had we better play God. Once we understand this and turn to him, we find out the truth of what the psalmist wrote: “To all perfection I see a limit, but [the Lord’s] commands are boundless” (Psalm 119:96). True fulfillment and the possibility of boundless enjoyment come when we do life God’s way. When we do it our way, we only enslave ourselves.

God wants us to understand our own hearts, and nothing shows this more than the stringent demands of a law that discloses we are not God — and neither had we better play God. Once we understand this and turn to him, we find out the truth of what the psalmist wrote: “To all perfection I see a limit, but [the Lord’s] commands are boundless” (Psalm 119:96).

Some time ago, I was speaking at the University of South Queensland in Australia. It was shortly after the death of one of Australia’s great entertainers, Steve Irwin. I was answering the question of whether there is meaning in suffering and evil from the Christian worldview; flanking me were a Muslim scholar and the local president of the Humanist Association. A question came from the floor about Steve Irwin’s destiny. What did these worldviews have to say about this?

The humanist’s answer was hollow, ignoring the issue of what happened after death: “Nothing really, just to celebrate a life now gone.” That was it.

The Muslim said that Steve’s good deeds would be measured against his bad deeds. That was it — a balance in hand with weights. It really was a clever answer that dodged the real question. So I asked him, “Are you saying that all of his good deeds would usher him to paradise?” He was quite taken aback by my question and stated that I was introducing a different issue. And so it is in his faith. In response, I noted that, based on the teachings of Jesus, morality was never a means of salvation for anyone. The moral threads of a life were intended to reflect and honor the God we served; they are not a means of entering heaven.

Why does a man honor his vows? Why does a woman honor her vows? Is it to earn the love of their spouse, or is it to demonstrate the sacredness of their love? True love engenders a life that honors its commitment. That is the role of obedience to God’s moral precepts—putting hands and feet to belief, embodying the nature of what one’s ultimate commitment reflects—the very character of God. Jesus said to let our lives so shine before people that they would glorify God as a result (see Matthew 5:16) — this is the end result of a life that takes the moral commands seriously.

So how does one pull together the strings in this whole business of morals? Whatever you do, whether it be at work or in marriage, through your language or your ambitions, in your thoughts or your intents, do all and think all to the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31) and by the rules he has put in place — rules that serve not to restrain us but to be the means for us to soar with the purpose for which he has designed all choices.

Ravi Zacharias is Founder and President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

_________

1 Kai Nielson, “Why Should I Be Moral?” American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1984), 90.

2 Bertrand Russell, “A Letter to The Observer,” October 6, 1957.

3 Cited in Philip Novak, The Vision of Nietzsche (Rockport, Mass.: Element, 1996), 11.

4 See Alister McGrath, Glimpsing the Face of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 39 – 40.

5 See C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942; repr., New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 63 – 67.

Presidential Prayer Team; The Godless Church – Special Report

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Morality In America Atheist congregation expands to U.S.

By Diann Noles

In these days of economic uncertainty, moral depravity and world-wide turbulence, people are looking for purpose and relevancy. For many, this means searching for spiritual meaning through traditional religions. But, for a growing number of people, belief in or reliance on any kind of deity is unthinkable. That’s where Sunday Assembly comes in.

The fastest growing “church” in the world with a growth rate of over 3,000 percent, Sunday Assembly – a godless monthly Sunday service for atheists – is being duplicated this fall in 22 cities throughout the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. Organizers anticipate thousands will gather “to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life with no hope of the hereafter.”

Although the gatherings appear to be more of a social club than a church, Sunday Assembly is modeled after the typical Anglican Church for those who identify with a traditional worship service and comunity bond.

“The church model has worked really well for a couple of thousand years,” Los Angeles camera man Ian Dodd explained in an interview with Salon. “What we’re trying to do is hold on to the bath water while throwing out the baby Jesus.” Dodd will be starting the new Assembly in Los Angeles later this fall.

Founded in January 2013 by stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, the original church’s motto is: “Live Better, Help Often and Wonder More.” According to the Public Charter of the Assembly, “We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together. [We have] no doctrine… no set texts so we can make use of wisdom from all sources… no deity.”

While beliefs differ throughout the congregation, a sense of community is what draws many people. “When I decided there probably wasn’t a God, it made church a lot more awkward,” Evans – a former Christian – said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I always felt like there wasn’t a place to have that same sort of community. I couldn’t get my head around how to do it without offending anyone.”

“I don’t think religion should have a monopoly on community,” wrote Salon columnist Katie Engelhart after attending a service. “I like the idea of a secular temple, where atheists can enjoy the benefits of an idealized, traditional church – a sense of community, a thought-provoking sermon, a scheduled period of respite, easy access to community service opportunities, group singing, an ethos of self-improvement, free food – without the stinging imposition of God Almighty.”

The rapid expansion of the church is somewhat unexpected. While branches have already been opened in England, Australia and New York City, Jones and Evans didn’t foresee the explosion of interest. “The big surprise is that this has become an international movement so quickly, we didn’t realize how powerful the Internet was with an idea – so that’s been amazing,” Evans said.

“If we do it in London and there are 400 people who come, that’s brilliant, but if we find a way to help hundreds of people to set one up then we can have a bigger impact than we could ever dream of,” Jones told The Guardian, a British daily publication. He said their vision is “a godless gathering in every town, city or village that wants one.” They will be touring the U.S. and Canada in November 2013 with stops in seven U.S. cities.

Jones and Evans are excited to bring their brand of “religion” to the world, and particularly the U.S. When asked about possible backlash, Jones and Evans are optimistic about the end result. “In the States you’ve got a whole load of people who get how good church is, religious people totally get why you’d go to church, they think it’s weird that people don’t,” Jones said. “I don’t expect much objection from religious communities. They are happy for us to use their church model. I think it’s more aggressive atheists who will have an issue with it.”

In your prayer time this week, please pray:

That this atheist movement will fade quickly

That the atheist groups that meet in churches will feel the presence of God and turn to Him

That America’s religious freedoms are not negatively impacted by the atheist groups

Diann Noles is a former editor and writer for Christian publications in Tucson, AZ and Portland, OR. She now serves as Public Relations Director for a major Christian non-profit organization. She and her husband Bill live in Tucson, AZ and have two sons and four grandchildren.

Greg Laurie – America’s Only Hope, Part 2

greglaurie

In our country, we have had three great spiritual awakenings, perhaps four. The first, during the 1700s, was led by such men as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. During just two years of this revival, from 1740 to 1742, some 25,000 to 50,000 people were added to the New England churches. This, out of a population of only 300,000!

The Second Great Awakening (1790s to 1840) was led by many, including Charles Finney. It was the time of the Wild West. The law was disregarded and sexual sin was rampant. Through “camp meetings,” where crowds as high as 15,000 would gather for several days (an incredible figure considering the scanty population of that time), thousands came to faith—more than 10,000 in Kentucky alone between 1800 and 1803.

The Third Great Awakening in America was from about 1857 to 1859. How this revival began is unique. A 48-year-old businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier began a prayer meeting on Fulton Street in New York City. It began slowly and soon exploded. It is worth noting that the New York Stock Market crashed around this time and soon Lanphier’s prayer meeting was attended by hundreds of people. Prayer meetings broke out all over New York City, filling theaters on Broadway.

Within six months, 10,000 people gathered daily for prayer throughout New York City! It is reported that 50,000 New Yorkers were converted from March to May. During that single year, the number of reported conversions throughout the country reached an average of 50,000 a week for a couple of years. There were 10,000 additions to church membership weekly. Over one million people came to Christ in this brief period. One of the men who came out of this revival was a former shoe salesman known as D.L. Moody, who personally led countless thousands to Christ! But look at how it all started. One simple “layman” decided to pray, and it started a wave that impacted the nation! It was an extraordinary move of the Holy Spirit!

Finally, there was the Jesus Movement. I was privileged to have a front-row seat as I was one of the kids who came to faith during that time. There is no question in my mind that it was a modern-day revival.

Things were bleak in the late ’60s. The country was in turmoil. Bomb drills in classrooms were mandatory. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought us to the brink of nuclear confrontation with Russia. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, as well as his brother Bobby, and Martin Luther King Jr. The Vietnam War was raging, with no end in sight. Watergate was about to happen. Kids were rebelling against society and turning to drugs, sex, and Rock & Roll. The slogan of the time was “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.”

The church, by and large, was not effectively reaching the public. In 1966, Time Magazine even did a cover story titled “Is God Dead?” Some liberal Protestant theologians announced that indeed He was. Nothing like this had ever happened in America before. But God intervened and brought the Jesus Movement and it saved a generation. Thousands and thousands of young people came to Christ, and the church was influenced globally by what God did through the Jesus Movement.

But that was over 40 years ago. The kids of this movement are now grandparents! Now we look at this generation and we realize we need another Jesus Movement—another spiritual awakening. Even our own children, raised in the church, need their own encounter with God. What we want is to see the Lord do it again!

The prophet Habakkuk understood this when he prayed this prayer: “I have heard all about you, LORD, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, revive Your work, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

Psalm 85:6 says, “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” But how badly do we really want to see another revival? I asked Chuck Smith if we would ever see another Jesus Movement. “We are living in desperate times,” he said, “but we are not desperate for revival!”

In the Tribulation Period, millions will come to Christ! In Revelation 7, we read of a multitude so large they could not be numbered. We know there has been revival in the past. And we know there will be revival in the future. But will there be revival in the present?

I am praying there will be. I am praying for America.