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Discussion Starter #401
The Makings of a Star


Wednesday, December 19, 2018


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1–2, esv).

They say it was Halley’s Comet.

Or they say it was the convergence of Saturn and Jupiter, sparkling with unusual brightness because of their planetary alignment in the nighttime sky.

“Is there really a more plausible explanation for the universe than what the Bible says—that God spoke the whole thing into existence?”

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They say it might even have occurred within the constellation Pisces—the zodiac sign of the fish—as if this part of the hypothesis should make Christians feel adequately patronized, if we insist on reading a mystical meaning into the “star” of Matthew 2. They say it was for sure uncanny, though not unheard of.

What they don’t say—what they will never say—is what it truly was: A MIRACLE!

But wouldn’t “miracle” actually make a lot more sense? Doesn’t all of creation shout “Creator”? Doesn’t the galactic choreography of the heavens declare that Someone did this? Is there really a more plausible explanation for the universe than what the Bible simply comes out and says—that God spoke the whole thing into existence?

And if He’d already made more stars than could ever be counted, how hard would it have been for Him to make another one—and then to move it around, to put it exactly where He wanted, exactly when He wanted it to be there?

We at least know the wise men considered this star worth investigating. It obviously went beyond their understanding of astronomy. Maybe they knew of some of the Old Testament prophecies, like this one which had been spoken centuries before: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). They knew enough to be amazed.

So they would never have bought the notion that nothing miraculous was taking place, or that this star didn’t make reference to a king to be worshiped—any more than they bought Herod’s lunatic line about, “When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him” (Matthew 2:8). These wise men weren’t fools enough to believe his lies or explain it all away.

Neither should we be. May God forgive us the arrogance of translating our postage stamp’s worth of total knowledge into rational explanations for everything we see. The greatest rationality of all is the recognition that rationality itself is incomplete as a way of knowing. There is a supernatural part that outweighs and outsmarts us. There is a God far more powerful than the theories of any high school science teacher or university professor.

I don’t know how a star of such significance appeared in the eastern sky. I don’t know how it “came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9)—not over a city, not over a block, not over a street, but over a house. We’re not really told, so we apparently don’t need to know.

Except that it was a MIRACLE. Something miraculous happened. And the proper response is not skepticism or rational explaining but adoring worship.

Journal
•What’s truly behind most of our skepticism of the miraculous?
•What do we lose (that we truly need) by only accepting what we can understand?

Pray
Father, I believe in Your miracles. I believe You can do exceedingly beyond whatever my mind can understand and process. I’m thankful for the knowledge You’ve revealed, but I realize it leaves me drastically incomplete in grasping how You’ve made everything to operate. Nothing is known that You do not know. And I choose to worship You rather than question You, because You have given me faith to believe, in Jesus’ name, amen.


source:
https://jamesmacdonald.com/category/devotionals/
 

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Discussion Starter #403
Joy in the Journey


Friday, December 21, 2018

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy (Matthew 2:10, esv).

Have you ever noticed how Christmas can sometimes feel disappointing? After all the buildup, after all the weeks of investment and preparation and growing excitement, it’s usually not quite as picturesque and ideal as you’d envisioned it being.

The wise men may have found themselves feeling a little that way.

“In worshiping Jesus, you will be able to take whatever this Christmas gives you and rejoice your way through every moment.”

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We don’t actually know a lot about the wise men. We don’t know, for instance, how many there were. We tend to think three, but that’s only because of the three gifts they brought. We don’t know exactly where they came from, except that they came from “the east” (Matthew 2:1) and that they were looking for a king—“he who has been born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). We also don’t know the mode of travel they used in heading toward Jerusalem, or what they wore, how they looked, or how long this journey took them.

But we do know they ended up at a house, most likely just a common bungalow—which wasn’t where you’d expect a king to be living. They also found this “king of the Jews” to be no more than a child, which you’d think would have surprised them because of the majesty of the star that had led them to Him.

Having traveled probably thousands of miles, having put so much of themselves into this major pursuit, it had brought them not to a castle but to a modest little home. Not to a strong, full-grown ruler, but to just a little baby.

Wouldn’t that have been a bit of a letdown? A disappointment?

Instead they found it cause for rejoicing. “They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

Joy is something inside of you that doesn’t depend on what’s around you. Joy is unrelated to what is happening in your life. Joy is not waiting for all your plans to come together perfectly before it’s able to kick in. You can experience it and possess it no matter what your circumstances have turned out to be.

And when you do—when real joy is in your heart—it can’t help but come out as rejoicing. Rejoicing is the verbal expression of joy. It’s not something you can do if joy is not what you’ve put inside, but if you’ve chosen joy independent of what’s outside, not only are you able to rejoice, but you can do it “exceedingly with great joy.”

So this Christmas, you can be guaranteed not to be disappointed. You can be the one in your home and among your family who leads the way in rejoicing. You may be tired, like the wise men were tired. You may end up with a result that doesn’t exactly resemble what you had in mind.

But just as the wise men approached that house with joy, and there discovered the unique privilege of worshiping at the little feet of Baby Jesus—you, too, will be able to take what this Christmas gives you and rejoice your way through every moment, “exceedingly with great joy.”

Journal
•What are some of the letdowns or disappointments you’ve experienced at Christmas?
•What have you found to be the most reliable instigators of joy in your heart?

Pray
Lord God, thank You for creating us with a capacity for joy. Thank You for making us able to experience a supernatural delight in You, in Your personhood, in Your purposes, and in Your people. You are working in me at this time of the year, at this time in my life, in ways that are good, because You are good. Help me then rejoice over them as opportunities to learn of You and become more like You, in Jesus’ name, amen.


source:
https://jamesmacdonald.com/category/devotionals/
 

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Discussion Starter #405
All of Them, All of Us

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10, esv)

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them” (Luke 2:9). To them. You can almost hear the emphasis there on that last word—the disbelief, bordering on disdain. Why would God pick out such a rough sort of people to become the featured audience for an angel announcing the birth of His only Son?

Shepherds were so . . . unsavory.

“No matter who you are or what you’ve done or wish you’d done differently, God loves you—Jesus came for you.”

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I mean, it wasn’t a complicated job. It wasn’t a noble profession. Shepherds as a rule were not honorable men chosen from their long list of references and their ability to do hard work with their hands. As with anyone tasked with an assignment requiring little training or experience, they tended to be rather transient—more like vagabonds or gypsies, down the food chain from even the steady crop of day laborers that wealthy employers could routinely select from.

So when you think of the “shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8), make sure you get the image right. These were little more than warm bodies, almost certainly watching someone else’s sheep, not actually their own. They were people with a past, men who’d done a lot of things to be ashamed of, a lot of things that needed forgiveness. Like us, they could probably think of many points and places in their lives where they wished they’d have made different choices than they did.

And yet an angel appeared “to them.” Do not lose sight of this fact.

Think of the One this angel was telling these shepherds about. Among the many complaints the religious officials would lodge against Him during His lifetime was how He was always hanging around with the wrong people. “The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’” (Luke 15:1–2). They were constantly appalled at the kind of crowd He gravitated toward, and how the crowd gravitated toward Him—people who were so unlike themselves.

And yet so much like the rest of us.

In fact, as you hear and read this familiar story again during the Christmas season, let me give you another place where you might notice an implied emphasis. “The angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’” All the people. It’s what makes this story so real and so beautiful.

No matter who you are or what you’ve done or wish you’d done differently, God loves you—Jesus came for you—as well as for the people you love, even if they feel hopelessly far away from Him today. Even those people you struggle not to despise, and who reveal to you in your despising of them just how much you need the same Savior as they do—Jesus came for them, too.

He came for us. He came for “all the people.”

And that’s something we can never emphasize enough.

Journal
•In what ways do the shepherds’ lives and experiences relate to your own?
•How does a real understanding of this story change all your interactions with others?

Pray
Father, I’m unworthy of even being told that You sent Your Son to save us. And yet You’ve told all of us. You’ve made Him known to all of us. Thank You for not overlooking anyone in Your announcement of what You’ve done to redeem us from every sin and regret. Help me not only embrace with gratitude and joy the privilege of Your notice, but ignite me to make it known to others—to “all”—in the name of Jesus, amen.


source:
https://jamesmacdonald.com/category/devotionals/
 

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Discussion Starter #406
The Key to Remembering


Wednesday, January 02, 2019


And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes (Deuteronomy 6:6–8, esv).

When our lives are cluttered with distractions, how do we keep what is most important front and center in our hearts and minds? How do we remember the things God wants us to treasure? The answer can partly be found in Deuteronomy 6:8, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

“God’s Word needs to be the subject of continual meditation, conversation, and obedience.”

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God not only gave His people a full set of rules for living, but He also gave them instructions about how to remember His words. This passage contains the greatest commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5, see also Matthew 22:36–40) and offers some practical house rules.

The context of this passage is God’s law and how it should be the subject of continual meditation, conversation, and obedience. The home was to be a training center for faith in God and for the importance of His commands for healthy living, with parents modeling and teaching these truths to their children throughout the day.

Unfortunately, over the centuries, the Israelites transformed Deuteronomy 6:8 from a vivid command into a hollow reenactment of God’s truth. Instead of being as signs or as frontlets, snippets of God’s laws had become trinkets worn for show. The symbols had replaced what they were intended to symbolize. Today’s version of that empty practice might be someone who claims to love God’s Word, brags about owning fifteen copies of the Bible, but never actually reads it. Or someone who does a daily devotional without letting those truths have an impact on his day. Or someone who goes to church but couldn’t name any specific issue God is working on in her life.

So what’s the key to remembering what is most important? The verses above illustrate God’s answer: the more integrated spiritual practices become in our daily lives, the less we have to worry about remembering them. If we settle for reading the Bible to our kids once a week, then we’re going to need more reminders. But if our lifestyle revolves around God’s Word, then each day will be filled with teachable moments. We can talk about His provision when we sit down to a meal. We can ask Him to guard our travels together and separately throughout the day. We can lead our children in talking to God about their day in prayer as they lie down, and we can be ready to thank the Lord for a new day when we arise.

Remembering what’s most important starts with your own practice of regular exposure to God’s Word and intentional decisions to obey what you read. As you help your family and those around you recognize the Lord and how much He cares about daily moments in their lives, you will remember just how much His guidance matters to you, too.

Journal
•What tangible reminders of God and His Word are visible around your house? How effective are they in helping you remember?
•What patterns of God-acknowledgement could be improved in your family?

Pray
Lord God, I want to love You with my whole heart, soul, and might. I want Your Word to be on my heart, and I want to teach it to my children. Forgive me for letting distractions keep me from my central love for You. Help me to remember You and talk about You and live for You—not empty, rote patterns but overflowing love for You in my conversations and my everyday life. I pray in the name of Jesus, who commanded me to remember (Luke 22:19), amen.


source:

https://jamesmacdonald.com/category/devotionals/
 

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Discussion Starter #407
Pick It Up


Monday, January 07, 2019



Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1–2, esv).

Let’s take an informal survey. Question: Who’s in favor of reading God’s Word?

Most of us would respond “absolutely.” Reading and studying the Bible on a regular basis is a widely accepted spiritual discipline, and most of us would agree that it’s good for our souls. Yet how easily we turn the freedoms offered by a discipline into guilt-ridden hypocrisy driven by legalism.

“The disciplines of a sincere faith are a way of deepening intimacy with the One who has called you His child.”

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It’s like the earnest, young Christian who sets out on a quiet time campaign. He’s so motivated at first and feels such a sense of accomplishment as he checks off the days he reads. And then he falls behind on his pace. One day he oversleeps, or he’s sick, or he’s traveling, or . . . and before he knows it, he’s fallen so far behind that he has to do three or four “quiet times” a day in order to catch up. The joy and freedom of the spiritual discipline of reading God’s Word give way to guilt and a sense of being enslaved to a checklist.

Deep down, he might even suspect he’s missing the point. God never said, “Seven days you shall have a quiet time, and you shall not rest from it.” Relationships are regular and intimate, but they are not mechanical. A healthy pattern isn’t rigid. My wife likes to have a date night each week, but if we miss one, she doesn’t hate me. There’s much more at stake in my relationship with my wife and in my relationship with God than slavishly keeping a calendar. Regularity is an important factor but not the whole picture.

So if reading the Bible every single day without fail isn’t a realistic goal for everyone all the time, then what is a healthy goal? Based on my own experience, I’d propose that a person who averages five, solid times in God’s Word each week is growing in his/her faith, but that may look different for you during different seasons in your life. The Scriptures don’t lay out a definite schedule, so the patterns we make for ourselves need to serve the purpose of consistent time with God in His Word. If they become a threat or a discouraging weight, then they are not serving their purpose: to facilitate growing to love our heavenly Father more and more.

Ultimately, we want to saturate our minds with God’s Word so it can be increasingly true of us that our “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law [we meditate] day and night.” The goal is saturation, meditation, immersion, growth, and ultimately love—not legalism, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, compulsion, or guilt.

The disciplines of a sincere faith are not intended to be an intimidating obstacle between you and God but a way of deepening intimacy with the One who has called you His child and wants the best for you. And this Book is a gift from God to His children. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book.”

The first step in developing a discipline of personal Bible study is to pick it up. We don’t want to get lost in what others say about the Bible; we want to experience it for ourselves.

Journal
•How have you experienced the tension between the joy of reading God’s Word and the legalism of feeling forced to read at a certain pace or schedule?
•To what extent do you delight in and meditate on God’s Word, as Psalm 1 describes?

Pray
Father God, forgive me for times I’ve approached reading Your Word as a chore to check off my to-do list, as well as for neglecting time with You altogether. Replace both extremes with a genuine desire to spend time with You in the Scriptures. Your Word is a gift to me. Teach me to delight in and meditate on it. Help me to love You more and more, and may that be my motivation in my spiritual disciplines. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


source:
https://jamesmacdonald.com/category/devotionals/
 

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Discussion Starter #408
Your Gratitude Meter


Wednesday, January 09, 2019


Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:17–19, esv).

It’s hard for us to imagine what this scene was like. Leprosy was miserable, highly contagious, and incurable. Lepers were called “unclean” and were quarantined. Alone—for the rest of their lives. At a distance, these ten lepers had desperately shouted to the Lord, “Master, have mercy on us” (17:13b).

And Jesus offered them healing. “When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests’” (17:14a). In order for them to be declared clean, they had to be examined by the priests to confirm their leprosy was gone.

Faith grows in the soil of thankfulness.

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Jesus didn’t pronounce healing; He required them to take action. “And as they went they were cleansed” (17:14b). First they started walking, then they were healed. Imagine how these men must have felt. The constant itch, fear, isolation, and torment of leprosy, then—BAM!—instant healing.

Which leads to the heart of the story. Nine of the ten continued on; just one turned back to Jesus, making this point: Only a fraction of people ever truly thank God for His grace. What a picture of enthusiasm and humility, as the thankful leper praised God with a loud voice and fell at the Lord’s feet. Jesus changed his life, and he was grateful.

“Where are the nine?” Jesus asked rhetorically (17:17b). Ten were healed. Nine were thankless. One was grateful. The distinction was not lost on Christ, and His question gives us piercing insight into how God feels.

By the world’s standards, we each have a life of incredible blessing, and the Lord is aware of the reading on our Gratitude Meters. He knows you, knows what He’s done for you, and has a clear reading of your thankfulness right now. God is very aware of your heart response to His grace.

When you choose an attitude of gratitude toward the Lord, something changes in your life. Jesus drew a distinction between the nine and the one: “your faith has made you well” (17:19b). Thankfulness led to wellness at a deeper level. All were healed physically; only one was healed spiritually.

Faith grows in the soil of thankfulness. In the life of the one, gratitude led to faith, which led to salvation.

So where would you fall in the pack of lepers? Some of us are in need of Jesus’ healing. Others have accepted His gifts without thanking Him. Still others are overflowing with gratitude, experiencing a wellness of soul that comes only through grateful faith.

Journal
•What’s the reading on your Gratitude Meter? Write down and thank God for His specific gifts.
•How are gratitude and faith linked? How have you seen this connection in your own life and soul?

Pray
God, I echo the lepers: “Master, have mercy on us.” Please heal my soul of thanklessness. Ingratitude is such an ugly sin, and it must offend You deeply. Open my eyes to see the abundance of good gifts You’ve given me. Truly “my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5b). With the enthusiasm and humility of the one grateful leper, I thank You! I long for You to heal my soul and to make me truly, deeply well. Grow my gratitude, grow my faith, Lord. Thank You most of all for the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ my Healer and Lord, in whose name I pray, amen.

source:
https://jamesmacdonald.com/category/devotionals/
 

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Discussion Starter #409
The Arm of God


Monday, January 14, 2019


Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40:10–11, esv).

Have you ever given much thought to God’s arms? (“God has arms?” you might be wondering.) When God describes His arms, He doesn’t tell us their circumference or how much He can lift—those are human, physical terms, like the jock showing off at the gym. But God’s description of His arms tells us some awesome things about Him. In fact, the dual description of God’s arms in this passage shows us His power and His comfort.

“Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him.” When the Bible talks about God’s right arm, it refers to His powerful, ruling arm—His justice, His holiness, and His strength. God is like that. He is all that and more.

This awesome God cares for you. Personally. Individually.

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But then the very next verse describes His tender shepherd arm. “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” If you’ve spent any time in church, sadly you’ve probably heard one extreme or the other: a ton of preaching about the transcendent, holy, awesome Judge or a ton of preaching about the tender, loving, merciful Shepherd. But He’s both, right? In this passage we clearly see both. Don’t let God’s nearness minimize His transcendence nor let His transcendence make you think He isn’t very aware of you individually.

Imagine a shepherd in the fields, and this gives you a picture of God. A shepherd can oversee hundreds of sheep, but he holds only one at a time. He gathers the lambs one by one in his arms. The point here is that this awesome God cares for you. Personally. Individually. Yes, He’s guarding a big flock, but when He cares for the lambs, He tends to them one by one. This is God’s love for you. Personal. Individual. Attentive. Aware. Devoted. That’s how He cares for you.

When He carries His lambs, He holds them “in his bosom.” Picture that. He doesn’t hold us awkwardly squirming at arms’ length. No, He draws us close, right to His own heart.

And He will “gently lead those that are with young.” The sheep that is about to give birth is vulnerable, with unique needs. And the shepherd accommodates those needs. In the same way, when our needs are great, the Lord is that much more attentive to us. Some of us are at a point of acute need right now in our business or in our family. God knows what it is. And just as pressing as that need is, His attention matches that. He’s on it! He is right there, gently leading those whose circumstances demand additional care.

So which one is He—mighty or tender? Yes. His arm is a picture of absolute power and unconditional love.

That’s your King. That’s your Shepherd.

Journal
•According to A.W. Tozer, the most important fact about any person is “what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.” How does Isaiah 40 shape your theology—your thoughts about God?
•On which side do you tend to err—God as Judge or God as Shepherd? Why is it important for you to realize He’s both mighty and tender, both transcendent and near?

Pray
As I behold You, my Lord God, I am in awe of who You are. You are the King. You rule the universe with Your feet up. Absolute power. You are also my Shepherd. You lovingly hold me close and tend to my heart. Absolute love. Open my eyes that I may see You more clearly, and stir in me fresh worship and love for You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


source:
https://jamesmacdonald.com/category/devotionals/
 

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Discussion Starter #410
Been wanting a bit of a change for the last few weeks and ive let life get too much of my time. Going to try some stuff from Greg Laurie. There also seems to have been some tech issues with walkintheword.

When You Need a Fresh Start


By Greg Laurie

January 28

Before Moses left Midian, the LORD said to him, "Return to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you have died."
—Exodus 4:19

I think it’s always a great thing to start something fresh. I love the first day of spring. I love it when Daylight Saving Time begins and we spring forward one hour with our watches and clocks. I also love the way everything looks after it rains.
What is also great is a second chance after you fail. It’s great when you can have a fresh start.
In Exodus 12, Moses was about to change the world for the captives of Egypt. But first, Moses himself would need a new beginning, because he had crashed and burned. You know the story. He killed an Egyptian. He went into exile for forty years. Then God gave him a second chance at the burning bush. The Lord spoke to him and recommissioned him to service. He gave a new beginning to Moses—and ultimately a new beginning to the Israelites.
It comes down to this: When you’ve been changed, you’ll want to see others experience change in their lives, too. Let me turn that around. If you don’t want to see others experience change, then how have you really been changed?
Jesus said this: “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (Luke 12:48 NLT).
Do you realize the great privileges you have? God has given these to you, and with them come responsibilities. To whom much is given, from him much is required.
If we can wrap our minds around what God has done for us and how much He has forgiven us, how He’s taken all that sin and removed it from our lives, then we should have an eagerness, an excitement, and a passion to tell others about what God has done for us.


source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-01-28
 

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Discussion Starter #411
Give Him Your Best


By Greg Laurie

January 31

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
—Matthew 6:33

I heard about an old farmer who was very stingy. One day he said to his pastor, “You know, I just had two calves that were born, and I’ve decided to give one of them to the Lord.”
“Oh?” the pastor said, “Which one?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
A week passed, and one of the calves got very sick and died. The next day, the farmer came to the pastor with the dead calf draped over his arms and said, “I have bad news. The Lord’s calf just died.”
That’s what we often do. We give our leftovers to God. If Jesus Christ showed up at your house today for lunch, would you give Him leftovers? I think you would make a feast fit for a king, just like Martha did when Jesus arrived at her home.
We should give our very best to God, but often we give him second best. We know we should pray and read the Bible, but we think, “I’ll get to that eventually.” We know we should give of our finances to the Lord, but we say, “I don’t have any money left.”
The Bible says “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase” (Proverbs 3:9 NKJV). Put God first, and He will bless you.
Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV). What did Jesus mean by “all these things”? He was referring to what you will eat, what you will drink, and what you will wear. Put God first in your marriage, and watch how it changes. Put God first in your finances, and watch how they’ll change. Put God first. Give Him the best. He gave His best to you.

source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-01-31
 

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Discussion Starter #412
Call It What It Is


By Greg Laurie

February

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
—1 John 1:7

Our culture has come up with new words for sin so we don’t feel so bad. Instead of someone saying they committed the sin of adultery, they say there has been “a moral failure.” Instead of someone saying they lied, they claim they “misspoke” or offered “alternative facts.” And instead of someone saying they’ve sinned, they say, “Well, I’m not perfect. I made a mistake.”
But there’s a difference between a mistake and a sin. According to Merriam-Webster, a mistake is “a wrong judgment: misunderstanding” or “a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention.”
For example, you were supposed to turn right on that street and you turned left. It was a mistake. It wasn’t deliberate, but it happened.
A sin, on the other hand, is deliberate. It’s something we do at will. We need to call it what it is. If we have been guilty of a sin, then let’s call it that.
It’s one thing when you realize that something you said wasn’t accurate and then say, “I researched this and found that I wasn’t correct in all my facts. Let me restate it.” But a lie is another thing altogether. A lie is when you know something is true but you choose to say something false instead.
Call a lie a lie. Call a sin a sin. And when you do, apply the blood of Jesus Christ. Come to Him and confess your sin and repent of your sin. Accept His forgiveness because of His blood that was shed. And then drop it. Stop dredging it up. We should not choose to remember what God has chosen to forget. That doesn’t mean there won’t be ramifications for it. But that sin is covered by the blood of Christ, and it is forgiven.

source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-02-01
 

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Call It What It Is


By Greg Laurie

February

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
—1 John 1:7

Our culture has come up with new words for sin so we don’t feel so bad. Instead of someone saying they committed the sin of adultery, they say there has been “a moral failure.” Instead of someone saying they lied, they claim they “misspoke” or offered “alternative facts.” And instead of someone saying they’ve sinned, they say, “Well, I’m not perfect. I made a mistake.”
But there’s a difference between a mistake and a sin. According to Merriam-Webster, a mistake is “a wrong judgment: misunderstanding” or “a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention.”
For example, you were supposed to turn right on that street and you turned left. It was a mistake. It wasn’t deliberate, but it happened.
A sin, on the other hand, is deliberate. It’s something we do at will. We need to call it what it is. If we have been guilty of a sin, then let’s call it that.
It’s one thing when you realize that something you said wasn’t accurate and then say, “I researched this and found that I wasn’t correct in all my facts. Let me restate it.” But a lie is another thing altogether. A lie is when you know something is true but you choose to say something false instead.
Call a lie a lie. Call a sin a sin. And when you do, apply the blood of Jesus Christ. Come to Him and confess your sin and repent of your sin. Accept His forgiveness because of His blood that was shed. And then drop it. Stop dredging it up. We should not choose to remember what God has chosen to forget. That doesn’t mean there won’t be ramifications for it. But that sin is covered by the blood of Christ, and it is forgiven.

source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-02-01
Absolute truth right there. Call a spade a spade. Drives me nuts when people twist their moral thinking to try and justify what they knew 100% was WRONG. It's the same principal idea of trying to lay the blame on your friend who told you to steal is the justification for you stealing. SMH.....

Or Able saying...I am not my brother's keeper???? :taze:
 

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Discussion Starter #414
Better Than a GPS


Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.
—1 Corinthians 6:19

Every now and then, it seems that my GPS has a mind of its own. I’ll be driving on the freeway, going to a destination where I’ve never been before, and all of a sudden it tells me to turn right at the next off-ramp. It doesn’t make sense, but I turn right. Then it tells me to turn left, so I turn left. Then it brings me back to the freeway. What was that all about? It makes no sense at all.
The Lord gave the Israelites an amazing GPS system: a fire by night and a cloud by day. It was very simple. When the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. At night when the fire moved, they moved. When the fire stopped, they stopped.
We might think, “I wish I could have that, because a lot of times I don’t know what I should do and where I should go. It would be so easy.”
As believers under the New Covenant, we have something better than a cloud or a fire. We have Christ Himself living in our hearts. This is only for the Christian who has believed in Jesus Christ. God takes residence in our hearts. We don’t need a fire in the sky. We have the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives, giving us the power to do what God has called us to do.
The Lord will lead us in the way that He wants us to go. Now, sometimes God’s will doesn’t make sense. Maybe we think God is trying to ruin all our fun. But in time we’ll realize that God knew what He was talking about all along.
A GPS isn’t always right, but God is always right. And God’s way is always the right way.

source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-02-04
 

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Discussion Starter #415
Forward Progress

But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
—Luke 9:62

It took God one night to get Israel out of Egypt. But it took forty years to get Egypt out of Israel. The Israelites were always looking back.
Some Christians are that way. They’re always looking back. They say, “Remember the good old days—you know, before I was a Christian? Man, we would party! We had so much fun!”
Really? Were they, in fact, the good old days? Were they as good as they thought they were? Or is their memory a little distorted? Have they forgotten the emptiness? Have they forgotten the despondency? Have they forgotten the repercussions of the things they did? Have they forgotten that dull ache deep inside? Have they forgotten the havoc it brought on their family? They’ve conveniently forgotten about that and remember the few good times they had.
That is what the Israelites were doing. They were always looking back. But before we judge them, let’s realize that we’ve done the same thing. This is why Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 NKJV).
Have you ever been driving along and had the highway patrol pull up behind you? It makes you nervous, doesn’t it? Do you slow down, even if you’re doing the speed limit? And if they happen to slow down, do you slow down even more?
You can’t live in two worlds. You can’t go forward when you’re looking back. And you can’t walk forward spiritually if you’re always looking over your shoulder. World changers see opportunities, but those who are changed by this world see obstacles. World changers see bridges, but those who are changed by this world see walls. It’s all in how you look at things.

source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-02-05
 

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Discussion Starter #416
A Walk of Faith


So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!
—Exodus 14:22

It must have been very exciting when the Israelites walked through the middle of the Red Sea on dry ground. Maybe they saw fish cruising by in the walls of water on each side, like the best aquarium ever. But they had to walk for hours and hours. It took all night.
That is the Christian life. It’s just a walk with the Lord. Sometimes there’s a lot of excitement in the beginning of the Christian life when we realize what God has done for us. But as time passes, we might start taking things for granted. And we might find ourselves becoming apathetic.
If that describes you, then you need to plot your RPGS: (1) Read the Bible every day. You never outgrow it and never get beyond it. God’s Word never becomes irrelevant. (2) Pray about things. Bring things up before the Lord. You need to have a prayer life. (3) Go to church. You need to be a regular part of the church. (4) Share your faith with others.
We stop doing these things and then wonder why spiritual apathy is seeping into our lives. It’s because we’re not doing the basics. Let’s just say that you decided you weren’t going to eat anymore. Here’s what will happen: You’ll get lightheaded. You’ll feel almost sick. And if it goes on for a while, you’ll basically start to die. You can’t live that way. You must eat to survive. In the same way, if we neglect spiritual disciplines, it won’t be long until we’ll find ourselves withering.
Nietzsche said, “The essential thing ‘in heaven and in earth’ is . . . that there should be long obedience in the same direction.”
As Christians, our lives are a walk of faith. We need to keep walking that walk.

source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-02-06
 

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Discussion Starter #417
From Panic to Prayer


Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
—Philippians 4:6

Some people can sleep through anything. I’m not one of them. If I hear one little noise, I’m awake. If a bird chirps, I’m awake. I’m a light sleeper.
Luke’s Gospel tells us that as the disciples battled a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was sound asleep. Water was coming into the boat as it pitched back and forth. The terrified disciples woke up Jesus, crying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (Luke 8:24 NLT). Yes, they panicked. But they also prayed. They cried out to the Lord.
When we are in trouble, that’s what we need to do. Faith and worry cannot coexist. One chases out the other. Do you know people who don’t get along? Maybe you want to invite one of them to your house, but you’re hesitant to invite the other. There is always a conflict. Faith and worry are that way. If there is worry, there is no place for faith. Faith is driven out by worry, and worry is driven out by faith.
Philippians 4 tells us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (verses 6–7 NLT).
I love how the J.B. Phillips translation puts it: “Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”
It has been said that if your knees start shaking, kneel on them. When things are scary, pray. Cry out to God.

source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-02-07
 

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Discussion Starter #418
Let God Fight the Battle


But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
—1 John 4:4

At the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, there was no mightier army on the face of the earth than Pharaoh’s army. Imagine what it must have been like for the Israelites to see that army pursuing them with chariots and horses, with shields and swords and spears. If it were happening today, it would have been tanks and hummers and aircraft coming at them all at the same time.
The Israelites thought they were dead. So what did Moses tell them to do? He said, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:13–14 NLT). Just stay calm. . . . That’s kind of hard to do.
Sometimes the devil comes at us with everything he has, with all his temptations and all his deceptions. We think we’re not going to survive it. Yes, we will. The Bible says, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4 NLT).
Christ is in you. You belong to the Lord. Yes, the devil can tempt you. He can hassle you. But he cannot overcome you, because you are under God’s protection.
That is why Ephesians 6 tells us about the believer’s spiritual armor: the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit, and so forth. But before the apostle Paul begins describing this spiritual armor, he writes, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10 NLT).
Stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.

source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-02-08
 

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Discussion Starter #419
The Art of Ending


The end of a thing is better than its beginning; the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
—Ecclesiastes 7:8

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”
And Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7:8 NKJV).
Samson had a great beginning. He had superhuman qualities. Physically, there was no one stronger. He was a one-man army. On one occasion he killed 30 Philistines (the enemies of the Israelites) to settle a bet. On another occasion, he killed 1,000 Philistine warriors on the battlefield with a bone that he picked up off the ground. He once ripped a lion apart with his bare hands. He wasn’t a fictitious superhero; he was the real deal.
For a time Samson was a mighty man of God. And for a time he was even a true world changer. But in time the world began to change him. Samson turned his back on God. He had an amazing beginning but a tragic ending.
One day your life will be summed up in a paragraph or two on a bulletin that will be handed out at your memorial service. No one will care about how much money you made or how much stuff you owned. No one will care how high you climbed in your profession. Instead, they’ll talk about what kind of person you were.
We don’t decide the day of our death any more than we decided the day of our birth. But we do determine the spiritual state we’ll be in when we die. God wants us to be close to Him. God wants us in friendship and fellowship and intimacy with Him. But it’s our choice whether to have a relationship with the Lord or not to have a relationship with Him. We want to finish well.

source:
https://www.harvest.org/devotions-and-blogs/daily-devotions/2019-02-11
 

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Discussion Starter #420
Samson’s Second Chance

by Greg Laurie on Feb 15, 2019


“ But before long, his hair began to grow back. ”

Judges 16:22


Samson was learning the hard way. There he was in prison, grinding the wheat with the mill, going around in circles. His eyes were gone. His hair was shaved. But it was starting to grow back.

One day the Philistines were having a big, drunken feast in the temple to worship their false god Dagon. Then some of the Philistines had an idea. They called for Samson to be brought out for entertainment. So they brought up Samson, who was being led by the hand by a young servant.

Then Samson said to the servant, “Place my hands against the pillars that hold up the temple. I want to rest against them” (Judges 16:26 NLT). The servant brought him over, and Samson put one hand on one pillar and one hand on the other. Then Samson prayed, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes” (verse 28 NLT).

Samson pushed, and the pillars came apart. The floor above collapsed, and thousands of Philistines who were partying away, worshipping a false god, fell to their deaths. Samson ended up killing more Philistines in the end than he killed during the rest of his lifetime. In a way it was a victory. But the sad part is that he died with the Philistines. God had said that Samson would begin to deliver Israel. Unfortunately, Samson didn’t finish the job he started. He had a great beginning, but not a great ending. Yet God did give him a second chance.

Let’s learn the lesson of Samson. It isn’t enough to know what is right or even to be used by God for a time. We need to finish what we started.


source:
https://harvest.org/resources/devotion/samsons-second-chance/
 
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