Tag Archives: love

Charles Stanley – Praying in Jesus’ Name

 

John 16:23-33

Do you remember the teaching Jesus introduced the night before His death? He told His followers, “Whatever you ask in My name the Father will give you” (John 15:16 NIV, emphasis added). Praying in the name of Christ declares our:

Association with the Savior. Our relationship with Jesus allows us to approach the Father. We used to be foreigners, but at salvation, we became God’s children through the redemptive work of the Son of God (Eph. 2:19). The Holy Spirit within us proves we belong to the Father, who listens to the requests of His family.

Access to the Father. Jesus’ death opened an immediate, unhindered path to the Father’s presence. When the Savior offered Himself as the final priestly sacrifice (Heb. 7:26-28), the temple veil that separated the Holy of Holies from man was torn in two (Mark 15:38). In that moment, access to God became available to all who believe. Through the Holy Spirit, we can talk to God directly without a human intermediary (Eph. 2:18).

Because of our Savior Jesus Christ, we can freely access our heavenly Father. Let’s give Him thanks for the remarkable privilege of prayer!

Bible in One Year: Exodus 16-18

 

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Our Daily Bread — Where Are You Headed?

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Exodus 1–3
  • Matthew 14:1–21

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

2 Samuel 12:7

Today’s Scripture & Insight:2 Samuel 12:1–14

In northern Thailand, the Wild Boars youth soccer team decided to explore a cave together. After an hour they turned to go back and found that the entrance to the cave was flooded. Rising water pushed them deeper into the cave, day after day, until they were finally trapped more than two miles (four kilometers) inside. When they were heroically rescued two weeks later, many wondered how they had become so hopelessly trapped. Answer: one step at a time.

In Israel, Nathan confronted David for killing his loyal soldier, Uriah. How did the man “after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) become guilty of murder? One step at a time. David didn’t go from zero to murder in one afternoon. He warmed up to it, over time, as one bad decision bled into others. It started with a second glance that turned into a lustful stare. He abused his kingly power by sending for Bathsheba, then tried to cover up her pregnancy by calling her husband home from the front. When Uriah refused to visit his wife while his comrades were at war, David decided he would have to die.

We may not be guilty of murder or trapped in a cave of our own making, but we’re either moving toward Jesus or toward trouble. Big problems don’t develop overnight. They break upon us gradually, one step at a time.

By: Mike Wittmer

Reflect & Pray

What decision can you make right now to move toward Jesus and away from trouble? What must you do to confirm this decision?

Jesus, I’m running to You!

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – When Forgiveness Is Suffering

 

In four horrific months in 1994, at the urging of the Rwandan government, the poorer Hutu majority took up bayonets and machetes and committed genocide against the wealthier Tutsi minority. In the wake of this unspeakable tragedy, nearly a million people had been murdered.

In August of 2003, driven by overcrowded prisons and backlogged court systems, 50,000 genocide criminals, people who had already confessed to killing their neighbors, were released again into society. Murderers were sent back to their homes, back to neighborhoods literally destroyed at their own hands, to live beside the few surviving relatives of the very men, women, and children they killed.

Now more than twenty years later, with eyes still bloodshot at visions of a genocide it failed to see, the world continues to watch Rwanda with a sense of foreboding, wondering what happens when a killer comes home; what happens when victims, widows, orphans, and murderers look each other in the eyes again; what happens when the neighbor who killed your family asks to be forgiven. For the people of Rwanda, the description of the Hebrew prophet is a reality with which they live: “And if anyone asks them, ‘What are these wounds on your chest?’ the answer will be, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’”(1)

How does a culture bear the wounds of genocide and the agony of forgiveness?

For Steven Gahigi, that question is answered in a valley of dry bones which cannot be forgotten. An Anglican clergyman who lost 142 members of his family in the Rwandan genocide, he thought he had lost the ability to forgive. Though his inability plagued him, he had no idea how to navigate through a forgiveness so costly. “I prayed until one night I saw an image of Jesus Christ on the cross…I thought of how he forgave, and I knew that I and others could also do it.”(2) Inspired by this vision, Gahigi somehow found the words to begin preaching forgiveness. He first did this in the prisons where Hutu perpetrators sat awaiting trial, and today he continues in neighborhoods where the victims of genocide live beside its perpetrators. For Gahigi, wounds received in the house of friends can only be soothed with truth-telling, restitution, interdependence, and reconciliation, all of which he finds accessible only because of Christ.

In some ways, the work of reconciliation that continues to take place in Rwanda in lives on every side of the genocide may be difficult to describe apart from the cross of Christ. While it is true that forgiveness can be explained in therapeutic terms, that the act of forgiving is beneficial to the forgiver, and forgiveness releases the victim from the one who has wronged them, from chains of the past and a cell of resentment; what Rwandans are facing today undoubtedly reaches something beyond this.

While forgiveness is certainly a form of healing in lives changed forever by genocide, it is also very much a form of suffering.

Miroslav Volf, himself familiar with horrendous violence in Croatia and Serbia, describes forgiveness as the exchange of one form of suffering for another, modeled to the world by the crucified Christ. He writes, “[I]n a world of irreversible deeds and partisan judgments redemption from the passive suffering of victimization cannot happen without the active suffering of forgiveness.”(3) For Rwandans, this is a reality well understood.

And for Christ, who extends to the world the possibility of reconciliation by embodying it, this suffering, this willingness to be broken by the very people with whom he is trying to reconcile, is the very road to healing and wholeness and humanity. “More than just the passive suffering of an innocent person,” writes Volf, “the passion of Christ is the agony of a tortured soul and a wrecked body offered as a prayer for the forgiveness of the torturers.”(3) There is no clearer picture of Zechariah’s depiction of wounds received at the house of friends than in a crucifixion ordered by an angry crowd that lauded Christ as king only hours before. And yet, it is this house of both murderous and weeping friends for which Jesus prays on the cross: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Far from the suggestion of a moralistic god watching a world of suffering and brokenness from a distance, the costly, unsentimental ministry of reconciliation comes to a world of violence and victims through arms that first bore the weight of the cross. For Steven Gahigi, who facilitates the difficult dialogues now taking place in Rwanda, who helps perpetrators of genocide to build homes for their victims’ families, forgiveness is indeed a active form of suffering, but one through which Christ has paved the hopeful, surprising way of redemption. Today, wherever forgiveness is a form of suffering, Christ accompanies the broken, leading both the guilty and the victimized through valleys of dry bones and signs of a coming resurrection.

 

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

 

(1) Zechariah 13:6.
(2) Johann Christoph Arnold, Why Forgive? (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis books, 2010), 202.
(3) Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 125.

 

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Joyce Meyer – Judged and Criticized

 

Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer. — Romans 12:12 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource The Power of Being Thankful Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

No matter what we do in life, at some point in time we will all face a level of criticism. But it is possible to learn how to cope with criticism and not let it affect your life.

We can be grateful for the example the apostle Paul set for us. Paul experienced criticism often, but he said that he was not concerned about the judgment of others. He knew he was in God’s hands and that in the end he would stand before God and give an account of himself and his life. He would not stand before any man to be judged (see 1 Corinthians 4:3–4).

You may not always do everything right, but God sees your heart. If you’re attempting to live for God and looking for ways to love others, God is pleased (see Matthew 22:37–40). Don’t worry about the criticism of others; God loves you. His love and approval are all you need.

Prayer Starter: Father, I thank You that I don’t have to listen to the criticism of others. You see my heart and You know my motives. I thank You that Your approval is greater than the approval of any person. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Sure Road to Faith

 

“So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17, KJV).

Martin Luther said he studied his Bible in the same way he gathered apples. First, he shook the whole tree, that the ripest might fall; then he shook each limb, and when he had shaken each limb, he shook each branch, and after each branch, every twig; and then he looked under every leaf. He admonishes us:

“Search the Bible as a whole, shaking the whole tree. Read it rapidly, as you would any book. Then shake every limb – study book after book.

“Then shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters when they do not break the sense. Then shake each twig, by careful study of the paragraphs and sentences. And you will be rewarded if you will look under each leaf, by searching the meaning of the words.”

Seek to know the Lord with all your heart. While you may have no difficulty in worshiping the omnipotent God, you cannot really know God unless you study His Word. The one who spoke and caused the worlds to be framed is waiting to reveal Himself to you personally.

Faith is not given to those who are either undisciplined or disobedient. Faith is a gift of God which is given to those who trust and obey Him. As we master His Word and obey His commands, our faith continues to grow.

It is my strong conviction that it is impossible to ask God for too much if our hearts and motives are pure and if we pray according to the Word and will of God.

Every time you and I open and read God’s Word carefully, we are building up our storehouse of faith. When we memorize the Word, our faith is being increased. When we study or teach a Sunday school lesson, or hear a sermon faithfully expounding the Word, we are growing in faith.

Bible Reading: Hebrews 11:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will read, study, memorize and meditate upon God’s Word daily, knowing that in the process my faith will grow, for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

 

 

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Max Lucado – See the Need

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

He sat near a gate called Beautiful.  The man, however, was anything but.  He couldn’t walk but had to drag himself about on his knees.  “Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us!’” (Acts 3:4 NCV).

The thick, meaty hand of the fisherman reached for the frail, thin one of the beggar. Peter lifted the man toward himself.  The cripple stood and began to shout, and passersby began to stop.  Peter explained that faith in Christ leads to a clean slate with God.  What Jesus did for the legs of the cripple, he does for our soul.  We’re made brand-new!

An honest look led to a helping hand that led to a conversation about eternity.  Works done in God’s name long outlive our earthly life.  Let’s be the people who stop at the gate.  Let’s look at the face until we see the person.

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Denison Forum – The impeachment trial as a Rorschach test: Three rules of engagement for Christians

President Trump is speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos this morning. Meanwhile, the Senate is preparing to launch only the third impeachment trial of a president in history.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 51 percent of Americans would like the Senate to vote against conviction, while 46 percent want the Senate to convict the president and remove him from office. Unsurprisingly, 93 percent of Republicans are opposed to convicting the president, while 84 percent of Democrats are in favor of doing so.

These positions reflect the president’s overall popularity: 88 percent of Republicans approve of the job he is doing, while only 10 percent of Democrats agree.

A Rorschach test for our country

Hermann Rorschach developed the instrument that bears his name in 1921 after noting that schizophrenia patients often interpreted the things they saw in unusual ways.

The participant is shown a series of ten inkblot cards and asked to describe what they see. However, there are no objectively correct answers. What we see says more about us than about the inkblots we are interpreting.

Impeachment functions in much the same way in our culture today. It would be difficult to live in America without having an opinion about President Trump. A statistical analysis found that the media has given three times as much airtime to his presidency as to President Obama’s. Our culture seems to be consumed daily with who he is and what he does.

Predictably, those who support the president believe the evidence supports his acquittal. Those who oppose him believe the evidence supports his conviction.

We can discuss this issue as long as we wish, but few seem open to changing their minds about President Trump. However, the way Christians discuss this divisive issue can change how people see our Lord.

Just as the US Senate is following rules of engagement for the weeks to come, so should followers of Jesus. Let’s consider three biblical principles today.

One: Focus on eternity

There have been nineteen impeachment trials in US history—fifteen for federal judges, one for a senator, one for a Cabinet officer, and two for presidents. President Johnson’s 1868 trial took nearly two months; President Clinton’s 1999 trial lasted about one month.

However long this impeachment trial takes, remember that your relationships will endure when it is over. And every person you know will spend eternity either with God in heaven or separated from him in hell.

As a result, we should filter everything we say about impeachment through this fact: we are “ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Helping people follow Jesus is our eternal calling and highest privilege.

Two: Speak the truth in love

Ninety-three percent of Americans say we have a civility problem. According to 63 percent of us, social media contributes directly to this problem. It is easy to be anonymous on social media, saying things about people we would never say to them.

By contrast, Jesus calls us to go directly to those with whom we disagree (Matthew 5:23–24; 18:15). Imagine a culture in which everyone chose “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2).

What if others slander us or our beliefs? “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

We should hold our beliefs strongly and defend them courageously, but we should do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). “Speaking the truth in love” must be our mantra and mission (Ephesians 4:15).

Three: Build bridges with those with whom you disagree

The partisan divides in our country are wider and deeper than I have ever seen them. For example, the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who would be displeased if their child married someone of the opposite party has escalated tenfold since 1960.

At the same time, it is becoming easier than ever to curate the news feeds with which we agree, so that we hear and read only what we want to hear and read. The result is that we seldom engage positions or people with whom we disagree.

By contrast, Jesus befriended Samaritans (John 4) and Gentiles (Matthew 15:21–28). He called a tax collector by name and went to his house (Luke 19:5). And he called his followers to do the same (Acts 10:15, 34–35).

Who do you know with whom you disagree about impeachment? How will you build a relationship with this person for the sake of your continued witness and their eternal soul?

How to store up treasure in heaven

If Christians focus on eternity, speak the truth in love, and build bridges for the gospel, the Holy Spirit will use this chapter of American history to advance the kingdom of God.

Rick Warren was right: “The way you store up treasure in heaven is by investing in getting people there.”

How much treasure in heaven will you store up today?

 

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Charles Stanley – Our God of Grace

 

Ephesians 2:1-10

Grace is God’s favor and love shown to mankind. We can’t earn it or be good enough to deserve it. To truly appreciate grace, we must comprehend that our Father is …

Perfectly holy. God is without fault. When Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, their connection with God was broken. Since all future generations inherited their sinful nature, every person is born with an inclination toward unrighteousness.

Just. As a result, God requires payment for sin. The penalty is death (Rom. 6:23), not just physically but also spiritually—through eternal separation from Him.

Merciful. God doesn’t treat us as we deserve but extends His grace through the Savior. Jesus lived a perfect life and fulfilled the Law. He alone qualified as the One who could satisfy divine justice. He took our place, bore our sins, and experienced God’s wrath—all so we could be reconciled to the Father.

God made this provision for our salvation while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Have you acknowledged your sinful state and received His forgiveness through faith in Jesus? Take time to express thankfulness for His grace.

Bible in One Year: Exodus 13-15

 

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Our Daily Bread — Clean Containers

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Genesis 49–50
  • Matthew 13:31–58

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

Proverbs 10:12

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Peter 4:7–11

“Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” These words were spoken by former Senator Alan Simpson at the funeral of George H. W. Bush. Attempting to describe his dear friend’s kindness, Senator Simpson recalled how the forty-first president of the United States embraced humor and love rather than hatred in his professional leadership and personal relationships.

I relate to the senator’s quote, don’t you? Oh, the damage done to me when I harbor hatred!

Medical research reveals the damage done to our bodies when we cling to the negative or release bursts of anger. Our blood pressure rises. Our hearts pound. Our spirits sag. Our containers corrode.

In Proverbs 10:12, King Solomon observes, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” The conflict that results from hatred here is a blood feud between rivaling peoples of different tribes and races. Such hatred fuels the drive for revenge so that people who despise each other can’t connect.

By contrast, God’s way of love covers—draws a veil over, conceals, or forgives—all wrongs. That doesn’t mean we overlook errors or enable a wrongdoer. But we don’t nurse the wrong when someone is truly remorseful. And if they never apologize, we still release our feelings to God. We who know the Great Lover are to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

By: Elisa Morgan

Reflect & Pray

What things cause you to hate? How might the hard-hearted heat of hostility eat away at our personal joy and our world’s peace?

O God, help me surrender to Your great love that covers all sins and makes me into a clean container in which You dwell in love.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Call to Maladjustment

 

What does it mean to be “maladjusted”? In much of psychological literature, maladjustment implies some level of psychopathology. A pathology implies an underlying illness or disease in the body. Psychopathology, therefore, implies mental illness. Unlike other diseases of the body that have biological markers, however, psychopathology does not have a biological test, like a blood test, for diagnosis. Instead, psychopathology is manifested in cognitions, emotions, and/or social behaviors that are considered maladaptive because they cause distress, danger, dysfunction, and disruption both to the individual and to those around her/him.

But are there any conditions under which it would be “abnormal” not to experience maladjustment? This is the question taken up by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his speech given at Western Michigan University in 1963, five years before he was assassinated. In this speech, he suggested that there are specific conditions when maladjustment is called for:

“[T]here are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good‐will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self‐defeating effects of physical violence.” (1)

Whether or not maladjustment always equates to a diagnosis of psychopathology is often asked beyond the academic hallways of departments of psychology. Shouldn’t it make sense for someone who grew up in conditions of economic deprivation, social isolation, ignorance, poverty, and crime to experience, trauma, depression, or anxiety? Isn’t maladjustment an appropriate response to environmental and social conditions of deprivation, isolation, and instability? And perhaps, as Martin Luther King Jr. suggested in his address: those of us who live in abundance, community, and stability should feel this maladjustment most keenly.

In many of his speeches, including the one given at Western Michigan University, Dr. King quoted from the ancient Hebrew prophets. Often, Israel’s prophets called the nation to see the ways in which she had “adjusted” to a way of living that was far from ideal. And we learn from the preaching of Jesus that most of these prophets were rejected and killed. “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to you!”(2) The prophets called out from the margins proclaiming a message that few heeded. They were viewed as “malcontents” and perhaps as maladjusted. Isaiah walked through the streets naked. Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet,” fastened a cattle yoke to his shoulders. Hosea married a woman he knew would be unfaithful. Ezekiel ate a scroll and laid on his side for more than a year. Jonah spent three days in the belly of a whale and then begged God to kill him. And Amos, who wanted “justice to roll down like mighty rivers” brought his message of justice and righteousness in a time of total economic prosperity and ease: “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!” he declared. To be “well-adjusted” was not at all what they preached, nor often how they lived. As Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book The Prophets notes:

“To us a single act of injustice—cheating in business, exploitation of the poor—is slight; to the prophets, a disaster. To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence; to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world.”(3)

The ancient prophets call attention to what most overlook, or do not want to see. Like, Martin Luther King, Jr., they understood that the call to maladjustment was a call to action and a call to reject the status quo. But to extend this call, often meant being labeled as a malcontent, or crazy, or worse! Throughout history, those who called for “maladjustment” often lost their lives, including the Hebrew prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Remarkably, Dr. King ended his remarks with a call to be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos:

“I’m about convinced now that there is need for…men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos. Who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth who could say to the men and women of his day, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Pray for them that despitefully use you.’ Through such maladjustment, I believe that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice…this will be a great day.”(4)

The call to maladjustment might just be a call to justice. To overturn the status quo, just as Jesus overturned the tables in the temple, might be the most well-adjusted thing we who are made in God’s image could do.

 

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

 

(1) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “On Creative Maladjustment,” Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections and University Libraries, 1963, accessed Jan. 27, 2018.
(2) See Matthew 23:37. See also Hebrews 11:26-39.
(3) Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 4.
(4) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “On Creative Maladjustment,” Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections and University Libraries, 1963, accessed Jan. 27, 2018.

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Joyce Meyer – A Force for Good

 

Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another, just as you are doing. — 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (AMP)

Adapted from the resource Starting Your Day Right Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

We can improve our relationships with others by leaps and bounds if we become encouragers instead of critics.

It is the greater person who does the right thing; Christ’s righteousness dwells in you to help you do what is right. You are great in God’s eyes when you choose to do right and bless others.

No matter how rough your day is today, speak words that uplift and encourage those around you. Encourage others if you notice them doing a good job—not just those who work with you, but people wherever you go, such as store clerks, auto mechanics, and waiters.

Say something like, “I appreciate the extra effort you are making to do your job well.” You can change your life and someone else’s by choosing to speak positive words.

Prayer Starter: Father, please show me when I am being critical and negative toward others. Help me today to speak encouraging words of life to all those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Max Lucado – To Love a Stranger

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

“Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay” (1 Peter 4:9).

The Greek word for hospitality compounds two terms: love and stranger. The word literally means to love a stranger. All of us can welcome a guest we know and love.  But can we welcome a stranger?   Every morning in America more than 39 million people wake up in poverty.  When we provide food stamps, we stave off hunger.  But when we invite the hungry to our tables, we address the deeper issues of value and self-worth.  God’s secret weapons in the war on poverty include your kitchen table and mine.

We encounter people.  We detect an urge to open our doors to them.  In these moments let’s heed the inner voice.  We never know whom we may be hosting for dinner.

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Will Tell You

“I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit’s instructions. He will tell you where to go and what to do, and then you won’t always be doing the wrong things your evil nature wants you to” (Galatians 5:16).

Major conflicts in life are resolved when, by an act of the will, one surrenders to the control of the Holy Spirit and faces temptation in His power.

It should be explained that there is a difference between temptation and sin.

Temptation is the initial impression to do something contrary to God’s will. Such impressions come to all people, even as they did to the Lord, and they are not sin in themselves.

Temptation becomes sin when we meditate on the impression and develop a strong desire, which is often followed by the actual act of disobedience.

For practical daily living, we simply recognize our weakness whenever we are tempted and obey the Holy Spirit’s instructions. When we do not yield to temptation, we breathe spiritually and resume our walk with God.

“At what point does one who practices spiritual breathing become carnal again?” Whenever one ceases to believe God’s promise that He will enable us to be victorious over all temptations. The fact is, one need never be carnal again. So long as a believer keeps breathing spiritually, there is no need to live a life of defeat.

The moment you realize that you have done that which grieves or quenches the Spirit, you simply exhale spiritually by confessing immediately, and then inhale as by faith you claim God’s forgiveness and the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and you keep walking in the light as God is in the light.

Bible Reading: Galatians 5:17-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will consciously seek to obey the Holy Spirit’s instructions revealed to me in His holy, inspired Word.

 

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Denison Forum – Chiefs and 49ers will play in Super Bowl LIV: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the cultural leverage of excellence

 

The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans in yesterday’s AFC Conference Championship game. The San Francisco 49ers won at home against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Conference Championship. Oddsmakers are favoring the Chiefs slightly in Super Bowl LIV.

Since this is not a sports column and our nation is celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, you may be wondering why I am leading with these results. Here’s what the teams who competed yesterday and Dr. King have in common: they illustrate the cultural leverage of excellence.

Faith and football

The Chiefs are led by CEO Clark Hunt. I was privileged to be his pastor for many years in Dallas and can attest personally to his family’s strong commitment to Jesus.

When his team won the AFC Championship yesterday, Clark told the world, “I want to thank the Lord for blessing us with this opportunity. The glory belongs to him. And this trophy belongs to the best fans in the National Football League.”

Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill has made clear his faith in Jesus over the years as well, recently telling reporters: “I pray before every game. I spend time with God before I get to the stadium and then when I lace up my cleats, I thank God for the opportunity to go out there and attempt to glorify him.”

By contrast, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made news in recent years for the fact that he no longer identifies as a Christian. After meeting and being influenced by Rob Bell, Rodgers told ESPN, “I think organized religion can have a mind-debilitating effect, because there is an exclusivity that can shut you out from being open to the world, to people, and energy, and love and acceptance.”

Rodgers is one of the most talented athletes of his generation. Like Clark Hunt and Ryan Tannehill, his commitment to professional excellence provides enormous leverage for cultural influence, whether the person uses that influence for Jesus or not.

Why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never completed high school

It may surprise you to learn that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never completed high school. That’s because he was such an advanced student that he skipped his first and last years of high school and went directly into college at the age of fifteen.

He entered seminary at the age of nineteen and graduated three years later as valedictorian and student body president. He completed a PhD at Boston University at the age of twenty-five.

Dr. King was brilliant in his diagnosis of the problem facing our nation: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

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Charles Stanley – Religious but Lost

 

John 3:1-6

Nicodemus would probably be welcome at any church today. He seems an ideal member—principled, knowledgeable, and courteous. And as a Pharisee, he followed strict Jewish rules, which certainly made him religious. However, Nicodemus had serious drawbacks: He was blind to the truth and spiritually lost. In other words, he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus.

When Nicodemus came to see the Lord in John 3, Jesus explained to him that no amount of goodness could erase or change a person’s nature. Instead, everyone who desires to serve God must be born again. Jesus promised that if Nicodemus trusted Him as Savior, then he would enter into a brand-new life. His old flesh nature would be replaced so that he could have a real relationship with God—instead of appearing to be a religious man, Nicodemus would be a true believer.

No one gets into heaven because of good works and kind behavior. At the end of our earthly life when we stand before God, only our relationship with Him will matter. We will want to show Him that in place of our old sinful nature, we now have the living Spirit we received when Jesus Christ came into our life.

Bible in One Year: Genesis 4-7

 

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Our Daily Bread — Prompted to Pray

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Genesis 1–3
  • Matthew 1

I constantly remember you in my prayers.

2 Timothy 1:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Timothy 2:1–8

“Several years ago I was prompted to pray for you often, and I wonder why.”

That text message from an old friend came with a photo of a note she’d kept in her Bible: “Pray for James. Cover mind, thoughts, words.” Beside my name she’d recorded three separate years.

I looked at the years and caught my breath. I wrote back and asked what month she began to pray. She responded, “Sometime around July.”

That was the month I was preparing to leave home for extended study abroad. I would be facing an unfamiliar culture and language and have my faith challenged like never before. As I looked at the note, I realized I’d received the precious gift of generous prayer.

My friend’s kindness reminded me of another “prompting” to pray, Paul’s instruction to his young missionary friend Timothy: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1). The phrase “first of all” indicates highest priority. Our prayers matter, Paul explains, because God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” about Jesus (v. 4).

God moves through faithful prayer in countless ways to encourage others and draw them near to Himself. We may not know someone’s circumstances when they come to mind, but God does. And He’ll help that person as we pray!

By: James Banks

Reflect & Pray

Who comes to mind that needs your prayers in this new year? How can you remind yourself to pray for them often?

Loving God, please help me to pray often and to make a lasting difference in others’ lives through my intercession for them. 

To learn more about prayer, visit https://bit.ly/2kTeSVt.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Hindsight, Eyesight, and Insight

When this century began, the world was bordering on near hysteria over the coined phrase “Y2K.” You may recall how that “Millennium Bug” spawned fears that the date change from “99” to “00” would create havoc in computer networks around the world.

This year marks the next generation birthed since Y2K. As with the sitcoms of a previous era, the coming offspring will probably never hear of Y2K. What one generation battles, the next one forgets. The world didn’t collapse on January 1, 2000, but the fallout of a strident secularism has changed our culture, albeit with the aid of computers. It may not be accidental that the emblem on the new means of communication is ironically a half-bitten apple, man playing God and then fearing his own creation.

Twenty years from now, the next generation will marvel at the impeachment hearings that have dominated the news ad nauseam in this 2019/2020 transition. One of the most surprising things in this was an Ivy League professor of law who said this: “[W]e have to ask ourselves, someday we will no longer be alive and we’ll go wherever it is we go. The good place or the other place. And, you know, we may meet there, Madison and Hamilton, and they will ask us, ‘When the president of the United States acted to corrupt the structure of the republic, what did you do?’”

We know that politics has become our religion. More to the point, with the absence of much history being taught in our schools and a new pluralism that does not educate our young in the shared meanings of the past, leave alone thoughts of an afterlife, some student might wonder what a city in Wisconsin or a Broadway play have to do with our eternal destiny! Almost every category the professor invoked in his statement is actually disbelieved by our intellectuals. They thrive on repudiating the past, deny an eternal state, and toss moral accountability to the wind.

The fears of Y2K never materialized, but what we’ve done with the ability to mass communicate is more real and devastating. No foreign nation needed to meddle in our electoral process. We’ve done a thorough decimation job by ourselves.

But a new year is dawning. What do we pick as memorable from 2019 and to what will we pin our hopes in 2020? Can we look beyond our political melodrama and instead, see what God desires for us as his creation? It could make the difference. In the beginning, God created the human family and for millennia since then, that has been his purposeful plan. That is what He intended to bless for our own good. Our self-destructing culture notwithstanding, can we, each one of us, build a family to the glory of God?

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Hindsight, Eyesight, and Insight

Joyce Meyer – How to Choose Good Friends

 

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. — Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)

Adapted from the resource Hearing from God Each Morning Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

If we listen, God will speak to us about our relationships—our marriages, friendships, business associations, and even casual acquaintances. He may ask us to sever friendships or relationships with people who can tempt us to stray from His plan for our lives.

We can easily become like those we spend time with. If we spend time with people who are selfish and self-centered, we may soon find ourselves often focused on ourselves, thinking about what we can do or get for ourselves. In contrast, God may encourage us to make friends with someone who is a giver. If we spend time with such a person, before long, we will be givers, too.

It is enjoyable and beneficial to spend time with someone who really hears from God, someone who truly senses what the Holy Spirit is saying and doing. It is not fun to spend time with people who are dull in their spiritual hearing, and we can tell when we are with someone like that.

The verse for today says that “iron sharpens iron,” and we can sharpen our ability to hear the right things by being with people who practice listening for God’s voice and obeying Him.

Prayer Starter: Father, I lift my relationships up to you. Help me to know who I should spend time with—the people who will influence me in a positive way and deepen my relationship with You. Help me to also be a positive influence in the lives of others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Can Know the Spirit’s Fullness

 

“Be filled…with the Holy Spirit and controlled by Him” (Ephesians 5:18).

An enthusiastic, attractive couple traveled from their home in Chicago to Arrowhead Springs to share with me an idea about which they were very excited.

“We heard one of your filmed lectures on ‘How to Be Filled With the Holy Spirit.’ Our lives have been dramatically changed as a result of what you shared,” they said. “We have come all this way to encourage you to go on nationwide television and tell Christians how they can know the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit and experience His revolutionary impact in and through their lives.”

I am humbly grateful to God for the privilege of sharing these great truths concerning the Holy Spirit with tens of millions of people throughout the world, often with the same dramatic results experienced by this remarkable couple.

The disciples were with Jesus for more than three years. They heard Him teach as no man had ever taught. They saw Him perform miracles such as no man had ever performed – raising the dead, restoring sight to the blind and cleansing lepers. Though they were exposed to the most godly life ever lived on earth, during Jesus’ time of crisis, Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him and all the others deserted Him.

Jesus knew His disciples were fruitless, quarreling, ambitious, self-centered men, so – on the eve of His crucifixion – He told them, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I go, I will send Him to you…He will guide you into all the truth…He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you” (John 16:7,13,14 NAS).

Bible Reading: Galatians 5:5, 16-18, 22, 23, 25

Today’s Action Point: Today I will receive by faith the power of the Holy Spirit in order to live a supernatural life and be a supernatural witness. I will continue to study the scriptural reference and various books concerning the Holy Spirit, so that I will better understand His role in my life.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – An Opportunity to Make a Difference

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

A few years back, three questions came from different people in the span of a month.

Question 1: Had you been a German Christian during World War II, would you have taken a stand against Hitler?

Question 2: Had you lived in the South during the civil rights conflict, would you have taken a stand against racism?

Question 3: When your grandchildren discover you lived during a day in which 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?

I didn’t mind the first two questions.  Those choices were not mine.  But the third question has kept me awake at night.  We are given an opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time.  We are created by a God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven but here on earth.

Read more Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – NBC Anchor endorses letter denigrating those who believe in ‘fairy tales’ such as Noah’s ark: What persecution teaches us about our faith

Denison Forum – NBC Anchor endorses letter denigrating those who believe in ‘fairy tales’ such as Noah’s ark: What persecution teaches us about our faith

I need to begin with a disclaimer: this will be a positive article written to encourage Christians that we can face any circumstance we encounter this year with optimistic, joyful faith in our Father’s power and provision.

However, to get there, I need to explain why this topic is on my mind today.

“It’s Time We Dealt With Your Religious Intolerance”

On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, NBC News anchor Chuck Todd read and endorsed a letter claiming that supporters of Donald Trump “want to be lied to” since they believe in “fairy tales” such as Noah’s ark.

Leaving the politics of this claim aside, let’s note that Jews believe in Noah’s ark because it is described as an historical event in the Torah (Genesis 6–9). Jesus (Matthew 24:37–39) and Peter (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5) believed in its historicity as well. And Muslims find it in the Qur’an (29:14–15).

A recent article in Medium goes further in denigrating biblical faith. In “Dear Christians, It’s Time We Dealt With Your Religious Intolerance,” the writer laments that his Nigerian grandfather was chased from his village by Christian converts because he refused to convert to Christianity. He also notes that Christian missionaries imposed upon his father a new name, age, language, and clothing they deemed more appropriate to the faith.

He points to John Allen Chau, the Christian who broke numerous laws and was then killed while attempting to share the gospel with an unreached people group off the coast of India. The author’s conclusion is that any religion that believes others need to accept its message or face damnation is egotistical, intrusive, invasive, and intolerant. He is convinced that we should oppose such religions as vehemently as he does.

Of course, sins committed in the name of a religion or ideology are not necessarily the fault of that religion or ideology. As a Christian, I strongly believe that the writer’s grandfather and father were treated horrifically and indefensibly. We should not blame all Muslims for 9/11 or all atheists for Lenin’s atrocities.

And we should note that the writer’s rejection of religious “intolerance” is itself a form of intolerance.

ISIS beheads Nigerian Christians

While American Christians should note and respond to those who demean or attack our faith (1 Peter 3:15–16), we should also remember those who are facing far worse persecution than we experience.

I’m thinking of the eleven Nigerian Christians who were executed by ISIS terrorists, ten of them by beheading. It is thought that they were killed on Christmas Day. And government oppression in China that seeks to rewrite the Bible, tears down hundreds of church buildings, and imprisons pastors.

Open Doors states in its 2019 report that 245 million Christians around the world—one in nine globally—are currently suffering from persecution. On average, eleven believers are killed every day for their faith.

The countercultural way to be “blessed”

Jesus taught us: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). Notice that our Lord says “when,” not “if.”

Persecution is inevitable for true followers of Jesus (cf. John 16:33). Those who hate our Father will hate his children (John 15:18–21). Paul was blunt: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Here we learn that if we are not facing opposition for our faith, we should ask whether our faith is as public and uncompromising as it should be. I’m not suggesting that we need to seek to be persecuted. But I am suggesting that we should not be surprised when we are.

What persecution teaches us

Jesus continued: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12, my emphasis).

Persecution forces us to decide whether we are living for reward on earth or reward in heaven. Until we face opposition for our faith, we can easily deceive ourselves into thinking that we can live for this world and the next. When we are forced to choose between “treasures on earth” and “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20), we discover which truly comes first for us.

This discovery is crucial whether we are facing persecution or not since “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v. 21).

65,000 students began the new year in worship

More than 65,000 college students gathered in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, to begin the new year with worship, Bible teaching, and prayer.

The purpose of Passion 2020, which ends today, “is you and me saying goodbye to lesser things and saying yes to Jesus, the One whose name is above every name.” Those attending are seeking “to live in such a way that their journey on earth counts for what is most important in the end.”

Let’s join them.

NOTE: I’m pleased to announce that A Pastor’s View launches on Tuesday, Jan. 7. This new ministry of support and encouragement for pastors and church leaders will offer free resources and a monthly teleconference with Pastor Mark Turman and me. If you are a church leader, I invite you to subscribe to A Pastor’s View here

 

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