Tag Archives: Prayer

Charles Stanley – The Empowering Emotion of Joy

 

John 15:9-11

Is your life exciting? Or do you, like so many people, find most days routine and tedious? Have dreams become disappointments? If so, you might feel tempted to give up hope. But God promises fulfillment that can’t be found anywhere else.

Joy is a gift from the Lord. It doesn’t depend upon circumstances but rather is found in Jesus’ unchanging character and promises. And that’s exactly where to find true strength and power to endure.

Years ago I found myself being tested on this very point while working on a sermon about joy. A few days earlier, I had baptized a large number of people, and evidently, the repetitive motion had strained my back. There was no pain until midweek, when I tried to lift something heavy. Suddenly, I was dealing with severe backache. Almost immediately, the Lord brought to mind the message I was planning to present a few days later. Even though I complained and desperately wanted to be freed from the pain, I found I could be joyful in the Lord.

Philippians 4:4 tells us always to rejoice in Him. From this command, we know that even in the midst of hardship, we can purposefully choose to live with joy. This choice is possible for believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit and walking obediently (Gal. 5:22-23).

Consider your response to both good and bad times. Does a consistent joy in Christ give you strength? Or do you find emotional relief only in the midst of positive circumstances? Difficulty is inevitable, but God’s truth is able to sustain you. Rely on Him for emotional security.

Bible in One Year: Exodus 10-12

 

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Our Daily Bread — By the Spirit’s Power

 

Read: Zechariah 4:1–7

Bible in a Year: Genesis 46–48; Matthew 13:1–30

What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground.—Zechariah 4:7

What do you do when there is a mountain in your way? The story of Dashrath Manjhi can inspire us. When his wife died because he was unable to get her to the hospital to receive urgent medical care, Manjhi did what seemed impossible. He spent twenty-two years chiseling a massive gap in a mountain so other villagers could get to the local hospital to receive the medical care they needed. Before he died, the government of India celebrated him for his achievement.

Rebuilding the temple must have looked impossible to Zerubbabel, one of the leaders of Israel who returned from exile. The people were discouraged, faced opposition from their enemies, and lacked resources or a big army. But God sent Zechariah to remind Zerubbabel that the task would take something more powerful than military strength, individual power, or man-made resources. It would take the Spirit’s power (Zechariah 4:6). With the assurance of divine aid, Zerubbabel trusted that God would level any mountain of difficulty that stood in the way of rebuilding the temple and restoring the community (v. 7).

What do we do when there is a “mountain” before us? We have two options: rely on our own strength or trust the Spirit’s power. When we trust His power, He will either level the mountain or give us the strength and endurance to climb over it. —Marvin Williams

What challenges stand in your way? How will you trust the power of God’s Spirit in your life? Share it on Facebook.com/ourdailybread.

Human power is inadequate to accomplish God’s purposes.

INSIGHT: What keeps us from finishing the work entrusted to us? Eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, told Jewish captives of Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of their God (Ezra 6:3,14). Now the prophet Zechariah urged completion. This temple, like the Messiah who would someday enter its courts, represented the heart of God for the world. Anything done for His honor—and for the good of others—is done in His Spirit. Mart DeHaan

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Advent and the Hopeful Realist

In a recent story on the wildfires that ravaged the Southern California landscape, the reporter Thomas Curwen wrote, “In this climate and on this landscape, fire is the great equalizer. But all natural disasters are. They provide a glimpse into the vulnerability of others no matter their place in life. Houston. Florida. Puerto Rico.” It’s a wise observation, and one that forms an ideal complement to Christ’s words about the Father sending his “rain on the just and the unjust” alike.

Though frequently excruciating, hardship and heartache are far from surprising. It was none other than the Apostle Paul who famously declared, “If in Christ we have hoped in this life alone, we are of all men most to be pitied.” While an overestimation of “this life alone” leads to despair, a hope in Christ’s resurrection and his coming kingdom leads to an unshakeable conviction—one that remains steadfast even when we’re shoveling through the ashes of our former homes or burying someone we love.

The year 2017 has been a difficult one. It’s been a year of national disasters, growing political unrest, and personal loss. With the passing of Nabeel Qureshi, the world lost a brilliant evangelist, and many of us lost a dear friend. In the midst of these dire circumstances, talk of hope runs the risk of sounding not only naive but also downright evasive. How do we speak of hope in a world this brittle?

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Advent and the Hopeful Realist

Joyce Meyer – God’s Love Isn’t Based on Feelings

Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. — Romans 5:5

It’s impossible for human love to be unconditional like God’s love. But as believers in Jesus Christ, we have the love of God in us. We can let that love flow freely, without conditions. Our love fails, but God’s does not. Our love comes to an end, but God’s does not.

Sometimes I find that although I can’t love a person in my own strength, I am able to with God’s love. The true love of God doesn’t depend on feelings—it’s based on a decision. It’s not based on whether or not that person deserves it. And it is absolutely freeing to be able to love people without stopping to ask if they deserve it.

Human love depends on feelings. It loves people because they have been good to us or they loved us first. That kind of love comes and goes.

God’s love is totally different. It isn’t based on anything except God Himself. When we receive Christ as our Savior, the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Pour out God’s love to others today.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A New Life to Enjoy

“The Ten Commandments were given so that all could see the extent of their failure to obey God’s laws. But the more we see our sinfulness, the more we see God’s abounding grace forgiving us. Before, sin ruled over all men and brought them to death, but now God’s kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Well, then, shall we keep on sinning so that God can keep on showing us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Should we keep on sinning when we don’t have to? For sin’s power over us was broken when we became Christians and were baptized to become a part of Jesus Christ; through His death the power of your sinful nature was shattered. Your old sin-loving nature was buried with Him by baptism when He died, and when God the Father, with glorious power, brought Him back to life again, you were given His wonderful new life to enjoy” (Romans 5:20-6:4).

“When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen,” replied the great musician Haydn when asked why his church music was so cheerful. “And since God has given me a cheerful heart it will be pardoned me that I serve Him with a cheerful spirit.”

Continue reading Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A New Life to Enjoy

Max Lucado – One Step at a Time

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Arthur Hays Sulzberger was the publisher of the New York Times during the second World War. Because of the world conflict, he found it almost impossible to sleep. He was never able to set aside worries from his mind until he adopted as his motto these five words… “one step enough for me.” He took the words from the old hymn, “Lead Kindly Light.”

“Lead, kindly Light. . .

Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene; one step enough for me.”

Friend, God isn’t going to let you see the distant scene either, so you might as well quit looking for it. God promises a lamp to our feet but not a crystal ball into the future. We don’t need to know what will happen tomorrow. We only need to know that Hebrews 4:16 promises that “we will find grace to help us when we need it!”

Read more Traveling Light

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Tiffany Trump’s friends enter an “unconventional” marriage

Quentin Esme Brown is a well-known socialite, formerly from New York City but now living in Los Angeles. Peter Cary Peterson was once featured in a show about wealthy teenagers living in Manhattan. The two have been close friends since they were kids.

Last weekend, they were married in Las Vegas. The event made national headlines because Tiffany Trump was a flower girl. Is this a case of two friends who fell in love and got married out of romantic passion? Not at all.

Yahoo reported: “Tiffany Trump’s friends just entered a sexless marriage, which isn’t a terrible idea.” Esme called her marriage “unconventional” and explained: “Peter and I are not romantically involved—in fact we are still dating others and will continue to seek love in all its forms—we are just each other’s hearts and wish to begin our journey towards evolution, because the more we face reality, the more we can see that there is no right or wrong.”

A licensed therapist affirmed their decision: “We don’t need to get married for any of the reasons we used to. Once you’ve got everything else in place, it is like the cherry on top.” Another psychologist explained: “A lot of these sorts of marriages are in response to society getting increasingly isolated, and people want to create a kinship model.”

Continue reading Denison Forum – Tiffany Trump’s friends enter an “unconventional” marriage

Charles Stanley – How to Set Right Priorities

 

Matthew 6:33

The Scriptures contain many cautionary examples of men and women who had misplaced priorities. Often, these are the otherwise godly people who had a momentary lapse. This should give every believer pause to consider the importance of taking captive detrimental thoughts and desires.

For good purposes or bad, we set priorities in one of three ways: by evaluating which things ought to carry the most importance; by succumbing to pressure and letting people or circumstances dictate how we should prioritize; or by drifting into habits and modes of thinking that become a way of life. Wise believers will certainly want to avoid the drifting option, as this approach accompanies a life that feels meaningless. And priorities ought to be in place before we face trying circumstances and people—in that way, we can be steadfast in our commitment. The only viable choice, then, is to prioritize deliberately. We do so by setting a goal to live in accordance with God’s purpose and plan.

The priorities we choose are determined by what we value. Sometimes, though, prioritizing can be frustrating since there are so many distractions diverting our focus.

If we consider a right relationship with God to be of utmost importance, then we will put first those actions and thoughts that strengthen our connection with Him. We need to be disciplined in following our goals, because living purposefully is rarely easy. However, the good news is that God knows our heart, and He will honor our sincere attempts to put Him first.

Bible in One Year: Exodus 7-9

 

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Our Daily Bread — Dealing with Delay

 

Read: Genesis 45:1–8

Bible in a Year: Genesis 43–45; Matthew 12:24–50

So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.—Genesis 45:8

A global computer system outage causes widespread flight cancellations, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers at airports. During a winter storm, multiple auto accidents close major highways. The person who promised to send a reply “right away” has failed to do so. Delays can often produce anger and frustration, but as followers of Jesus, we have the privilege of looking to Him for help.

One of the Bible’s great examples of patience is Joseph, who was sold to slave traders by his jealous brothers, falsely accused by his employer’s wife, and imprisoned in Egypt. “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:20-21). Years later, when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, he was made second in command in Egypt (ch. 41).

The most remarkable fruit of his patience occurred when his brothers came to buy grain during a famine. “I am your brother Joseph,” he told them, “the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. . . . So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (45:4-5, 8).

In all our delays, brief or long, may we, like Joseph, gain patience, perspective, and peace as we trust in the Lord. —David C. McCasland

Father in heaven, in all of our delays may we trust Your faithful hand of guidance and experience Your presence with us in every situation.

Confidence in God enables us to live out our faith patiently.

INSIGHT: When we are going through a difficult season, we can find comfort and encouragement by looking at how God worked in Joseph’s difficult—even seemingly hopeless—circumstances. We learn to ask the questions: Why does God have me here? What does He have in store for me or want to do through me? Joseph came to realize that it was God who had placed him in his situation (see Genesis 45:8; 50:20).

We also learn something about God’s timing. It only takes a few moments for us to read Joseph’s story, but his trial lasted for years. His imprisonment may have been to fulfill God’s purposes (interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams) but the timing was also God’s.

How does knowing that God is in control help you as you wait for Him to work?

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Portrait of a Soul

 

In the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde describes an exceptionally handsome young man so captivating that he drew the awe-stricken adulation of a great artist. The artist asked him to be the subject of a portrait for he had never seen a face so attractive and so pure. When the painting was completed, young Dorian became so enraptured by his own looks that he wistfully intoned how wonderful it would be if he could live any way he pleased but that no disfigurement of a lawless lifestyle would mar the picture of his own countenance. If only the portrait would grow old and he himself could remain unscathed by time and way of life. In Faustian style he was willing to trade his soul for that wish.

One day, alone and pensive, Dorian went up to the attic and uncovered the portrait that he had kept hidden for so many years, only to be shocked by what he saw. Horror, hideousness, and blood marred the portrait.

The charade came to an end when the artist himself saw the picture. It told the story. He pled with Dorian to come clean, saying, “Does it not say somewhere, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’?” But in a fit of rage to silence this voice of conscience, Dorian grabbed a knife and killed the artist.

There was now only one thing left for him to do; he took the knife to remove the only visible reminder of his wicked life. But the moment he thrust the blade into the canvas, the portrait returned to its pristine beauty, while Dorian lay stabbed to death on the floor. The ravages that had marred the picture now so disfigured him that even his servants could no longer recognize him.

What a brilliant illustration of how a soul, though invisible, can nonetheless be tarnished. I wonder, if there were to be a portrait of my soul or your soul, how would it best be depicted? Does not the conscience sting, when we think in these terms? Though we have engineered many ways of avoiding physical consequences, how does one cleanse the soul?

Today we find a limitless capacity to raise the question of evil as we see it outside ourselves, but often hold an equal unwillingness to address the evil within us. I once sat on the top floor of a huge corporate building owned by a very successful businessman. Our entire conversation revolved around his reason for unbelief: that there was so much darkness and corruption in this world and a seemingly silent God. Suddenly interrupting the dialogue, a friend of mine said to him, “Since evil troubles you so much, I would be curious to know what you have done with the evil you see within you.” There was red-faced silence.

We too, face Dorian Gray’s predicament. Sooner or later, a duplicitous life reveals the cost. The soul is not forever invisible. But there is one who can cleanse and restore us. The Christian way gives us extraordinary insight into this subject of our soul-struggle, as God deals with the heart of the issue one life at a time. Indeed, in the words of the prophet Isaiah to which Oscar Wilde alluded: “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (1:18). God upholds the solution asking only that we come “willing and obedient,” ready to “come and wash” (1:19,16). So come, willingly and obediently, and find God’s rejoinder to the marred portraits within. The greatest artist of all speaks even today.

 

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

 

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Joyce Meyer – Loving Without Getting Tired

 

Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets free the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous [the upright in heart]. The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow; But He makes crooked the way of the wicked. — Psalm 146:7-9

God speaks frequently in the Bible of our responsibility to the oppressed, hungry, widows, orphans, fatherless and foreigners. He mentions those who are lonely, neglected, forgotten and devalued. He cares deeply for the oppressed and the hungry.

People can be hungry in many ways. They may have plenty of food to eat but still be starving to feel valuable and loved. God lifts up those who are bowed down with sorrow; He protects the stranger and upholds the fatherless and the widow. How does He do this? He works through people. He needs committed, submitted, dedicated people who live to meet the needs of others.

Mother Teresa once said, “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.”

I have come to understand that many people we encounter daily are just trying to survive until someone rescues them—and that someone could be you or me. Let’s allow God’s love for the hurting and broken to work through us, meeting the needs of those who are hurting spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Let’s love without getting tired.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – To Keep You From Sin

 

“How can a young man stay pure? By reading Your Word and following its rules. I have tried my best to find You – don’t let me wander off from Your instructions. I have thought much about Your words, and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin” (Psalm 119:9-11).

Carl, a Christian leader who had made a mess of his life, wept as he shared his defeat. “As a young Christian, “he said, “I was warned that God’s Word would keep me from sin, or sin would keep me from God’s Word.

“For many years,” he continued, “I studied and obeyed God’s Word faithfully. A few years ago I became very busy and took less and less time for God’s Word. So when temptation came, I had no strength to resist. Now my life and marriage have disintegrated and I am thinking of committing suicide.”

If you do not already have a daily practice of spending time alone with God – studying, reading, memorizing and meditating on His Word, and spending time with Him in prayer – I encourage you to do so, beginning today. The spiritual food of God’s Word is absolutely essential for victorious, supernatural living. Great benefit can be found in listening to recordings of the Old and New Testaments, sermons and Christian music on your cassette player, in your home and in your car as you travel.

Scientists and health nutritionists confirm that our physical well-being is largely determined by the food we eat. For example, many people cannot tolerate high quantities of refined foods, such as sugar, white flour and chocolate. When they eat such foods, they become seriously ill physically, mentally and emotionally. Some have even been known to develop criminal tendencies because of what is often diagnosed as hypoglycemia, caused by poor nutrition.

In like manner, our spiritual bodies are influenced by what we absorb from God’s Word and other scripturally based writings. It is impossible to be happy, healthy, strong, virile and fruitful for God without a regular intake from the Word of God.

Bible Reading: Philippians 4:8,9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will determine, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to set aside time each day to read the Bible and pray and wait upon God for His leading and maturing in my life.

 

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Max Lucado -Trust God to Lead

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Worrying is one job you cannot farm out—but you can overcome it! And there’s no better place to begin than Psalm 23:2.  “He leads me beside the still waters,”  David declares. He leads me! God isn’t behind me, yelling, Go! He’s ahead of me bidding, Come! He’s in front, clearing the path and cutting the brush. Standing next to the rocks He warns watch your step there.

Isn’t this what God gave the children of Israel? He promised to supply them with manna each day, but He told them to collect only one day’s supply at a time. Matthew 6:34 says to give your entire attention to what God is doing right now and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. God is leading you– so leave tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow.

Read more Traveling Light

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Bob Dole receives Congressional Gold Medal

 

Bob Dole received Congress’s highest civilian honor yesterday. The World War II veteran, longtime senator, and former presidential candidate was given the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony that included Republican and Democrat leaders, President Trump, and Vice President Pence.

Dole, who is ninety-four years old, can no longer walk. He sat in his wheelchair for the majority of the ceremony. However, when the color guard entered with the American flag and the flags of the Armed Forces, he gestured to an aide. A young man rushed to his side and helped pull him to his feet so he could stand to honor the American flag.

For many years, Sen. Dole has met visitors and fellow veterans at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. In his remarks yesterday, President Trump noted that future generations who come to the Memorial “will hear the story of a great man who rose up from a small town in the heart of America to become a soldier, and a congressman, and leader admired by all. They will hear the story of Bob Dole. And in hearing that story, they will truly learn what it means to be a great American.”

In 1960, President John F. Kennedy quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What we are speaks louder than what we say.”

You may not be able to quote a speech Bob Dole made or describe a law he helped pass, but you will always remember what he did for our country. His sacrifice as a soldier cost the use of his right arm and nearly cost his life. He served in the US Senate with transparency and integrity. He shows us “what it means to be a great American.”

What we do truly speaks louder than what we say.

Seeing Christ in Christians

I became a Christian because I saw Christ in Christians.

As a teenager, after I started visiting a local church, I began to see a joy and peace in the lives of other teenagers in our Sunday school class. One Sunday morning, I asked our teacher how I could have what they had. She led me to faith in Jesus.

Tragically, not every person has the same positive story to tell.

Mahatma Gandhi was a British-educated lawyer before he became a pioneer for independence in his native India. His philosophy of nonviolence and peaceful resistance influenced many in the American civil rights movement, most famously Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gandhi was a man of great personal asceticism, making his own clothes and living on a simple vegetarian diet. His personal integrity and spirituality were crucial factors in his work to help India gain her independence. He has been designated “Father of the Nation”; his birthday is celebrated nationally each October 2.

Gandhi’s relationship with Christianity has been much discussed. He read from the New Testament every day and often quoted from God’s word. As one version goes, Gandhi was once asked by a reporter why he had not become a Christian. Although he had spent years in dialogue with Christian leaders around the world, he replied, “If I had ever met one, I would have become one.”

Another version goes back to a time when Gandhi was exiled in Africa before leading the revolution in India. He was seeking the Lord and reading the New Testament. He became convinced that Christianity was the true religion and that Jesus was the Christ.

He chose to attend a church for the purpose of confessing the Christian faith. But because of his skin color, church members wouldn’t let him in. He then led 750 million people into Hinduism and said, “I would have been a Christian if I hadn’t met one.”

“They recognized that they had been with Jesus”

One of my favorite verses of Scripture comes after Peter made one of the boldest declarations in history. His statement was as controversial and countercultural in his day as in ours: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

How would the authorities respond?

“When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (v. 13).

Let’s spend time with Jesus today and then live in such a way that others know we did. The next Gandhi we meet will be grateful.

 

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Charles Stanley – Misplaced Priorities

 

Luke 12:16-21

The Lord’s parable of the foolish wealthy man is a study in misplaced priorities. Modern believers can learn from three mistakes he made: providing for himself, not others; providing for his body, not his spirit; and providing for this life, not the one to come.

There is a penalty for misplaced priorities. This foolish man passed away with no opportunity to enjoy his goods. What’s even worse, he died with a bankrupt soul.

Serving the Lord and His kingdom is the key to setting correct goals. When believers make service for God a main concern, they will use a lens of righteousness to order their priorities. The question we ought to be asking is not “What shall I do?” but rather “Lord, what would You have me do?” The answer—which should be prayerfully sought and biblically evaluated—dictates which things we must put first in order to achieve God’s purpose for us.

Life is not something that simply happens to people. Where we are today is largely determined by the way we prioritized our concerns in previous months and years. This means that we can positively impact our future by organizing our priorities according to biblical guidelines. Then, unlike the foolish man in Jesus’ parable, we will learn the eternal value of providing for others so that our own soul is fed. More than that, we will “store up for [our]selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matt. 6:20).

Bible in One Year: Exodus 4-6

 

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Our Daily Bread — Growing Gratitude

 

Read: Romans 11:33–36

Bible in a Year: Genesis 41–42; Matthew 12:1–23

For from him and through him and for him are all things.—Romans 11:36

Would you like to cultivate a greater sense of gratitude? George Herbert, a seventeenth-century British poet, encourages readers toward that goal in his poem “Gratefulness”: “Thou that hast given so much to me, give one thing more: a grateful heart.”

Herbert recognized the only thing he needed in order to be thankful was simply an awareness of the blessings God had already given him.

The Bible declares Christ Jesus as the source of all blessing in Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and for him are all things.” “All things” encompasses both the extravagant and the mundane, everyday gifts in our lives. Everything we receive in life comes directly from our heavenly Father (James 1:17), and He willingly gives us those gifts out of His love for us.

To expand my awareness of God’s blessings in my life, I am learning to cultivate a heart that acknowledges the source of all the joys I experience each day, but especially the ones I often take for granted. Today those included a crisp morning to run, the anticipation of an evening with friends, a stocked pantry so I could make French toast with my daughters, the beauty of the world outside my window, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

What is the “so much” that God has already given to you? Opening our eyes to those blessings will help us to develop grateful hearts. —Lisa Samra

Take a few minutes to thank God for what comes to your mind right now. Try to do that throughout the day as well.

When you think of all that’s good, thank God.Welcome to Lisa Samra! Meet all our authors at odb.org/all-authors.

INSIGHT: Do you tend to think of yourself as more or less thankful than other people? Consider how the apostle Paul used that question to set a love-trap for some of his readers. Early in his letter to the Romans he describes those who have no interest in worshiping or giving thanks to their Creator (Romans 1:21). For the rest of chapter he describes the unraveling lives of those who refuse to acknowledge the goodness of their God.

Then it happens. Paul anticipates that someone has taken the bait. With no warning he asks his readers whether they really think they are any different than the unthankful sinners he has been condemning (2:1). Paul then spends much of the rest of his letter giving his readers reasons to give thanks to God for revealing in Christ the greatest good news the world has ever heard. Just before erupting in his great expression of worshipful praise to God (11:33-36), Paul concludes, “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (v. 32).

In the smallest kindness, a thankful heart can sense the greatness of our God. Mart DeHaan

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Soul of the City

 

In the early 80s, an image campaign began in the city of Atlanta with the hopes of encouraging Atlantans to see their city with pride and hope—despite some of its darker plaguing issues of race relations, violence, poverty, and unemployment. The jingle was endearing, if cheesy, chirping birds in the background and all:

There’s a feeling in the air, that you can’t get anywhere… except in Georgia. I taste a thousand yesterdays and I still love the magic ways of Atlanta.

The lyrics stayed mostly the same for years, though they came out with a country version, as well as a version featuring the Commodores in the mid 80s. The accompanying pictures were all hometown, feel-good scenes: firm hand-shakes, hot dogs in the park, a couple blissfully showing off their engagement with the city skyline behind them. All of it was meant to inspire nostalgia, loyalty, and camaraderie—and to counter some of the more negative images and present uncertainties at that time. Those who remember it speak of the “Hello Atlanta!” song quite fondly, attesting to its convincing look at Atlanta’s unique brand of urbanism and the pride that the song actually did drum up for their city.

Makes no difference where I go, You’re the best hometown I know. Hello, Atlanta. Hello, Georgia. We love you on 11 Alive!

The song served as something of an anthem for the city, so much so that Ira Glass recently featured it on his program This American Life.(1) He interviewed people who remembered the song. And then he completely burst their unique sense of city-pride by playing for them the exact same song and lyrics with “Milwaukee” or “Calgary” substituted out in chorus and pictures. As it turned out, this “image campaign” was a syndicated campaign that took place in 167 different cities worldwide. There’s a feeling in the air, that you can’t get anywhere, except… fill in the blank.

In the chapters of Isaiah, the ancient prophet presents a complex meditation about the destiny of Jerusalem into the crises of exile and the promise of Jerusalem out of exile into new well-being. This city of intense promise that he lauds in poetry, in lament, and public proclamation is not a song like Hello Atlanta (or Hello Any City, USA as it turns out). Isaiah’s is not an image campaign meant to play on a syndicated sense of nostalgia for the masses, pie in the sky images of life meant to erase the darker scenes of their present reality. Nor is it the sort of meditation that one can substitute a different city or a different set of people and still hold onto any semblance of his bold and hopeful lyric.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he proclaims, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted…to restore faint spirits, to give gladness instead of mourning.(2) For a people who had been through the darkness of captivity and exile and the loss of everything they loved and held near, this is exactly what they had longed to hear from the God they suspected had abandoned them and the city they loved: Through Isaiah, God says, I have not forgotten you. In fact, I am sending good news for you in darkness. I am going to comfort you who mourn and care for you who are grieving. I will bestow on you a crown of beauty instead of the ashes you have been sitting with. And I am bringing garments of praise for you to put on, instead of the spirit of despair you have been carrying.

Isaiah paints in stirring metaphor and image the potent Hebrew concept of Shalom. We translate this word as “peace” in English, but this misses far too much. While it is possible to consider peace abstractly, shalom cannot be extracted from its multi-level application to every part of life as we know it. Shalom is closer to human flourishing. It is God’s gift of peace, but it is also God’s enacting of good news, God’s offering of well-being in such a way that we are able to hold it, to take it in, and taste it—like the great wedding feast Jesus uses to describe what it looks like to be gathered together in God’s care and comfort. Shalom is beauty for ashes and comfort for the grieving. It is not an abstract, inaccessible picture of life as it could be or life simply as it will be one day. It is not an escape vehicle from the harsh realities of life. Surely God’s promise of shalom involves dimensions beyond time as we know it. But the Hebrew word Shalom very profoundly aims at the flourishing of bodies and souls and life as we find it presently, dark though it is.(3) Beauty and comfort and release and gladness and joy are indeed proclaimed, but it all comes as the promise of a God who is somehow present in the midst of Israel’s complicated, difficult, dark and beautiful realities.

In a time when religion is often viewed as an opiate or an escape from reality, Isaiah presents a clear challenge. His description of life renewed is not at all like an image campaign to help us forget the harder realities of life, to woo us with images that simply erase our earlier recollections of despair. If we were going to put it in terms of an image campaign, in fact, Isaiah’s promising words and the gospel that brings these promises to life sing a rather unflattering, enigmatic song about a very meek Son of God who appears on the scene of a fairly unimpressive city: not the Jerusalem of royalty and fanfare, but the back streets of Bethlehem where we are given not easy answers but a baby who embodies something far different.

The promise of God’s shalom is not a thin attempt to distract us from our own darkness or a flimsy pat on the back for the profound brokenness of the world. It is not an image campaign to make us feel better, but the unexpected gift of one who, somehow, mercifully, can hold it all.

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

(1) “No Place Like Home,” This American Life, episode 520, March 14, 2014. Ira Glass tells the story from the point of view of Calgary.

(2) See Isaiah 61, particularly 61:1-3.

(3) “Dark though it is” is a line from the W.S. Merwin poem, “Thanks,” written in 1927.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – Giving Must Cost You Something

 

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will certainly buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” So David purchased the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.— 2 Samuel 24:24

I believe that in God’s economy, nothing cheap is worth having. God gave His only Son to free us, and while we can never equal that sacrifice, we must give back to Him in a way that means something. King David said he would not give God something that cost him nothing. And I have learned that true giving is not giving until I can feel it.

Giving away the clothes and household items I’m finished with may be a nice gesture, but it doesn’t equal real giving. Real giving occurs when I give somebody something that I want to keep.

I’m sure you’ve had those testing times when God asks you to give away something you like. But when you consider how He gave His only Son for us because of His love for us, doesn’t that make you want to give of yourself too?

The simple truth is this: We must give to be happy, and giving is not true giving if it doesn’t cost us something.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – How to Skip Judgment

 

“Now I say that each believer should confess his sins to God when he is aware of them, while there is time to be forgiven. Judgment will not touch him if he does” (Psalm 32:6).

Mary had rebelled against the preaching of her Nazarene father, a godly pastor. She lived with her boy friend in open defiance of her biblical teaching. Now, God was disciplining her because of disobedience. She was miserable, filled with hate and resentment, when a mutual friend brought her to my office for counsel.

I shared with Mary that just as a loving father disciplines a disobedient child, so God in His love for us disciplines us when we are disobedient. Actually, “child training” would be a more accurate way of describing what God does for us when we are disobedient.

Like Mary, many Christians unnecessarily go through all kinds of adversity: financial, emotional, marital and family problems, and even physical illness. More often than not, God is trying to get their attention. But because they refuse to listen and obey Him, they are disciplined and their misery continues.

Beware, of course, that you do not assume that every time friends or loved ones have difficult experiences, they are being disciplined by God because of disobedience. It may well be that God is working in their lives as He did in Job’s not because of disobedience but to help them mature and become more fruitful and effective witnesses or models of His grace to others.

When you personally, like Mary, are going through adversity, however, and problems continue to plague your life, you would do well to look into the mirror of God’s Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if there is any unconfessed sin in your life. If there is, be quick to turn to the Lord, confess your sins and receive His forgiveness and cleansing in order to avoid further chastening.

Bible Reading: Psalm 32:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will write down on paper, for my own personal information only, any known weakness, sin or sins that are plaguing me today. I will confess that sin, or those sins, and receive by faith God’s forgiveness and cleansing. (If you are continuing to breathe spiritually, you will not allow sins to accumulate, for the moment you become aware of sin you confess it to the Lord and keep on walking in the light as He is in the light.)

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Give Up Your Bag of Burdens

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Worry is the burlap bag of burdens.  It’s overflowing with “whaddifs” and “howells.” Whaddif after all my dieting, I find that lettuce is fattening and chocolate isn’t?  Howell we pay our baby’s tuition?”  Whaddifs and howells…the burlap bag of worry. Cumbersome. Chunky. Unattractive. Scratchy.  Irritating to carry and impossible to give away!

No one wants your worries.  The truth is, you don’t want them either. No one has to remind you of the high cost of anxiety, but I will anyway. Worry divides the mind.  It splits our energy between today’s priorities and tomorrow’s problems.  The result is half-minded living!

Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to “boldly approach the throne of our gracious God, where we may receive mercy and, in His grace, find timely help.”  God’s help is timely!  God will do the right thing at the right time.  And what a difference that makes!

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