Tag Archives: love

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Goodness Explained vs. Goodness Displayed

 

About twenty years ago, my dad felt a sharp pain in his leg and had to be rushed to the hospital. Dr. Frasco—a top-flight vascular surgeon—found my family in the hospital waiting room and told us that he needed to operate, and that although there wasn’t time to explain, due to the complexity of my dad’s condition, there was a good chance he would have to amputate my dad’s leg.

Despite Dr. Frasco’s qualifications, it was tempting in this situation to question him, to be suspicious of his prognosis and his chosen course of action. My dad looked perfectly healthy from the outside. Maybe this surgeon was taking the easy way out. Maybe he’d rather get an amputation over with now rather than have to battle operation after operation so my dad could keep his leg. These were understandable thoughts, and they were thoughts that my mom, my brother, and I had and that we discussed.

But suppose that Dr. Frasco had come to my family and said that during the operation, my dad was going to need a significant number of blood transfusions, and that they were having trouble finding a suitable donor. And suppose further that Dr. Frasco—out of compassion for my father and for my family—offered to donate his own blood. And suppose even further that Dr. Frasco did this at the risk of his own life, perhaps because such a large quantity of blood was needed.

Now, in this situation, my response to Dr. Frasco would change markedly. Maybe I couldn’t explain to you the reasons why Dr. Frasco might have to amputate my dad’s leg, and maybe initially I had reason to be suspicious of his prognosis. But if Dr. Frasco had offered my dad his own blood, I would have been convinced that he was for us, I would have been convinced that we could trust him, and I would have been rightly convinced of this. Even if Dr. Frasco’s reasoning remained opaque to me, he would have done something so indisputably loving and so inordinately costly that I could only rationally conclude that he was for my family.

There are two ways to defend the goodness of a person when he or she is accused of wrongdoing. The first way is to explain the good reasons the person had for acting as he or she did. This is the more traditional approach to responding to the problem of evil, to respond by telling a story about why God might create and sustain a world that turned out like this one. But there is also a second way to defend the goodness of God against objections from evil and suffering—not by explaining goodness but by displaying goodness.

The Christian claim is that this is precisely what God has done for each of us. When he saw us hurting and in need of healing, he provided his own blood. He chose to join us in our suffering and to take on himself whatever suffering was necessary for us to be healed. He displayed his love in such an extravagant way that we have strong reason to believe that we can trust him, even when we don’t fully understand his ways.

Ironically, the famous atheist and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said it best: “The gods justified human life by living it themselves—the only satisfactory [response to the problem of suffering] ever invented.”(1) Remarkably, Nietzsche was writing of the ancient Greeks here and, in his bias, didn’t make the connection to Christianity. As a Christian, however, I am very pleased to agree with him and then point emphatically to the cross of Jesus Christ.

At the cross of Jesus, we see the absolute uniqueness of the Christian response to suffering. In some religious traditions, the idea of God suffering is unthinkable; it is thought to make God weak. In others, to reach divinity is precisely to move beyond the possibility of suffering, to give up your attachments to other people so that you will never have to suffer for anyone. Only in Christ do we have a God who loves us enough to suffer with us, by us, and—ultimately—for us.

Vince Vitale is director of the Zacharias Institute and a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Francis Golffing (New York: Doubleday, 1956), 30.

 

 

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Joyce Meyer – Only a Fool Hates Discipline!

 

The [reverent] fear of the LORD [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but arrogant fools despise [skillful and godly] wisdom and instruction and self-discipline. — Proverbs 1:7 (AMP)

Adapted from the resource Power Thoughts Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Some people cringe at the mention of the word discipline. They have a mental attitude toward it that is unhealthy and self-defeating. We need to see that discipline is our friend, not our enemy. It helps us be what we say we want to be, do what we say we want to do, and have what we say we want to have.

Discipline doesn’t prevent you from having fun and doing what you want to do in life, but instead it helps you obtain what you truly want, which is peace, joy, and right relationships. Learn to love discipline (it will keep you out of trouble!), and embrace it as your companion in life.

Prayer Starter: Lord, Your Word says You have given me a spirit of discipline and self-control (see 2 Timothy 1:7 AMPC). Help me to draw on Your help today and every day—help me to do what I know to do so I can have everything Your Word says I can have and walk in Your good plan for my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Examples of His Love 

 

“Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions” (1 John 3:18).

The story is told about two farmers. Every day, one of them would haul pails of water up the steep slope to his terraced field and irrigate his meager crop.

The second farmer tilled the terrace just below, and he would poke a hole in the dyke and let the other farmer’s water run down into his field.

The first farmer was upset. Being a Christian, he went to his pastor and asked for advice. The pastor told him to keep on watering as before and to say nothing. So, the farmer returned to his fields and the watering of his crop, but the farmer below him continued to drain off his water. Nothing had changed.

After a few days, the first farmer went to his pastor again. The pastor told him to go a step further – to water his neighbor’s crop! So the next day, the farmer brought water to his neighbor’s field and watered the crops. After that, he watered his own field.

This went on for three days, and not a word was exchanged between the two farmers. But after the third day, the second farmer came to the first farmer.

“How do I become a Christian?” he asked.

There is a saying, ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ But I say: Love your enemies!…If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathens do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

Bible Reading: I John 3:14-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will make every effort to demonstrate the love of Christ by the way I act toward others.

 

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Max Lucado – Remember the Unbending Grace of Christ

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

 

If we’re not teaching people how to be saved, perhaps it’s because we have forgotten the tragedy of being lost!  If we’re not teaching the message of forgiveness, it may be because we don’t remember what it’s like to be guilty.

When times get hard, when death looms, when anger singes, when shame weighs heavily, remember Jesus.  Remember this descendant of David who beat down death.

You know a person is never the same after simultaneously seeing his or her utter despair and Christ’s unbending grace.  To see the despair without the grace is suicidal.  To see the grace without the despair results in futility.  But to see them both…that’s conversion.

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Denison Forum – Hitler’s home movies are being digitized: What your reaction says about us

Adolf Hitler is wearing a white double-breasted jacket and black trousers. On his arm is a red band with a black swastika. In another scene, he wears a gray suit with a fedora and talks with Heinrich Himmler, the overseer of the Holocaust camps.

These are some of the home movies shot by Eva Braun and her friends at the Berghof, Hitler’s retreat in southeastern Germany. Braun was Hitler’s longtime girlfriend and briefly his wife. The Alpine scenery in the background is stunning.

We know about these movies because the National Archives is restoring and digitizing them. The entire four hours of footage should be completed this month.

How I react to Hitler

When you saw today’s headline and read the accompanying story, what was your reaction?

Mine was one of disgust mixed with curiosity. No figure in modern history conjures (or deserves) more revulsion than Adolf Hitler. At the same time, to see him as he was, recorded by friends in a relaxed environment, is historically unique.

What I didn’t feel was fear.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Hitler’s home movies are being digitized: What your reaction says about us

Charles Stanley – The Source of Discernment

 

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Spiritual discernment is a supernatural ability, which requires supernatural power. In our human strength, we can rely only on what we see, hear, feel, and know in order to make decisions and evaluate circumstances and relationships. But when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, He opens up an entirely new dimension of understanding. He shows us things we could never figure out by ourselves.

The Bible is one source of spiritual discernment, but without the interpreting power of the Spirit, reading it would be strictly an academic endeavor. It is the Holy Spirit who takes the words of Scripture and brings them to life in the believer’s heart. He knows precisely how to apply God’s Word to our exact need at the right moment. You have probably found this to be true: A passage you’ve read many times hasn’t stood out before, but when you need a particular message, that familiar verse jumps off the page right into your heart and transforms your thoughts.

That’s the work of the Spirit—His job is to open our understanding to “the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). The Lord isn’t trying to hide His thoughts from us. Rather, He wants us to know how He thinks so we can proceed wisely.

Then what should we do if we’re struggling to understand Scripture? The Lord wants us to seek Him and ask for wisdom to comprehend. This requires time invested in Bible study and prayer. And remember, the more yielded we are to the Spirit, the more we’ll be able to hear His voice.

Bible in One Year: 2 Samuel 18-19

 

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Our Daily Bread — Through the Valley

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 15–16; Luke 10:25–42

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Psalm 23:4

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 23

Hae Woo (not her real name) was imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp for crossing the border into China. The days and nights were torture, she said, with brutal guards, backbreaking work, and little sleep on an ice-cold floor with rats and lice. But God helped her daily, including showing her which prisoners to befriend and share her faith with.

After she was released from the camp and living in South Korea, Woo reflected on her time of imprisonment, saying that Psalm 23 summed up her experience. Although she’d been trapped in a dark valley, Jesus was her Shepherd who gave her peace: “Even though it felt as if I was literally in a valley full of the shadow of death, I wasn’t afraid of anything. God comforted me every day.” She experienced God’s goodness and love as He reassured her that she was His beloved daughter. “I was in a terrible place, but I knew . . . I would experience God’s goodness and love.” And she knew she’d stay in the Lord’s presence forever.

We can find encouragement in Woo’s story. Despite her dire circumstances, she felt God’s love and leading; and He sustained her and took away her fear. If we follow Jesus, He will lead us gently through our times of trouble. We need not fear, for “[we] will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (23:6).

By Amy Boucher Pye

Today’s Reflection

When have you experienced God’s presence in a dark valley? Who can you encourage today?

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Seeing in the Dark

There is something comforting about the many characters in the Christian story of which we know very little. There was more to the story of the woman who knew that if she could just touch the fringe of Jesus’s robe she would be well. There was more to tell about the woman who anointed Jesus with a jar of perfume, or the thief who hung beside Jesus on the cross. Yet, we are told only that they will be remembered. And they are. However “insignificant” their lives were to society, they have been captured in the pages of history as people worth remembering, people who had a role in the story of the God man on earth, people remembered by God when multitudes actually wished them forgotten. It is to me a kind reminder that our own fleeting lives are remembered by God long before others notice and long after they have stopped noticing.

We know very little about the man named Simeon, but we know he was in the temple when he realized that God had remembered him. Reaching for the baby in the arms of a young girl, Simeon was moved to praise. As his wrinkled hands cradled the infant, Simeon sang to God: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation.”(1)

Simeon actually uses the language of a slave who has been freed. There is a sense of immediacy and relief, as if a great iron door has been unlocked and he is now free to go through it. God had remembered his promise even as God remembered the aging Simeon. The Lord had promised Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s salvation. Now seeing and holding the child named Jesus, Simeon somehow knew that he was dismissed to death in peace.

Marveling at this bold reaction of a stranger, Mary and Joseph stood in awe—and possibly horror. Upon laying eyes on their baby, a man entirely unknown to them pronounced he could now die in peace. They were well aware of God’s hand upon Jesus; yet here they seemed to discover that the arm of God, which is not too short to save, extended far beyond anything they imagined.

Simeon’s subsequent blessing and words to the young mother only furthered this certainty: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”(2) To these words as well, Mary and Joseph stood in awe and possibly horror.

In this Lenten season, followers of Jesus recall the horrific events of the cross, the sword that pierced this mother’s heart, and the passion of the one who continues to be spoken against. An old man in the temple hundreds of years ago, through a fraction of a scene in his life, reminds us still today that to look at Jesus is to see the suffering of the world and the salvation of God. As Father Farrar Capon notes, “[God] will not take our cluttered life, as we hold it, into eternity. He will take only the clean emptiness of our death in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.” Whether peering at the child in the manger or the man on the cross, the human heart is still revealed in its response to him. This is, in fact, our own most memorable feature.

Perhaps the small excerpts of the many fleeting lives we find throughout the Christian story were meant to capture this very sentiment. As the thief peered into the bruised eyes of Jesus on the cross beside him, like Simeon, he saw the salvation of God. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” he asked. And it was so.

 

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

 

(1) Luke 2:29-30.
(2) Luke 2:34-35.

 

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Joyce Meyer – Find a Happy Medium

 

Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. — 1 Peter 5:8 (AMP)

Adapted from the resource New Day, New You Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

I remember sitting in my home looking up the word gentle in Strong’s concordance and saying, “Lord, You’ve got to help me!” I thought I could never be gentle. Finally, the Lord began to do a work in me in the area of gentleness. The only problem was that, like so many other people in the body of Christ, I was such an extremist that I couldn’t “strike a happy medium.”

Once I saw that I was overbalanced in one area, I thought I had to go totally in the other direction. I “adjusted” and “adapted” far too much. I became so “gentle” and “kind” and “patient” that I wouldn’t exercise any discipline over my youngest son, who was born after my other children were grown. I also went overboard in my relationship with others. I let things get out of hand in my marriage, my home, and my ministry. I learned from my experiences that one extreme is just as bad as the other. What we must learn in all this is balance.

On one hand, we must not be harsh and hard. But on the other hand, we must not be weak and excessively soft. We must not be irritable and impatient, flying off the handle and acting out of emotion. On the other hand, we must not be so mild mannered that we become doormats and whipping posts for those who will take advantage of us if we give them a chance. There is a time to be patient and forbearing, and there is a time to be firm and decisive. There is a time to “not be angry,” and there is a time to display righteous indignation. It is wisdom to know when to do which.

Prayer Starter: Lord, help me to live a balanced life in every area. Please show me any areas where I have gone to an unhealthy extreme. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God’s Home Is Holy

 

“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the house of God, and that the Spirit of God lives among you in His house? If anyone defiles and spoils God’s home, God will destroy him. For God’s home is holy and clean, and you are that home” (1 Corinthians 3:16,17).

At this writing, I am with the staff at our annual training on the campus of Colorado State University. In addition to the 3,000 United States and Canadian field staff of Campus Crusade for Christ who are here, thousands more are attending music workshops, summer school, numerous conferences and meetings on this campus. Also, the entire Denver Broncos professional football team is here for training.

Throughout the day, from early morning till late at night, the campus is alive with people jogging, roller-skating, playing tennis, walking and other physical activities. These people are disciplining their bodies, keeping them in good physical tone.

Sadly, however, I also witness many people who lack interest in physical well-being by smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages. A stroll down the sidewalks of this beautiful campus will reveal numerous smokers. And, in the early hours, before the clean-up crews go to work, one can see in the gutters the empty beer cans from the previous night’s revelry and carousing.

The body of the Christian is the temple of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19 and 1 Corinthians 3:16,17). For this reason, God asks us to present our bodies as “living sacrifices,” holy and righteous, for God could dwell in no less a temple.

Bible Reading: I Corinthians 3:11-15

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will take especially good care of my body – physically, mentally, spiritually – realizing it is the temple of God’s Holy Spirit.

 

 

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Max Lucado – When the Disciples Saw Jesus

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

John 20:19 says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews…”  Did you know that the church of Jesus Christ began with a group of frightened men in a second-floor room in Jerusalem?   Upper-room futility….a little bit of faith but very little fire.

How many congregations today have just enough religion to come together, but not enough passion to go out?  What is needed to get us out is exactly what got the apostles out.  They saw Jesus.  The stone of the tomb couldn’t keep him in.  The walls of the room couldn’t keep him out.  He came to commission them to remember.  To remember that he who was dead is alive; and they, who were guilty, have been forgiven.

Read more Six Hours One Friday

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – The latest from Israel: Why did Jesus have to die for us?

Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be in position to win a fourth consecutive term as prime minister of Israel.

As of this morning, 97 percent of the votes have been counted in Israel’s parliamentarian election. As I explained yesterday, no party has ever won a sixty-one-vote majority in the Knesset (their Parliament). The party leader who seems most likely to form a majority coalition with other parties will be given an opportunity to do so.

So far, that leader appears to be Mr. Netanyahu.

“I know that my Redeemer lives”

Yesterday we asked the question: Why don’t the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah? There’s a related question that is especially relevant to American culture as well.

Job was confident: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25–26).

While life after death is affirmed in the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 26:19), Judaism has evolved in its beliefs about the afterlife across the centuries since.

Rabbi Evan Moffic writes: “Heaven has [an] open door policy: Heaven is not a gated community. The righteous of any people and any faith have a place in it. Our actions, not our specific beliefs, determine our fate. No concept of Hell exists in Judaism.”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman believes that “in the afterlife, the soul is liberated from the body and returns closer to her source than ever before.” During this passage, “the good deeds and wisdom the soul has gained on her mission below serve as a protection for her journey upwards.” Then, “at the final resolution, all souls will return to physical bodies in this world.”

Continue reading Denison Forum – The latest from Israel: Why did Jesus have to die for us?

Charles Stanley – Courage to Speak the Truth

 

Daniel 4:1-27

Why is it so easy to lie? Telling a falsehood is something we all did as children, but lying can trip up even longtime Christians. The underlying motive for giving in to deception is usually a desire to protect ourselves in some way. We lie to get out of trouble, to avoid an unwanted situation, to profit financially, to receive acceptance, to bolster our image, to hide our flaws, or for other self-serving reasons.

When Nebuchadnezzar had an alarming dream, the Lord gave Daniel the interpretation: The king was going to become insane and live like a wild animal for “seven periods of time.” At that moment, Daniel had to decide whether he would tell the king the truth or conceal it. In those days, giving a king a bad report could cost the messenger his life. Yet despite the danger, Daniel held to his convictions and delivered the Lord’s message to Nebuchadnezzar.

Here’s why Daniel could speak the truth in the face of danger: He trusted God. Since he was doing exactly what the Lord wanted, he wasn’t frightened into compromise. Obedience to God is worth far more than anything we could gain from speaking lies or doctoring the truth in an effort to stay safe.

Are you willing to commit to speaking truth even when it’s costly? Altering income tax information, falsely enhancing your image on social media, or ignoring a miscalculation in your favor on a receipt isn’t worth the loss of character that comes with deception. Seeking to please the Lord and letting Him handle the consequences will always be the best course of action.

Bible in One Year: 2 Samuel 15-17

 

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Our Daily Bread — Good News to Tell

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 13–14; Luke 10:1–24

Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Acts 8:35

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Acts 8:26–35

“What’s your name?” asked Arman, an Iranian student. After I told him my name is Estera, his face lit up as he exclaimed, “We have a similar name in Farsi, it’s Setare!” That small connection opened up an amazing conversation. I told him I was named after a Bible character, “Esther,” a Jewish queen in Persia (present-day Iran). Starting with her story, I shared the good news of Jesus. As a result of our conversation, Arman started attending a weekly Bible study to learn more about Christ.

One of Jesus’s followers, Philip, guided by the Holy Spirit, asked a question that ignited a conversation with an Ethiopian official traveling in his chariot: “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30). The Ethiopian man was reading a passage from the book of Isaiah and seeking spiritual insight. So Philip’s question came at the right time. He invited Philip to sit next to him and in humility listened. Philip, realizing what an amazing opportunity this was, “began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (v. 35).

Like Philip, we too have good news to tell. Let’s seize the daily occasions we encounter in our workplace, at the grocery store, or in our neighborhood. May we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our steps and give us the words to share our hope and joy in Jesus.

By Estera Pirosca Escobar

Today’s Reflection

How will you prepare yourself to be more open to speaking to others about Jesus? What encouragement do you gain from Philip’s example?

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Difficult Invitation

Perhaps in reaching middle age, one might expect one’s thoughts to turn toward thinking more about the end of life than the beginning. It certainly seems that each year passes by faster and faster, one season racing into another and before you can blink another year is gone. The 1998 film Meet Joe Black offers a poignant glimpse into this phenomenon. On his 65th birthday, William Parrish’s last night on earth, he gives a speech to those gathered to celebrate his life. With hesitation, he shares what will be some of his last words:

“Every face I see is a memory. It may not be a perfect memory. Sometimes we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re all together, and you’re mine for a night. And I’m going to break precedence and tell you my one wish: that you would have a life as lucky as mine, where you can wake up one morning and say, ‘I don’t want anything more.’ Sixty-five years…don’t they go by in a blink?”

The years do go by in a blink. Ancient writers and poets often wrote about the transience of our lives, even invoking the Divine to help them remember the brevity of their days: My days are swifter than a weaver’s… Our days on earth are like a shadow… You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.(1) I was reminded of this during years of service with an aging congregation. There were more funerals than births, baptisms, or weddings. And having to bury those I had just recently befriended would take a great toll.

Despite the many emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges I faced during this time of ministry, I now see that I received incredible gifts. Journeying with someone you love through the dying process reminds you of your own mortality and finitude. The opportunity to deepen emotional reservoirs and to gain an appreciation for the preciousness of life is an invaluable gift.

In his earthly ministry, Jesus said a good deal about this dying journey. Often, he called his followers to self-sacrifice and to single-hearted allegiance by using the language of death. In Luke’s Gospel, he told the great multitudes following him that “if anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”(2) What is often forgotten in a casual reading of the gospels is that the cross was the instrument of death and disgrace. It was an instrument reserved for the vilest offenders, and as such was an instrument of finality for the lowest of the low. Yet whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. There is no “if” in Jesus’s statement, only whether or not we will accept the invitation to death.

The fact that Jesus issued this kind of invitation to the “multitudes going along with him” should not be lost either. To hear that death is a part of life’s purpose, and that those who would want to follow Jesus should expect nothing less, is a very difficult invitation. Given the choice, most humans wouldn’t sign up for death. We cling to life as tenaciously as a wolf to her prey. I suspect the crowds dissipated after they heard Jesus speak these very difficult statements. Perhaps they were the very ones who later clamored for his death by crucifixion. It was easy to follow Jesus when he focused on the positives.

And yet, as sure as babies are born into this world and new life begins, death is inevitable. Not just physical death, but the “little deaths” we experience every day; the death of dreams, of life’s highest expectations, and the death of wanting more from life than it will offer. Is there any kind of gift given even in these moments of death? Can abundant life be found even as life marches quickly towards decline and decay? Can grace come even as we move towards Calvary with our cross?

In speaking of his own death and the gifts it would yield, Jesus said that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.”(3) In the face of a world that shouts to us to grab all we can now, to find self-fulfillment and be happy, Jesus extends to us the ironic invitation to embrace death in order to truly find our lives. This is both a promising and challenging invitation. Can we really find life out of death? And how is it to be experienced as abundant even in the everyday, ordinary living most of us experience? The challenge Jesus sets before those who would follow is the challenge to “die” to what we think makes for life; it is to choose—in this life that goes by as quickly as a vapor—what would make for life indeed.

 

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

 

(1) See Psalm 39:4, 1 Chronicles 29:15; James 4:14.
(2) Luke 14:26-27.
(3) John 12:24-25.

 

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Joyce Meyer – Godly Sorrow

 

Be miserable and grieve and weep [over your sin]. Let your [foolish] laughter be turned to mourning and your [reckless] joy to gloom. — James 4:9 (AMP)

Adapted from the resource My Time with God Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Yesterday I encountered a person who was quite demanding that I do something she wanted me to do and would not take no for an answer. I ended up being rude to her, and I feel a godly sorrow over my behavior. I always want to represent God well, and that means I often need to be long-suffering with someone who is irritating to me.

I don’t feel guilty and condemned, because I have repented and know that I am forgiven, but I do feel a godly sorrow, and I think that feeling is healthy and right. We should take our sin seriously and be deeply penitent when we do something that we know is wrong.

Although this feeling is uncomfortable, I welcome it because it impresses on me the importance of my witness for Christ and reminds me of how easy it is to behave in a fleshly and carnal way. The Bible urges us repeatedly to be on our guard against the temptations we encounter in the world and to live carefully. Being rude to someone may seem a small thing, but it is the little foxes that spoil the vine (see Song of Solomon 2:15).

I believe we should appreciate any feeling of chastisement that we receive from the Holy Spirit, because it is God helping us be the kind of people who represent Jesus well.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I appreciate Your conviction and chastisement, and I am deeply sorry for my sins and grateful for Your forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – One More Reason to Praise 

 

“His presence within us is God’s guarantee that He really will give us all that He promised; and the Spirit’s seal upon us means that God has already purchased us and that He guarantees to bring us to Himself. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God” (Ephesians 1:14).

To me, this wonderful verse means that, as children of God, we have the ability to obey God’s laws if we are filled continually with the Holy Spirit and refuse to obey the old evil nature within us.

In order to live the supernatural life which is available to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we must know our rights as children of God. We need to know our spiritual heritage. We must know how to draw upon the inexhaustible, supernatural resources of God’s love, power, forgiveness and abundant grace.

The first step is to learn everything we can about God. We also need to know about the nature of man and why he behaves as he does. The best way to learn who God is, who man is and about our rights as children of God is to spend much time – even at the sacrifice of other needs and demands on our schedules – in reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on the Word of God, and in prayer and witnessing.

Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, “For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tells us that we really are God’s children. And since we are His children, we will share His treasures – for all God gives to His Son Jesus is now ours too. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering” (Romans 8:16,17).

Bible Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will acknowledge God’s presence, believe His promises and surrender to His special will for me, and thus will I praise Him throughout the day.

 

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Denison Forum – The elections in Israel: Why don’t the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah?

In America, many of us are sleep deprived after watching Virginia defeat Texas Tech in overtime last night. Meanwhile, much of the world is focused on Israel, where one of the most significant elections in years is taking place.

I have led approximately thirty study tours to Israel over the years. Each time, the two most common questions I’m asked are: “Why don’t the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah?” and “How does the Israeli government work?”

The two questions are more related than one might think.

Since Israelis are voting today in parliamentary elections, we’ll address the second question first. Here’s the process:

Fourteen parties are vying for votes. Citizens vote for parties, not people. At stake is control of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) and its 120 seats. The more votes a party receives, the more seats it wins.

No party has ever won a sixty-one-seat majority. After today’s vote, the president of Israel (a largely ceremonial position) will invite one party’s leader to form a governing coalition with other parties. That person will have twenty-eight days to form a government, with a possible fourteen-day extension.

The president selects the leader who, in his opinion, has the best chance of forming a multi-party coalition to reach sixty-one Knesset seats. This is usually the leader of the party that received the most votes in the election, but not always.

Continue reading Denison Forum – The elections in Israel: Why don’t the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah?

Charles Stanley – Courage Behind Your Convictions

 

Daniel 1:1-21

Today we live in a society that is convinced there are no absolute moral truths. It not only considers the Bible outdated and irrelevant to contemporary problems but also sees each person as free to decide what is right. As a result, our culture is ungodly, immoral, violent, and self-centered. How are we as Christians supposed to live in such an environment?

We need look no further than the example of a teenage boy named Daniel, who had the courage to stand for his convictions in the midst of the depraved atmosphere of Babylon. Despite his immersion in Babylonian culture, he committed to following the Lord faithfully, even if doing so would cost him his life. The issue of diet may seem trivial to us, but Jewish people of his day believed eating meat that had been offered to idols was an abomination to God.

In the modern Western world, we may find it hard to relate to Daniel’s example. Few of us are willing to take such a bold stand even though we have no fear of losing our life. It’s the threat of rejection, ridicule, or being seen as narrow-minded or judgmental that keeps us silent. Or worse, it may be that we don’t have any strong convictions because we haven’t let God’s Word develop them within us. Ignorance of Scripture may let us live comfortably in a sinful culture, but it will never please the Lord.

God is looking for people like Daniel—followers of Christ who will stand by their convictions, regardless of threats or the temptation to compromise for the sake of profit or acceptance. Are you such a person?

Bible in One Year: 2 Samuel 13-14

 

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Our Daily Bread — Unexpected Winners

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 10–12; Luke 9:37–62

Many who are first will be last.

Matthew 19:30

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Matthew 19:17–30

Perhaps the most preposterous, spellbinding moment in the 2018 Winter Olympics was when the Czech Republic’s world champion snowboarder Ester Ledecka won an event in a completely different sport: skiing! And she took the first-place gold medal even though she had the unenviable position of skiing 26th—a feat believed to be basically impossible.

Amazingly, Ledecka qualified to race the women’s super-G—an event that combines downhill skiing with a slalom course. After she won by .01 of a second on borrowedskis, she was just as shocked as the media and other contestants who had assumed the winner would be one of the top skiers.

This is how the world works. We assume the winners will keep winning while all the others will lose. It was a jolt, then, when the disciples heard Jesus say how “hard [it is] for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23). Jesus turned everything upside down. How could being rich (a winner) offer a roadblock? Apparently, if we trust in what we have (what we can do, who we are), then it’s not only hard but actually impossible to trust God.

The kingdom of God doesn’t play by our rules. “Many who are first,” Jesus says, “will be last, and many who are last will be first” (v. 30). And, whether you’re first or last, everything we receive is purely by grace—by God’s unmerited favor.

By Winn Collier

Today’s Reflection

Consider how you view people, or how you view your own life. How does Jesus’s way of seeing so-called losers and winners change your perspective?

 

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