Tag Archives: spirituality

Denison Forum – Police attacked in Philadelphia: Three vital responses

 

“I thank God for these cops.”

That’s the sentiment of a woman protected by police officers amid an unfolding crisis in Philadelphia last night.

Officers went to a house to serve a state narcotics warrant when they came under fire. Nearby daycare centers with dozens of children inside were evacuated. Women were escorted from the building where the suspect was located. Police urged residents to avoid the area.

Some of the officers responding to the incident had to escape the building through windows and doors. Six officers were injured, but the Philadelphia mayor said they have been released from the hospital and are in “good spirits.” SWAT officers helped evacuate two other officers and four women who had been trapped inside the home.

After almost eight hours, the suspect surrendered just after midnight. The city’s police commissioner identified him as Maurice Hill, age thirty-six, and stated that he has an extensive criminal history.

The death of Officer Andre Moye, Jr.

Much attention has been focused recently on those killed by police officers. Scrutiny has especially centered on allegations of police misconduct.

But much less attention has been paid to officers who have died in the line of duty.

As the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) notes, “When a police officer is killed, it’s not an agency that loses an officer, it’s an entire nation.” The ODMP lists seventy-three line of duty deaths this year, 163 last year, and 908 in the last five years.

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Charles Stanley – External Causes of Discouragement

 

Colossians 3:23-24

Whether in the workplace or elsewhere, discouragement can hit from many angles, depleting energy and productivity. To lessen its paralyzing effect, wise believers learn to detect its sources and symptoms. Let’s examine some external causes.

Unresolved disappointments. This could be letdowns caused by our own failed expectations or someone else’s.

Constant criticism. Frequent put-downs can make us think, What’s wrong with me? Yet unless God reveals truth in such comments, learn to let them go.

The feeling that no one’s listening. This can leave us with a sense of rejection.

A sense we aren’t appreciated after doing our best. We at times get so tied to our work that someone’s failure to acknowledge our efforts can feel like a personal rebuff.

Bad working conditions. Many believers enjoy what they do but pick up on coworkers’ cruelty, bitterness, or refusal to recognize their investment of time, energy, or creativity. This can make it extremely difficult to get motivated about going to work each day.

Lacking opportunities to shine. A job that doesn’t make the best use of one’s gifts and abilities can wear a person down. So can tight-fisted management that limits freedom to make innovations.

Oftentimes, it’s the people we see every day who seem to have the most power for causing discouragement in our lives. Read through the list again. Do any of the above scenarios sound familiar? If so, pray for the strength to face these external discouragers with renewed confidence and grace.

Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 18-21

 

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Our Daily Bread — The Illusion of Control

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 89–90; Romans 14

You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.

James 4:14

Today’s Scripture & Insight:James 4:13–17

Ellen Langer’s 1975 study titled The Illusion of Control examined the level of influence we exert over life’s events. She found that we overestimate our degree of control in most situations. The study also demonstrated how reality nearly always shatters our illusion.

Langer’s conclusions are supported by experiments carried out by others since the study was published. However, James identified the phenomenon long before she named it. In James 4, he wrote, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (vv. 13–14).

Then James provides a cure for the delusion, pointing to the One who’s in absolute control: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (v. 15). In these few verses, James summarized both a key failing of the human condition and its antidote.

May we understand that our fate doesn’t rest in our own hands. Because God holds all things in His capable hands, we can trust His plans!

By:  Remi Oyedele

Reflect & Pray

In what ways have you given in to the illusion that you’re in control of your fate? How can you turn over your plans to God and leave your future in His hands?

Heavenly Father, I place all of my life in Your loving hands. Thank You for Your good plans for me.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Longing Rendered

The places in literature that most often slow my mind to a reflective halt are usually intensely visual. Among them, perhaps surprisingly to some, are images from ancient scriptures that offer some of the most beautiful depictions. The resounding cry of Isaiah 64:1, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,” seems to leave a trail of the most desperate, sorrowing, hopeful faces in its wake, men and women longing in agreement. Fitting with Isaiah’s vision for a world that revolves around God as good and worthy king, his cry was a fervent prayer for the severe presence of a God he knew could come nearer.

Like the God for which he longed, the prophet’s words are intense, stirring, and intentional. Isaiah’s use of words—in fact, the entire genre of prophetic literature—cries out with poetic vision. As Abraham Heschel comments, “Prophecy is the product of a poetic imagination. Prophecy is poetry, and in poetry everything is possible, e.g. for the trees to celebrate a birthday and for God to speak to man.”(1) And that is to say, God gives us something of the divine character in the prophet’s powerful interplay of word, metaphor, and image. As messenger, the prophet yields the words of God, and the poetic nature of prophetic speech reveals a God who speaks in couplets, a God who uses simile and metaphor, rhythm and sound, alliteration, repetition, and rhetorical questions. Any reading of prophetic speech requires that one engage these poetic structures. A quick scan of Isaiah 64:1 reveals a depth of interacting words and key patterns, and a metaphor that moves us like the mountains Isaiah describes:

If only you would cleave the heavens!
(If only) you would come down,
From facing you, mountains would quake!

These few stanzas make use of repeated words and paired images to convey an intensity about human longing for the transcendence of God. The cry is not merely for God’s presence, but a presence that will tear open the heavens and cause mountains—even Mount Zion and the children of God—to tremble. Set in the opening line, the Hebrew word qarata is as illustrative in tone as it is meaning. The guttural sound and sharp stop in its pronunciation contribute to the severity of the word itself, which means to tear, to rend, to sever, or to split an object into two or more parts. “Oh that you would rend the heavens…”  “If only you would cleave open the heavens and come down…”

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Joyce Meyer – Passing the Test

 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test you [that is, to test the quality of your faith], as though something strange or unusual were happening to you. — 1 Peter 4:12 (AMP)

Adapted from the resource Power Thoughts Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

God sometimes allows us to be in less than desirable situations to test our “quality.” Quite often, He is planning a promotion for us in life if we pass the test in front of us. We are like children in school who must pass tests in order to be promoted to the next grade. Are you passing the test—refusing to murmur, complain, or blame when things don’t go your way?

You should praise and bless God while you are in the low valleys of life as well as when you are on the mountaintops. If you are in a difficult or trying situation right now, discipline yourself not to complain, but instead give praise and glory to God.

Prayer Starter: Father, You see my current circumstances, and Your Word says that You’ll never allow more to come on me than I can handle (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). Please help me to glorify You today…to press forward and do everything I need to do with a good attitude. Help me to press past my difficulties and never give up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Whatsoever You Desire 

 

“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:23,24, KJV).

How big is your God? If the Holy Spirit were to withdraw from your life and from the fellowship of your local church, would he be missed? In other words, is there anything supernatural about your life or the local church where you have fellowship with other believers?

A skeptic, contrasting the actor and Christian worker, gave this evaluation: The actor presents fiction as though it were true. The Christian worker all too often presents truth as though it were fiction.

A militant atheist attacked Christians with this accusation: “You say that your God is omnipotent, that He created the heavens and the earth. You say that He is a loving God who sent His only Son to die on the cross for the sins of man and on the third day was raised from the dead. You say that through faith in Him one could have a whole new quality of life, of peace, love and joy; a purpose and meaning plus the assurance of eternal life. I say to you that is a lie and you know it, because if you really believe what you say you believe, you would pay whatever price it took to tell everyone who would listen. What you claim is without question the greatest news the world has ever heard, but it couldn’t be true or you would be more enthusiastic about it. If I believed what you believe, I would sell everything I have and use every resource at my command to reach the largest possible number of people with this good news.”

Unfortunately, the critics and the skeptics have good reason to find fault with us. It is true that, if we really believed what we say we believe, we would be constrained, as the apostle Paul, to tell everyone who would listen about Christ, mindful that there is nothing more important in all the world that we could do. At the same time we would claim our rights as children of God, drawing upon the supernatural resources of God.

Bible Reading: Mark 11:20-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will seek to know God better by studying His Word and meditating upon his attributes so that His supernatural qualities will become more and more a part of my life for the glory and praise of His name.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

The apostle Paul said, “Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life”  (Galatians 6:4-5).

Before Thomas Merton followed Christ, he followed money, fame and society.  He shocked many of his colleagues when he exchanged it all for the life of a Trappist monk.  Many years later a friend visited the monastery and could see no important difference in him.  “Tom, he said, “you haven’t changed at all.”  “Why should I?  “Here,” he said, “our duty is to be more like ourselves, not less.”

God never called you to be anyone other than you.  But he does call you to be the best you that you can be.  The big question is, at your best, who are you?

Read more Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot

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Denison Forum – How did Jeffrey Epstein really die? Conspiracy theories and the key to cultural impact

The two staff members guarding the jail unit where Jeffrey Epstein apparently killed himself fell asleep and failed to check on him for about three hours, according to this morning’s New York Times. They then falsified records to cover up their mistake. The two employees were placed on administrative leave yesterday and the warden of the jail was temporarily reassigned.

Skepticism surrounding Epstein’s death has ranged across the political spectrum, from President Trump and Rudy Giuliani to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

“We have to ask who stood to gain from his permanent silence,” said Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe. “Who could he have incriminated in an effort to win favorable treatment from the Trump Justice Department?”

Such questions reflect our growing skepticism of our government and elected leaders. According to Pew Research Center, public trust in government was near 80 percent in the mid-1960s. Today, such trust has fallen to 17 percent.

Only 3 percent of Americans say they trust the federal government to do what is right “just about always”; 14 percent say they trust it “most of the time.”

Did the military create Lyme disease?

Conspiracy theories have long been with us.

On the recent fiftieth anniversary of the lunar landing, claims that NASA faked Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk received renewed attention.

Next month, the remains of FBI bank robber John Dillinger will be exhumed. For eighty-five years since his death, conspiracy theorists have claimed that the FBI killed a body double. DNA testing could confirm the corpse’s true identity.

Some have questioned whether Lyme disease in the US resulted from an accidental release of a secret bioweapons experiment by the military. And more than two million people signed on to a Facebook event to storm Area 51 in Nevada seeking evidence of aliens. The event was a joke drawing on decades of conspiracy theories, but the response shows how pervasive these theories have become.

Continue reading Denison Forum – How did Jeffrey Epstein really die? Conspiracy theories and the key to cultural impact

Charles Stanley – Dealing With Discouragement

 

Psalm 42:1-8

How can we conquer discouragement? Let me suggest nine specific tips:

  1. Look within. Examine yourself for the underlying cause.
  2. Admit that you are discouraged. This is something that’s easy to avoid, ignore, or lie about, but denial doesn’t help you grow.
  3. Identify precisely what you are discouraged about. Name it—then face it.
  4. Recall the nature of discouragement. Disappointments will come and go, but discouragement is a response, and we can respond in other ways.
  5. Begin meditating frequently on Scripture. God’s truth can help you accurately evaluate what you feel.
  6. Take your area of discouragement to God in prayer. Ask Him to reveal what He wants to teach you in this area of your life.
  7. Focus on the Lord, not your situation. Ask Him to help you see this disappointment and its lessons from His perspective.
  8. View the cause as coming from the Lord. If we understand that He allows disappointments, we can find meaning in trouble.
  9. Confess three things: The Father is with me in the pain; He’s in control of my life and has allowed this for a reason; He is a good God, who will not let this disappointment be in vain. Try speaking these truths out loud.

Discouragement may sound harmless enough, but don’t underestimate its power. By keeping watch, you can avoid its deadly trap. So write down these nine steps on an index card, and then review the list whenever disappointments start to consume your thinking.

Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 15-17

 

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Our Daily Bread — Jesus in Disguise

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 87–88; Romans 13

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Proverbs 19:17

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Matthew 25:31–40

My son Geoff recently participated in a “homeless simulation.” He spent three days and two nights living on the streets of his city, sleeping outside in below freezing temperatures. Without food, money, or shelter, he relied on the kindness of strangers for his basic needs. On one of those days his only food was a sandwich, bought by a man who heard him asking for stale bread at a fast-food restaurant.

Geoff told me later it was one of the hardest things he’d ever done, yet it profoundly impacted his outlook on others. He spent the day after his “simulation” seeking out homeless people who had been kind to him during his time on the street, doing what he could to assist them in simple ways. They were surprised to discover he wasn’t actually homeless and were grateful he cared enough to try to see life through their eyes.

My son’s experience calls to mind Jesus’s words: “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . . Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:36, 40). Whether we give a word of encouragement or a bag of groceries, God calls us to lovingly attend to the needs of others. Our kindness to others is kindness to Him.

By:  James Banks

Reflect & Pray

What little kindness can you extend to another? When have you been the recipient of another’s kindness?

Dear Jesus, help me to see You in the needs of others today and to love You by loving them.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Fully Alive

 

The glory of God is the human person fully alive. I first read this quote by Irenaeus of Lyons while still a graduate student. In my early rendering of this evocative statement, I imagined people at play in a field of flowers, the sun shining brightly. Everyone is happy and smiling, laughing even, as they dance and play in the fields of the Lord. As I pictured it in my mind’s eye, the human person fully alive was a person alive to possibility, never-ending opportunities, and always happy. How could it be otherwise with God’s glory as the enlivening force?

One author suggests the same in his commentary on Irenaeus’ statement:

“God’s intentions towards me might be better than I’d thought. His happiness and my happiness are tied together? My coming fully alive is what He’s committed to? That’s the offer of Christianity? Wow! I mean, it would make no small difference if we knew–and I mean really knew–that down-deep-in-your-toes kind of knowing that no one and nothing can talk you out of–if we knew that our lives and God’s glory were bound together. Things would start looking up. It would feel promising…the offer is life.”(1)

Despite my romantic imagination and the author’s exuberant interpretation, I am often perplexed as to just what “fully alive” looks like for many people in our world. How would this read to women in the Congo, for example, whose lives are torn apart by tribal war and violence against their own bodies? What would this mean to an acquaintance of mine who is a young father recently diagnosed with lymphoma? What about those who are depressed? Or who live with profound disabilities?

If feeling alive is only that God is happy when we are happy, then perhaps God is quite sad. Surely God’s glory is much larger than human happiness, isn’t it? Certainly, happiness is a gift and a blessing of the human experience, and for many it is there in abundance. Yet, are those who have reason for sorrow—those who do not find themselves amidst fields of flowers or bounty, those who have to work to find goodness—are they beyond the reflection of God’s glory?

The reality is that Irenaeus’ oft-used and oft-interpreted statement had a specific, apologetic context that was not really about human happiness. Irenaeus lived during a time when gnostic sects were trying to deny the real flesh and blood reality of Jesus. In their alternative view, only the spirit was redeemed, and the body should be ignored at best, or indulged at worst, since nothing regarding the body mattered. As a result, they denied the full humanity of Jesus. He could not have died a physical death on the cross, since he was merely an enlightened spirit, or some form of lesser deity. And he was certainly not one who would enter into the created world to take on the messy nature of life.(2)

When Irenaeus describes the glory of God as the human being fully alive he is correcting this aberrant and heretical notion that Jesus was not fully human. Irenaeus countered that in fact, the glory of God so inhabited this man from Nazareth that he was fully alive to all of what it meant to be human. Jesus experienced hunger, thirst, weariness, frustration, sorrow, and despair—and he experienced the joy and beauty that came from complete dependence on God. To be fully alive, as one sees in the life of Jesus, includes all human experience—the joys as well as the sorrows.

We see that Jesus is fully alive in the Christian tradition of Holy Week. For Christians, that journey includes Good Friday and Holy Saturday just as surely as it includes Easter morning. As Jesus experienced the miraculous new life of resurrection on Easter morning, he first experienced the sorrow of rejection, betrayal, and the physical brutality of crucifixion and death. Jesus lived the depths of the human experience as one of us.

Irenaeus’ continues his thought by saying: “[T]he life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation already brings life to all living beings on the earth, how much more will the manifestation of the Father by the Word bring life to those who see God.”(3) Human beings are fully alive as they find life in this One who in his human life reveals both the eternal God and the vision of God for fully alive human beings. Certainly, our lives include events and seasons that we wish were not part of the fully alive human experience. But perhaps those who seek true life might recognize these appointments with both death and resurrection as an entryway into a deeper understanding of the human experience. And as that door is opened, we can be ushered into the deep and abiding fellowship of the Divine Community—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—not phantom spirits, not distant deities, but intimates to all that it means to be human.

 

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

 

(1) John Eldridge, Waking the Dead (Nashville: Thomas-Nelson Publishers, 2003), 12.
(2) Cyril Richardson ed., Early Christian Fathers (New York: Collier Books, 1970), 345.
(3) Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, (IV, 20, 7).

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Joyce Meyer – Confusion Is Not from God

 

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints — 1 Corinthians 14:33

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

Years ago, I was teaching at a conference, and it came to my heart to ask the audience how many of them were confused. All but two of them raised their hands! And my husband was one of the two who didn’t raise a hand.

I can tell you that my husband, Dave, has never been confused in his life because he doesn’t worry. He doesn’t try to figure out anything. He is not interested in having all the answers to everything because he trusts God. When you trust God, you can relax and enjoy life. You don’t have to go through life worrying and trying to figure out how to solve all your problems.

Think about all the things you have worried about in your life and how they have all worked out. That ought to help you realize that worry and reasoning are a waste of time and energy.

Stop worrying. Stop complicating your life by trying to figure out everything. Just admit that you don’t know, that you are not able, and that you need God. Then go on living, and enjoy life while God is giving you the answers.

Prayer Starter: Father, You know every situation I’m dealing with, and I ask for Your supernatural peace right now—mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Please help me to give You all of my cares, questions, and concerns and trust You more than ever before. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A Matter of the Will 

 

“If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself” (John 7:17, KJV).

At the conclusion of an address I gave at M.I.T., a skeptical young man approached me. He said, “I am a scientist. I can’t believe anything that I can’t see. I must be able to go into the laboratory and test a proposition or a theory. I must prove its authenticity before I will believe and accept.

“Religion,” he said, “is a matter of faith. It has no substance and, as far as I’m concerned, no validity.”

I turned to the seventh chapter of John, verse 17 – our Scripture portion for today – and asked him to read it aloud.

“Do you understand what Jesus is saying here?” I asked.

“Well, I’m not sure,” he replied. “What is your point?”

“Your problem is not your intellect, but your will. Are you willing to do what God wants you to do? Are there relationships in your life that you’re not willing to surrender in order to do the will of God? Are there moral problems, problems of integrity that you are not willing to relinquish?”

An odd expression came over his countenance.

“How did you know?” Then he said, “I’d like to talk to you privately.” Later, as we sat together alone, he poured out his heart to me. He said, “I know that what you’re saying is true. I know that there’s a God in heaven, and I know that Jesus Christ is His Son and that He died on the cross for me.

“But,” he said, “there is sin in my life. I have been living with a young woman without the benefit of marriage for the last couple of years. Today you have exposed me for what I really am – a fraud, a sham, a hypocrite, and I want with God’s help to terminate my present relationship with this young woman and receive Christ into my life.”

I am happy to report that, soon after, he and the young woman both surrendered their lives to Christ and were married. Together they are making their lives count for the glory of God.

Bible Reading: John 7:14-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will confess – and turn from – all known sin that keeps me from knowing and doing the will of God. I will also share this message with others.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Each Person is God’s Brand New Idea

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

God made you and broke the mold!  Every single baby is a brand-new idea from the mind of God.  Scan history for your replica; you won’t find it.  God tailor-made you.  You aren’t one of many bricks in the mason’s pile or one of a dozen bolts in the mechanic’s drawer.  You are it!  And if you aren’t you, we don’t get you.  The world misses out.

You offer a gift to society that no one else brings.  When you and I do the most what we do the best for the glory of God, the Bible says that we are “marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body” (Romans 12:5). You play no small part, because there is no small part to be played.  God “shaped each person in turn” (Psalm 33:15).  We need you to be you.  And YOU, need to be you!

Read more Cure for the Common Life

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Denison Forum – Unprecedented protests in Hong Kong and Moscow: How to unleash the power of true community

Hong Kong International Airport has canceled all remaining departing flights for the second day after thousands of pro-democracy protesters blocked the terminals. “Protesting in the airport is the best way to tell the world what’s happening in Hong Kong,” according to a sixteen-year-old who handed out flyers to travelers alleging police brutality.

Demonstrators say they are protesting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that was enacted when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control in 1997. Uprisings started ten weeks ago over a bill that would have allowed China to extradite Hong Kong citizens to face trial in Communist courts. It has since broadened into demands for more democratic reforms. Protesters have blocked trains and staged airport strikes, rallies, and marches.

Meanwhile, nearly fifty thousand people flooded Moscow over the weekend to demand an end to political controls under President Vladimir Putin and to stand up against police violence. This is the largest protest movement in Moscow in years and comes as Mr. Putin’s support has fallen to multiyear lows.

Is our culture at war with community?

There is enormous power in community.

The return of Col. Roy Knight Jr.’s remains to Dallas on an airplane flown by his son engendered an airport-wide show of support that even made the New York Times. Mass protests led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and sweeping democratic reforms in Eastern Europe. Whether for bad or for good, the force generated by people working together to advance a common agenda is undeniable.

Why, then, is our culture undermining community at a time when we need it most?

As American society has turned from biblical sexuality and marriage, we have seen a rapid fragmentation of the family. The number of unmarried parents has increased fourfold since 1968; the number of births to unmarried women has increased over 50 percent.

As a result, 40 percent of children born in America today are to women who are either solo mothers or living with a nonmarital partner. This while the children of unmarried parents are much more likely to be impoverished and otherwise disadvantaged.

With the advent of postmodern relativism and its denial of biblical authority, we have seen a rapid decline in church membership as well. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who say they belong to a church or other religious institution has fallen from more than 70 percent to 50 percent. This is the lowest since Gallup began such polling in 1937.

It’s not just families and churches that are fragmenting in our postmodern, post-Christian society. Rotary Clubs, Masons, Elks, and Shriners are all declining in membership. Organizations that require us to sacrifice our time and resources on a regular, disciplined basis are facing enormous headwinds these days.

Is connectedness the new community?

One more factor: as institutions are declining, digital interactions are escalating.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Unprecedented protests in Hong Kong and Moscow: How to unleash the power of true community

Charles Stanley – The Nature of Discouragement

 

Psalm 16:7-11

Discouragement is a powerful, destructive force. Before we can understand how to rid our life of this common temptation, we must recognize its harmful nature.

Understand that discouragement…

Is something we choose. While it’s a natural response to difficult circumstances, we have the power to choose a different response. No one else is responsible for our discouragement.

Is universal. At times, everybody will face periods of disappointment and discouragement because we live in a flawed world filled with flawed people.

Can recur. Sometimes we think we’ve settled an issue, which later resurfaces when we least expect it. Or we may have old emotional wounds triggered by something a person says or does.

Can be temporary or lifelong. Refusing to face discouragement head-on can open the door for it to influence our decisions, actions, and relationships as long as we live.

Is conquerable. With the Father’s help, we can get through seasons of discouragement. He wants His children to have a rich and fulfilled life. If we trust in His promises and His character, our feelings of discouragement will slowly be replaced by hope.

Are you stuck in the throes of discouragement? If so, the Lord wants to lift your spirits. Let Him help you out of that lowly state: Start by believing that the Father wants to encourage you and get your life back on track with Him.

Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 12-14

 

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Our Daily Bread — Celebrating God’s Creativity

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 84–86; Romans 12

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

Romans 12:6

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Romans 12:3–8

As music filled the church auditorium, color-blind artist Lance Brown stepped onstage. He stood in front of a large white canvas, with his back to the congregation and dipped his brush into black paint. With smooth swipes, he completed a cross. Stroke after stroke with brushes and his hands, this visual storyteller created images of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. He covered the large patches of the canvas with black paint and added blue and white to finish a now abstract painting in less than six minutes. He picked up the canvas, turned it upside down, and revealed a hidden image—a compassion-filled face—Jesus.

Brown said he’d been reluctant when a friend suggested he speed-paint during a church service. Yet he now travels internationally to lead people into worship as he paints and shares Christ with others.

The apostle Paul affirms the value and purpose of the diverse gifts God has dispersed to His people. Every member of His family is equipped to glorify the Lord and build others up in love (Romans 12:3–5). Paul encourages us to identify and use our gifts to edify others and point to Jesus, serving diligently and cheerfully (vv. 6–8).

God has given each of us spiritual gifts, talents, skills, and experiences to serve wholeheartedly behind the scenes or in the forefront. As we celebrate His creativity, He uses our uniqueness to spread the gospel and build up other believers in love.

By:  Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray

Who can you encourage to use their God-given gifts to serve others? How will you do the same?

God, thank You for Your creativity. May I reflect it today.

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – This Kingdom

 

“The ‘kingdom of God’ is for the gullible,” I read recently.  “You enter by putting an end to all your questions.”

It is true that Jesus moved all over Judea pronouncing the reign of God and the kingdom of heaven as if it were a notion he wanted the simplest soul to get his mind around.  But simplicity was not what hearers walked away with. With great disparity, he made it clear that this kingdom was approaching, that it was here, that it was among us, that we needed to enter it, that we need to wait for it, that we desperately need the one who reigns within it. The tension within so many different and dynamic realities turned the clarity of each individual picture into a great and ambiguous portrait. He insisted, the kingdom “has come near you.” Yet he prayed, “Thy kingdom come.“(1) Paul, too, described the placement of believers in the kingdom as something established: “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.”(2) While the writer of Hebrews described the kingdom as an ongoing gift we must accept: “Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us therefore give thanks.”(3) To make matters all the more complex, Jesus also assigned the kingdom imagery such as a mustard seed, a treasure in a field, and a great banquet, among others.

Contrary to putting an end to one’s questions, the kingdom of God incites inquiry all the more. What is the nature of this kingdom? Can it be all of these things? Who is this messenger? And what kind of proclamation requires the herald to pour out his very life to tell it? Whatever this kingdom is, it unmistakably introduces to a world far different from the one around us, one we cannot quite get our minds around, with tensions and dynamisms reminiscent of the promise of God to answer our cries “with great and unsearchable things you do not know.”(4) It is a kingdom that tells a story grand enough to master the metanarratives which otherwise compel us into thoughtless, gullible obedience. It is a kingdom with a king whose very authority exposes our idols as wood and reforms our numbed minds with great and surprising reversals of reality.

In this kingdom Jesus proclaims we are shown a God who opens the eyes of the blind and raises the dead, who claims the last will be the first, and the servant is the greatest. But his proclamations did not cease with mere easy words. Jesus put these claims into action, placing this kingdom before us in such a way that forbids us to see any of it as mere religion, abstraction, gullibility, or sentimentality:

“Then the whole assembly rose and led Jesus off to Pilate.  And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation.  He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.’

So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no basis for a charge against this man.’

But they insisted, ‘He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching.  He started in Galilee and has come all the way here…’ So with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.”(5)

The way of proclamation led to the way of the passion, the path of commotion to the path of accusation, a road strewn with signs of the authority of another kingdom to a road that demanded death and mocked a king. And yet this man is still subverting nations. The kingdom he proclaimed in life and in death continues to unravel our own.

In this world of gullibility, crafted ignorance, and much distraction, there sounds a clarion call for a new means of perception. Living somewhere between this foreign kingdom of God’s reign and the familiar kingdom of earth, some of us never fully see or live in either. Still others somehow find themselves moved beyond the familiar borders of the world they know, to the very threshold of the kingdom of God where, longing to see in fullness and relishing here and now, they discover the one who reigns.

 

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

 

(1) Luke 10:9 and Matthew 6:10.
(2) Colossians 1:13.
(3) Hebrew 14:28.
(4) Jeremiah 33:3.
(5) Luke 23:1-23, emphasis mine.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – I Am Protected

 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand]. — Psalm 91:1 (AMP)

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

Spending time with God protects us from the attacks of our enemies. When I remember this, it helps me feel safe, and that is something we all desire.

Take a moment several times a day to simply turn your attention toward the Lord and say, “I know You are with me and that You are my Protector.” Then, take a few moments to dwell in that thought and let it comfort you. There is never a moment in your life when God is not with you.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for being with me at all times. Your Word says You will never forsake me, and You will protect me from those who would harm me (see Hebrews 13:5). Help me to regularly spend time with You and daily focus on Your love and protection. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A Blameless Watchman

 

“If you refuse to warn the wicked when I want you to tell them, You are under the penalty of death, therefore repent and save your life – they will die in their sins, but I will punish you. I will demand your blood for theirs. But if you warn them and they keep on sinning, and refuse to repent, they will die in their sins, but you are blameless – you have done all you could” (Ezekiel 3:18-19).

One of the most sobering messages I find in all the words of God is this terrible warning found in the book of Ezekiel. God commanded Ezekiel to warn the people of Israel to turn from their sins. Some would argue that this has no application for the Christian. I would disagree. In principle this is exactly what our Lord commands us to do – to go and make disciples of all nations, to preach the gospel to all men, to follow Jesus and He will make us to become fishers of men.

It is a sobering thing to realize that all around us there are multitudes of men and women, even loved ones, who do not know the Savior. Many of them have never received an intelligent, Spirit-filled, loving witness concerning our Savior. Who will tell them? There are some people whom you and I can reach whom nobody else can influence.

I am writing this day’s devotion while in Amsterdam where I am speaking at an international gathering of Christian evangelists. During the course of my days here I have talked with many taxi drivers, maids, waiters and other employees of the hotel. Only one professed to be a believer and we had good fellowship together. Some were openly defiant, even angry at the name of Jesus. But in each case I have shared the gospel, constrained by the love of Christ out of a deep sense of gratitude for all that He has done for me, and as an act of obedience to His command to be His witness.

I pray that God will give me a greater sense of urgency to warn men that unless they turn to Christ they will die in their sins. I do not want to be responsible because I failed to warn them. They must know that there is a heaven and a hell and that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved but the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 3:15-21

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will ask the Holy Spirit to quicken within my heart, out of a deep sense of gratitude for all He has done for me and from a desire to obey our Lord’s commands, a greater sense of urgency to be His witness and to warn men to turn from their wicked ways and receive Christ, the gift of God’s love.

 

http://www.cru.org