Tag Archives: nature

Charles Stanley – Receiving Direction Without Doubt

 

Psalm 25:8-9

God wants us to make right decisions, which means choices that align with His will. He has promised to give us instruction and direction so we’ll know how to proceed (Psalm 32:8).

One way to discover the Lord’s will is by following the pattern we looked at yesterday. First, make sure you have a clean heart, clear mind, surrendered will, and patient spirit. Then, add these steps: praying persistently, trusting God’s promises, and receiving His peace.

Although we all want quick answers from the Lord, Scripture tells us to pray tirelessly, without giving up. I remember praying daily about one particular need for six months before I received a response. During this time, the Lord showed me that He’d tried to give direction earlier, but I hadn’t listened. Fear of failure had been my stumbling block. Once I surrendered my fear, He gave instructions and empowered me to obey. Persisting in prayer positions us to be drawn closer to God, where we are better prepared to hear from Him.

Then, trusting in God’s promises will lift us above our doubts into a place of quiet rest. We may not have an answer yet, but in waiting on Him with hopeful expectation, we’ll experience His “peace … which surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7).

Finally, Scripture urges us to let Christ’s peace rule in our heart (Col. 3:15). Doing so will help us find our way past confusion and receive His clear direction without doubting. Discovering God’s will is worth every effort we make and any time spent waiting.

Bible in One Year: Galatians 1-3

 

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Our Daily Bread — Intentional Kindness

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Daniel 1–2
  • 1 John 4

I want to show God’s kindness to them.

2 Samuel 9:3 nlt

Today’s Scripture & Insight: 2 Samuel 9:3–11

Boarding a plane alone with her children, a young mom tried desperately to calm her three-year-old daughter who began kicking and crying. Then her hungry four-month-old son also began to wail.

A traveler seated next to her quickly offered to hold the baby while Jessica got her daughter buckled in. Then the traveler—recalling his own days as a young dad—began coloring with the toddler while Jessica fed her infant. And on the next connecting flight, the same man offered to assist again if needed.

Jessica recalled, “I [was] blown away by God’s hand in this. [We] could have been placed next to anyone, but we were seated next to one of the nicest men I have ever met.”

In 2 Samuel 9, we read of another example of what I call intentional kindness. After King Saul and his son Jonathan had been killed, some expected David to kill off any competition to his claim for the throne. Instead, he asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” (v. 3). Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, was then brought to David who restored his inheritance and warmly invited him to share his table from then on—just as if he were his own son (v. 11).

As beneficiaries of the immense kindness of God, may we look for opportunities to show intentional kindness toward others (Galatians 6:10).

By: Cindy Hess Kasper

Reflect & Pray

Who can you show God’s kindness to? What specific act of kindness can you demonstrate to someone who is hurting or discouraged?

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the kindness You’ve shown me. Help me to lavish it on others.

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God Among Us

 

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
1

 

The carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” begins with these profound and precious words. And yet they are in many ways just the preamble to four words that utterly alter and define every landscape. Four words, so stunning in their scope and impact, that blow the mind. Four words that announce, crashing onto the scene of human history, the author of the play. Four words that perhaps due to familiarity seem no longer to inspire awe in us, but when really considered, cannot even be fully fathomed by human minds. Four words:

“For Christ is born…”

What must that instant have been like in the heavens? Surely every heavenly being was tense with attention, in hushed silence, watching with baited breath this most significant of moments in eternity. Immanuel. God became man and dwelt amongst us.

We are thinking of hope this week. Perhaps you, like me, have at one point or another had a friend tell you they are happy for you that you have faith, but that they, for their part, cannot believe. Part of what they’re actually saying is: Your faith clearly makes you happy, content, peaceful, hopeful. And, of course, everyone wants that. But they cannot will themselves, delude themselves into believing this hopeful fairy tale of the Christian faith. They simply cannot force themselves to believe what they consider to be false.

In other words, they consider themselves to be forfeiting hope for truth.

The carol speaks of the hopes and fears of all the years met in the person of Christ. It is right to do so. We tend to look for the answers to our doubts and struggles with “wheres” and “whats.” Much like the disciples in John 14, we assume that the destination and fulfilment of our journeys is a place, or a state of being, or an experience. Where will we end up in all of this? What will happen to us?

The Christian faith uniquely, staggeringly, answers our deepest cries with a who.

Hope, as it is presented to us in Scripture, is the anchor for the soul. It is not primarily rooted in the events of the future—the promises of God as they unfold—although of course it encapsulates that also. Hope is rather anchored in the person who holds the future, and by his word and power, upholds and guarantees it.

A devastating death, reaching and distorting every part of creation, was unleashed on the earth as humankind broke their relationship with God. Human history demonstrates the futility of our attempts to restore the order, caught as each of us are in the break. Yet woven throughout that very history are God’s whispers of hope, promises of a different future. Glimmers of light. A life to come that would swallow up the death and destroy it. “For unto us a child is born,” Isaiah writes in anticipation.2 And in that birth we see the sudden “now moment” of God. The accelerated unveiling of redemption plans. The dawn of the kingdom, the unveiling of the King. Christ has done what we are unable to do.

 

And so it is that hope and truth, far from being in opposition, are inseparable concepts in the Christian faith, the former owing its existence and reality to the latter. It is the one who called himself “The Truth”– his life, his death, his resurrection, and all that they signify—on whom our hopes are laid. Firm and secure.

I have found it intriguing that the book of Hebrews, speaking to us so powerfully of hope, does so in both the past and the future tense. Writing figuratively of the authority and victory of humankind in their intended God-given role, the author of Hebrews speaks of all creation being under their feet: “In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them” (Hebrews 2:8).

I confess that my own life is fraught at times with challenge, struggle, pain. I do not seem to see the reality of which these words speak Perhaps right here, in the midst of uncertainty, of pain, of vulnerability, the stage is set for Christ. As again Hebrews 2:8 reminds us, “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus.3

I am struck this Christmastime, that had I been present at that first Christmas morn, I might have been forgiven for looking at a little baby and wondering how it might be that this little life would hold all the answers. And yet, in every generation there are some, Simeon-like, who seeing with the eyes of faith, seem to really see Jesus, and in that sight, see all.

This Advent season, as you remember that most sacred of moments in history—the birth of Jesus—may you “see Jesus” again. And in seeing him, find afresh faith, courage, peace, wonder, joy… and hope.

Tanya Walker, PhD, is the Dean of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) and a speaker for RZIM (Zacharias Trust) in the UK.

1 “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Phillips Brooks (1868)
2 Isaiah 9:6.
3 Hebrews 2:8c-9a, emphasis added.

 

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – From the Inside Out

 

All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. — Psalm 45:13

Adapted from the resource The Greatest Gift Study – by Joyce Meyer

During the Christmas season, department store windows often feature bright, shiny presents with perfectly tied bows. These gifts may look desirable, but if we were to open them, we would find nothing inside. They are empty, just for show

Our lives can be the same way, like beautifully wrapped packages with nothing of value inside. On the outside, our lives may look attractive or even enviable to others, but on the inside, we may be dry and empty. We can look spiritual on the outside but be powerless within if we do not allow the Holy Spirit to make His home in our hearts.

The verse for today emphasizes the importance of the inner life. God puts the Holy Spirit inside us to work on our inner lives—our attitudes, our responses, our motivations, our priorities, and other important things. As we submit to Christ’s lordship in our innermost beings, we will sense when He is speaking to us, and we will experience His righteousness, peace, and joy rising up from within us to empower us for abundant living (see Romans 14:17).

The Holy Spirit lives inside us to make us more and more like Christ and to fill us with His presence and guidance, so we will have something to share with others, something that comes from deep in the core of our being and is valuable, powerful, and life giving to everyone with whom we interact.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Fishers of Men

 

“And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, KJV).

Each morning I kneel to acknowledge Christ’s lordship of my life and ask Him to have complete, unhindered control of my life for that day, to walk around in my body, to think with my mind, to love with my heart, to speak with my lips and to continue seeking and saving the lost through me.

Sometime ago I was at a conference in a midwestern city, anticipating an early adjournment so that I could catch a plane to Los Angeles and rejoin my waiting family.

When I arrived at the airport, I discovered that flight after flight had been cancelled because of poor weather conditions. Rushing from one airline ticket counter to another, I hoped to find one that was still flying its planes. Finally, to my disappointment, I had discovered that all the airlines had cancelled their flights.

On one hand I was discouraged, but on the other I was encouraged by the promise of the Bible, “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans” (Romans 8:28, LB).

Back at the hotel for the night, in the lobby I met a businessman who was hungry for God. As I shared Christ with him, I learned that he and his wife had been visiting a different church every Sunday for the past couple of years. They were looking for God but had not been able to find Him.

I explained to my new friend how to receive Christ. Together, we knelt and prayed, and he received Christ into his life as his personal Lord and Savior.

With great joy and enthusiasm my new brother in Christ announced, “I want to take these things to my wife because she too is eager to receive Christ.” It is our responsibility to follow Christ. It is His responsibility to make us fishers of men.

Bible Reading: Matthew 4:18-22

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: As I follow Christ today, I will recognize that even the delays, hindrances and closed doors may well be opportunities for me to share my faith in Jesus Christ. I shall remember, with God’s help, to share Him with others at every opportunity.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Second Chances

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Not many second chances exist in the world today!  It’s more like “three strikes and you’re out.” It’s a dog-eat-dog world!

Jesus has a simple answer.  He would say, “Well, then don’t live with the dogs.” Why let a bunch of other failures tell you how much of a failure you are?  Sure you can have a second chance!  Just ask Peter.  One minute he felt lower than a snake’s belly and the next he was high hog at the trough. When Peter denied Jesus, the message came loud and clear, “Be sure and tell Peter he gets to bat again!”

It’s not every day you get a second chance.  It’s not every day you find someone who’ll give you a second chance—much less someone who’ll give you a second chance every day.  But in Jesus, Peter found both!  No wonder they call Him the Savior!

Read more No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – How James Bond got his name: Summarizing effective ministry in seven words

The trailer for No Time to Die, the latest James Bond movie, came out yesterday. The previous movies in the franchise have generated more than $7 billion in worldwide box office sales.

Have you ever wondered how the iconic spy got his name?

Ian Fleming, the writer of the novels that birthed the movie franchise, was an avid bird-watcher. On a trip to Jamaica after World War II, he noticed a book on birds of the West Indies by an ornithologist from Philadelphia named James Bond.

Years later, Fleming wrote to Mr. Bond’s wife: “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.”

However, like a spy novel, there’s a twist to the story. It turns out, an intelligence officer named James Bond served under Fleming in a secret elite unit that led a guerrilla war against Hitler. James Charles Bond, a metalworker from Wales, died in 1995 without revealing his spy past.

His family suspects that Fleming used the bird-watching James Bond to protect the identity of the real James Bond.

What Avengers: Endgame earned overseas

One of the reasons I pay attention to popular movies is that their popularity reveals so much about us.

Sean Connery’s British secret agent first appeared during the height of Cold War paranoia and offered us the assurance in film after film that the West could defeat the Soviets. In the decades since, James Bond has taken on our most frightening enemies and saved the world with his unique mixture of brash courage and technological wizardry.

The Westerns of the 1930s gave us solitary heroes who inspired us during the Great Depression. The comic-book superhero films of recent years typically make far more money overseas than they do in America, highlighting the global nature of our economy and the exporting of Western culture. (Avengers: Endgame earned more than $817 million domestically but more than $1.9 billion overseas.)

As long as our culture needs heroes, Hollywood will supply them. At least, the fictional kind.

“It is in the dark where he seems to visit most often”

Yesterday we discussed the existential crises facing our world and God’s call to demonstrate his love to hurting people. Today, we’ll explore a real-world strategy to do just that.

The key is to find a need and meet it with the love of Christ. The greater the need, the greater the opportunity.

Continue reading Denison Forum – How James Bond got his name: Summarizing effective ministry in seven words

Charles Stanley – Who Will Be in Heaven?

 

Matthew 7:13-27

Most people think that when they die, they are going to heaven. If you asked why, the majority would say they have been good people or their positive deeds outweigh any negative things they’ve done. Yet the sad reality is, most people will not find themselves in heaven—and that includes some who claim to be Christians.

It may not be a popular topic of conversation, but our Savior knew that hell was essential to understand. In today’s reading, He uses illustrations of contrasting gates, trees, and houses to point out that there are only two possible destinies after death: heaven and hell. Jesus is warning us about a most sobering reality—that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” actually belongs to Him (Matt. 7:21-23).

What, then, distinguishes a true follower? John 14:15 tells us those who love the Savior will keep His commandments. This obedience begins with believing Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:36). In other words, the first step is to humble ourselves before God, admitting that we’re sinful and deserving of condemnation. Next, we must call out to Him, requesting the forgiveness for which His Son’s blood was shed on our behalf. From then on, we’re to live only for God.

If you hear the gospel but stop short of obedience, ask yourself, Do I fully understand the goodness of God’s love? That should inspire you to obey the Father. Looking good on the outside isn’t enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. Remember, to those who truly receive Him, He will give “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Won’t you make sure you’re among those destined for heaven?

Bible in One Year: 2 Corinthians 5-8

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — The Lost Envelope

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Ezekiel 45–46
  • 1 John 2

Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matthew 6:20

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Matthew 6:19–21

We were on the way home from a visit with family in another state when I found it. I was pumping gas when I noticed a dirty, bulky envelope on the ground. I grabbed it, dirt and all, and looked inside. To my surprise, it contained one hundred dollars.

One hundred dollars that someone had lost and who at that very moment was possibly frantically searching to find. I gave our phone number to the attendants at the gas station in case anyone came back looking for it. But no one ever called.

Someone had that money and lost it. Earthly treasure is often like that. It can be lost, stolen, or even squandered. It can be lost in bad investments or even in a monetary market over which we have no control. But the heavenly treasure we have in Jesus—a restored relationship with God and the promise of eternal life—isn’t like that. We can’t lose it at a gas station or anywhere else.

That’s why Christ told us to store up “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). We do that when we become “rich in good deeds” (1 Timothy 6:18) or “rich in faith” (James 2:5)—lovingly helping others and sharing Jesus with them. As God leads and empowers us, may we store up eternal treasure even as we anticipate our eternal future with Him.

By: Dave Branon

Reflect & Pray

What can you do this week that has eternal implications? How can you better use your earthly treasures as investments for heaven’s good?

Dear God, thank You for everything You’ve given us on this earth—our money, our homes, and more. Help us to hold them loosely while seeking to store up more eternal treasures.

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Joyce Meyer – Simplicity and Decisions

 

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.— James 5:12

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

Decision-making can be simple if we refuse to be double-minded. After making a decision, stand firm, let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Indecision and double-mindedness not only bring confusion and complication, but, as James noted, they also cause condemnation (see James 5:12).

If we believe in our hearts that we should do something and then allow our heads to talk us out of it, it is an open door for condemnation. We often labor over decisions when actually we just need to decide. Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance, and then make decisions without worrying about them.

Thankfully, you don’t have to live in fear of being wrong. If your heart is right and you make a decision that is not in accordance with God’s will and end up going astray, He will forgive you, find you, and get you back on course.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to avoid complicating the process of decision-making. I thank You that You see my heart and You will correct my course if I take a wrong step. I thank You that I can simply follow what I believe You are leading me to do and trust You to protect me in the process. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Recipe for Growth

 

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2, KJV).

Sam was very impatient with himself. Though he was a new Christian, he could not understand why he was not as spiritual as some of the other students who had walked with the Lord for several years.

I explained to him the Christian life, like physical life, involves a process of growth. A person begins as a baby and goes through various stages of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood to reach Christian maturity. Very few, if any, Christians, I explained to him, become spiritually mature overnight.

Lane Adams, a beloved colleague, gifted teacher, preacher and author, said, “I shrink inside when I think of the times I have mounted the pulpit, recited the conversion experience of the apostle Paul, and then indicated that he went out and turned the world upside down for Jesus Christ immediately.”

He continued, “This simply was not the case. There is a difference of opinion among scholars concerning New Testament dating, but it seems rather plain that many years went by before the Holy Spirit laid the dramatic burden on Paul as a missionary of the cross.”

If you strongly desire to serve the Lord in some particular way, such as teaching, ask the Holy Spirit in faith to empower you to become an effective teacher. Now, it may be that the Holy Spirit will see fit to make you a great teacher overnight, but this is most unlikely. So if it does not happen, do not be discouraged. Have faith!

Continue to ask and believe that the Holy Spirit will make you an effective teacher of the Word of God and be willing to work hardand long to develop your natural ability. The Bible reminds us that “faith without works is useless.”

If we are unique members of the Body of Christ, and we are, if we possess special tasks to accomplish, and we do, then the Holy Spirit will empower us to carry out those tasks. God does indeed have a plan for each of our lives. And He gives us the direction and power of His Holy Spirit to accomplish that plan as we continue to trust and obey Him.

Bible Reading: 2 Peter 3:14-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Recognizing that I am in the process of maturing spiritually, I shall seek to accelerate my spiritual growth by hiding the Word of God in my heart, spending time in prayer, walking in the Spirit and sharing my faith in Christ with others as a way of life.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – The Word “Almost”

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Almost.  It’s a sad word in any man’s dictionary.  It runs with nearly, next time, and  just about!  It’s a word that smacks with missed opportunities.  It’s honorable mention, on the bench, and burnt cookies!

One of the most famous almosts is in the Bible.  His name was Pilate.  He almost performed what would have been history’s greatest act of mercy.  He almost pardoned the Prince of Peace.  He almost released the Son of God. He had the power.  He had the choice.  The option to free God’s Son was his.  And he did it… almost!

Jesus never had room for almost. With Him nearly has to become certainly. Sometimes has to be always.  And next time has to become this time!  Almost may count in horseshoes, but with the Master, it’s just as good as a never.

Read more No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – Greg Abbott responds to ‘God put you in a wheelchair’ tweet: Paying the price to change someone’s life today

 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott was paralyzed from the waist down in 1984 when an oak tree fell on him as he was jogging in Houston. He has since made overcoming adversity one of the themes of his public life.

For instance, he recently tweeted a video of a young man in a wheelchair climbing an indoor wall with the caption, “Never quit. Never give up. Overcome any challenge.” A person replied, “So great to see but if I ever end up in a wheelchair I’m just ending it.” The governor responded: “That’s what I thought before I ended up in a wheelchair. I’ve done more AFTER the accident that left me paralyzed than before that accident. With God all things are possible.”

Someone then tweeted back to the governor: “God put you in a wheelchair Greg.” Gov. Abbott replied, “God didn’t cause the accident that left me paralyzed, but He did help me persevere over that enormous challenge.”

He added: “I’m a testament that the glory of God is revealed by a young man’s back being broken in half and still rising up to be Governor of Texas. With God all is possible.”

How Luka Doncic changed a boy’s life

Greg Abbott is not the only public figure making news for the right reasons.

Prior to scoring twenty-seven points and leading his team to victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic met with twenty-two-month-old Kris Zudich and his family. The reason: Doncic helped raise more than $2.2 million so the boy could get medical treatment at UCLA for a rare muscle condition.

Three-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Clayton Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, are working with Dallas-based Topgolf and the International Justice Mission (IJM) to raise awareness on modern-day slavery, especially in the area of sex-trafficking. The Kershaws recently traveled to the Dominican Republic with IJM. They operate Kershaw’s Challenge, which benefits schools in West Dallas and Los Angeles, children in Zambia and, most recently, the Dominican.

And San Francisco 49ers star cornerback Richard Sherman recently donated more than $7,000 to help eradicate a middle school’s lunch debt. Earlier this year, his foundation donated $20,000 to Tacoma Public Schools for the same purpose.

Responders to terrorist are “truly the best of us”

Their stories remind us that making a real difference in the world comes at a cost.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Greg Abbott responds to ‘God put you in a wheelchair’ tweet: Paying the price to change someone’s life today

Charles Stanley – What Is Heaven Like?

 

Revelation 21:1-27

Heaven is the believer’s future home, and we’ve all wondered what it’s like. But the Bible gives us only a glimpse. Even if God revealed more in Scripture, we’d be incapable of comprehending it. As earthly creatures, we lack the experience or frame of reference needed to understand the eternal realities of that dimension.

Desiring to know more about heaven, some people have sought information outside of the Bible, often in books written by people who claim to have gone there. However, the only legitimate source of facts about heaven is God’s Word—nothing else can be depended upon to have a sure foundation in truth.

When Paul was caught up to the third heaven, he “heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (2 Corinthians 12:4). None of his letters include any details of his experience. God also entrusted the apostle John with a vision of heaven, but human language is inadequate to convey the realities of that otherworldly realm.

Although we may not be able to visualize everything John describes, we can all relate to what he says about those things that are absent in heaven: There will be no more tears, death, mourning, or pain (Revelation 21:4). What’s more, we will never become stressed, exhausted, frustrated, angry, or sick, because our new bodies will be imperishable, sinless, and powerful (1 Corinthians 15:42-43). Heaven is a perfect environment with no sin or sinners in it. And best of all, God will dwell among us.

Bible in One Year: 2 Corinthians 1-4

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — The Flip Side of Love

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Ezekiel 42–44
  • 1 John 1

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

2 John 1:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight:2 John 1:1–11

The Roman inns during the time of Christ had a reputation so bad that rabbis wouldn’t even permit cattle to be left at them. Faced with such bad conditions, traveling Christians usually sought out other believers for hospitality.

Among those early travelers were false teachers who denied that Jesus was the Messiah. This is why the letter of 2 John tells its readers there is a time to refuse to extend hospitality. John had said in a previous letter that these false teachers were “antichrist—denying the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). In 2 John he elaborated on this, telling his readers that whoever believes Jesus is the Messiah “has both the Father and the Son” (v. 9).

Then he warned, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them” (v. 10). To extend hospitality to someone preaching a false gospel would actually help keep people separated from God.

John’s second letter shows us a “flip side” of God’s love. We serve a God who welcomes everyone with open arms. But genuine love won’t enable those who deceitfully harm themselves and others. God wraps His arms around those who come to Him in repentance, but He never embraces a lie.

By: Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray

How can you reflect God’s love in your relationships today? What issues might you need to confront in your own life or in the lives of others?

Father, You love us in Your truth. Help us extend that love to others with the unwavering grace that comes only from Your Spirit.

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Mysterious Safety

 

Someone told me recently that he wondered if humans only truly ever pray when we are in the midst of despair. Despite creed or confession, is it only when we have no other excuses to offer, no other comfort to hide behind, no more façades to uphold, that we are most likely to bow in exhaustion and be real with God and ourselves? “For most of us,” writes C.S. Lewis, “the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model.” In our distress, we stand before God as we truly are—creatures in need hope and mercy.

The words within the ancient Hebrew story of Jonah that are of most interest to me are words that in some ways seem not to fit in the story at all.(1) Interrupting a narrative that quickly draws in its hearers, a narrative about Jonah, the text very fleetingly pauses to bring us the voice of Jonah himself before returning again to the narrative. The eight lines come in the form of a distraught and despairing, though poetic prayer. And while it is true that the poem could be omitted without affecting the coherence of the story, the deliberate jaunt in the narrative text seems to provide a moment of significant commentary to the whole. The eight verses of poetry not only mark an abrupt shift in the tone of the text, but also in the attitude of its main character. The poetic words of the prophet, spoken as a cry of deliverance, arise from the belly of the great fish—a stirring image reminiscent of another despairing soul’s question: Where can I flee from your presence? If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me.

Jonah’s eloquent prayer for deliverance stands out in a book that is detailed with his egotistic mantras and glaring self-deceptions. By his own actions, Jonah finds himself in darkness, and yet it is in the dark that he speaks most honestly to God. The story is vaguely familiar to many hearers, and yet memory often seems to minimize the distress that broke Jonah’s silence with God. The popular notion that Jonah went straight from the side of the ship into the mouth of the fish is not supported by either the narrative as a whole or Jonah’s prayer. As one suggests, “[Jonah] was half drowned before he was swallowed. If he was still conscious, sheer dread would have caused him to faint—notice that there is no mention of the fish in his prayer. He can hardly have known what caused the change from wet darkness to an even greater dry darkness. When he did regain consciousness, it would have taken some time to realize that the all-enveloping darkness was not that of Sheol but of a mysterious safety.”(2)

When I think of the prayers I have offered in my deepest despair, the despair is always memorable, palpable even. And yet so is the sense that I was not yelling into an altogether empty darkness, that my voice was not alone, but that in this pained and enveloping darkness somehow the veil between creator and creature was parted. In the mysterious safety of the fish, Jonah seems to attest to the link between prayer and desperation; but more so, he attests to a God who hears in the void, whether the darkness is self-inflicted or thrown upon us like a violent sea. Likewise, the prophet reminds us of what is all too often our ironic refusal to face the face of a God who is equally present in the light of the ordinary. In prayer and desperation, Jonah saw himself without pretense. If only momentarily, the drowning prophet clung to a truth more secure than comfort and able than his alternatives: “Salvation belongs to the LORD.”

Sadly, Jonah’s distracted theology returned not long after the prayer was finished and his life was spewed back into normalcy. For many of us, it is a familiar tale. Honest words offered in despair remain with God in the darkness where we once cried out, the return of familiarity convincing us of a God more comfortably and safely remote. But if Jonah leaves us with a thought in the dark, it is the presence of options. Which view of God do you prefer? Which veil? Which distance? Which safety?

Once convinced there was a place he could flee from God’s presence, the prophet, sinking further into the depths of the sea, realized he was mercifully mistaken.

 

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

 

(1) See Jonah 2:2-10.
(2) H.L. Ellison, “Jonah,” The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 374.

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Joyce Meyer – Keep Your Promises

 

…but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. — Psalm 15:4-5

Adapted from the resource Starting Your Day Right Devotional

There are times when I make a commitment to do something that later I regret. Then I try to figure out some way to get out of doing what I said I would do. I argue, “God, surely You don’t want me to do this thing and miss this other great opportunity.”

The only thing the Lord ever says to me is, “You gave your word, Joyce. Be a woman of integrity, and I will bless you.” If we are people of integrity, God will bring other good opportunities around another time with even more blessings.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to always be a person of integrity. Help me to honor You by keeping my word and doing what I say I’ll do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Gives Richly

 

“Tell those who are rich not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone, but their pride and trust should be in the living God who always richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Arthur S. DeMoss was a gifted and godly businessman. He had built one of the most successful businesses of its kind in America and in the process had amassed a huge fortune of an estimated half a billion dollars. Then suddenly an economic recession began and stock in his company plummeted. He lost $360 million in a period of only four months – an average of $3 million a day – more than anybody had ever lost in such a short time. One would have thought he would have been devastated. Instead, in order to avoid decreasing his Christian giving, he (personally) borrowed funds, at an incredibly high rate of interest, to enable him to increase his giving. As we talked together during that period, he was rejoicing in the Lord.

“The Lord gave me everything I have,” he said. “It all belongs to Him and if He wants to take it away that’s His business. I don’t lose any sleep. I still have a wonderful family and my life-style remains unchanged. I am prepared to do anything that God wants me to do. If He takes away everything I own and wants me to go to the mission field, I’m ready to do it. All He needs to do is tell me.”

Art had his trust completely in the Lord and not in his vast fortune. God honored his faith and obedience and ultimately restored all that he had lost and much more. Art has gone to be with the Lord, but his fortune is still being used for the glory of God.

Paul’s answer to the believers of his day is just as appropriate to the believers of our time. No person should be unduly impressed with his wealth and look down with pride and arrogance on those whom he considers to be inferior. Riches are uncertain because they can be taken away from us. In the personal emergencies of life one cannot depend upon material possessions for strength and comfort. In times of tragedy – the loss of a loved one, a financial reversal, or some other disappointment – material possessions do not insure peace. Our trust must be in the living God who is able to supply all of our needs and do for us what riches cannot do.

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:> I will not take the blessing of God for granted and will not place my trust in any earthy possession. My confidence will be in Him who is the source of the supernatural life.

 

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Max Lucado – You Are Free to Go

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

GUARD:             “You’re free to go!”

BARRABAS:     ”Wh…what?”

GUARD:             “They took the Nazarene instead of you!”

It happened so fast.  One minute Barabbas was in his cell on death row playing tic-tac-toe on the dirt walls. The next, he’s squinting his eyes at the bright sun. In many ways Barabbas stands for us; a prisoner freed because someone he’d never seen took his place.  Someone tossed him a life preserver and he grabbed it; no questions asked.

I can’t imagine him pulling some of our stunts.  We take our free gift of God’s grace and try to earn it or pay for it ourselves instead of simply saying, “thank you”, and accepting it.  Barabbas may not have understood mercy and he surely didn’t deserve it, but he wasn’t about to refuse it.  We, too, are prisoners with no chance for appeal.  Why some prefer to stay in prison while the cell door has been unlocked is a mystery worth pondering!

Read more No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – From ‘Christmas Parade’ to ‘Winter Parade’: Two ways to experience the power of Christ this Christmas season

Charleston, West Virginia, has held an old-fashioned downtown Christmas Parade for many years. In early October, the city’s official Facebook page announced: “The Charleston Winter Parade will begin at the corner of the Kanawha Boulevard and Capitol Street.”

Their recently elected mayor made the change to signal that their city was a place for people of all faiths and cultures. However, that is not how many residents saw her decision. City council members learned about the name change when everyone else did. Then they began hearing from constituents who were upset.

On the third day after the mayor’s announcement, she changed her position and the Christmas Parade was back on.

A “Capitol Holiday Tree” and “Merry Coffee” cups

Divisions over Christmas seem to be escalating as our culture’s secularism escalates.

Here are two examples in the news: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has renamed the state’s Christmas tree the “Capitol Holiday Tree.” And Starbucks recently unveiled new seasonal cups for the holidays, none of which uses the word Christmas.

Two of them say “Merry Coffee.” Each cup’s sleeve displays the words, “We wish you a merry coffee.” (A Starbucks spokesman noted that the company still offers a “Christmas blend” and that their stores will be decorated during the holidays with Christmas colors and candy cane ribbon.)

It is a cultural fact that secularism and relativism go hand in hand. In order to move away from historic religious truth and orthodox morality, secularists must begin by redefining truth and morality as personal and subjective. Once they convince us that “truth” is what we believe it to be, the way is clear to rename and redefine those religious beliefs and practices they find objectionable.

But, as John Adams wisely noted, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Shootings, storms, and suffering

Today’s news reminds us of our need for the unchanging Christmas truth that God has entered our broken world (Philippians 2:6–8) and is present with us still today (Matthew 28:20).

A Sunday early-morning shooting in New Orleans’ French Quarter wounded nearly a dozen people. Yesterday morning, a shooting in a Chicago suburb killed one person and injured several others.

Continue reading Denison Forum – From ‘Christmas Parade’ to ‘Winter Parade’: Two ways to experience the power of Christ this Christmas season