Tag Archives: current-events

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.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Who’s Calling?

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When the Lord showed Amos he was about to send a plague of locusts on Israel, Amos interceded and God relented. Next, the Lord showed Amos a great fire consuming the ocean and land. Again, Amos mediated and the Lord spared the nation.

Behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.

Amos 7:7

Lastly, God showed Amos a plumb line and said King Jeroboam would die and Israel would be exiled. God would withhold His judgment no longer. The priest Amaziah accused Amos of speaking words too hard to bear. Amos replied that prophesying wasn’t his own idea. He was minding his own business of raising sheep and figs when the Lord called him.

Amos obeyed God even though he felt inadequate for the job. How often do God’s people disobey, thinking they aren’t equipped to do what He calls them to do? When the Lord asks you to do something, look at God’s abilities – not at your own. It may not be your calling to be a leader, but it is your mission to pray for leaders (I Timothy 2:1-2). You might have every excuse not to, but look to the One who does the calling.

Recommended Reading: I Corinthians 1:26-31

 

Max Lucado – Your Mess Can Be Your Message

Max Lucado

I like the conversation Bob Benson recounts in his book, See You at the House, about his friend who’d had a heart attack. For a while it seemed his friend wouldn’t make it. But he recovered.

Months later Bob asked him, “How did you like your heart attack?”

“It scared me to death, almost.”

“Would you do it again?”

“No!”

“Would you recommend it?”  Bob asked.

“Definitely not.”

Then Bob asked him, “Does your life mean more to you now than it did before?”

“Well, yes.”

“You and your wife always had a beautiful marriage, but are you closer now than ever?” “Yes.”

“Do you have a new compassion for people—a deeper understanding and sympathy?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you know the Lord in a richer fellowship than you’d ever realized?”

“Yes.”

Then Bob said, “So, how’d you like your heart attack?”

Deuteronomy 11:2 reminds us to remember what you’ve learned about the Lord through your experience with Him.  Do that, my friend, and your mess will become your message!

From You’ll Get Through This

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Hope and Cynicism

Ravi Z

I must confess to a certain curiosity with why things turn out as they do. I read a lot of history, biographies, and stories of human successes and failures. Being a child of a particular age, I was raised with a certain degree of optimism. The bad times—World War II, the Korean War—were behind us, and once again we could get back to the normal business of pursuing happiness and success, which I was led to believe were easily within my reach.

Optimism is not hope, yet it is a recurring feature of life in good times. It is also a feature that all too quickly vanishes and reveals itself for what it is when bad times return. As a European, I lived through one of history’s great turning points, a turning point powerfully demonstrated in the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The wall was not simply a physical reality, which had divided families, a nation, and a continent for decades; it was a symbol of the clash of visions and worldviews that battled for a season, not only for Europe, but for global dominance.

I can well remember the astonished newscasters as Germans embraced each other on top of the despised symbol of separation. Europe and the world seethed with the euphoria of change. The brave new world was being born, and optimism was the mood of the day (1989-1991). I heard breathless gurus of the age proclaim the dawn of unfettered freedom, and one even wrote shortly thereafter about “the end of history and the last man” in the sincere belief of the triumph of free market capitalism and liberal democracy.

Yet wisdom bids us to stop, look, and listen. In the first decade of the twenty-first century we have witnessed 9/11, bombings in Spain, Bali, and London. We have seen the debacles of Enron, WorldCom, and the fiascos of “Bear Stearns” (USA) and “Northern Rock” (UK). Optimism has met its match. Perhaps for some, they are seeing the collapse of hopes and the fulfillment of fears. The movie scene is reflectively filled with apocalyptic and nihilistic visions.

When hope fades, cynicism is often waiting in the wings. And this is indeed one of the great challenges of our time. Skepticism (there is nothing good and I know it) and cynicism (I can’t trust anybody or anything and I know this) seem reasonable choices. But is this a necessary outcome or orientation for us? I think not. Yet, if we have bought into a rationalist vision, if we have embraced the vision and values of our age uncritically, if faith is merely a part-time investment in an over cluttered life, then perhaps we don’t have the necessary orientation or resolve to face the issues and challenges of our time.

The Christian scriptures open up for us a view of the world that is very different: There is a God. This God is the creator, and is personal, loving, willful, and particular. We see that despite being a good creation, a disruption and disorder has occurred and the drama of redemption unfolds. But the central character here is God!  It is what God does, whom God appoints, and what God decides that makes the difference.

This is not to say that life according to Christian theology is predetermined. I have seen too much, experienced too much, and read too much to believe that my choices are socially conditioned or illusory. I believe they are real. I have also seen too much, experienced too much, read too much to believe that our choices are, as Lewis would say, “the whole show.” History is not a fatalist’s game. Humans do act, and often with serious and sad outcomes. The good news, I believe, is that we are not alone! Writing to the Romans, the apostle Paul reminded them that hope is real because it is anchored in one who is able to carry it, sustain it, and fulfill it (Romans 8:24-25; 28-30). History is moving to an end, and Christ offers a good end. Thus, the difference between optimism (short term and easily overcome) and hope (eternal and anchored) is where they are rooted. One leans on human effort; the other rests in God and God’s promises.

Stuart McAllister is regional director for the Americas at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – Don’t Fall Prey!

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God’s prophet, Hosea, presents the tribe of Ephraim as it once had been and then as it was in Hosea’s day. Can you make any comparisons to what is happening today?

So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. Hosea 13:7

As David Allan Hubbard wrote in his commentary, Ephraim had once enjoyed power and prestige among the other tribes. But now they practiced idolatry, ingratitude, foolish trust in political leaders, and complacency in the face of judgment. They worshipped gods made by men’s hands and forgot God’s grace in leading them out of Egypt. When they became prosperous, they credited themselves instead of the Lord. Because of this, Ephraim fell prey to God’s judgment just as an unsuspecting animal falls victim to a lion lurking close by.

The consequences of wrongdoing never go away. Idolatry can take many forms: power, prestige, wealth, intelligence, beauty or self. Ingratitude and complacency are ever present. God’s wrath would be imminent were it not for His mercy.

Now is the time for a reversal in the hearts of men. Stand beside this nation’s leaders in prayer. Implore God to help Americans seek peace and contentment in worshipping the one true God.

Recommended Reading: Hosea 13:1-10

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – No Chopsticks Necessary

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“Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.” Remember the iconic scene from Karate Kid when Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel to catch a fly with his eating utensils? Daniel questions his teacher, suggesting a fly swatter would be easier.

Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.

Proverbs 8:34

Mr. Miyagi knew the lesson wasn’t in catching the fly – it was in listening to the buzz, watching its movements, and waiting for the right time to strike. His takeaway was the same as today’s key verse: blessings follow those who listen, watch and wait. While the Karate Kid was waiting on a fly, you are waiting on God. “For whoever finds me finds life.” (Proverbs 8:35)

Are you looking for God in your everyday experiences? In the nation? Whether considering the new health care system or foreign policy, sometimes it’s easier to find fault than find God. Don’t lose hope. Listen for your Heavenly Father to speak, watch for Him to move in the nation, and be patient until He does. Then pray for wisdom as you look for good in all things, and then pray for your nation’s leaders to find God and, therefore, find life…no chopsticks necessary.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 37:1-9

Greg Laurie – Revive Us Again!

greglaurie

O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. —Habakkuk 3:2

From 1857 to 1859 a revival swept New York City that became part of what is called the Third Great Awakening. Jeremiah Lanphier, a forty-eight-year-old businessman, began a prayer meeting on Fulton Street. Not many people attended the prayer meeting at first. But then the stock market crashed. Soon hundreds of New Yorkers were gathering for prayer. Within months, six thousand people were gathering at noon for prayer throughout New York City. It is reported that fifty thousand New Yorkers came to faith and an estimated one million people came to the Lord during this time.

Sometimes we want to pray for a robust, strong economy in our nation. I am not suggesting we pray for a bad economy, but here is what we should pray: “Lord, send a revival to America, no matter what it takes.” Sometimes when there is an economic downturn or a military threat or other events we are concerned about, we will turn to God.

Remember how so many Americans showed up in churches in the aftermath of 9/11? It almost seemed like an awakening of sorts. Remember the members of Congress standing outside on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and spontaneously singing “God Bless America”?

Our country needs a spiritual awakening. The prophet Habakkuk understood the need for a revival in his day when he prayed, “O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

That needs to be our prayer, too, as believers living in the twenty-first century: O Lord, revive Your work. I thank God for what He has done in the past, but here is my prayer: Do it again, Lord. We need another revival.

 

Charles Stanley – Why We Lose Our Peace

Charles Stanley

Romans 12:3-10

One of the greatest enemies to peace is the entitlement mentality that’s widespread in our land today. Too few people are satisfied with their portion in life. Underlying this discontent is the false assumption that society owes them something or that their rights are being overlooked. This type of self-centered thinking can creep into businesses, marriages, churches, and other institutions, generating all kinds of discord and causing far-reaching consequences.

This is the type of situation that was developing in the 13th chapter of Genesis, when Abram and his nephew Lot were attempting to dwell in an area that was too small for the abundant holdings of both men. The pressure became so great that there was enormous strife between Abram’s herdsmen and those working for Lot. Something had to be done.

Abram in his wisdom eased the tension by offering Lot his choice of pasturelands (Gen. 13:9). Instead of fighting for his so-called rights, Abram chose the way of peace. He did what the apostle Paul advised centuries later when he wrote, “Give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10).

Did Abram lose out by being generous to Lot? Not at all. Take note of God’s words to the patriarch after he had willingly relinquished the prime territory to his nephew and departed (Gen. 13:14-15)—the Lord saw fit to promise all that land and beyond to Abram and his descendants. Our God blesses peacemakers (Matt. 5:9).

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Unexpected Answer

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In the passages surrounding today’s verse, Eli was going about his business, most likely oblivious to the change about to take place in his life.

Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord.  I Samuel 1:9

He watched a woman move her mouth with no audible speech. He said, “How long will you go on being drunk?” (v.14) She told him she was not drunk, but deeply distressed and pouring her heart out to the Lord. He said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” (v. 17)

Eli probably didn’t give the woman’s prayer a second thought – but years later, she showed up with a toddler to lend to the Lord. The Bible doesn’t say how Eli felt about this unexpected gift, only that he trained the child. Unlike with his two “worthless” sons, Eli must have done a good job raising this child: Samuel became a great prophet of God.

As this nation remembers September 11, 2001 and as you pray for yourself and your country, it may seem like little good is happening. God’s answer may not be a toddler on your doorstep, but be assured the Lord is creating change in your life and in the nation through your prayers.

Recommended Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

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Open Letter – A Call to Prayer on 9-11.

       Dear Prayer Team:

Today, the United States has marked the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC. The nation has also paused to remember the one year anniversary of the September 11, 2012 attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.

THE NEED…

       Leading up to these somber milestones, the eyes of the nation and indeed the world have been focused on Washington, DC as the U.S. Congress considered whether to authorize the use of American force to strike Syria over that government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its citizens.

While the world awaits the U.S. decision on Syria, believers in Christ should keep in mind what is written in Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” And, God often turns the heart of the king in response to prayer.

WHAT IS NEEDED?

This truth was recently echoed by Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of  Evangelicals, which represents 40 Christian denominations and more than 45,000 local churches in the U.S. Anderson said that while the political issues regarding Syria are complicated, one thing is crystal clear: now is the time for Christians to pray.

“The Bible teaches us to pray for our leaders,” Anderson said. “This is a week for extra prayers as our Congress and President Obama decide what to do about Syria. And, let’s add Syrian leaders to our prayer list. Our request is that God will give wisdom to make choices for a lasting peace in the region.”

Anderson’s call to prayer is pertinent and timely. The Apostle Paul also admonishes believers to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17) and Jesus reminded his followers – in regards to temptation – to “watch and pray.” That latter admonition also holds true as you see current events unfolding and the world’s desperate need for Christ.

WHAT YOU CAN DO…PRAY NOW

As you remember the events of 9-11 and Benghazi and pray about the unfolding drama in Syria, focus your hope on heaven. “You will hear of wars and rumors of war,” Jesus said, “See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:5-7). And remember, above all, God is in control of this seemingly out-of-control world.

PRAY FOR:

1) Comfort for those who were personally affected by the 9/11 terror events and the Benghazi attack

2) For a spirit of revival to sweep across America

3) For wisdom for America’s leaders in dealing with the Syria crisis and other world trouble spots

An excerpt of the “Inside Washington” article by Dave Ficere
featured in this upcoming Thursday’s Weekly Update.

       Your Prayer Team

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PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL ARTICLE TO YOUR
FRIENDS, CHURCH AND FAMILY MEMBERS. LET’S PRAY!

      “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.“–James 5:16

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – Rest at His Feet

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A very powerful man inviting a lowly foreigner to sit with him and his workers for meals each day was the most generous of invitations. Ruth was to eat beside the reapers – a sign of acceptance into Boaz’ family, the inner circle.

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers.   Ruth 2:14

The meal provided a time of rest from the day’s work and renewed strength for the remaining hours of labor. Boaz offered her protection from any ill treatment and provisions as she gathered grain from anywhere in the fields. Later he offered her rest at his feet.

Can you see the parallel in Christ’s invitation? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) God’s Son, your Savior, invites you to have rest in Him as a member of His family. His forgiveness relieves your load of sin. His provision supplies your every need, and His protection allows you to be free from fear.

Come alongside the Lord. Rest at His feet and learn from Him. Pray, as Jesus did, with boldness…for your families, your neighbors and this nation’s leaders.

Recommended Reading: Lamentations 3:21-26, 55-57

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Our Heads in Shame

Ravi Z

Earlier this morning I was enjoying my breakfast at the YWCA’s International Guest house on Parliament Street in New Delhi, India. I am here in the city to fulfil speaking commitments on behalf of our team. Across the room I saw a young Westerner reading the morning’s paper. From the look on her face it was evident that the headline of the day had more than caught her attention. The report was titled, “Mumbai gang rape accused says gang has done it before.”

For a young woman from across cultures, receiving such news in a country thousands of miles away from home can be unnerving to say the least. I picked up the paper after she put it back on the rack. I had first read of the incident on my way to Delhi and it had saddened and angered me and sent me to my knees.

Let me recapture the report for you as briefly as I can. On the evening of Thursday the 22nd of August 2013 a 22 year old photojournalist and her male colleague entered a deserted mill compound in the city of Mumbai. They were on an assignment to capture some pictures for a magazine feature. Upon entering the place they were accosted by two young men, pretending to be policemen, who asked if they had permission to shoot. The two then took the woman and her colleague to another spot where, along with three others, they tied the colleague to a tree and brutalized the young woman. Media reports allege that they raped her five times that evening. One of the accused who was arrested allegedly told the police that the five had committed similar crimes earlier and got away with it by recording video clips of the victims to intimidate them.(1)

For those familiar with news in this country, Thursday’s incident transported us to the 16th of December 2012 when a 23 year old physiotherapy intern was raped by six men in a bus in our capital city. The nation mourned and protested as that young woman, Nirabaya, battled the physical consequences of having been brutally gang raped, injured and abandoned. She died 13 days later unable to fight any more. Her sad story caught our national imagination. It sent social activists on the warpath, the police force on greater alert, the government on a string of protective measures, and the perpetrators to prison.

Sadly since Nirabaya’s death the media has continued to report incidents of the violation of women and children. The National Crime Records Bureau reports that a woman is raped every 20 minutes somewhere in India. It also states that crimes against women have increased by 7.1% nationwide since 2010, and that child rape cases have increased by 336% in the last 10 years.(2)

As I sat down to write today, I couldn’t escape the magnitude of those figures and their indictment upon our moral condition as a nation. I also couldn’t help but recall the words of Indian writer Shoba De from her article dated 24th August 2013 about the cold-blooded, pre-meditated daylight murder of Narendra Dabholkar. The article was titled, “Silencing the Rationalist” and hailed Dabholkar as a towering figure who was appreciated all over India for his progressive worldview and his sustained campaign against practitioners of black magic and…his strong views against casteism. Shoba De observes in that article, “It is pretty difficult to shock India. We have become ‘violence-proof’ as it were.”(3)

Weighty questions arise as we think of these circumstances don’t they? Should the sheer frequency of such brutal and inhuman violations be allowed to numb our moral senses that we be rendered “violence-proof”? Can the logic, or shall we say “illogic” that a great amount of wrong has the power to obliterate what is right, ever stand the test of truth? Does apathy coupled with short-lived public memory only place the wounded in obituary sections for the passing world to lay its flowers and candles and then walk away to once again repeat its offenses?

At this moment there is an on-going debate about the age of one of the accused in the Mumbai rape case. His family argue that he is under 17 and therefore by provisions in the law does not stand punishable to the extent of the others. The tragedy is that there seems to be no feeling of remorse or regret that one from the family has so ravaged the innocence and personality of a young woman. “Blood is thicker than water” as the old line goes, but what when blood is shed and pain inflicted in so inhuman a fashion? That question may also speak for Egypt, Syria, and other parts of our fragile world where violence abounds and so also bloodshed.

The Psalmist records a short line bearing deep implications: “For your love is ever before me, and I will continually walk in your truth.” For some of us love brings comfort, for others it brings security, for still others it inspires service, but for the Psalmist it became the bedrock upon which his convictions would stand. God’s love became his inspiration to walk in God’s truth continually.

Has it not struck you that if truth was ever anchored in us, we would end up having about six billion versions of it? That’s why it is very critical for us to understand that “truth” in the Christian worldview is not a concept nor a principle, but a person. Jesus distinguished himself to that claim when he declared, “I am the truth.”

As I try to bring this reflection to a close, let me quote from what I shared in one of my sermons yesterday. There have been times when I have counselled and prayed with men who had entered the dark world of pornography with the excuse that their spouses were either “unkind or uncaring.” The step into pornography was their violation, the alleged failure of the spouse, the justification! I have appealed to such men that they would only find themselves deeper in the quagmire of guilt and dirt and that there could be no moral justification for the plunge they had taken. I have also gone further to tell them that the Holy God of the Bible mercifully offers cleansing and forgiveness when he declares, “Come now, let us reason together, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”(4)

Yes, we can moralize about the men who violated that young photojournalist in Mumbai city. We can stand in rallies to protest and cry for justice. We can appear to be on the right side of the right while all along making compromises within ourselves that no one else or few others know about. So, let me say it as clearly as one must hear it: You may not have much of a right to charge the Mumbai offenders, if you are on the sly subscribing to or viewing pornography. You may not have the moral right to speak in defence of defenceless women (or for that matter, men), if you are unkind to your spouse at home. You may not have the moral right to legislate against such crimes, until you meditate upon the condition of your own soul. And when you do, you must draw near to the one who says, “Come let us reason together…”

The truth of God stands far above the vagaries of time, the whims of our cultures, the “open-mindedness” of our scholars and the scepticism of our peers: It stands in the One in whom “yesterday, today and forever” converge to spell “I AM.”

Until we see that truth, not in print as much as in our entire beings, our heads may hang in shame not only for the violations that we read about in our newspapers but for the violations that dwell within our hearts!

Arun Andrews is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bangalore, India.

(1) V. Narayan, “Mumbai gang rape accused says gang has done it before,” Times of India, 26 August 2013.

(2) Spence Feingold, “One rape every 20 minutes in country” Times of India, 25 August 2013.

(3) Shobhaa De, “Silencing the Rationalist,” Deccan Chronicle, 24 August 2013.

(4) Isaiah 1:18.

Max Lucado – Turn a Deaf Ear

Max Lucado

Two kinds of voices vie for our attention.  One says, “God will help you.”  The other says, “God has left you!”

And here’s the great news:  you select the voices you hear.  Why give ear to pea-brains and scoffers when you can, with the same ear, listen to the voice of God?  I had a friend who battled alcohol.  He tried a fresh tactic.  He gave me and a few others permission to slug him in the nose if we ever saw him drinking. If the wall is too tall, try the tunnel!  Try something different… God will help you!

Ephesians 1:19-20 says, “God’s power is very great for those who believe.  That power is the same as the great strength God used to raise Christ from the dead and put Him at His right side in the heavenly world.”

Turn to God and he will give you what you need.  Turn a deaf ear to the old voices. Open a wide eye to the new choices!

from Facing Your Giants

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Influence

Ravi Z

Every year Time magazine publishes its list of the world’s one hundred most influential people.(1) Of these “influencers” the magazine’s editorial staff grouped them into categories of influence—from leaders and revolutionaries to builders and titans, from artists and entertainers to heroes and icons, scientists and thinkers.  Interestingly enough, the magazine even includes those whose influence is deemed wholly negative. Past “honorees” included Bernard Madoff, who stole a reported sixty billion dollars from investors and bankrupted many charitable organizations, and Joaquin Guzman, the Mexican druglord behind the horrific violence that has claimed well-over 15,000 lives in his home country and abroad.

Defining influence seems a tricky business and the editors of Time admit this. “What is influence and how can we possibly compare the influence of an underworld druglord, for example, with a heroic 21 year old soldier who saved his company of Marines while he almost bled to death?”(2) The etymology of the word gives us some understanding of its use and of this kind of comparison. Originally, the word was used as an astrological term, denoting “streaming ethereal power from the stars acting upon the character or destiny of men.”(3) Ultimately, influence is a force or substance flowing from someone or something, which moves the heart or actions of someone else-whether for good or for evil.

For the majority of those listed, however, I suspect that their fame is their influence. In other words, influence becomes less about the one acted upon and more a reflection of an individual. Persons are deemed influential because of their own accomplishments; they amassed vast monetary resources or media empires, held political power or oversight. Most names on the list are cultural icons of one sort or another whose influence is at best mercurial; like shooting stars their light is seen and then just as quickly fades from sight.

One year, while flipping through this issue, three individuals were listed that I suspect are known to very few people. Had influence been determined by a vote, I suspect that most readers of Time magazine would not have deemed them influential. Their names are Brady Gustafson, Mary Scullion, and Somaly Mam. Brady Gustafson, just 21 years of age, saved his fellow Marines when they came under direct attack in Afghanistan. Though Brady himself had suffered a life-threatening injury, he fought to save his friends and fellow Marines until help arrived. Mary Scullion works tirelessly with an organization to help the homeless in Philadelphia, stating that “none of us are home until all of us are home.” As a result of her efforts, there are now less than 200 homeless men and women in Philadelphia. Somaly Mam was sold into the sex trade at age 12 and for over a decade suffered at the hands of her abusers. As an adult, having escaped from her captors and having every opportunity to make a new life for herself, Mam instead returned to Cambodia to try and save others who are still enslaved. She has suffered death threats and her own daughter was raped in retaliation for her efforts to shut down the brothels in which young girls lose their lives daily.

In our society, influence generally indicates power over others-power that inevitably reflects back on the one who is influencing. But for these three individuals, influence has very little to do with their own glory. Their influence is characterized by their work on behalf of others. Indeed, their influence is not about making a name for themselves, but rather about lifting up those without names and faces who have no influence, and who most of the world will never know: homeless men and women, child-victims of the sex trafficking industry, and small-town young men who defend American interests in places of extreme violence and conflict. Offering their lives in this way opens up the possibility of creating lasting influence in the lives of the world’s least influential.

When Jesus spoke about influence in his sermon on the mount, he likened it to salt. Salt is not a flashy spice like cayenne pepper or nutmeg. It rarely calls attention to itself as a predominant flavor. Salt is basic. And yet, salt is essential. Without it, food is bland and tasteless, for salt enlivens all the flavors. Without it, decay and degradation ensue, for salt preserves and produces longevity. Salt cleanses and heals. In recipes, salt serves all the other ingredients, by coaxing out and enhancing their fullest expression and flavor. Jesus calls his followers to be influencers in the way that salt influences a meal: often in the background, and not a self-promoting or singular flavor. Like Somaly Mam, Brady Gufstason and Mary Scullion, influence is like salt; it may be the behind-the-scenes player in the world of ingredients, often hardly noticed, yet powerfully effective in creating a full and lasting result.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Time, “The World’s 100 Most Influential People,” Vol. 173, No. 18, May 11, 2009.

(2) Ibid.

(3) As noted in the Online Etymology Dictionary, http://etymonline.com/index.php?search=influence.

(4) Matthew 5:13-16.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Basket Case

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An investment counselor will tell you to diversify, while your grandmother will advise you not to put all your eggs in one basket. The principle is the same. How was Bernie Madoff – the New York financial advisor who swindled hundreds of investors out of billions of dollars – able to ruin so many lives? Because they entrusted him with everything. They didn’t listen to grandma’s sound advice.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand.  Ecclesiastes 11:6

Solomon adds his voice in Ecclesiastes 11:6. After sowing your seed, he says, don’t go sit on the porch and wait for results. Get busy doing something else, “for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” Today, consider how you might diversify your finances, your service…and your prayers. Do you need greater wisdom in the way you manage money? Are there loved ones or neighbors you’ve neglected to help? Are you praying only for politicians who share your viewpoint?

Take a bold step and ask God to enlarge your horizons and expand your influence. Withhold not your hand from things you can do to make a difference!

Recommended Reading: Ecclesiastes 11:1-10

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Will He Be Ashamed?

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“And anyone who is ashamed of Me and My message in these days of unbelief and sin, I, the Messiah, will be ashamed of him when I return in the glory of My Father, with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

Dr. Charles Malik, once president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and I – along with others – were invited to a very prestigious meeting in Washington, D.C. Present were some of the most distinguished leaders in our nation and from other countries.

In the course of his remarks, Dr. Malik emphasized his conviction that there were no human solutions to the problems that face mankind. Only Jesus Christ could help us as individuals and as nations.

As a young businessman, I was tremendously impressed to think that one of the world’s leading scholars and statesmen would speak so boldly and courageously of his faith in Christ. Following the meeting, I introduced myself to him and expressed to him my appreciation for his courage in speaking out so boldly for Christ.

I had heard others – politicians, statesmen, scholars – speak of faith in God and the Bible and the church in general terms. But few, in those days, ever spoke of their faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I shall never forget his response.

“I am sobered by the words of my Lord,” he said, quoting today’s verse, Mark 8:38.

Perhaps you are one who loudly acclaims, “No, I could never be ashamed of my wonderful Lord.” But the familiar axiom is true: actions speak louder than words. If we are truly unashamed of our Savior, we will look for every opportunity to share the good news of His great love.

Bible Reading: Psalm 31:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will not be ashamed of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but will trust the indwelling Holy Spirit to witness through me.

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Ultimate Say

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Here’s a new word for today: “primogeniture.” While you probably won’t use this word much in conversation, its meaning has impacted you and your world in unimaginable ways.

Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. Revelation 1:5

Primogeniture is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn son to inherit the entire estate. In its various forms, every culture owes countless marriages, wars, intrigues and alliances to this concept. The role of a firstborn, even today, still determines how inheritance is governed around the globe.

In the Bible, Jesus Christ is presented as the first and only son of God. And when He allowed Himself to be sacrificed at the hands of men, He also became the first one to conquer death. His inheritance is a foundational, universal and all-encompassing power. He has complete authority to rule over everyone and everything in the created universe.

America is not governed solely by elected officials. Christ as ruler of the universe has ultimate say in what is allowed to be. Today, pray fervently for America as a nation. Ask that its people and leaders may find favor in God’s generous mercy…and that the abundant grace of the inherited Son of God, Jesus Christ, will abide upon each one.

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 1:1-8

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Questioning God

Ravi Z

“Life just doesn’t seem fair.” How often do you find yourself uttering those words? The unscrupulous continue to get richer while the poor continue to be oppressed and victimized. This complaint is especially poignant when family, friends, or leaders whom we expect to act honorably and for our welfare betray our trust. We experience the injustice of people getting away with backstabbing, manipulation, and deception, prospering while those who choose to do what is right are misunderstood and discriminated against. Where is God in the midst of all these? Does God see and judge? If so when and how?

The book of Habakkuk is a very short dialogue between God and the prophet on exactly these questions. Not much is known about this prophet of Judah, but the context of his complaints hint that he prophesied during the declining years of Judah. Judah had over and over again forsaken God and engaged in all kinds of evil—idolatry, corruption, and violence. Like most prophets, Habakkuk was concerned about the wickedness and injustice in Judah. And he wants to know when the Lord will answer his call for help. But unlike other prophets who would direct their message at God’s people, Habakkuk directs his laments at God:

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.(1)

Habakkuk wrestles with what he knows about God’s character alongside God’s apparent tolerance of the violence and injustice that he witnesses around him. He knows God to be perfectly holy and perfectly just. How is it then that God can idly look on and not punish the guilty? And instead the transgressors are enjoying the fruits of their wrongdoing.

Habakkuk’s experience demonstrates that bewilderment and affliction are not necessarily signs of spiritual immaturity or unfortunate distraction from faith. Instead these cries contribute to the development of strong faith and are the raw materials of prayer and worship. By challenging and questioning God, Habakkuk learns to seek the intentions and purposes of God, becoming a joyful example of one who lives by faith. Doubting God’s fairness or sovereignty does not necessarily mean we have parted from faith or that we are questioning belief itself. Asking God probing questions is very much a part of the life of faith.

And though he doesn’t engage all his questions, God indeed responds to Habakkuk.

As we see the evil around us, often we cannot help but wonder why is it that God hasn’t done anything about it. We remember innocent lives that are taken in the name of religion, we remember friends who are tortured and murdered for the sake of truth, we recall moral evil committed against innocent children.

But nothing escapes God’s attention. God hears every single one of our prayers and is not unaware of the evil and sinfulness around us. And God promises that ultimately those who experience injustice in this world will be comforted. It is against this encouraging hope that the book of Habakkuk closes with a beautiful song that ends with rejoicing at the sovereignty and faithfulness of God.

I’Ching Thomas is associate director of training at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Singapore.

(1) Habakkuk 1:2-4.

Alistair Begg – Help the Stragglers

Alistair Begg

They shall set out last, standard by standard.  Numbers 2:31

The camp of Dan brought up the rear when the armies of Israel were on the march. The Danites occupied the hindmost place, but their position wasn’t important, since they were as truly part of the company as were the foremost tribes. They followed the same fiery cloudy pillar, ate of the same manna, drank of the same spiritual rock, and journeyed to the same inheritance. Come, my heart, cheer up, even though last and least; it is your privilege to be in the army and to fare as they fare who lead the expedition. Someone must be at the rear in honor and esteem, someone must do menial work for Jesus, and why shouldn’t it be me? In a poor village among an ignorant peasantry or in a back street among degraded sinners, I will work on and take my assigned place at the rear.

The Danites occupied a very useful place. Stragglers have to be picked up on the march, and lost property has to be gathered from the field. Fiery spirits may dash forward over untrodden paths to learn fresh truth and win more souls to Jesus; but some of a more conservative spirit may be well engaged in reminding the church of her ancient faith and restoring her fainting sons. Every position has its duties, and the slowly moving children of God will find their peculiar state one in which they may be eminently a blessing to the whole company.

The rear guard is a place of danger. There are foes behind us as well as before us. Attacks may come from any quarter. We read that Amalek fell upon Israel and slew some who were at the rear. The experienced Christian will find much work for his weapons in aiding those poor doubting, desponding, wavering souls who are slowest in faith, knowledge, and joy. These must not be left unaided, and therefore let it be the business of well-taught saints to bear their standards among the rear guard. My soul, watch tenderly to help the stragglers today.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Essential Elements

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The writer Rudyard Kipling was born to British nationals in India, but at the age of five his parents sent him back to England to board with another family, which was the custom of the day. It was a horrible home, and Kipling endured six years of constant mental and physical abuse. “I had never heard of Hell,” Kipling later wrote, “so I was introduced to it in all its terrors.”

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace.   Colossians 1:2

It’s an unfortunate thing when grace and peace are absent from a child’s home, and it’s also sad when those attributes are missing from the Lord’s house. In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul prayed that they might continually receive – and give – God’s grace and peace.

Is your home such a place? Is your church? Or are they places of conflict and condemnation? As you lift up America’s leaders today, recognize that many of the problems government tries to solve are prevalent in society because Christian homes and churches have failed to embody the essential elements of God’s mercy and love. Pray that it will never be the case in your own home or house of worship.

Recommended Reading: Ephesians 4:11-16, 25-32

John MacArthur – Rejecting Christ

John MacArthur

“For those who disbelieve, ‘the stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,’ and, ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed” (1 Pet. 2:7- 8).

Israel was a unique nation, chosen by God to be the guardian of His Word and proclaimer of His kingdom. The Old Testament records His miraculous and providential care for her throughout the centuries, and the prophets told of One who would come as her great Deliverer. Israel eagerly awaited the promised Messiah.

But the story has a surprise ending. In the Person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah finally came and presented Himself to Israel. The religious leaders examined Him carefully, measuring Him in every way they could. But He didn’t fit their blueprint. They expected a reigning political Messiah who would instantly deliver them from Roman oppression. They felt no need for a spiritual deliverer, so they rejected Him and tossed Him aside like a worthless rock.

That rejected cornerstone is precious to believers but remains a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to unbelievers. A “stone of stumbling” was a stone on which someone tripped while walking along the road. A “rock of offense” was a rock large enough to crush a person. The point: rejecting Christ brings spiritual devastation of enormous proportions.

All who reject Christ do so because they are disobedient to the Word. Rebellion against the written Word inevitably leads to rejection of the living Word. Of such people Peter said, “To this doom they were also appointed” (v. 8). They weren’t appointed to reject Christ, but to receive the judgment that their rejection demands. That’s a frightening reality that should motivate you to take every opportunity to evangelize the lost.

Suggestions for Prayer:

If you have family or friends who are rejecting Christ, pray for them often, asking God to grant them saving faith.

For Further Study:

Read Romans 9:30-10:17, noting Israel’s false standard of righteousness and Paul’s prayer for her salvation.