Tag Archives: Truth

Charles Stanley – Suffering a Spiritual Failure

 

Deuteronomy 1:19-46

No one likes to fail at anything, and a spiritual fall is particularly distressing. The word failure immediately drums up uncomfortable thoughts of a blemish on our walk with God. Try as we might, however, we simply cannot and will not go through life without missing the mark from time to time.

Most troubling to believers are those instances when we know the right thing to do but don’t do it. That’s what happened with the Israelites, who refused to enter the land God had said to conquer and possess. They allowed fear to short-circuit their obedience to the heavenly Father. But the ultimate reason for their disobedience was a lack of trust in God.

Think about a time you failed to follow one of the Lord’s commands. Did you look at the circumstances around you and conclude that it was too risky to do what God had said? Or perhaps your way simply seemed like a better approach. In both cases, the temptation began with doubts about God. Is He powerful enough to handle the circumstances if I follow Him? I’m not convinced He knows what’s best for me.

Every time we trust in ourselves and doubt God’s wisdom, power, and goodness, we are headed for failure and its aftermath. Although He always forgives us when we come to Him with a repentant heart, we may still face the consequences of our self-willed rebellion.

The Lord wants us to have enough confidence in Him that we choose to follow His directions and thereby avoid the pitfalls of self-reliance. Remember that the God who calls us empowers us to obey whatever He commands.

Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 49-50

 

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Our Daily Bread — Servant’s Heart

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 113–115; 1 Corinthians 6

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.

Mark 9:35

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Mark 9:33–37

Cook. Event Planner. Nutritionist. Nurse. These are just some of the responsibilities regularly performed by modern moms. In 2016, research estimated that moms likely worked between fifty-nine and ninety-six hours per week doing child-related tasks.

No wonder moms are always exhausted! Being a mom means giving a lot of time and energy to care for children, who need so much help as they learn to navigate the world.

When my days feel long and I need a reminder that caring for others is a worthy pursuit, I find great hope when I see Jesus affirming those who serve.

In the gospel of Mark, the disciples were having an argument about which one of them was the greatest. Jesus quietly sat down and reminded them that “anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (9:35). Then He took a child in His arms to illustrate the importance of serving others, especially the most helpless among us (vv. 36–37).

Christ’s response resets the bar for what greatness looks like in His kingdom. His standard is a heart willing to care for others. And Jesus has promised that God’s empowering presence will be with those who choose to serve (v. 37).

As you have opportunities to serve in your family or community, be encouraged that Jesus greatly values the time and effort you give in service to others.

By:  Lisa M. Samra

Reflect & Pray

How might you serve someone today? How could you take time to say “thank you” to someone who has graciously loved and served you?

Jesus, thank You for reminding us of Your loving care for children and any who are vulnerable. Help us to follow Your example of service.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Master of Light

 

Ballet lost some of its wonder when it was explained. It was a class that was supposed to lift my mind, lighten my spirit, and boost my grade point average. Instead it became a one-credit nightmare—a class dedicated to dissecting moves I could not duplicate, within a semester that seemed to slowly dismember my romantic fascination with dance.

Explanations sometimes have a way of leaving their questioners with a sense of loss. Students note this phenomenon regularly. Expounded principles of light refraction and water particles explain away the rainbow, or at least some of its mystique. Air pressure, gravity, and the laws of physics deconstruct the optical mystery of the curve ball. Knowledge and experience can poignantly leave us with a sense of disappointment or disenchantment.

I recently read an article that scientifically explained the glow of a firefly. The author noted the nerves and chemical compounds that make the “fire” possible, pointing out that it is merely a signal used for mating and is, in fact, far from the many romantic myths that have long surrounded it. As one who delights in the gifts of science but also the gift a sky ignited with bugs, I put the article down with a sigh. And then a thought occurred to me in a manner not unlike the description of the firefly’s glow itself: The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not mastered it.(1) Where nerves and photocytes explain the glow of the firefly, have we come any closer to erasing the miracle of light?

However accurate or inaccurate our explanations might be, they sometimes have a way of leading us to short-sighted conclusions. They have also led us to outright incongruity. Brilliant minds can articulate exquisitely complex aspects of the human person and simultaneously describe it as an accident, an impersonal, adult germ in a vast cosmic machine. We have brusquely described life as a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing, only to claim that this should not lead us to despair. We have declared our appetites and our reason the gods of a better religion, while insisting both God and religion to be an invention of the human psyche. We scoff at the notion of a vicariously human savior who frees captive humanity and revives the creator’s image, while maintaining we live with every qualification for human dignity, distinction, and freedom. Are these even realistic applications of our own philosophies? Do the explanations warrant the conclusions?

On the contrary, we sometimes seem to go about the business of undermining our own mines. Why should a tale told by an idiot have players of any intrinsic value? Why would an impersonal, cosmic accident see herself as a personal, relational being worthy of dignity? What we are attempting to explain away in one sentence, we are arguing for in the next.

Explanations certainly need not lead us to the conclusion that all is lost. But neither should our explanations lead us to conclusions that contradict our own accounts. Thankfully, in both cases, there are times in life where we find, like Job, that we may have spoken out of turn and discover there may be more to the story. Sitting through the whirlwind of God’s own 63 questions, Job exclaims: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

Ever thankfully, I believe there is an invitation that both invites great disclosures and discloses in great mystery. “Call to me,” the God of wisdom tells the prophet and the people. “And I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you have not known.” The presence of God can be overlooked, but it cannot be explained away any more than we can explain away the miracle of light.

 

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

 

(1) John 1:5.

 

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Joyce Meyer – Become an Aggressive Encourager

 

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. — Romans 14:19

Adapted from the resource Love Out Loud Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

One of the easiest ways to express love to others is to help them feel valuable. Mother Teresa of Calcutta ministered in the midst of appalling poverty, hunger, and disease, yet she said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody…is a much greater hunger…than the person who has nothing to eat.”

I’ve discovered that most people we meet do not have a sense of their infinite value as children of God. The thought that God loves them and sees them as precious has never entered their minds. I think the devil works very hard to make people feel devalued and worthless, but we can neutralize his lies by building people up and encouraging them. One way to do this is with a sincere compliment.

A compliment does not have to be something major. Little remarks such as, “That color really looks good on you”; “I like your hair that way”; or “I’m glad you are my friend” are very effective and meaningful.

Most people are quick to compare themselves with others, which means they often fail to see their own abilities and worth. Making another person feel valuable doesn’t have to be time consuming. Let’s train ourselves to be aggressive encouragers. Find some way to encourage every person you come in contact with throughout your day. Making people feel valuable won’t cost any money, but it gives them something worth more than anything money can buy.

Prayer Starter: Father, open my eyes to the ways I can encourage those around me today. Help me to be sensitive to others even in the midst of my busy schedule. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Does Glorious Things

 

“Thank the Lord for all the glorious things He does; proclaim them to the nations. Sing His praises and tell everyone about His miracles” (Psalm 105:1,2).

How long has it been since you have taken time to meditate upon and list all the glorious things the Lord has done for you and how long has it been since you have shared them with your family, your neighbors or even strangers? Of course, your list may differ from that of your neighbors or of fellow believers in your local church or from mine. But among those glorious things that He has done are: He has, by His Holy Spirit, drawn us all to Himself; He has created within our hearts a hunger for His love; and through faith in Christ we have become His children; our sins have been forgiven and we now have the joy of living every moment of every day in vital union and fellowship with Him – all this with the certainty that we shall spend eternity with Him. Mere human words could never express the gratitude that wells up within one’s heart at the thought of God’s great gifts. The word “alleluia” is universal and is spoken in all languages as an expression of praise to God and no word is more appropriate.

My personal list of blessings also includes a godly, praying mother who lived her Christianity and dedicated me to Christ before I was born, and followed me – as she did all her other children – with her daily prayers; a wonderful father who, I had the privilege of introducing to Christ after I became a Christian and seeing him begin to experience that peace which comes from knowing Christ; a godly wife who loves the Lord Jesus Christ and shares my commitment to serve Him as our Lord and Master whatever the cost, wherever He leads us.

I thank Him for sons who love Him, and who have committed their lives to serving Him wherever He leads; a daughter-in-law who shares the love and conviction of her husband; a marvelous staff of thousands of godly men and women who seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and hundreds of thousands of co-laborers who undergird me and this ministry.

The glorious things that He has done are without number. Yes, we must sing His praises and tell everyone about His miracles. We must proclaim the glorious things he has done to all the nations!

Bible Reading: Psalm 113

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will meditate upon the glorious things God has done for me and I will sing His praises and tell everyone about His miracles. I will give my prayer and financial support to helping proclaim His greatness to all the nations of the earth.

 

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Max – Loneliness Has a Language

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

We may relish moments of solitude—but a lifetime of it?  No way!  Many of us, however, are too fluent in the language of loneliness.  The kids used to need me…the business once needed me…my spouse never needs me.  Lonely people fight feelings of insignificance.

What do you do?  How do you cope with such cries of insignificance?   Some stay busy; others stay drunk.  Some buy pets; others buy lovers. Some seek therapy.  Yet only a few seek God.  He invites us to do so.  God’s ultimate cure for the common life takes you to a manger  “…and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated God with us (Matthew 1:23.  There’s no withholding tax on God’s “with” promise.  He is with us.  God  is with us!

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

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Is popularity the new prosperity gospel? Millennials, abortion, and the power of God’s word

 

s popularity the new prosperity gospel for millennials?

The answer is yes, according to Relevant magazine.

The Great Recession and high student debt have driven many millennials to abandon hope of financial wealth. But the ubiquity of mobile phones and instant access to social media are luring them to redefine success as popularity. Viral videos and massive numbers of followers are how many measure significance.

Yesterday we discussed the growing trend of celebrity endorsements for abortion. Connecting the dots: celebrities are popular; popularity attracts millennials; and millennials are the most likely demographic to consider an abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 60 percent of women who choose abortion are in their twenties. If having an unplanned child impedes their ambitions, many are making the same decision Alyssa Milano famously chose: career over children.

For those of us who believe God’s word on the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, choosing career, finances, popularity, or anything else over a child is abhorrent. But many in our culture obviously do not share our biblical convictions.

What non-biblical reasons for choosing life can we offer our millennial children and grandchildren (and the larger culture as well)? Let’s consider three facts.

One: Abortion is dangerous for the mother and deadly for the child.

Last March, a woman went in for an abortion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but was sent to a hospital for emergency surgery and a hysterectomy after the abortion was botched. According to the CDC, 437 women died from abortion complications between 1973 and 2014.

The American Pregnancy Association warns that women who undergo an abortion may experience “abdominal pain and cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and spotting and bleeding.” The website then lists what it calls “serious complications,” including “heavy or persistent bleeding, infection or sepsis, damage to the cervix, scarring of the uterine lining, perforation of the uterus, damage to other organs, and death.”

And abortion has ended the lives of nearly sixty-two million babies in the US since 1973. That’s more than the population of twenty-six American states, combined.

Two: Science increasingly shows that a fetus is a child.

Fox News reports that at least forty babies were born alive after botched abortions across three states since 2016. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 143 cases between 2003 and 2014 of infants born after attempted abortions. These numbers are likely very low since many states do not report such births.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Is popularity the new prosperity gospel? Millennials, abortion, and the power of God’s word

Charles Stanley – The Self-Directed Man

 

Luke 12:16-21

Surely you’ve heard the old stereotype about men never wanting to stop and ask for directions. That’s probably truer than we’d like to admit, but when it comes to asking for help, it isn’t just males who are guilty. There are many men and women—all driving full steam ahead—who don’t want to stop or slow down to ask for guidance.

If you were to look at this through spiritual lenses, you’d see a world of lost, hopeless souls trying to save themselves. They think they can somehow earn their way to heaven through good deeds and hard work. They assume it’s possible to accomplish this on their own. But they’re wrong.

As you read through Luke 12:16-21 today, count the number of times the “rich fool,” as he is known, says the words “I” and “my.” This parable is a picture of the self-directed man trying to make his own way and secure his own future without help from anyone—including God.

The Father does not mince words with this man. Entering the scene in verse 20, God immediately calls him a fool! Don’t miss the severity in the condemnation. By relying solely on his self-focused shortsightedness and pride, this man left nothing behind at the end of his life—except for a pile of crops.

The message for us today is that, when we strike off on our own and initiate actions with no thought of God, we behave like fools. The Lord has a plan for your life. He knows where you’ll succeed and where you’ll fail. Trust Him to provide the direction you need.

Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 46-48

 

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Our Daily Bread — More Than Hacks

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 110–112; 1 Corinthians 5

He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name.

Psalm 111:9

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 111

I recently found a “hack” (a clever solution to a tricky problem) when one of my grandchildren warmed her toy rabbit on our fireplace glass. The resulting globs of fake bunny fur weren’t pretty, but a fireplace expert provided a great hack—a tip for how to make the glass look like new. It worked, and now we no longer allow stuffed animals near the fireplace!

I bring up hacks because sometimes we can view Scripture as a collection of hacks—tips to make life easier. While it’s true that the Bible has much to say about how to live a Christ-honoring new life, that’s not the only purpose of the Book. What Scripture provides for us is a solution for mankind’s greatest need: rescue from sin and eternal separation from God.

From the promise of salvation in Genesis 3:15 all the way to the true hope of a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1–2), the Bible explains that God has an eternal plan for rescuing us from our sin and allowing us to enjoy fellowship with Him. In every story and every suggestion for how to live, the Bible is pointing us to Jesus—the only One who can solve our biggest problem.

When we open God’s Book, may we remember that we’re looking for Jesus, the rescue He offers, and how to live as His children. He’s provided the greatest solution of all!

By:  Dave Branon

Reflect & Pray

How has Jesus and His promise to rescue those who believe in Him touched your heart and life? Why is it vital to see that the Bible consistently points to Christ?

Father, thank You for the salvation You provided through Jesus. Help me to honor You by keeping focused on our Savior and His amazing love for me.

To learn more about who Jesus is, visit christianuniversity.org/NT111.

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – To See the Face of God

 

What happens when we pray for our enemies?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:43-45a

It was a picture-perfect evening in downtown Atlanta. I was headed to the city’s famous Fox Theatre to see Les Misérables, the Broadway musical based on Victor Hugo’s masterful novel, accompanied by a friend named Jason. Our conversation was full of laughter and friendly banter, even as we braced ourselves to take in a somber production that we knew would be filled with emotion.

“How did you two meet?” asked a fellow theater patron, a simple question that startled me. “Ummm… it’s a long story,” I awkwardly responded. “We’ve been friends for a while.”

What made this situation remarkable wasn’t the splendid weather—unusual for the season—or the fact that we had scored tickets to this sold-out production. It was that nearly thirteen years prior, we would have been considered enemies in every sense of the word.

***

Nearly thirteen years ago, a young man named Jason approached me at a public event—also in downtown Atlanta—visibly angry and perturbed. “Hey, my name is Ruth,” I said, unsure of why he had come up to me. “I know who you are,” he responded abruptly and indignantly. “If only you knew how hated you were in my community, you would fear for your life.”

Jason proceeded to tell me that he and many others in his circles of interaction vehemently disagreed with my beliefs and with actions I had taken in college—and, more significantly, that they held a different worldview. The more Jason talked, the more evident it was to me that he misunderstood not just my actions, but my motives as well. This encounter was not entirely unusual, sadly, but it did stand out as one of the more antagonistic. I remember feeling rattled and dejected. “This must be what it’s like to have enemies,” I thought to myself.

***

You see, thirteen years ago I was a college student studying at a public university, when I encountered tremendous opposition because my Christian beliefs were considered “intolerant” and “offensive” by some—not just students, but campus administrators and professors as well. From the day I stepped on campus for Freshman Orientation, I realized that I was entering an environment where atheism and secular humanism were not only being promoted by those in authority, but where Christians students like me were often prohibited from sharing our beliefs. While I expected to encounter scholarly debate and have my beliefs challenged in college, I didn’t expect to be repeatedly censored, interrogated, and condemned by those in authority for expressing a point of view not in lockstep with their own worldview. Such censorship hindered the free exchange of ideas on campus and prevented students from debating life’s deepest questions. After years of navigating that unlevel playing field as a Christian student, I felt compelled to speak out and seek justice.

I knew that the more vocal I became on campus, the more likely some would oppose my beliefs. But I never imagined that differences of viewpoint would lead to me being on the receiving end of vastly distorted media coverage, vicious hate mail, and even death threats. It baffled me to see leaders in higher education lash out at a student who expressed different beliefs as if I were a threat to their institution, and I was bewildered by the level of animosity from so many directions.

As a 22-year-old student, I remember the first time it occurred to me that I had enemies. I was no stranger to competition or different ideologies, but I had never experienced such vitriolic anger and rage. This was a foreign experience—one that initially left me frustrated, fearful, saddened, and confused. I wrestled with feelings of resentment and disdain toward these adversaries, grappled with the tension of whether and how to defend myself, and faced the temptation to retaliate when I was attacked. While I never wavered in my commitment to stand firm on principle, I did wonder how to respond to such extreme opposition from people who didn’t even know me personally.

In the midst of attempting to navigate these difficult dynamics, one day I was reading through the book of Matthew in the Bible and came to the Sermon on the Mount. This was a familiar passage to me, but the commands of Jesus resonated with me in a whole new light given my current circumstances.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I had read and heard these words dozens—maybe hundreds—of times. But this time it was different. Now I knew exactly how it felt to have enemies and to be maligned because of my beliefs—and I knew exactly what I needed to do in response.

“Thank you, Lord, that I have the privilege of carrying out this command in a deeply personal way,” I prayed. My perspective drastically shifted.

Up until this experience, I had thought of enemies in a generic sense—but now they had names. I soon wrote out an “enemies list.” For each day of the month, I listed the name of one individual who had attacked me through words and actions. When I got to #31, I went back to Day 1 and added more names. One of those names was Jason. Every day, I would pray for the designated individuals by name, that God would change their hearts and minds so they would understand and embrace the truth. The more I talked to God about them, my prayers became less focused on my personal situation and more fervent that these individuals would be drawn to the gospel message. I did this for about two years, and in this process, God changed my own heart and attitude.

Praying for my enemies replaced my anger and fear with lament and compassion. Instead of the natural tendency to “get even” or seek revenge, I began to earnestly desire their flourishing and hope for reconciliation. God transformed my resentment of them into love for them. Forgiveness was not optional for me; it was the only way to freedom and release.

I realized that I might never have the chance to interact with many of my antagonists, but by the act of my will and through the grace of God, I had to forgive them. Forgiveness enabled me to detach myself from their control, to develop empathy and gain insights on their spiritual needs, and to acknowledge that God is the only one who can bring about transformation in their lives and in mine.

Most of all, during this time I was vividly reminded of the forgiveness that I myself—once an enemy of God Himself—had received from God in Christ. If “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8b), who was I to withhold forgiveness from anyone—regardless of what they had done and whether they had apologized?

My pastor, Charles Stanley, continually encouraged me during this time and even asked our church to lift me up in prayer. His insights on forgiveness were both profound and practical. “Once we understand the depth of our sin and the distance it placed between God and us—and once we get a glimpse of the sacrifice He made to restore fellowship with us—we should not hesitate to forgive,” he explained. “We must release the offender from the debt we feel is owed to us. This involves mentally bundling all of our hostile feelings and surrendering them to Christ.”

This was a tumultuous season for me, but one that shaped my perspective and priorities as I learned valuable lessons that I hope will stay with me for the rest of my life.

***

Fast-forward about a decade.

I received a message online from Jason. He wanted to meet up. Though we had followed each other on social media, I had only seen him in person once—that hostile encounter over a decade earlier when he came up to me and told me how hated I was among his circles.

Jason said he wanted to trade updates on life and work. He told me he was a Christian, that he had struggled in his faith and wanted someone to talk to about it. The gentle tone of his message and the gracious words of affirmation left me stunned. “I just wanted to say thank you for enriching my life and challenging me so much over the years,” he wrote. “I am surrounded by people who think and believe just like me but they don’t enrich my life nearly as much as the people I have to leave my comfort zone and connect with to understand.”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. We set a time and place to meet, and I began praying for this encounter. On one level, I was excited and grateful for this opportunity. On another, I was apprehensive and unsure of what to expect. Memories from the antagonism I had experienced in college flooded my mind once again. With nervous anticipation, I showed up at the restaurant where we were meeting for dinner and waited for him to arrive.

As soon as we were both seated—before the server could even take our order—Jason started speaking. “I’ve been waiting for years to apologize to you,” he said, as tears filled his eyes. He told me about his faith journey, the personal challenges he had experienced, and how deeply he regretted his anger and hatred towards me a decade earlier.

I got emotional too, and in a sweet and unexpected twist, I attempted to comfort him. “We are all on a journey,” I assured him.

Jason continued to apologize profusely, and I finally interrupted him. “I already forgave you, over a decade ago,” I said. “But I, too, need to ask for your forgiveness.”

I apologized that I had sometimes viewed certain individuals as problems to be solved rather than people to be loved. I apologized that I had often spoken in a tone of outrage and frustration rather than one of regret and concern. In my zeal to share my own beliefs, I hadn’t adequately listened to the experiences of others—including his own. I went on to explain how my approach to advocacy and public engagement had shifted since I first met him all those years ago, shared some of the lessons I’d learned along the way, and described my current burdens for the state of our polarized culture with both lament and hope. “Meeting people such as you has been an essential part of my growth process, and I’m thankful,” I told him.

It was an authentic conversation that brought healing and hope to us both. “I remember my first instinct was to hate someone like you, and then I met you and learned how amazingly sweet and kind you were as well as how much we have in common,” Jason later wrote to me. “Who was I to hate someone I had never met? It changed everything.”

In that moment I was reminded in a compelling way that God is the great reconciler, bringing us into a right relationship with Himself and with each other. It’s truly miraculous and beautiful to witness.

***

The gift of forgiveness is to be both treasured and shared.

As I reflect on my experience in college, my encounter with Jason, and the ongoing challenge of forgiveness, I’m reminded of these lessons that I imagine will take a lifetime to learn:

Stand for truth and respond in grace.

Whenever we take a stand for what is right and good and true, there will be some who oppose our beliefs and actions, question our motives, and attempt to hinder our effectiveness. As Victor Hugo wrote, “You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea.” But having courage to stand for the truth is often only half the battle; we must also learn to handle attack in a godly way. Even as we resist the temptation to seek affirmation from the wrong sources, we must strive to be winsome in our approach toward all—at once clinging to the truth yet demonstrating grace and holding our expectations with an open hand.

Understand that forgiveness is always costly and never easy.

Forgiveness is always challenging and entails an element of suffering. Sometimes it is most difficult when we must choose to forgive unilaterally, without any prospect of the other person’s response. “Unilateral forgiveness occurs when you forgive someone and yet the person has not asked for it, requested it, or even repented of what they did to you,” explains Tony Evans. “Unilaterally means that on your own—without their involvement—you choose to grant them forgiveness.”[1]Although it may be hard, the cost and consequences of unforgiveness are far too high.

Pray for your enemies and your heart will change towards them.

It is natural to fall into the mindset of seeing our opponents as obstacles, of dismissing those with different worldviews, and of focusing on our own hurts rather than recognizing the pain of others. When we pray for our enemies, God will change our perspective and enable us to see them as He does—precious people in need of a Savior. My former colleague, the late Nabeel Qureshi, would often admonish, “Before you talk to someone about God, talk to God about them.” When you talk to God about your enemies, He will often prepare you to talk to them about Him.

Pursue reconciliation and be persistent.

As believers, we must live in a continual rhythm of asking forgiveness in humility when we’ve wronged others and offering it freely when we ourselves have been wronged. As we pursue reconciliation intentionally, we must do so with an attitude of surrender, trusting that God is at work even when we can’t see the results. “Forgiveness is granted before it is felt. It is a promise to pray for the perpetrator as you remind yourself of God’s grace to you,” says Tim Keller. “Though it is extremely difficult and painful, forgiveness will deepen your character, free you to talk to and help the person, and lead to love and peace rather than bitterness.”[2] We must not give in to discouragement or give up hope, however daunting the road ahead appears.

Next time you’re confronted with enemies, don’t despair. Resist the temptation to respond in anger. With humility, ask God what you can learn and where you can change. With gratitude, give thanks for the forgiveness you’ve experienced in Christ. With confidence, pray for your enemies—specifically, by name, day after day. In obedience, grant them forgiveness. And with anticipation, watch God change your heart towards others—and maybe even your enemy’s heart toward you.

***

Back to that memorable evening watching Les Misérables with my now friend, Jason. Themes of mercy, forgiveness, freedom, and redemption are evident throughout the acclaimed work, so in light of our journey it was poignant and fitting that we were watching it together.

The closing—and arguably most famous—line of the musical’s epilogue is “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

In one sense, this is right. Perhaps it is even an allusion to 1 John 4:12. “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” Every individual bears the image of God, so we see something of God’s face in another person. And to love is to act like God, so that will inevitably help us to see as He does as well. When we love one another, God’s love in us is perfected in us, and it’s almost as if we can see Him.

Yet in another sense, this line is vastly incomplete. The true image of God is Jesus Christ, and it is only in lovingly gazing at Him that we truly see the face of God—and only with the eyes of our heart for now. We will see Him face to face one day, but that is still to come.

So, with all due respect to Victor Hugo, perhaps we should reverse the logic of his famous line: we first need to see the face of God in Christ to truly love another person.

The only way to demonstrate and experience true forgiveness and love is to see how God has granted and revealed it to us in Jesus. Once we begin to grasp that, it will change the way we view the world and transform how we treat everyone God brings along our path.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” –Ephesians 4:32

Ruth Malhotra is Public Relations Manager at RZIM.

[1] Tony Evans, “Two Types of Forgiveness” (April 13, 2018), https://www.authenticmanhood.com/two-types-of-forgiveness/.

[2] Timothy J. Keller, “Serving Each Other through Forgiveness and Reconciliation.” (March 22, 2010), https://gospelinlife.com/downloads/serving-each-other-through-forgiveness-and-reconciliation/.

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Joyce Meyer – He Will Tell You What’s Ahead

 

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. — John 16:13

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

One of the many benefits of hearing from God is that listening to His voice helps us prepare for the future. The Holy Spirit gives to us the messages the Father gives to Him, and He often tells us things that will happen in the future.

We find many instances in the Bible in which God spoke to people and gave them information about the future. He told Noah to prepare for a flood that would come to destroy the people of the earth (see Genesis 6:13–17). He told Moses to go to Pharaoh and ask for the release of the Israelites and that Pharaoh would not grant this request (see Exodus 7). Obviously, God does not tell us everything that will happen in the future, but His Word promises He will tell us some things.

There are times when I sense that something good, or perhaps something challenging, is going to happen. When a challenge awaits me and I have some prior knowledge of it, that knowledge helps to cushion the blow when the difficult situation comes. If an automobile with good shock absorbers hits a pothole, those absorbers protect passengers in the car from the jarring impact that would result, and no one gets hurt. God giving us information ahead of time works the same way.

Part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to tell us things to come. He knows the mind of God and He knows God’s individual plans for our lives. He will reveal what we need to know when we need to know it in order to fulfill the good plans God has for us.

Prayer Starter: Thank You, Lord, for Your precious Holy Spirit and for speaking to me about things to come. Help me to continually grow in my relationship with You so I can be even more sensitive to hearing Your voice. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Put God to the Test 

 

“Oh, put God to the test and see how kind He is! See for yourself the way His mercies shower down on all who trust in Him” (Psalm 34:8).

Sam wanted to receive Christ, but he was reluctant. Somehow, he just could not bring himself to make that necessary commitment of the will to exercise his faith and receive Christ. Because of unfortunate experiences in his youth, he had a distorted view of the goodness of God.

I encouraged Him to make his commitment, but he still hesitated. Finally, I turned to that wonderful promise of our Scripture for today and asked him to read it. As he read, the Holy Spirit gave him the faith to believe that he could trust God.

Put God to the test. Taste and see how good and kind He is. Sam discovered that day, and for the rest of his life, the faithfulness and the goodness and the kindness of God.

Do you have reservations, uncertainties, fears about the trustworthiness of God? If so, I encourage you to place your trust in Him, and you will find, as millions have found, and as I have found, that God is good, faithful, and true.

Similarly, you and I can put God to the test and find a friendly haven in the midst of enemy territory. More important, perhaps, is the certainty we can have that God does hear and answer our prayers – in situations where He and He alone knows the end from the beginning and can provide deliverance.

How vital to the supernatural life to know that we have immediate access to the God of the universe, the very one who alone can guarantee victory and deliverance.

Bible Reading: I Peter 2:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Realizing that, as a believer, I am constantly in “enemy territory,” I will trust God and encourage others to trust Him moment by moment for deliverance, for I know that He is just and kind and good. He is a loving, heavenly Father whom I can trust. I will encourage others to put God to the test and see how kind He is, to discover for themselves His mercies that He showers on all who place their trust in Him.

 

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Max Lucado – Well Done, Good & Faithful Servant

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

God gives gifts, not miserly, but abundantly!  And he doesn’t give gifts randomly, but carefully, “to each according to each one’s unique ability” (Matthew 25:15).  Remember, no one else has your talents.  No one.  God elevates you from common-hood by matching your unique abilities to custom-made assignments.  “Well done good and faithful servant,” Jesus will say to some (Matthew 25:23).

Maybe your dad never praised you or your teachers always criticized you, but God will applaud you!  And to have him call you good… well, when he does, it counts.  Only he can make bad sinners good.  And only he can make the frail, faithful.  “Well done, good and faithful.”  The point? Use your uniqueness to take great risks for God!  The only mistake is not to risk making one!

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Denison Forum – Alyssa Milano’s abortion announcement: Two points I’ve not made before on this issue

 

Alyssa Milano has made headlines often in recent years for her advocacy of abortion, the #MeToo movement, and various political candidates. Now she has revealed on her podcast that she had two abortions in 1993.

She says she was in a serious relationship and was using birth control both times she became pregnant. She looks back on her decisions without regret: “I would not have my children . . . I would not have my career. I would not have the ability or platform I use to fight against oppression with all my heart. I would never have met my amazing husband.”

In short, Milano knew “she was not ready to be a parent” as she pursued her career. Of course, the Bible says that she became a parent the moment she became pregnant (cf. Psalm 139:13). And that her career came at the cost of her first two children.

Why is George Clooney selling coffee makers?

Our culture has forced me to write often on abortion over the years. (For my in-depth article on the subject, see my “Abortion and the mercy of God.”) Today’s news, however, leads me to make two points I’ve not discussed with you in the past.

First, pro-life supporters must beware the rising tide of celebrity abortion endorsements.

It is obvious in our culture that celebrity sells. Michael Jordan sold basketball shoes and underwear; George Clooney is making TV ads for a coffee maker. There was a day when voice-overs on TV ads were anonymous; today, you can identify nearly every movie star voicing every commercial.

This strategy is called “celebrity branding” and has roots going back to royal endorsements for pottery and chinaware in the 1760s. Advertisers hope the popularity wielded by celebrities will transfer to their product or idea.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Alyssa Milano’s abortion announcement: Two points I’ve not made before on this issue

Charles Stanley – Our Trustworthy Guide

 

Psalm 32:8-9

Many years ago, while I was on a photography trip, the heavenly Father taught me a valuable lesson about leading and following. My party had been hiking on a trail for three or four hours when I felt a slight sensation of dread. I had a sneaking suspicion that we were traveling the wrong way. When I asked our guide about it, he calmly reassured me that we were, in fact, heading in the right direction.

Well, that quieted me for a few minutes, but this persistent sense of being off track simply would not go away. So I pulled out my compass and discovered that, sure enough, we were heading the wrong way. When I pointed this out to our guide a second time, he finally stopped to think about it. After examining the compass, map, and trail markers, he realized that we really were off course. We lost about three hours—and some beautiful photo opportunities—because our guide wasn’t leading us correctly.

That experience taught me how vitally important it is to trust in the person who is guiding us. Beyond the hiking trail, this holds true in business, church, families, or any other relationship. If our guide isn’t trustworthy—if we cannot put our complete faith in him or her—we’ll end up lost.

So let me ask you: Who is your guide? Are you following celebrities or news reporters? Are you trusting in politicians or business leaders? If you’ve placed your absolute faith in anyone or anything other than your heavenly Father, you’re already off course. He is our one trustworthy Guide. Seek Him and get back on track today.

Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 41-45

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Life Changes

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 107–109; 1 Corinthians 4

Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:24

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Ephesians 4:20–24

Stephen grew up in a rough part of East London and fell into crime by the age of ten. He said, “If everyone’s selling drugs and doing robberies and fraud, then you’re going to get involved. It’s just a way of life.” But when he was twenty, he had a dream that changed him: “I heard God saying, Stephen, you’re going to prison for murder.” This vivid dream served as a warning, and he turned to God and received Jesus as his Savior—and the Holy Spirit transformed his life.

Stephen set up an organization that teaches inner-city kids discipline, morality, and respect through sports. He credits God with the success he has seen as he prays with and trains the kids. “Rebuilding misguided dreams,” he says.

In pursuing God and leaving behind our past, we—like Stephen—follow Paul’s charge to the Ephesians to embrace a new way of life. Although our old self is “corrupted by its deceitful desires,” we can daily seek to “put on the new self” that’s created to be like God (Ephesians 4:22, 24). All believers embrace this continual process as we ask God through His Holy Spirit to make us more like Him.

Stephen said, “Faith was a crucial foundation for me changing my life around.” How has this been true for you?

By:  Amy Boucher Pye

Reflect & Pray

When you look back over your life, what comes to mind as key moments that prompted change? What long-lasting change resulted?

Jesus, You’re alive and working in the world and in my life. Help me become more like You day by day as I leave the old self behind.

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Gaining Consciousness

 

The line between real and imagined is sometimes a little blurry. At least this is the conclusion of one report on the business of cyberspace, where thousands of people have imaginary lives and quite a few are actually making a living at it. The creators of several popular online role-playing games completed a year-long study of the very real transactions that are taking place in their imaginary worlds. The results portray a flourishing economy that is rapidly grabbing advertisers’ attention. The sellers are role players who have taken the time to find marketable goods in their virtual worlds—and they are clearly putting in the time. In one popular game, a gnome is sold with a basic skill set for $214; in another, a virtual cherry dining set for a virtual home runs about 250 actual dollars. Between June 2005 and June 2006, 9,042 role players spent $1.87 million dollars on virtual goods from swords to special powers. According to analyst estimates for 2015, U.S. virtual goods revenue alone will top $1 billion and could even rake in over $2 billion.

It is entertainment I don’t claim to fully understand. But it is fascinating (and maybe worrisome) to see how seamless the real and the virtual can become. Of course, this is a reality that runs through far more than worlds of online gaming. The imagination is always at work in the way we see the world itself; this is both instinctive and instructive. Moreover, to note that something is imaginary is not to dismiss it as void of truth or reality. Fans of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes cartoon remember significant lines of truth coming from a stuffed tiger. Yet, there are also times that what is not real can become so intertwined with what is real that we scarcely notice a difference. That is, until something real reminds us otherwise—like a jolt of consciousness, an outsider’s perspective, or a credit card receipt.

The Hebrew prophet Jonah was a prophet by profession. He knew the liturgy and worship of the people of Israel by heart. So it is not unreasonable that as his life was ebbing away in the depths of the sea, Jonah would cry out with the words of a psalm he had heard countless times before. And yet, the words no doubt had a depth of meaning for him unlike anything he had known before. As he was losing consciousness—literally in Hebrew, “in the feebleness of his person,”—Jonah not only remembered God by name, but in some ways was seeing God for the first time. Like one awakened to enmeshed worlds both real and unreal, Jonah quickly clung to what was real.

Up until this point Jonah’s behavior suggests a mentality that God was not entirely omnipresent, but present only in Israel, in the temple, and in the places of his own interest. As Jonah ran to Tarshish to avoid the call of God to go to Nineveh, he ran believing there was a place he could go where God could not find him. But as he sunk further into the depths of the sea, the prophet realized that he was mercifully mistaken. His language evokes a play on words—As I was losing consciousness, I remembered the LORD. Or else, it was a sudden recognition of the Really Real in the imaginary world he had occupied. Losing consciousness, Jonah was actually gaining it.

Perhaps not wanting to consider the discomfort it would take to uproot our own embedded fallacies, tellers of Jonah’s story often minimize the distress that broke his silence with God. But the popular notion that Jonah went straight from the side of the ship and into the mouth of the fish is not supported by either the narrative as a whole or Jonah’s cry for help. H. L. Ellison suggests that “[Jonah] was half drowned before he was swallowed. If he was still conscious, sheer dread would have caused him to faint—notice that there is no mention of the fish in his prayer. He can hardly have known what caused the change from wet darkness to an even greater dry darkness. When he did regain consciousness, it would have taken some time to realize that the all-enveloping darkness was not that of Sheol but of a mysterious safety.”(1)

In that mysterious safety, Jonah shows us the strange world that unwound his imaginary one, and in it, the God who hears in both. Though the deep surrounded him and reeds were bound to his head, Jonah was heard—and his awareness of this was an essential turning point in his story. In prayer and darkness, Jonah admitted that the role of salvation cannot be in his hands. If only momentarily, the drowning prophet clung to a truth more hopeful than escapism and far more able than idols: “Salvation belongs to the LORD.”

It is hard to believe that Jonah could have considered being swallowed alive a rescue, and yet it is precisely Jonah’s considerations from which he needed to be rescued. In truth, at times, the deliverance we need most is that of deliverance from ourselves. Though our thoughts toward God be wound in self and seaweed, and the depths of our imagined autonomy threaten to drown us, rescue is indeed a valid hope. What if God is far more real than we often imagine?

 

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

 

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

 

 

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Joyce Meyer – How to Resist Rejection

 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? — Romans 8:31

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

Do you feel as though the world is against you? Does it seem that no matter how hard you try, no one is pleased? Maybe you have conflict with a family member. Perhaps your boss finds fault with your work.

Sooner or later you will experience some form of rejection. Not everybody will like you. Some may even aggressively dislike you. No one enjoys being rejected, but you can learn to handle rejection and get on with your life if you remember that Jesus was also rejected and despised. If you feel rejected, give your hurt to God…

Prayer Starter: Lord, I can’t please everyone all of the time. I will concentrate on being a God pleaser and not a man pleaser. The rest I leave in Your hands, Lord. Grant me favor with You and with men, and continue transforming me into the image of Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – His Ways Will Satisfy 

 

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how His ways will really satisfy you” (Romans 12:2).

“The trouble with living sacrifices,” someone has well said, “is that they keep crawling off the altar.” That may be true. We “crawl off the altar” when we sin, and the only way to put ourselves back on the altar is to breathe spiritually – confess our known sins in accordance with the promise of 1 John 1:9 and appropriate the fullness of the Holy Spirit as we are commanded to do by faith (Ephesians 5:18).

When we do this, we will be living supernaturally and our lives will produce the fruit of the Spirit in great abundance.

Only by being filled with the Spirit, and thus realizing the fruit of the Spirit, can spiritual gifts be effectively utilized in witnessing and building up the Body of Christ.

We begin by totally yielding ourselves by faith to Christ in a full irrevocable surrender to His lordship.

“He died once for all to end sin’s power, but now He lives forever in unbroken fellowship with God. So look upon your old sin-nature as dead and unresponsive to sin, and instead be alive to God, alert to Him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Do not let sin control your puny body any longer; do not give in to its sinful desires. Do not let any part of your bodies become tools of wickedness, to be used for sinning; but give yourselves completely to God – every part of you -for you are back from death and you want to be tools in the hands of God, to be used for His good purposes” (Romans 6:10-13).

Bible Reading: Romans 12:3-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that God’s ways will really satisfy me, I will seek first His kingdom, resist the devil at his every appearance and watch with joy as he flees.

 

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Max Lucado – Let Your Life Illustrate Christ

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Tucked away in the cedar chest of my memory is a Sunday school teacher in a small West Texas church.  She gave each of us a can of crayons and a sketch of Jesus torn from a coloring book.  We didn’t illustrate pictures of ourselves, we colored the Son of God.  We used what she gave us.  No blue crayon for the sky?  Make it purple.  If Jesus’ hair is red, the teacher won’t mind.  She taught us to paint Jesus with our own colors.

God made you to do likewise.  He made you unique so you could illustrate Christ.  Make a big deal out of him. Don’t waste years embellishing your own image.  Who needs to see your face?  Who doesn’t need to see God’s?  Besides, God promises no applause for self-promoters.  But great reward awaits God-promoters–  “Good work!  You did your job well.” (Matthew 25:23).

 

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

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