Tag Archives: religion

Charles Stanley – Our God of Grace

 

Ephesians 2:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

Bible in One Year: Exodus 13-15

 

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Our Daily Bread — Clean Containers

 

Bible in a Year:

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

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

Proverbs 10:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Elisa Morgan

Reflect & Pray

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

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

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Call to Maladjustment

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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Joyce Meyer – A Force for Good

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Max Lucado – To Love a Stranger

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bible Reading: Galatians 5:17-26

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

 

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

 

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

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

Faith and football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Stanley – Religious but Lost

 

John 3:1-6

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

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

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

Bible in One Year: Genesis 4-7

 

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Our Daily Bread — Prompted to Pray

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Genesis 1–3
  • Matthew 1

I constantly remember you in my prayers.

2 Timothy 1:3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: James Banks

Reflect & Pray

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

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

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

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Hindsight, Eyesight, and Insight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joyce Meyer – How to Choose Good Friends

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Max Lucado – An Opportunity to Make a Difference

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISIS beheads Nigerian Christians

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

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

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

The countercultural way to be “blessed”

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

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

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

What persecution teaches us

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

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

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

65,000 students began the new year in worship

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

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

Let’s join them.

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

 

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Charles Stanley – Christmas Giving

 

Matthew 2:1-12

Why do we give gifts at Christmas? When we were children, presents were the highlight of the season, and for some of us, the joy of giving and receiving gifts has not waned. Some people wonder what all this has to do with the celebration of Christ’s birth. But there is a connection—although nothing came wrapped in paper, the occasion was marked by extravagant generosity.

God gave His only begotten Son. This was greatest gift ever given, because His precious Son was the only one who could die as a sacrifice for our sins.

Mary gave her body and reputation. When the angel told her she would bear the Son of God, Mary responded, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Although this was a glorious privilege, it also included the loss of her reputation. Her engagement to Joseph was as binding as marriage, and to be found pregnant before the actual ceremony would have been scandalous in the people’s eyes.

The shepherds gave a testimony. After hearing the birth announcement from the angel and seeing the newborn Messiah, they couldn’t keep the news to themselves. They told everyone what they had heard and seen (Luke 2:17-20).

The magi gave gifts and worship. Having traveled a long distance to find this new King of the Jews, they fell to the ground in worship and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).

Although materialism and commercialism have hijacked the tradition of gift giving to some degree, we must also remember the true generosity that is at the heart of Christmas.

Bible in One Year: 1 Peter 1-5

 

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Our Daily Bread — A String of Yeses

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Nahum 1–3
  • Revelation 14

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:19

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Luke 2:15–19

One Christmas, my grandmother gave me a beautiful pearl necklace. The beautiful beads glowed about my neck until one day the string broke. Balls bounced in all directions off our home’s hardwood flooring. Crawling over the planks, I recovered each tiny orb. On their own, they were small. But oh, when strung together, those pearls made such an impression!

Sometimes my yeses to God seem so insignificant—like those individual pearls. I compare myself to Mary, the mother of Jesus who was so fantastically obedient. She said yes when she embraced God’s call for her to carry the Messiah. “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’” (Luke 1:38). Did she understand all that would be required of her? That an even bigger yes to relinquishing her Son on the cross loomed ahead?

After the visits of the angels and shepherds, Luke 2:19 tells us that Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Treasure means to “store up.” Ponder means to “thread together.” The phrase is repeated of Mary in Luke 2:51. She would respond with many yeses over her lifetime.

As with Mary, the key to our obedience might be a threading together of various yeses to our Father’s invitations, one at a time, until they string into the treasure of a surrendered life.

By: Elisa Morgan

Reflect & Pray

What yeses do you need to say to God? How can you learn to be more obedient?

Dear God, help us to respond, one yes at a time, to Your ongoing work in our lives.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Peace That God Brings

 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Ours is a world in which few people would look to the government for signs of hope. Corruption of power seems more the norm than the ideal presented in Isaiah’s vision of a government ruled by a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, or Prince of Peace. Instead, most view government with a sense of cynicism and despair, and few would see government as the conduit for peace.

In Isaiah’s day, there were many foreign powers and rulers that threatened both Israel and Judah. And, within Isaiah’s lifetime, Judah would go into exile under Babylonian rule. Thus, the original recipients of Isaiah’s prophecy would have heard a promise that a king was coming who would be wise and powerful. He would inaugurate an everlasting age of peace, and foreign powers would no longer threaten or rule over the people of Israel. This prophecy brought light in dark times.

However, the history of Israel tells another story. Isaiah lived and prophesied during the divided kingdom of Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Israel would be conquered by the Assyrians, and soon the kingdom of Judah would be ruled by the Babylonians. Judah would continue to see foreign powers rule over her in the form of the Persians, Greeks, and the Romans. Ultimately, Judah would see the destruction of Jerusalem and the diaspora of its people from the land.

Was Isaiah wrong in his prophecy, or did he see something more than simply a political kingdom or earthly government for the Jewish people?

The promised child foretold in Isaiah’s vision was not simply a human king or ruler who would come to establish an earthly kingdom. Rather, the titles Mighty God and Everlasting Father attributed to the child to be born indicate that this coming ruler is divine. While the Jews did not have a concept of incarnation in their understanding of God, Isaiah foresees a day when God would be with the people, as Immanuel, “God with us.” And if God was the one who would come among human beings to rule and reign, then that rule would be characterized by wisdom, Wonderful Counselor, and peace—shalom—the well-being of all the people.

But, what kind of peace does God bring if it is not the peace that ends wars and strife among human beings and with the created world? We begin to find answers in the advent of Jesus, and his death and resurrection.

First, the peace that God brings in Jesus heals our estrangement that results from sin. The apostle Paul writes: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). This is the “gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15); God is “making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

Second, the peace that God brings enables us to have peace within our hearts because of our reconciliation with our Creator and his Spirit at work within us. It is the well-being that comes from reconciliation with God.

Third, because we have peace within, we can pursue peace with others—friends and enemies—alike. Indeed, the apostle Paul marvels at the new unity between Jew and Gentile when he writes, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, (Ephesians 2:14-15).

Isaiah’s vision came at a time of intense fear for Judah when foreign powers attacked and oppressed her on every side. He saw a day when God would rule the people with wisdom and peace and when this rule would have no end. We, too, can take heart, no matter where we live and no matter the government we live under. God has come near to us in Jesus and established a government that is available to us as we walk in fellowship under his rule. In Jesus, we have a Wonderful Counselor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, and a Prince of Peace.

Margaret Manning Shull is an adjunct speaker and writer with RZIM and a licensed counselor.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – Count Your Blessings

 

Through Him, therefore, let us at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name. — Hebrews 13:15 (AMP)

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

Recently I have been writing down 10 things each day that I am thankful for, and each day I try to make them something different. I am literally counting my blessings, and it has been a fun project.

It is amazing how many things we can begin to take for granted unless we purpose to remember how blessed we are. By looking for 10 different things each day, I have gone beyond the things I would normally think of, and have been pleasantly surprised by all the things I have realized are blessings in my life that I certainly would not want to do without—even things like the smell of a good candle or hot and cold running water.

Let’s be aggressive in offering God the fruit of lips thankfully praising Him!

Prayer Starter: Father, help me realize how much I have to be thankful for. Thank You for reminding me to be thankful!

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Power Over Discouragement

 

“And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up” (Galatians 6:9).

“Yes, I do get tired inthe work, but I never get tired ofthe work.” I have heard many missionaries, ministers and other Christian leaders make such a statement. I echo their sentiments.

The first half of this wonderful verse is the sower’s imperative; the second half is the sower’s reward. The first half is my responsibility; the second is God’s – which of course means that I should concern myself only with the first half, since our faithful God always keeps His promises.

One of the enemy’s greatest weapons is discouragement. Years ago that great saint and prophet, A.W. Tozer, preached a sermon on this subject in which he recognized discouragement solely as a tool of the devil, hence one he would refuse to accept in his own life.

It is because of Satan’s wiles in this regard – in causing us to be discouraged and give up – that one of God’s greatest gifts to His children is the gift of exhortation and encouragement, with emphasis on the latter. How many believers have been strengthened to carry on because of the helpful, encouraging word of a friend! And how important that you and I become that kind of friend. Yet, God’s promise of encouragement is far more important.

To “keep on keeping on” is easier when we know that God is faithful.

Bible Reading: Galatians 6:1-8

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With power from the Holy Spirit who lives within me, I will refuse to allow Satan’s trick of discouragement to hinder my work, my walk and my witness for the Lord.

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – No Room in the Inn

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Some of the saddest words on earth are we don’t have room for you.  Jesus knew the sounds of those words.  He was still in Mary’s womb when the innkeeper said, “We don’t have room for you.” And when he hung on the cross, wasn’t the message one of utter rejection?  “We don’t have room for you in this world.”

Today Jesus is given the same treatment.  He goes from heart to heart, asking if he might enter. Every so often, he is welcomed.  Someone throws open the door of his or her heart and invites him to stay.  And to that person Jesus gives this great promise.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2).  We make room for him in our hearts, and Jesus makes room for us in his house!

 

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 – Is Alexa the new Santa? Experiencing the power of Christmas

Here’s a sign of the times: children are asking Alexa to bring them presents their parents didn’t order.

A five-year-old boy ordered a Tesla; fortunately for his family, Amazon delivered Tesla-branded running pants rather than a car. A mother says her four-year-old learned how to use her iPad to shop on Amazon and “boxes and boxes arrived. He was jumping up and down with excitement that he had ordered all this stuff.”

Here’s a more ominous sign of the times: the Wall Street Journal is reporting on “the generation gap over church at Christmas.” The subheading explains: “Strains surface when millennial children who rarely attend religious services visit baby-boomer parents who do.” The article cites a report that 52 percent of Boomers see Christmas as a religious holiday, compared to 32 percent of millennials.

The last statistic explains Pope Francis’ statement to Vatican officials that “we are no longer under a Christian regime because the faith—especially in Europe, but also in much of the West—no longer constitutes an obvious premise of common life. On the contrary, it is even often denied, derided, marginalized and ridiculed.”

The ceiling at St. George’s Chapel

This Christmas week, we’re going to see what Christmas can teach a post-Christian culture about Christ. Today we’ll learn about his power and discover why such omnipotence is still so relevant to us.

Colossians 1 states that the Christ of Christmas is “the image of the invisible God” (v. 15). This is an astounding fact.

St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle is famous as the burial place of Henry VIII as well as the location where Prince Harry and Princess Meghan were married. I have toured it several times and am always amazed by its stunningly beautiful ceiling. But staring up at this exquisite architectural masterpiece is difficult, so a mirror has been placed on the ground.

When we stand before it, we can look down to see up.

That’s the idea here: Jesus came down to earth so we could see the God who lives in heaven. However, the Greek word for “image” also shares in the nature of that which it reflects. A mirror is not a person, though it reflects one. But Jesus is God, not just his reflection. He is “God made visible.”

Circling our planet 7.5 times a second

The Bible describes Jesus’ pre-Christmas divinity in other startling ways as well.

John 1 notes that “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (v. 3). Scientists tell us that the diameter of the observable universe is around 92,000,000,000 light-years. (A light-year is the distance light can travel in a year. If you could travel that fast, you could circle the Earth 7.5 times in one second.)

And Jesus made all of that.

Hebrews 1 adds that Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (v. 3). Scientists tell us that our planet weighs about 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. Ours is one of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in our observable universe.

And Jesus “upholds” all of that.

The God who became a baby

Then came the moment when the God who made and maintains our universe entered our tiny planet. He condensed his omnipotence down to become a fetus, the tiniest human life, in the womb of a Galilean teenage girl. He demonstrated his inestimable power not just in making the universe but in making himself a baby within it.

Then that baby grew up. The Christ of Christmas would walk on water and calm stormy seas. He would open blind eyes and heal leprous limbs and raise dead bodies. He would feed five thousand families and cast out demons and defeat death at Easter.

Now, all the power of the Christ of Christmas is available to those who trust him fully. Because of the omnipotence of Christ living in us, we have his power over temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13); we can overcome Satan (1 John 2:14); we can pray effectively for those in need (James 5:15); and we can take the gospel to the entire world (Acts 1:8).

In short, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). At Christmas, the omnipotent God proved that he could live in human flesh.

He still can.

How to experience the power of Christmas

How can we experience the power of Christmas in culture-changing ways?

One: Go to God first. We will have the power of Christmas when we submit to the Christ of Christmas.

Two: Stay close to God all day. We will have the power of Christmas when we walk with the Christ of Christmas.

Three: Focus on the purpose of God. We will have the power of Christmas when we serve and glorify the Christ of Christmas.

A post-Christian culture will see the relevance of Christ in our world when it sees the relevance of Christ in us. Frederick Buechner: “For millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it. It is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him.”

Will you manifest the power of Christmas today?

 

http://www.denisonforum.org/