Tag Archives: human-rights

Our Daily Bread — Stranded

 

Genesis 39:19-23

The Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy. —Genesis 39:21

Traveling by bus from Memphis, Tennessee, to St. Louis, Missouri, typically takes about 6 hours—unless the bus driver leaves you stranded at a gas station. This happened to 45 passengers aboard a bus who waited 8 hours overnight for a replacement driver after the original driver abandoned them. They must have felt frustrated by the delay, anxious about the outcome, and impatient for rescue.

Joseph probably shared those feelings when he landed in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (Gen. 39). Abandoned and forgotten by any human who might help him, he was stranded. Still, “the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor” (v.21). Eventually, the prison warden promoted Joseph to oversee fellow inmates, and whatever Joseph did, “the Lord made it prosper” (v.23). But despite God’s presence and blessing, Joseph remained incarcerated for years.

You may be stranded in a hospital room, a jail cell, a country far from home, or your own inner prison. No matter where you are, or how long you’ve been there, God’s mercy and kindness can reach you. Because He is God Almighty (Ex. 6:3) and present everywhere (Jer. 23:23-24), He can protect, promote, and provide for you when it seems no one else can help. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Dear God, help us to remember

Your presence and power even when

we are not where we want to be in life. Remind us

to reach for You when no one else can reach us.

 

God is present—even when we feel He is absent.

The Pitcher and the Cross – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

The Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering on earth. It is conservatively estimated that around 10 million people will gather in the city of Allahabad in Northern India within a period of 55 days starting Jan 14, 2013. Some even quote a seemingly exaggerated figure of 100 million pilgrims to this religious gathering! The Kumbh Mela (etymologically, “pitcher fair”) takes place every four years in Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik by rotation. This year the festival is very auspicious and is called the Maha (meaning “Super”) Kumbh Mela and happens only once every 144 years. It is estimated that this Kumbh will cost around 210 million dollars (US), but thankfully will also generate approximately 10 times that amount as calculated by India’s Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The media reports that even people from far-flung places are helping to make this event a success. Andrew Turner from Australia along with his wife and children are in Allahabad and are building an 18 by 6 feet boat to ferry devotees from one side of the river to the other—free of charge. “I am living a dream at the moment,” he says. “When I heard that this Kumbh was happening after 144 years, I thought, I will never get a second chance…. I joined the locals and landed in Prayag and walked several kilometers with devotees… The zealous faith snapped my ties with logic and reason. It was mesmerizing.”

Hindu tradition says that there was a war between the gods and the demons over divine nectar and four drops of nectar fell from the pitcher. These fell on four different locations, which overlap the cities where the Kumbh is held. One of those drops fell at Haridwar where the river Ganges flows, while another fell at the Sangam. The Sangam is the confluence of three rivers—the Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythological river Saraswati in Prayag. The other two drops fell at Kshipra in Ujjain and Godawari in Nasik. A dip in these rivers on auspicious dates during the Kumbh is said to rid pilgrims of their sins. There are six such days this year for the Kumbh and the most important day is 10th of February.

The reality of sin is clearly expressed in the Bible. The universality of sin has also been declared in Romans as “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Anyone who reads the newspaper and honestly reflects on it would not be able to deny the reality and universality of sin. Through the ages, humans have tried to rid themselves of sin and its consequences. Religious rituals, idols, journeys, and sacrifices have all tried to assuage and comfort the sinner’s heart, but have been found wanting.

Robert Lowry wrestles with this question in the lyrics of a hymn and arrives at a significantly different answer:

What can wash away my sins,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What can make me whole again,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh precious is the flow,

that makes me white as snow,

No other font I know

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Grace, made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus, is the only font which offers release from the burden of sin and restores our relationship with God. And thankfully, we do not need to snap our ties to logic and reason, but rather embrace an honest and rational examination of evidence. This would lead us to the empty grave of Jesus—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Death no longer has a hold on him and this victory he extends to us: O Death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead frees us not only from the sting of death but also from bondage to sin and our many attempts to assuage it—this, not at any cost to us or anyone else, for God has fully paid the price. Thus, we can confess Jesus as Lord anytime, anywhere, and we will be saved! It makes one gasp in wonder at the overarching simplicity and compelling elegance of the good news.

Cyril Georgeson is a member of the speaking team with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Mumbai, India.

Bread in Hand – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

At the death of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, the world of economics lost one of its most influential thinkers. He is perhaps best known for popularizing the saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” which is now a common English dictum.

Though consumer-trained eyes, we understand this phrase as Friedman intended: Anything billed “free of charge” still has a bill attached. It is both economic theory and lay opinion. Whatever goods and services are provided, someone must pay the cost. Thus, economically, we see that the world of business is first and foremost about profit and market share. And cynically, we suspect that every kind gesture or free gift has a hidden motive, cost, or expectation attached.

It was strange, then, to find myself thinking of “free lunches” as I was approaching the meal Christians call communion, the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist—from the Greek eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving. Could my consumer mindset apply to this table as well? Was this really a free meal? Certainly the compulsion many feel to drudge up a sense of guilt at the table could be one sign of its costliness. Theological instinct immediately recoiled at this thought. Is this Christ’s cost or one we determine ourselves? Inherent in Jesus’s invitation to the table is the very freedom he came to offer: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). And yet, even as we are called to freely come to the meal, to consume Christ himself, are we not asked simply to empty ourselves before the one who calls? Is there a cost to partake of the Bread of Life?

Christ speaks openly that the way of the Cross is costly, but it does not require the kind of transaction consumer-hungry minds are quick to expect. The cost is his, even as he invites us to share in it. As the disciples gathered together in the upper room where they would participate in Jesus’s last supper and the first communion, Jesus told them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). He is both the Bread of Life and the one who paid the cost that it might nourish his table of guests. Our consumption at the table holds a great deal in which to participate.

Unfortunately, we are at times like the poet Alison Luterman who admits it is quite possible not to see the connection between what feeds us and the one who made it possible. She writes eloquently,

“Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones even bruise at too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten—every piece of fruit—had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before?”

Holding the bread of the Lord’s Supper in our hands, we are indeed faced with a costly meal. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).

Stories of hunger and consumption pervade the world around us. The same theme pervades the gospel story, but in a manner that transforms both our hunger and our ideas of what it means to consume. The consumer of Christ is not stockpiling one more product for personal use and fulfillment. Nor does he or she partake of a free service that requires a minimum purchase or a small commitment. Jesus’s words are neither selfish nor small: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (6:56). Those who come to the table cannot consume with the same disconnectedness with which we consume countless meals and materials. We are ushered into a community, an interconnected life, the Body of Christ himself, and it leaves an entirely different imagination of the world in our grasp. The Christian makes the very countercultural claim that one can desire what one already has. Every broken piece of bread represents nothing less than a Person who was broken for us, who gives everything away to present the hungry with an invitation to join him, to taste and see that God is good.

And he calls us to come willing to empty ourselves as completely as he did on the Cross. For the free meal that is offered in remembrance of Jesus overturns our lives as consumers and turns our hunger inside-out. As Augustine imagines the voice on high saying, “I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me. And you will not change me into you, like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me.”(1) Christ is unlike anything else we can consume and desire in this world. For all who are hungry, the Bread of Heaven has come down.

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

(1) Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 124 [Book VII, 16].

The Joy of Faithful Service – John MacArthur

 

“Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1).

The metaphor of Christians as slaves to Christ is common in Paul’s writings. It is one his readers would have readily understood because of the prevalence of slavery in the Roman Empire.

Peter, James, John, and Jude used the same metaphor of their own ministries, as did Jesus in Mark 10:45: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” In Philippians 2:7 Paul refers to Christ as a bond-servant who set aside the glory He was due and humbled Himself to the point of death.

The Greek word translated “bond-servant” in Philippians 1:1 was commonly used of those who, out of devotion to their masters, chose to remain as slaves when having the opportunity to be released. They were also known as love slaves because they served out of love, not compulsion.

That is a beautiful picture of the believer. We are God’s bond-servants (Rev. 1:1), having been freed from sin and enslaved to Him (Rom. 6:22).

While slavery brings to mind deprivation and inhumane treatment of one’s fellow man, slaves in the Roman Empire usually were treated with dignity and respect. Although most had no personal possessions, their masters supplied everything they needed for life and health. Additionally, many were entrusted with significant responsibilities in their master’s home.

A disobedient or self-willed slave was of no use to his master, but faithful slaves, who set aside their personal interests to accomplish their master’s will, were a precious possession.

Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). As God’s bond-servant that should be your goal as well. Be faithful so God can use you mightily.

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the privilege of serving Him.

Seek wisdom to appropriate your spiritual resources as you perform the tasks God has entrusted to you.

For Further Study:  Philemon is a letter Paul wrote to accompany Onesimus, a runaway slave, whom Paul had led to the Lord and was now returning to his master, Philemon.

Read Philemon.

What was Paul’s desire for Onesimus?

What does this letter reveal about Philemon’s character?

Former Things – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

The last battle had been fought, the final obstacle demolished; the land that was once promised was now land possessed. Joshua called together all the tribes of Israel and standing upon the foreign ground of freedom he announced to all the people: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants… Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out…. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time.’”(1)

Goethe once penned, “What you have as heritage, take now as task; for thus you will make it your own.” Having fought hard to possess the land God had promised, the Israelites now stood before Joshua looking forward to the life God had promised. On this momentous day, they were given instruction from God in the form of history. The vast majority of the people listening had not personally lived through the miraculous events in Egypt. As the Red Sea was parted and the Egyptians swallowed by sea, they were not standing on dry ground watching with their own eyes as it all happened. And yet, the impact of this history and the continual (and commanded) retelling of the story made it possible for the LORD to say it as such: With your own eyes you have seen almost a millennium of landless slavery redeemed by God’s promise, transformed at God’s own hands.

God continued to speak through Joshua, moving from Israel’s early history into days the crowd would remember first hand: “‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho.  The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands…. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’”(2)

His words told of current events and familiar scenery, while warning against forgetting it was God, past and present, who had brought them there. God reminded the battle-weary Israelites that what happened at the crossing of the Red Sea with Moses was as imperative to their story as the crossing of the Jordan with Joshua. God’s hand throughout their history was to be God’s assurance of plans to give them a hope and a future.

For the Christian, to remember that Jehovah saves even on this day, in this dark valley, in this trying situation, is to remember the story of God in its entirety. God saved the people from Egypt; from God’s hand came each victory across the Jordan. By God’s presence a nation was led into the Promised Land; by the blood of God’s Son, death, the last enemy, was defeated. The Christian’s worldview is historical memory living presently. Today God saves because yesterday God saved.

In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer states emphatically, “It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to his Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today…. I find no salvation in my life history but only in the history of Jesus Christ.” As Bonhoeffer led the anti-Nazi Confessing Church, he was moved by the presence of God in the history of Israel, the promise of God in his crucified Son, such that he chose to believe in God’s salvation even unto death in a concentration camp.

At the conclusion of God’s word to the people on that day of promise, Joshua declared, “[C]hoose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Out of the history of God with the people of Israel comes a story that can instruct one’s own, a rescuer born and wounded for you. With Isaiah we hear God’s plea, “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done.”

God’s people were led into the Promised Land with a leader whose very name confesses “Jehovah saves.” It is not coincidental that the same word marks the name of Jesus, who offered his life that the world might be fully led into the story of God.

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

(1) Joshua 24: 2-3,5,7b.

(2) Joshua 24:11-13.

Coming Home – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

There is a line in the story of the prodigal son that is easy to miss. It comes as the transition in the story, but it also seems to mark the transition in the son. The story is familiar. Not long after the younger son demands the right to live as he pleases, after he leaves with his father’s money and gets as far away as possible, and after he loses everything and is forced to hire himself out in the fields, the story reads that the prodigal “came to himself” and, at this, he decides to turn back to the father.

Today it is often translated that the son “came to his senses,” as we might describe a man or woman who, on the precipice of a bad decision or impulsive act, decides to turn around. But the phrase in the Greek literally describes the prodigal as coming to himself, and seems to point at something far more than good decision-making. In a sermon titled “Bread Enough and to Spare,” popular English preacher Charles Spurgeon notes that this Greek expression can be applied to one who comes out of a deep swoon, someone who has lost consciousness and comes back to himself again. The expression can also be applied to one who is recovering from insanity, someone who has been lost somewhere within her own mind and body, only to come back to herself once again.

With both of these metaphors, the son is one who wakes to health and life again, having been unconscious of his true condition. Standing in a foreign field hungry and alone, the son comes to something more than a good decision. He is waking to an identity he knew in part but never fully realized. He is remembering life in his father’s house again, though for the first time.

Human identity seems a succession of inquiry and wakefulness. For some of us, who we are is discovered in layers of life and realization, questioning and consciousness. Essayist Annie Dillard articulates this progression of awareness and the rousing of self as something strangely recognizable—”like people brought back from cardiac arrest or drowning.” There is a familiarity in the midst of our awakenings. We wake to mystery, she writes, but so somehow we wake to something known.

The Christian tells a similar story of waking to life in the most fully human sense of the word. We are like those who have lost consciousness, caught in the madness of our own condition, longing to be released, until we are awakened to life despite ourselves with one so eager for our homecoming. The apostle concurs:

“You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient… But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”(1)

Coming to ourselves, we wake to human need, to human condition, to our poverty and our dignity, claiming in our very identities our need for resurrection, our need for home.

One further use of this expression comes out of the old world fables of enchantment. With this metaphor, “coming to ourselves” is like coming out of a magician’s spell and assuming once again our true forms. It is reminiscent of the scene in The Silver Chair where the children are trapped beneath Narnia in the land called Underworld and persuaded to believe there is no such thing as a Narnian. The Queen of Underworld, who is really a witch, has thrown a green powder into the fire that produces a sweet and drowsy smell. In this enchanting haze, their identity as Narnians becomes hazy, and the world they thought they knew begins to disappear. But it is at this moment of despair that Puddleglum makes a very brave move. With his bare foot he stomps on the fire, sobering the sweet and heavy air. “One word, Ma’am,” he says coming back from the fire, limping, because of the pain. “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made-up, all those things… Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world.  Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one… We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow… I’m on Aslan’s side, even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as much like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland.”

Coming out of their enchantment, the prisoners of Underland remembered they were children of another kingdom. Coming to themselves, they began to realize who they were all along. What if waking to our identities as children of the Father is like uncovering the people God has created us to be from the start? What if coming to ourselves is like remembering we are citizens of a better kingdom, a kingdom we vaguely recall and yet long to return? The prodigal’s awakening came as the startling recognition that there was plenty in his father’s house, and that he himself was starving.  Waking to this, we reclaim the very identities given to us in the beginning. And doing so, we come to ourselves because we are setting out for home again. We come to ourselves because we are going to the Father.

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

(1) Ephesians 2:1-5.

Making History – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

If you are familiar with the writing of the new atheists, you will notice that they often portray history as if there is an ancient and on-going war raging between science and religion. Why is it that such simplistic ways of viewing the past can become so prevalent?(1) One theory is advanced by Christian Smith in his book Moral Believing Animals. He argues that one of the central, fundamental motivations for human action is the locating of life within a larger external moral order, which in turn dictates a person’s sense of identity and the way in which they act. He claims that, whether or not they realize it, “all human persons, no matter how well educated, how scientific, how knowledgeable, are, at bottom, believers.”(2)

He suggests this is because “human knowledge has no common, indubitable foundation,”and therefore the way people choose to live and the knowledge they accumulate is all founded upon basic assumptions and beliefs that cannot themselves be empirically verified.(3) This includes the Enlightenment ideas of foundationalist knowledge, the autonomously choosing individual and even universal rationality itself, which he argues “always and only operates in the context of the particular moral orders that define and orient reason in particular directions.”(4)

In order to make sense of life, he suggests that all individuals perceive the world according to an all-embracing narrative, in which factual information about different events and people is woven into a storyline that makes an overall point. The Scientific Enlightenment Narrative, for example, is one that has been popularized by the new atheists:

“For most of human history, people have lived in the darkness of ignorance and tradition, driven by fear, believing in superstitions. Priest and Lords preyed on such ignorance, and life was wearisome and short. Ever so gradually, however, and often at great cost, inventive men have endeavored better to understand the natural world around them. Centuries of such enquiry eventually led to a marvelous Scientific Revolution that radically transformed our methods of understanding nature. What we know now as a result is based on objective observation, empirical fact, and rational analysis. With each passing decade, science reveals increasingly more about the earth, our bodies, our minds. We have come to possess the power to transform nature and ourselves. We can fortify health, relieve suffering, and prolong life. Science is close to understanding the secret of life and maybe eternal life itself. Of course, forces of ignorance, fear, irrationality and blind faith still threaten the progress of science. But they must be resisted at all costs. For unfettered science is our only hope for true Enlightenment and happiness.”(5)

Although this narrative may seem to be the very opposite of a religious worldview, Smith makes the interesting observation that “what is striking about these major Western narrative traditions is how closely their plots parallel and sometimes mimic the Christian narrative.”(6)

They all include a period of darkness followed by redemption, as well as a promise for the future and the identification of potential threats to the desired utopia. He explains that: “So deep did Christianity’s wagon wheels wear into the ground of Western culture and consciousness that nearly every secular wagon that has followed—no matter how determined to travel a different road—has found it nearly impossible not to ride in the same tracks of the faith of old. Such is the power of the moral order in deeply forming culture and story.”(7)

This is a fascinating observation, because it suggests that the Christian way of perceiving the world still informs the worldview of many of those who think they have jettisoned all the remnants of it. He argues that this pervasiveness is not surprising though, as “the human condition and the character of religion quite naturally fit, cohere, complement and reinforce each other,” because they link the narratives with the historical and personal significances at both the individual and collective level.

The fact that the message is so compelling will come as no surprise to Christians, but, above all, Smith’s work illustrates the problem faced by those who insist that they live by science, logic, and empirical evidence, rather than relying on any belief. It also highlights that there is a considerable blind spot in the thinking of many people today, when it comes to appreciating the role religion has played not only in shaping their own ideas, but also in underpinning core aspects of western society. It may be fashionable to dismiss this foundation, but the final word should perhaps be left to the influential German thinker, Jürgen Habermas, who explains that the Judeo-Christian legacy is neither insignificant, nor should it be forgotten:

“For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.”(8)

Simon Wenham is research coordinator for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Europe.

(1) Article adapted from Simon Wenham’s, “Making History: The ‘War’ Between Science and Religion,” Pulse, Issue 8 (Summer 2011), pp. 2-4.

(2) C. Smith, Moral Believing Animals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 54.

(3) Ibid., 154.

(4) Idem.

(5) Ibid., 69.

(6) Ibid., 72.

(7) Idem.

(8) Ibid., 153

Taking Risks – Charles Stanley

 

Acts 9:1-20

Many Christians like playing it safe by gathering as many facts as possible, analyzing the options, and making choices in order to be reasonably certain of the outcome. We tend to label risk “undesirable” because it could end up causing loss and heartache; we fear unwanted results as much as we dread missing out on our dreams. But not only that—we are also afraid of looking foolish or incompetent, incurring financial difficulty, or facing physical danger. From a human viewpoint, eliminating uncertainty makes sense.

But what is God’s perspective? Are there times that Christians are to take risks? The answer is a resounding yes, when He is the one asking us to step out of our comfort zone. From the Lord’s viewpoint, there is no uncertainty, because He has control over all things and He will never fail to accomplish His good purposes (Eph. 1:11).

The Bible is full of real people who took risks to obey the Lord. One was Ananias, whom God sent to minister to the newly converted Saul. Ananias risked his reputation and his life to comply. Another was Saul himself, who was told to preach to the Jews the very gospel he and they had so violently opposed. By focusing on God, His character, and His promises, both men obeyed despite uncertainty, doubt, and fear.

Spiritual maturity is hampered when the Christian refuses to obey God. Sometimes that involves leaving what is safe or familiar. What risk is the Lord calling you to take? He understands your wariness, but He’ll never let you down. Step out in obedience, and watch what He does to grow your faith.

Our Daily Bread — Red Tape

 

Romans 5:1-8

Through [Jesus] also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. —Romans 5:2

The expression “red tape” describes the annoying way that bureaucracy prevents things from getting done. Originally, the phrase referred to the common practice of binding official documents with red ribbon. In the early 1800s, the term was popularized by the writings of Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle, who was protesting governmental foot-dragging. Following the American Civil War, the problem of “red tape” resurfaced as war veterans struggled to receive their benefits. The term denotes frustration and disappointment because of the burdensome hurdles it erects to accomplishing goals.

Bureaucratic red tape is almost legendary, but there is one place in the universe where it’s never an issue—the throne of God. In Romans 5:2, Paul speaks of Christ, “through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” When our hearts are broken or our lives are troubled, there is no red tape hindering our access to God. Jesus Christ has paved the way so that we can have access to enter boldly into the presence of the King of heaven (Heb. 4:16).

Remember, when your heart is hurting, you don’t have to cut through a lot of red tape to present your needs to God. Through Christ, we have full and immediate access. —Bill Crowder

 

Thank You, Father, that access to Your throne

has been secured for us by Jesus Christ. We

know that You will not ignore us. Thank You for

the confidence we can have that You care.

 

God’s throne is always accessible to His children.

World of Violence – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

As is my custom most mornings, I wake up early to take a walk in the still quiet of the day. The morning offers a time for me to pray and to reflect on what is ahead of me that day. But when I returned home on a day not unlike other days and turned on the morning news, the onslaught of violent headlines assaulted my peaceful reflection. In one short broadcast, I learned the details of several horrific stories involving brutal violence. Indeed, watching or listening to any local news station, one finds that the majority of headlines involve mayhem and morbidity. Like it or not, my morning routine is so often upset and unsettled by violence in the news.

Disheartened by the relentless barrage of violent headlines, I am often left wondering why people seem to love violence more than peace. With all the heartache and despair left in the wake of these tragedies, why don’t people seem to tire of violence?

Of course, stories of violence come as no surprise. Assaults and murders are as familiar as any routine. And yet, its occurrence still jars my senses. Somehow, thankfully, I never get used to it, and its commonplace existence does not dull my senses. The familiar reminder of violence calls us all to attention over and over again as a sign and a symbol that something is terribly wrong in this world. Furthermore, when we are honest with ourselves, we come to know rage and hatred that is not just ‘out there’ in a violent world, but near and dear and close to our own hearts. The ancient prophet Jeremiah identified this dark reality: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

While I wish Jeremiah’s indictment was for everyone else out there—the murderous assassin, the violent rapist, or in the polarized political rivals—I know too well the violence within my own heart. I feel the rage like a fever when I am cut off in traffic. I can seethe within when I am patronized or belittled. And why would I wish to recount the careless words spoken in anger leveled against loved ones? Disheartened, I cry out, “Why won’t I tire of violence?”

Jesus, like Jeremiah before him, understood humanity’s violent tendencies. He understood that violence is not something “out there” but something insidious within every human being. He told his followers, “That which proceeds out of a person, that is what defiles her. For from within, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…thefts, murders…deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit…envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). The explosive violence that maims, harms, and kills emerges within each and every one of us.

Jesus didn’t issue these words as an indictment against humanity while hanging from the cross of violence that took his life, but he very well could have. Indeed, his offering of himself and his death on a cross is the very embodiment of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who mistreat you. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. But love your enemies, and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons and daughters of the Most High; for God is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”(1)

Jesus endured the violence that ultimately led to his crucifixion. He endured violence to offer another way in our world of violence. Yet, his way offers a challenge to our everyday embrace of violence in large and small ways. Until I tire of violence, I cannot expect the world to tire of violence. Until I embrace Jesus’s solution to violence, I cannot hope for peace. Yet, since Christ came near and bore our violence, the lion and the lamb can hope for the transformation that is our peace.

Margaret Manning is associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Luke 6:27,28,32,33,35,36.

Two-Thousand Times More Effective – Max Lucado

 

Two-thousand years ago the disciples of Jesus started a movement that changed the world.  Are we still changing the world?  We can.  We can be two-thousand times more effective—if we only try!

Here’s an example.  There are 145 million orphans worldwide.  Nearly 236 million of us living in the U.S. call ourselves Christian.  From a purely statistical standpoint, by ourselves, we have the wherewithal to house every orphan in the world.  There’s enough food on the planet to feed the hungry!  But the storehouse is locked.

God has given our generation everything we need to alter the course of human suffering. Change must start with us!  With our transformation!  Ours is the wealthiest generation of Christians ever!  We can be more effective—if only we try!

Weak and Strong – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

After fifteen years and nearly 17,000 miles, an unlikely fleet was set to make port on the beaches of Britain. On January 29, 1992, three massive containers on a cargo ship from Hong Kong crashed into the Pacific Ocean during a storm. The containers were filled with brightly colored bathtub toys bound for the United States. Instead, 29,000 little plastic ducks, frogs, beavers, and turtles began a journey that would be carefully monitored by children, oceanographers, and newscasters alike.

After a decade and a half, the tiny bobbing friends have traveled past Japan and back to Alaska, drifted deliberately down the Bering Strait and past the length of Greenland, and carefully floated down the eastern coastline of the United States. They have persevered through storms that would have left boats and crews in dire straits. They patiently endured four years frozen in ice as they crossed the Arctic Ocean. They have arrived at various intervals on various shores, faded and tattered by sun and surf, some with animal bites and barnacles to show for the journey. But each smiling plastic face seems to return with an ironic confession: the smallest vessels on tumultuous seas are not necessarily the most vulnerable.

Life is far more than an attempt to keep our heads above water, and yet at times it feels a suited metaphor. Tossed like tiny rubber ducks in an oceanic bathtub, we hit rocks of fear and anger, are pulled under by currents of despair and disappointment, and are broken at times by the journey. Human fragility is often as startlingly obvious as the image of a bath toy in the Bering Strait. We are at times almost averse to this fragility, whether seen in ourselves or in others. Fighting to keep afloat in an unpredictable sea, we take on distracting cargo and build defensive walls—anything that makes us feel less like tiny vessels lost at sea and more like giant ships passing in the night.

But metaphors of strength can be misleading, and vulnerability is often misunderstood. Though we may be reluctant to hear it, the story of a fragile and fleeting humanity is not always told despairingly. Jesus spoke readily of his own death and wept at the grave of a friend. The apostle Paul spoke of bodies as “jars of clay,” words hastening back the image of powerful King David who lamented that he had become like “broken pottery.” Yet even well beyond these fragile images of humanity, the story of a vulnerable, incarnate God redefines all of our terms. The image of Christ on the Cross turns any understanding of fragility on its head, challenges our discomfort with brokenness, and redirects our associations of weak and strong. In these images is the strange suggestion that the vulnerability of God is far stronger than our greatest images of strength. In his cruciform journey, God uses the weak to shame the strong, a suffering Son to heal the wounds of creation, and the vulnerable image of a broken savior to show the all-surpassing vessel who saves us.

The Christian oddly professes that it is by the Cross which we live, by a seemingly weak vessel that we are brought home. Here, Christ is not an escape raft for the hard realities of this world. On the contrary, he calls to us in our weakness and reminds us that it is not unfamiliar to him. Through tumultuous waters, he beckons us to see there is potential in fragility, meaning in affliction, and life within and beyond the journey that currently consumes us. Something like the image of tiny ducks arriving after an unlikely voyage, the story Jesus tells redirects thoughts on vulnerability, the weak and the strong. And along the way, God is aware of every last and fragile vessel, going after even one that is lost, longing to gather us unto himself like a hen bringing together thousands of little chicks under her wings.

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

The Landmine of Fear – Charles Stanley

 

Isaiah 41:10-13

Humans have legitimate reasons to live in fear—our world has many dangers. But although our environment is frightening, Christians are not to accept fear as a way of life. God’s awesome promises allow us to live peacefully in our surroundings.

For our protection, God has instilled some natural apprehensions in us, like a fear of snakes or deep water. Our instinctive concern teaches us to respect these things until we know how to survive an encounter with them. The Creator also gave us a warning system so we’d react quickly to danger. For instance, if a car speeds toward us, an instant reaction of alarm could save our life.

In other words, some fears protect us. But constant, all-consuming dread is unhealthy. While we may feel afraid if we spot a snake, most of us don’t worry much about having such encounters. Some people anguish over dangers that might occur—instead of entrusting loved ones to God, they anxiously imagine all the ways injury might occur.

As anxiety grows, uncertainty builds up until it hinders our relationship with God. Fears about the welfare of loved ones, financial well-being, or eternal security all result from doubt regarding the Lord’s provision. Then our attention is centered on our concerns rather than on the One who promises to hold us in His hand.

The Lord offers us strength because He understands how fear can torment us. Don’t allow worry to blind you to His promises and thereby deprive you of the help that He always has available. The Bible reminds us: “My God shall supply all your needs” (Phil. 4:19).

 

Our Daily Bread — Guest List

 

Luke 14:7-14

When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed. —Luke 14:13-14

Qumran was a first-century Jewish community that had isolated itself from outside influences to prepare for the arrival of the Messiah. They took great care in devotional life, ceremonial washings, and strict adherence to rules of conduct. Surviving documents show that they would not allow the lame, the blind, or the crippled into their communities. This was based on their conviction that anyone with a physical “blemish” was ceremonially unclean. During their table fellowship, disabled people were never on their guest lists.

Ironically, at that same time the Messiah of Israel was at work in the cities and villages of Judea and Galilee. Jesus proclaimed His Father’s kingdom, brought teaching and comfort, and worked mighty miracles. Strikingly, He proclaimed: “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed” (Luke 14:13-14).

The contrast between Jesus’ words and the guest list of the Qumran “spiritual elite” is instructive to us. Often we like to fellowship with people who look, think, and act like us. But our Lord exhorts us to be like Him and open our doors to everyone. —Dennis Fisher

The gospel must be shared with all,

Not just with those like you and me;

For God embraces everyone

Who turns to Him to set them free. —Sper

The inclusive gospel cannot be shared by an exclusive people. —George Sweeting

 

What Did Jesus Mean? – Ravi Zacharias

 

On the long walk up the steep hill of the historic castle in Marburg, Germany, nostalgia throbbed through every vein. If only the stones could speak and resonate with the voices that held forth within those confines–what rapture that would provide! Within the rooms of that castle a memorable meeting was held in October of 1529 at which a handful of men, principally Luther and Zwingli, were present. What occasioned that auspicious gathering, and why were the emotions so intense as the moods swung from castigating outbursts to heartfelt apologies?

The question before them was one of consolidating their theological convictions and of presenting a unified platform on what they believed and why they believed it. We read in the summation of those proceedings that of the fifteen points under debate they agreed on fourteen but with great anguish disagreed on the fifteenth. The issue that strongly divided them was the meaning of Jesus’s words “This is my body,” and the significant implications of those words upon the Christian celebration of the Lord’s Supper. To Luther it appeared to be as clear as the day—”This is my body” could only be literal. “Jesus said, ‘This is my body,’” he kept thundering forth. He was not arguing for transubstantiation, although Zwingli saw it as a capitulation to that. To Zwingli the words were only symbolic of Christ’s spiritual presence.

One has only to read the points and counterpoints made between the two and the spirit is stirred by the passion of the reformers. The contest of two different convictions, and the harshness of the words spoken in the heat of argument prompted tears and regret in each as they parted with the hope that the sharp edges of their verbal outbursts would be blunted and gentler words would prevail. Unfortunately, subsequent history unfolds a reality different to their hopes.

Today we marvel at such diatribe between people committed to Christ. But let us not lose sight of something so close to the eye that we may lose focus. For both Zwingli and Luther the fundamental question was unmistakable: What did Jesus mean? That was of supreme importance. To be absolutely sure of the answer to that question on the Lord’s Supper we may have to await the Real Presence when eternity is ushered in. But I strongly suspect that both Zwingli and Luther will be applauded for their unswerving commitment to determine God’s intent.

With the twists and turns of history, Marburg has a more sobering warning to us than a debate in a castle by a handful of reformers. The prestigious University of Marburg was founded just two years before that colloquy. In more recent times it has been the spawning ground for schools of thought that have brought havoc into theological institutions—typically not the intention of the thinker, but sadly often the consequence.

After decades of ministry, one of the deepest concerns I have lies in this twin-headed dilemma—how we approach the Scriptures and how we apply them. So much of faith today is muddied by spiritual jargon. Time and again we hear, “God spoke to me”—a mind-boggling statement, to be sure, not only to the skeptic but to many a serious student of the Word. Could such a claim not just as equally be the spiritual clothing of ambition with the verbiage of inspiration? I have seen some of the most incredible behavior justified with the words “God spoke to me.” How does one argue with that? The only way is to turn to the Scriptures and to verify whether the truth deduced is in keeping with the truth of Scripture, not just personally wrested but objectively revealed to all humanity. Further, if the life and conduct of the one to whom God is “constantly speaking” belies a disjunction between practice in day-to-day living and a precept that is harnessed to justify specific behavior, that one too has amputated the organ of fact from the feeling of faith.

From the beginning of time the most difficult question confronting humanity was in the words of the tempter, “Did God really say… ?” In a tragic and sometimes subtle sort of way we can jettison that revealed authority or else give lip service to it, breathing our own inspiration into self-chosen paths. May I suggest the latter is more dangerous, for while the former may deny the existence of God, the latter in the name of God, plays God. This may be the most important lesson to learn from the stones of Marburg. To Luther and Zwingli it was important to know what God meant when God said what God said, not what they might like it to mean. Their disagreement was based on the importance of truth. I have little doubt that to many professing Christians the choice between the two schools of thought is clear. The terrifying reality may be that in life and conduct we may be closer to playing God than we realize.

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Our Daily Bread — Wholesome Words

 

Ephesians 4:25-32

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. —Ephesians 4:29

A while back, an Emmy award-winning actress took a courageous stand and walked out in the middle of the Annual American Music Awards ceremony. Her reason? She grew increasingly upset and disappointed by what she described as “an onslaught of lewd jokes and off-color remarks” and raw and raunchy comments by presenters, performers, and hosts. She said the evening was an affront to anyone with a shred of dignity and self-respect.

Unwholesome speech was a problem even in the apostle Paul’s day. He reminded the Christians at Ephesus that they should put away vulgarity, lewdness, slander, and obscene talk from their lives (Eph. 5:4; Col. 3:8). These were expressions of their old lives (1 Cor. 6:9-11), and it was now out of place with their new identity in Christ. Instead, their lives were to be characterized by wholesome speech. Their good or wholesome words would give grace to the hearers (Eph. 4:29). The Holy Spirit would help guard their speech, convict of any filthy talk, and help them to use words to benefit others (John 16:7-13).

We are called to reflect God with all we are, and that includes our words. May our mouths be filled with thanksgiving and words that benefit others. —Marvin Williams

Holy Spirit, we need Your help. Guard our hearts

and minds today. Help us control our thoughts and

words so that we might lift others up and show them

who You are and what You’ve done in us. Amen.

Wholesome words flow out of a life made new.

Self-Conscious Samaritans – Ravi Zacharias Ministry

 

I remember the first time I learned that legal proceedings are not always exact pictures of justice. I think my mom was trying to get me to clean my room. Trying a new tactic, she told me that if a burglar happened to break in that night, trip over the junk on my floor and break his leg, I would be the one responsible for his injuries. In such a scenario, the thief could actually take legal action against the very person he was trying to rob. I remember feeling indignant at the thought of it (though likely not enough to clean my room).

A similarly troubling picture of justice arises when a person is trying to help a victim, but ends up becoming the victim herself—such as when a passerby stops to administer CPR and winds up, for whatever reason, with a lawsuit on her hands. A newspaper column by Abigail Van Buren, known to her advice and manner-seeking readers as “Dear Abby,” lamented the increasing need for “Good Samaritans” to stop and consider the risk before providing assistance. While Abby herself noted there was no excuse to withhold help, one reader was insistent. In places without a “Good Samaritan law,” which actually removes the liability of the one providing assistance, “people who offer a helping hand place themselves potentially at financial and emotional risk.”(1) The reader continued, “I only hope that I have the presence of mind in the future to withhold assistance in a state that has no Good Samaritan law.”

While the law of human nature seems to assure the majority of people will pass by an accident assuming that someone else will help out, the laws of litigation seem to warn Good Samaritans to watch their backs altogether. Consequently, in many cases, increasingly so, no one does anything. The victim remains the victim; the Samaritan remains unscathed.

I suppose it should not come as a surprise that we have managed to hyper-individualize one of the most non-individualistic characters in all of storytelling. The very point of the parable of the Good Samaritan, the story from which the vernacular term for helper now takes its name, is to teach that hierarchical, individual distinctions, whether thinking in terms of race, religion, or personal liability, are misleading and harmful. In the story Jesus tells, the Samaritan’s presence of mind is the exact opposite of self-conscious. The Samaritan deliberately places himself in the center of harm’s way (not knowing if the thieves are still nearby), not to mention the epicenter of disdain for showing disregard to cultural norms (he was a Samaritan who should have been keeping to himself). The assurance of coming out unscathed could hardly have been this Samaritan’s motive for reaching out. On the contrary, the Samaritan places himself in a position where he is certain to bear the cost—one such cost being the financial burden of care for the wounded person on the road.

While it is indeed lamentable that the current state of the world seems to necessitate self-consciousness in dealing with our neighbors, it is both lamentable and entirely unreasonable that we assume this was not the same scenario for the crowd who first heard the story. We seem to reason that the Good Samaritan only helped because it was not a liability for him, giving ourselves a rational exemption: “If it weren’t for the law, I would be more than willing to see and care for that person as my neighbor.” In fact, the one who first asked the question that merited Jesus’s telling of the parable was thinking quite similarly. His very question of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” betrays his philosophy that the world can be classified in terms of commodities. In this estimation, there are those I am responsible to help, and there are those I am not responsible to help. And he bases these distinctions on his reading of the law. Albeit a different kind of “law” than the laws that discourage us from helping today, it is a similar use of legalism all the same.

Yet Jesus calls the questioner away from his legalistic mindset with a story that turns these categories into smoke and mirrors. Instead of the stance of self-consciousness that asks, “What will happen to me if I stop and help this man?”, a far better question is posed on the lips of one who has much to lose: “What will happen to this man if I don’t stop?” Setting aside the categories that could easily hold him back, the Good Samaritan has room to hold the very commandment Jesus describes as the crux on which all the law and the prophets hang: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. With this wisdom in hand, the Good Samaritan, and every soul that carries his presence of mind thereafter, is not far from the kingdom of God.

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

(1) Abigail Van Buren, “Good Samaritan risks a lot in lending a hand,” The Post and Courier, August 7, 2007, 5D.

The Determined Will of God – Charles Stanley

 

Ephesians 1:1-14

Believers who feel frustrated by the Christian life lack two critical pieces of knowledge: an understanding of God’s will and an awareness of the steps to discover His plan for our lives. Over the next couple of days, we will study the nature of God’s intentions and how to access them.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the “determined will” of God, which includes His unchangeable plans for the world. As the sovereign ruler, He is in total control— no government rises to power and no physical ailment occurs unless He allows it. He is determined to carry out the plan that He developed long before creation.

The Lord reveals very little of His determined will to mankind. We can anticipate only those events He has disclosed, such as Christ’s return and the great white throne judgment. (Rev. 19:11; 20:11-15) Much of the knowledge we have comes from our experience and Bible reading. We know, for example, that the Lord has given us limited free will and that He has a plan for redeeming us from the sin in our life.

The Lord will have His way, whether we believe in His sovereignty or not. His plan is far bigger than we can grasp, and it was designed in a way that will glorify Him while revealing our need for Him.

God’s purpose is His glory. Because our limited human perspective sees only the evil of crime, disease, and war, people wonder how He can allow these. But we know “God causes all things to work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). Just look at the cross—God’s greatest expression of good and glory!

Knowledge Without Shame – Ravi Zacharias

 

A few years ago, a man had an idea. He decided to start a blog—intended to be a temporary community art project—in which individuals would mail postcards on which was written one secret they hadn’t told anyone. No longer a “temporary art project” this blog is now an online community with over 80,000 members. Apparently, even those with secrets feel the need to share them with someone. Whatever secrets people have hidden, this blog phenomenon highlights the fundamental human desire to be known and seen at the deepest levels.

Yet being truly known simultaneously arouses fear. And it is no wonder that so many keep secrets from even their nearest and dearest. Being known opens us up to exposure, and if exposed we risk rejection—for all of who we truly are is neither beautiful nor lovely. As the contemporary songwriter Aimee Mann once lamented, “People are tricky. You can’t afford to show anything risky, anything they don’t know. The moment you try, well kiss it goodbye.”(1) So rather than risk relationship, we hide from others what resides in the dark recesses of our souls. We hide our private secrets and put on our public facades praying that what we really are will never be seen or come to light.

Given this fear of being known, the invocation to “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done,” could be heard more like an accusation at an inquisition than an invitation to be seen completely without shame. Yet, this invitation—given by an unnamed, Samaritan woman in the gospel of John—is an invitation to see, and to be seen by one who tells her all that she had done. His knowledge doesn’t reject or destroy relationship. His knowledge restores her dignity.

We are only given a few details about her. She was a Samaritan, a long-despised ethnic group. She came to draw water during the hottest part of the day and not early in the morning or late in the evening as would have been typical for the women of her day. We are told that she had five husbands and was currently living with a man to whom she was not married. While it is not stated explicitly, this is likely the source of her shame. Women in the ancient world derived their social standing and economic viability from their husbands. Without a husband, and particularly without a male child, a woman was without recourse and completely dependent on a society that often abandoned her. And so, perhaps this woman comes to draw water when no other women were around as a way of hiding her shame. Hers is a secret too painful to sit with in the open.

Yet in her brief encounter with a man who asks her to give him a drink, her secrets are revealed. But not for the sake of shaming her or exposing what she feared the most. This prophet at no point invites repentance or, for that matter, speaks of sin at all since she very easily could have been widowed or have been abandoned or divorced. Five times would be heartbreaking, but not impossible. Further, she could now be living with someone that she was dependent on, or be in what was called a Levirate marriage (where a childless woman is married to her deceased husband’s brother in order to produce an heir, yet is not always technically considered the brother’s wife). Her shame is tragic, rather than scandalous; her fear of being seen the result of deep pain.

Immediately after the man describes her past, she says, “I see that you are a prophet” and asks him where one should worship. “Seeing” in John, biblical scholars note, is all-important. “To see” is often connected with belief. When the woman says, “I see you are a prophet,” she makes a confession of faith.(2)

She sees because this man named Jesus has seen her. He has seen her plight. He has recognized her, spoken with her, offered her something of incomparable worth. He has seen her—and showered on her worth, value and significance. All of this is treatment to which she is unaccustomed. And so when he speaks of her past both knowingly and compassionately, she realizes she is in the presence of a prophet. She leaves her waterpot, runs into her city, and issues an invitation to all the townspeople to “come, see a man who told me all the things I have done.”

John’s gospel places this encounter with the unnamed Samaritan woman immediately after Jesus speaks with Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader. Nicodemus, however, has great difficulty comprehending who or what Jesus was. Yet as scholar David Lose notes, Jesus’s encounter with this woman yields an entirely different result. She “who was the polar opposite of Nicodemus in every way, she recognizes not just who Jesus is but what he offers—dignity. Jesus invites her to not be defined by her circumstances and offers her an identity that lifts her above her tragedy. And she accepts, playing a unique role in Jesus’ ministry as she is the first character in John’s gospel to seek out others to tell them about Jesus.”(3)

Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done becomes an invitation to be welcomed into knowing, and welcoming others to know. This Jesus is the one who demonstrates that knowledge of our most intimate life details need not make us afraid or feel ashamed. His knowledge brings dignity and freedom to be known in all of our human complexity. The nearness of Jesus doesn’t kill us from exposure, but offers us a new identity forged from intimate knowledge. It is an invitation to know, just as we are fully known.

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

(1)Aimee Mann, “It’s Not,” Lost In Space, Superego Records 2002.

(2)David Lose, “Misogyny, Moralism and the Woman at the Well,” The Huffington Post, March 21, 2011.

(3) Ibid.

How to Pray for a President – Charles Stanley

 

Deuteronomy 17:14-20

As Christians, we have a responsibility to pray for those in authority over us—fathers, pastors, and leaders. When you talk to God about the President, ask that he will . . .

1. Realize his personal sinfulness and daily need of God’s cleansing power.

2. Recognize his personal inadequacy for the task and therefore depend upon the Lord.

3. Reject all counsel that violates spiritual principles and then trust the Lord to validate him.

4. Resist pressure from individuals or special interest groups that would have him act in violation of his conscience or godly principles.

5. Work at reversing our country’s trends toward socialism and humanism, both of which dethrone the Lord and deify man.

6. Be ready to forsake his political career and personal ambition for the best interest of the nation.

7. Rely upon the Word of God as his source of strength and key to success.

8. Bring dignity, honor, trustworthiness, and righteousness to the office of the presidency.

9. Be a good example, especially to the fathers and sons of the nation.

10. Be reminded daily that he is accountable to Almighty God for his attitudes, actions, and motivations while in office.

Leading a country is a very important, demanding job. The President and other elected officials need our prayers. But to be effective, our requests must be more specific than “Lord, bless the President” or “God, help our leaders do a good job.” The above list is a good way to start.