In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Enjoying Life

Enduring satisfaction comes only from God.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-23

King Solomon is traditionally considered the author of Ecclesiastes. According to Scripture, he was the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:12) and had wealth beyond imagination. What’s more, he was blessed with the privilege of building God’s temple. So we might expect that he’d have been content. 

In searching for that deep fulfillment, Solomon explored all kinds of things. Ecclesiastes tells us that he indulged in the pleasures of the world, even dabbling in pursuits he knew were folly. But the satisfaction Solomon sought evaded him, so he tried another avenue. He undertook great projects, such as building houses, gardens and parks, and an extensive irrigation project (Eccl. 2:4-6). But in the end, he concluded it was all without meaning. The story has a familiar ring, doesn’t it? Our culture pursues pleasure and does not accept limits on its passions. 

Solomon had the wisdom and resources to accomplish whatever he chose to do. Yet the goals he pursued brought no lasting satisfaction. He concluded that the best course was to obey God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). True enjoyment comes when we align ourselves with His will. Any other way is meaningless. 

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 11-13

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Warning Sounds

Bible in a Year:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Proverbs 15:1–7

Ever had a close encounter with a rattlesnake? If so, you might have noticed that the sound of the rattle seemed to get more intense as you moved nearer to the viper. Research in the scientific journal Current Biology reveals that the snakes do increase their rattling rate when a threat is approaching. This “high-frequency mode” can cause us to think they’re closer than they are. As one researcher put it, “The misinterpretation of distance by the listener . . . creates a distance safety margin.”

People can sometimes use increasing volume with harsh words that push others away during a conflict—exhibiting anger and resorting to shouting. The writer of Proverbs shares some wise advice for times like these: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). He goes on to say that “soothing” and “wise” words can be “a tree of life” and a source of “knowledge” (vv. 4, 7).

Jesus provided the ultimate reasons for gently appealing to those with whom we enter into conflict: extending love that reveals us to be His children (Matthew 5:43–45) and seeking reconciliation—“[winning] them over” (18:15). Instead of raising our voice or using unkind words during conflicts, may we show civility, wisdom, and love to others as God guides us by His Spirit.

By:  Tom Felten

Reflect & Pray

Why can it be difficult to be gentle and loving in a conflict? How can the Holy Spirit help you carefully choose your words and actions?

Heavenly Father, help me to lovingly address issues with those with whom I disagree.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Knowing God’s Will

“Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

God’s will is revealed in His Word.

How can a Christian walk wisely and know the will of God for his life? The will of God is explicitly revealed to us in the pages of Scripture. God’s will is that we be:

Saved—“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4; compare 2 Peter 3:9).

Spirit-filled—“Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:17-18).

Sanctified—“This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). Submissive—“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God” (1 Peter 2:13-15).

Suffering for His sake—“It is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong” (1 Peter 3:17).

Saying thanks—“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).

You may say, “Those are good principles, but they don’t tell me where I ought to go to school or whom I should marry.” But if you’re saved, sanctified, submissive, suffering, and saying thanks, you can do whatever you want! That’s what the psalmist meant when he said, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). Does that mean He fulfills the desire? Yes, but before He fulfills it, He puts it in your heart. If you are living a godly life, He will give you the right desires and then fulfill them.

Suggestions for Prayer

Give thanks to God for revealing His will in His Word so that you can live wisely, not foolishly.

For Further Study

Christ acted only in accordance with His Father’s will. Read the following verses, and note how that was so: Matthew 26:42John 4:345:306:38.

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – God Does What Is Best for You

Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.

— Psalm 119:116 (AMPC)

We all experience disappointment, such as when we want and expect something to happen, and it doesn’t. We feel as the psalmist must have felt when he wrote the words of today’s scripture—as though our hopes have been dashed. The answer to disappointment is to trust God to always do the best thing for us. Just because you and I want something doesn’t mean it is right for us.

We are individuals, and God has a personalized plan for each of us. What is right for someone else may not be best for you. I encourage you not to fight against life. Learn to relax in God, and when you do feel disappointed, shake it off and keep going.

You can be comforted when you experience disappointment by knowing that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your future. If He doesn’t give you what you ask for, you can be confident that the reason is that He has something better in mind. His plan will unfold little by little, and you will soon realize how much He loves you as He works in your life.

Prayer of the Day: Father, when I am disappointed, help me remember that I can receive comfort from You and that You will always do the best thing for me as I trust You, amen.


http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – God Hears Our Cries

The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help … And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant.

Exodus 2:23-24

The promise of food had encouraged Jacob and his family to leave their famine-stricken land and relocate to Egypt with Joseph. For a time, everything was terrific. But their experience took a turn for the worse when a new king came to power. He didn’t like the idea of Israel’s people growing in stature and number, so he put them to work, ruthlessly enslaving them. Their lives were filled with tears and bitterness.

The people of God still had His promises, but those promises seemed empty. It had been easy to trust God when they were free and well-fed. It was far less easy when they were enslaved. In the long, long years of oppression, some must have said to themselves, I think that God has forgotten His promise. I am not at all sure that He is really going to do what He said. Yet despite this, they called out to God, desperately seeking rescue.

God had not forgotten, and His answer came. God heard their cry; He heard their groaning, and in response He implemented a rescue operation. God would not leave them in their misery. He was going to fulfill His purposes for His people and set them free from slavery. He “remembered his covenant”—which is not to say that His promises to Abraham had slipped His mind but that now, at exactly the right moment (though no doubt not as soon as His people would have chosen), He moved to keep His covenant to His people.

This is what God’s people need to be reminded of now, just as they did then: God hears our groaning, God knows our circumstances, and He will act. Not one of His promises will fail. Indeed, when we are at a loss for words in our distress, we discover that the Holy Spirit even intercedes for us through our prayerful groanings (Romans 8:26-27). That’s the level of God’s concern for each of us and the depth of His determination to do eternal good for His people.

When your soul’s cries seem to go unheard—when you begin to wonder if anyone truly cares—recall who God has revealed Himself to be, in Egypt and supremely in His Son:

Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely
And long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.[1]

Keep crying out for deliverance. God hears, He cares, and He works on your behalf.

GOING DEEPER

Mark 5:21-43

Topics: Prayer Promises of God Trials

FOOTNOTES

1 Civilla D. Martin, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” (1905).

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Just

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” (1 John 1:9)

Have you every wondered how God can really be just (fair, righteous, faithful) in His choice to forgive a sinner’s sins simply because this sinner confesses his sins?

The word “justice” in the Bible first appears in the Old Testament, in Leviticus 19:35-36. For example, God commands Israel to have “just” balances and “just” weights. Justice always involves at least two parties. Not parties like birthday parties, but parties like people. If you go to the grocery store to buy a pound of apples, and the apples cost fifty cents, then you have an obligation (a responsibility, a duty) to pay the shopkeeper that fifty cents. There is an understanding, an agreement, between two parties – between you and the shopkeeper. You know you owe him fifty cents, and he knows he owes you a full pound of good apples for your money. If you hand him only thirty-five cents, you are not holding up your end of the bargain. You are not being just. And if the shopkeeper were to give you less than a pound of apples but still charge you fifty cents for less than a pound, then he would be unjust toward you.

“Justice” has a lot to do with “fulfilling one’s obligation.” In other words, a just person is someone who is fair, who does right, who keeps his word, who acts consistently with what he has agreed to do.

So, going back to the original question: How can God, Who is perfectly just, forgive a sinner who is unjust, and declare that sinner to be just? Doesn’t any sin deserve punishment? Doesn’t the book of Hebrews in the New Testament teach that “without shedding of blood is no remission (forgiveness of sin)”? So how can a just God choose not to punish a guilty sinner? How can a just God choose instead to declare that sinner just (as though the sinner had fulfilled all his obligations)?

Maybe this story will help us understand:

There was once an island village whose chief was known for his goodness and justice. One day, a serious theft was reported in the village. Someone had stolen someone else’s pet goat. Immediately, the chief called together his whole village and declared that if the thief was caught, he would be punished. The thief would be beaten twenty times with a stick, and he would have to give back the pet goat.

A few days later, another theft was reported! Someone’s cow had been taken. This time, the chief increased the punishment to fifty beatings. Still, the thefts continued! Finally, the chief declared the maximum penalty would be given to this rebellious thief. The thief would be beaten one hundred times! Such a severe punishment would nearly be enough to kill a very strong man!

The search for the thief continued until the villagers finally found the guilty person: It was the chief’s own elderly mother! All the people of the village loved their chief and took pity upon him and his poor mother. They came to the chief and encouraged him to let her go without punishment. They told him it would be all right to make an exception for his elderly mother in this case. Surely such a harsh punishment would kill the poor old woman. But the chief refused to go back on his word. He had to stay just. He had to stick to his decisions.

On the day set for the old woman’s punishment, all of the villagers gathered to see what would happen. The chief’s feeble old mother was tied up to a pole, and the executioner was waiting for the chief’s signal to start the punishment. The chief nodded his head, but at the moment the executioner lifted up the stick to start beating the woman, the chief grabbed his arm. Then, the chief took off his shirt and and went to his mother and wrapped his body around her tiny frame. Then he told the executioner: “NOW, you may begin the beating!”

The Bible says God’s decision to forgive repentant sinners is just. How can that be? Because Jesus Christ, Who Himself is God, has already taken the full punishment for sinners. Just as this island village chief took his guilty mother’s punishment upon his own body, Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sins upon Himself and died in our place. In that way, God’s justice was fully applied and satisfied. God the Son took the part of the sinner’s party, fulfilling all His obligations, taking all the sinner’s punishment. And God the Father took the part of the righteous Judge, fulfilling all His obligations, and declaring the punishment to be done and the sinner to be righteous, because of Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

God is perfectly just in forgiving sinners whose sins are covered by Jesus Christ.

My Response:
» Am I trusting in Jesus Christ as the One Who can take the punishment for my sins?
» Do I sometimes have doubts about whether God is really just and fair in all He does?
» What does the Bible teach me about God’s character?

Denison Forum – The “most severe test” for President Xi since he took power: The latest on China’s anti-lockdown protests

Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the Communist leader who ruled China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and presided over a decade of rapid economic growth, died today at the age of ninety-six. His death and the memorial ceremonies to follow come at a perilous moment in China.

Protesters clashed with riot police last night in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, part of a string of demonstrations across the nation against the government’s so-called zero-COVID policy. The restrictions are causing economic hardship and sparking anger over stringent lockdown policies. Protests began last Thursday after a deadly fire at an apartment building in the Xinjiang province. Videos appear to show that lockdown measures delayed firefighters from getting to the victims, at least ten of whom died.

Protests in China are typically directed at local officials. The current demonstrations, however, are aimed at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and President Xi Jinping. The Washington Post calls the protests “arguably the most serious and widespread unrest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations.” They are being described as the “most severe test” for President Xi since he took power.

CNN has verified twenty-three demonstrations so far across seventeen Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing and the financial center Shanghai. Yesterday, Chinese universities sent students home and police fanned out in Beijing and Shanghai to prevent more protests. Top health officials did acknowledge the impact of their zero-COVID policies and pledged to “reduce inconvenience” to the public by lifting lockdowns “as quickly as possible” following outbreaks. However, this may not be enough to appease the protesters.

The New York Times adds that since China is the world’s largest manufacturing nation, the protests “are injecting a new element of uncertainty and instability into the global economy.” For example, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly five hundred points on Monday and was essentially flat yesterday. Apple could see a six million unit shortfall in iPhones this year amid manufacturing pressures at a key Chinese plant.

My business ethics experience in Beijing

The unrest in China illustrates the simple but profound fact that ideas change the world. As I have written recently, Xi Jinping’s political system is built on Marxist nationalism that asserts the control of the CCP over every domain of public and private life.

In Marx’s view, the individual is a means to the advancement of society, which in turn (he claimed) will benefit the individual. Thus the state can impose a zero-COVID policy on its citizens, whatever the economic or medical consequences.

As one example, the CCP is insisting on using vaccines developed in China rather than importing Western vaccines that are likely more effective. It would rather impose strict lockdowns than change its approach, despite urging from the World Health Organization to alter its method of dealing with the pandemic.

This atheistic system naively ignores the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). To the contrary, it invests autocratic power in the hands of a single ruler surrounded entirely by loyalists. And it sees people as a means to the end of the state rather than as divinely created bearers of the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27).

I experienced this worldview personally when I visited Beijing some years ago to teach a seminar on business ethics. Those who attended wanted me to address the corruption that is so endemic in their system.

They recognized that bribes, identity theft, and manipulation of market outcomes were poisoning their business environment and undermining their future. But their atheistic culture had no objective ethics to stand upon in countering these practices. And they had no sense of the value of the individual as opposed to the authority of the state.

“He who makes rich is made poor”

My purpose today, however, is less to focus on China’s cultural challenges and more to warn that abandoning the biblical worldview is a threat to America’s future as well.

Billy Graham was right: “Many of us have put our faith in money, jobs, status, gadgets, pleasures, and thrills. Many of us—and society as a whole—have tried to bypass God, and now we are paying the inevitable price. We are in trouble because we have left out God; we have left out the Ten Commandments; we have left out the Sermon on the Mount. Now we as individuals and as a culture are reaping the tragic results.”

The answer to our cultural crisis is found at Christmas. As we have noted this week, the gift of God’s Son demonstrates our Father’s love for each of us. Christ came not because we were worthy of such love but because God is love (1 John 4:8). He made us in his image; when we receive his saving love, he remakes us as his children (John 1:12).

St. Gregory Nazianzen (AD 329–390), the Archbishop of Constantinople, explained the Incarnation this way: “He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity. He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory, that I may share in his fullness.”

“The New Testament example of the Christian experience”

The question is whether we will make the gift of Christmas an annual holiday or a present-tense reality in our lives.

If we choose the former, we are on the road to abandoning the Judeo-Christian moral foundations upon which our nation was built. What is happening in China can happen anywhere fallen, sinful humans exclude God and his word from their lives and their nation.

If we choose the latter, however, our lives are transformed as the One who was born in Bethlehem’s manger reigns in our hearts and lives. Oswald Chambers noted: “The New Testament example of the Christian experience is that of a personal, passionate devotion to the Person of Jesus Christ.” When I commit myself unconditionally to Christ, “I receive from God the gift of the Holy Spirit, who then begins interpreting to me what Jesus did. The Spirit of God does in me internally all that Jesus Christ did for me externally.”

How “personal” and “passionate” is your “devotion to the Person of Jesus Christ” today?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Living in Grace

Experiencing the forgiveness God offers will transform every part of life.

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Before the apostle Paul’s conversion, if someone had suggested that he would impact the world for Jesus, he probably would have laughed. But God’s grace can impact anyone. Contrary to what many think, being a Christian doesn’t mean adding good deeds to our life. Instead, believers receive forgiveness and a new nature by God’s grace. Then our inward transformation results in obvious outward changes. 

Transformation occurs in many areas. For example, our attitudes change—salvation by God’s grace results in humility and gratitude. Out of thankfulness for this undeserved free gift flows compassion for the lost and a desire to share the gospel with them. Experiencing Christ’s forgiveness also results in a longing to serve Him. This doesn’t need to be in a formal church setting; we serve Him by loving others, helping those in need, and telling people about Him. 

While there are still natural consequences for our sin, God offers us forgiveness and redemption through Jesus. He made a way to restore our broken relationship with Him. What’s more, our Father transforms our lives so we will become more like His Son and reflect His heart to others.

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 7-10 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — A Hot Meal

Bible in a Year:

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 25:40

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 25:34–40

Barbecue chicken, green beans, spaghetti, rolls. On a cool day in October, at least fifty-four homeless people received this hot meal from a woman celebrating fifty-four years of life. The woman and her friends decided to forgo her usual birthday dinner in a restaurant, choosing instead to cook and serve meals to people on the streets of Chicago. On social media, she encouraged others to also perform a random act of kindness as a birthday gift.

This story reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (v. 40). He said these words after declaring that His sheep will be invited into His eternal kingdom to receive their inheritance (vv. 33–34). At that time, Jesus will acknowledge that they’re the people who fed and clothed Him because of their genuine faith in Him, unlike the proud religious people who did not believe in Him (see 26:3–5). Although the “righteous” will question when they fed and clothed Jesus (25:37), He’ll assure them that what they did for others was also done for Him (v. 40).

Feeding the hungry is just one way God helps us care for His people—showing our love for Him and relationship with Him. May He help us meet others’ needs today.

By:  Katara Patton

Reflect & Pray

What acts of kindness can you do today to show God’s love to others? How are you also caring for Him when you help meet their needs?

Gracious God, please help me to show Your love through my actions today.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Conquering in Conflict

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days” (Heb. 11:30).

Faith is the key to spiritual conquest.

Forty years had lapsed since the Israelites refused to enter the Promised Land. That unbelieving generation had perished in the wilderness. Now Joshua was leading a new generation into the land. The first obstacle they faced was Jericho—a well- fortified city that was near the mouth of the Jordan River.

Some city walls of that day were wide enough at the top to allow two chariots to ride side-by-side. That was probably true of Jericho because of its strategic location. That, coupled with the caliber of its army, made the city virtually impregnable— especially to unsophisticated Israelites, who lacked military training.

But what is impossible for man is easy for God. And the stage was set for Him to demonstrate His power and for the Israelites to demonstrate their faith and humility.

One can only imagine how embarrassed the Hebrew people felt as they marched around Jericho once a day for six days. That certainly is not your typical military strategy. But on the seventh day, after marching around the city seven times with the priests blowing their rams’ horns, the priests gave one final blast, the people all shouted out loud, and the walls of the city collapsed (Josh. 6:20). Faith had reduced a formidable obstacle to a crumbled ruin.

Can you identify some spiritual obstacles you’ve faced recently? How did you handle them? You’ll always have them to deal with in your Christian walk, but don’t fret. See them as opportunities to exercise faith and see God’s power on display in your life. Continue to trust the Lord and demonstrate your faith by courageously doing what He has called you to do.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you humbly trust in God’s power when you face spiritual conflicts.

For Further Study

Read about the conquest of Jericho in Joshua 6:1-21. Note each occasion where the people obeyed one of Joshua’s commands without hesitation.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – God Does What Is Best for You

Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.

— Psalm 119:116 (AMPC)

We all experience disappointment, such as when we want and expect something to happen, and it doesn’t. We feel as the psalmist must have felt when he wrote the words of today’s scripture—as though our hopes have been dashed. The answer to disappointment is to trust God to always do the best thing for us. Just because you and I want something doesn’t mean it is right for us.

We are individuals, and God has a personalized plan for each of us. What is right for someone else may not be best for you. I encourage you not to fight against life. Learn to relax in God, and when you do feel disappointed, shake it off and keep going.

You can be comforted when you experience disappointment by knowing that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your future. If He doesn’t give you what you ask for, you can be confident that the reason is that He has something better in mind. His plan will unfold little by little, and you will soon realize how much He loves you as He works in your life.

Prayer of the Day: Father, when I am disappointed, help me remember that I can receive comfort from You and that You will always do the best thing for me as I trust You, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Worship in Unity

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

1 Corinthians 1:10

Achurch united in the gospel will be a healthy church. And nothing corrodes a church as fast as division.

It has always been like this for God’s people. In their greatest moments, we see great unity. For instance, after returning from exile in Babylon, we’re told in Nehemiah 8, the Israelites gathered expectantly, “as one man,” to hear the public preaching of Ezra the priest from the Book of the Law (Nehemiah 8:1). In that moment, nearly 5,000 men and women went to the public square before the Water Gate in a spirit of unity and mutual commitment to worship. Their focus was not simply “What am I receiving from this teaching?” but “What am I contributing to my brothers and sisters who have gathered with me?”

This is the way God’s people must always come to worship if there is to be unity among us.

When we are truly walking with Christ, we will long to worship corporately with the people who love Christ. Though our motivation may sometimes run dry, with the help of the Holy Spirit it is possible to share the psalmist’s spirit of worship: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Psalm 122:1). Gathered church worship is far more than an event for you to attend or endure; it is a declaration of shared loyalty to our King and a powerful reminder of the deep unity God’s people enjoy.

Within our congregations, we don’t and won’t always agree. We all have individual preferences and convictions. But at the very center of membership in God’s family there is to be unanimity regarding core issues of our faith—issues like the authority of the Bible, the centrality and preeminence of Jesus, the necessity of evangelism, and the priority of prayer and worship in our daily lives. These shared convictions allow God’s people to gather together in unity. Therefore, while humor from the pulpit, beautiful music, and meaningful programs for families may be gifts from the Lord, they should not be our priority. Instead, we ought to be in prayer for our fellow saints as we seek to worship together in unity, asking that revival may come from our own desire to hear God’s word preached in truth. For when a congregation is prayerfully expectant, God will surely do what He has pledged to do through His word. It is easy to have a “me-first” approach to church and to be quick to criticize—easy, but corrosive. Be sure next Sunday that you are not there only for yourself but for others, and that you are quick to build up and undergird your shared unity in how you sing and speak.

GOING DEEPER

Nehemiah 8:1-12

Topics: Unity Worship

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Faithful

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” (1 John 1:9)

One of God’s most wonderful attributes is His faithfulness. Unlike man, God never fails to do what He says He will do. The Bible is full of examples of GOD’s promises to man, each one designed for God’s glory and man’s best good and happiness.

After an elderly Christian lady passed away, her children and grand-children gathered in her house. They found her Bible in her room. The old woman had never been without her old copy of God’s Word while she was alive. When her children and grandchildren opened it up, they found it was marked all over with these two little letters:

      T.  P.

At first, the woman’s family could not figure out what all the “T”s and “P”s could mean. They were written there, in her careful handwriting, next to so many verses!. But then, in the back page of her Bible, they finally found an explanation for them: “T” stood for “Tested” and “P” stood for “Proved.”

Slowly, the children and grandchildren of the woman began to understand what had happened. Over the years, this Christian lady had been “testing” and “proving” the promises of God. She had been reading verses, learning about the kind of God Who would write such promises, and then she would claim them in her life. She would read something like “But my God shall supply all your need” and she would pray about her needs based on that promise. Over and over again, year after year, this dear lady had put God’s promises “to the test.” And year after year, over and over again, God’s Word had “proven itself” to be faithful and true.

One of God’s greatest desires ever since He created human beings is that they would learn to trust His Word. Our unbelief is a great sadness to Him. God is faithful, which means we can put our faith in Him. We can trust Him, because His Word is true, tested and proved over and over again. Even when we cannot understand God’s thoughts and actions, we can trust Him that He knows what He is doing. Other human beings, even the greatest and strongest ones, will have to let you down sometimes. God is the One Person most worthy of our trust. Because God is faithful, we can be full of faith in Him.

In 1 John 1:9, God is inviting us to confess our sins, because they separate us (keep us apart) from Him. God promises that if we will confess (agree with Him about) our sins, then He is faithful and just (righteous, perfectly able) to forgive us of those sins and cleanse us from all our sinfulness and shortcomings. The Bible is full of examples of awful sinners (sinners who were just as we are). These sinful men and women tested this promise of God and found that it proved true for them in their lives. David was one of those sinful men. David committed adultery, lying, and murder. Even though those were serious sins against an infinite God, God was still able to wash them away. God keeps His Word. He is faithful to His Word, and He is faithful to us. We can trust that His mercy and love are great enough to cleanse us from all our sins and guilt.

God, Who is faithful, invites us to trust His promise to forgive our sins.

My Response:
» Have I ever done something that I regret so much that I wonder whether God could really forgive me of it?
» Is God ABLE to wash away my sins when I confess them to Him?
» Is God WILLING to wash away my sins when I confess them to Him?
» Is God WAITING to wash away my sins when I confess them to Him?
» What is keeping me from confessing my sins and shortcomings to God right now?

Denison Forum – Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on Earth, is now erupting

The biggest active volcano on our planet began erupting last Sunday. Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano had not erupted since 1984, according to the US Geological Survey. However, people on the Big Island had feared this moment for decades since Mauna Loa had been overdue for an eruption after its longest quiet period on record.

Volcanologists have not predicted thus far how long the eruption will last or where the lava might travel, so authorities have opened shelters on the island as a precaution. While the lava is so far contained within the summit and does not yet threaten Hawaiians living downslope, volcanic gases and fine ash may drift their way.

Focus on the Family sign vandalized

If you’re not on the Big Island, this does not mean you’re exempt from Mother Nature.

The Storm Prediction Center is warning of a “significant severe-weather event” later today across parts of the lower Mississippi River Valley. Tornadoes, damaging straight-line winds, and large hail are possible. Nighttime tornadoes are especially a threat for this evening. A strong Pacific storm system will also begin impacting the states of Washington and Oregon tonight with heavy rain and snow along with strong winds.

In other news, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has confirmed that a person killed in a shooting Saturday night was twelve years old. In all, Metro Atlanta police departments responded to fifteen shootings and stabbings over the Thanksgiving weekend. And a sign outside the Focus on the Family facility in Colorado was vandalized on Thanksgiving Day in response to the Club Q mass shooting that left five people dead and seventeen wounded. Graffiti was left at their facility reading, “Their blood is on your hands five lives taken.”

A key leader on our ministry team lost a family member the day before Thanksgiving. A very dear friend had surgery yesterday. You can add your own stories of challenges this morning.

A theological weathervane

We focused in yesterday’s Daily Article on the fact of God’s unconditional love as demonstrated in the Christmas gift of his Son. As I noted, the Father sent his Son not because we are lovable but because he is love (1 John 4:8). We can do nothing to earn his love, which means we can do nothing to lose it.

Circumstances do not change his character. As God declares in his word, “I the Lᴏʀᴅ do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Scripture says of our Savior, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

A farmer mounted a weathervane atop a barn with the words “GOD IS LOVE.” A pastor walking by thought them inappropriate, believing that the farmer meant to say God’s love changes with the shifting winds. His companion disagreed, suggesting that no matter which way the wind blows God is still love.

But the fact that God’s character does not change may not mean all that we think it does.

“So this is what God’s really like”

In A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis chronicled his personal heartache when his wife, Joy Davidman Gresham, died of bone cancer. At one point he wrote, “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’”

When the volcano erupts and lava is headed our way, where is our God? When storms are coming and tornadoes are roaring, what good is prayer? When friends lose loved ones, why intercede to the God who could have prevented their deaths?

The holidays bring these questions into sharp relief. My father died ten days before Christmas in 1979; the Christmas season has been forever different as a result. Many of you have similar stories.

At such times, you have a binary choice to make: you can interpret God’s character through the prism of your circumstances, or you can interpret your circumstances through the prism of God’s character.

“Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”

When we do the latter, everything changes. Like physical eyeglasses that focus the way we see the world, these spiritual eyeglasses help us see what we could not see before.

When we believe no matter which way the wind blows that “God is love,” we learn that we can see his presence with us in the hardest places and times of life. We experience personally his promise, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2). We discover that we can say with David, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

And we trust that he is redeeming our pain in ways we may not understand on this side of glory, so we rest in the fact that one day “I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Charles Spurgeon commented: “Satan may plot to enslave us, but if the Lord is on our side, whom shall we fear? The world, with its temptations, may seek to ensnare us, but mightier is he who is for us than all they who be against us. The machinations of our own deceitful hearts may harass and annoy us, but he who hath begun the good work in us will carry it on and perfect it to the end.

“The foes of God and the enemies of man may gather their hosts together and come with concentrated fury against us, but if God acquitteth, who is he that condemneth? Not more free is the eagle which mounts to his rocky eyrie, and afterwards outsoars the clouds, than the soul which Christ hath delivered.”

According to Spurgeon, our response should be one of grateful obedience: “I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”

Would you make his prayer yours today?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – How Grace Changes Everything

Jesus breaks the power of sin and offers hope to all who trust Him.

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Our lives are hopeless without God. We are born with a fleshly nature, and we continue to sin throughout life. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God. No one is exempt from this biblical truth, and there’s nothing that we can do to change the situation. Enter God’s grace, His unmerited favor toward us. 

Consider the apostle Paul, who persecuted anyone claiming the name of Jesus. He played a significant role in the violence aimed at Christians and, in his own words, was the “chief” of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15 KJV). Nothing he did deserved God’s tender concern. But God lovingly transformed him into a man who dedicated himself to sharing the gospel message. Paul’s life beautifully illustrates grace. 

Salvation is possible only because of grace—we simply can’t do enough good deeds to earn our own way to heaven. The One who took the punishment for our sin deserves all credit for our redemption. And thankfully, there is no transgression too great for Him to forgive. We can’t add to His act of atonement; all we can do is receive this free gift. If we trust in Christ as Savior, God will save us, making us His children forever. 

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 4-6 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Walk with Me

Bible in a Year:

The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

Titus 2:11

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Titus 2:11–14

A few years ago, a popular song hit the charts, with a gospel choir singing the chorus, “Jesus walks with me.” Behind the lyrics lies a powerful story.

The choir was started by jazz musician Curtis Lundy when he entered a treatment program for cocaine addiction. Drawing fellow addicts together and finding inspiration in an old hymnal, he wrote that chorus as a hymn of hope for those in rehab. “We were singing for our lives,” one choir member says of the song. “We were asking Jesus to save us, to help us get out of the drugs.” Another found that her chronic pain subsided when she sang the song. That choir wasn’t just singing words on a sheet but offering desperate prayers for redemption.

Today’s Scripture reading describes their experience well. In Christ, our God has appeared to offer salvation to all people (Titus 2:11). While eternal life is part of this gift (v. 13), God is working on us now, empowering us to regain self-control, say no to worldly passions, and redeem us for life with Him (vv. 12, 14). As the choir members found, Jesus doesn’t just forgive our sins—He frees us from destructive lifestyles.

Jesus walks with me. And you. And anyone who cries out to Him for help. He’s with us, offering hope for the future and salvation now.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray

What do you need Jesus to change in you today? How desperate are you for Him to do it?

Dear Jesus, I need You. Forgive my sins, free me from destructive habits, and change me from the inside out.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Accepting God’s Provisions

“By faith [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the first-born might not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned” (Heb. 11:28-29).

The man or woman of faith gratefully accepts all God’s provisions, no matter how pointless some of them may seem.

When the time came for Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, everything on the human level said it couldn’t be done. Pharaoh wasn’t about to let two to three million slaves just pack up and leave. His formidable army was ready to insure that no such exodus occurred.

But when God devises a plan, He always makes the necessary provisions for carrying it out. On this occasion, His provision came in the form of ten terrifying plagues designed to change Pharaoh’s mind.

The tenth and worst plague was the death of all the first- born (Ex. 11:5). To protect themselves from this plague, the Israelites sprinkled the blood of a lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. When the angel of death saw the blood, he passed over that house. Thus the Passover was instituted.

The blood from those first Passover lambs had no intrinsic power to stave off the death angel, but its presence demonstrated faith and obedience, thus symbolizing the future sacrifice of Christ (cf. John 1:29).

Pharaoh got the message and allowed the Israelites to leave. But soon afterward he changed his mind and commanded his army to pursue them. Again God intervened by parting the Red Sea, allowing His people to walk across on dry land. He then drowned the entire Egyptian army when it followed the Israelites into the sea.

That was a graphic demonstration of a lesson every believer must learn: God’s provisions are always best. They may sometimes seem foolish to the human intellect—just as “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:18)—but the man or woman of faith trusts God and receives His provisions gratefully.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the wise and gracious provisions He has made for your salvation and ongoing Christian walk.

For Further Study

Read the account of the Passover and the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 11-14.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – When You Feel Stressed

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

— Philippians 4:7 (AMPC)

Years ago, I went to a doctor because I was constantly sick. He told me the symptoms were the result of being under stress. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and I was eating improperly, and pushing myself too hard.

Stress is a normal part of everyone’s life. God has created us to withstand a certain amount of pressure and tension. The problem comes when we push beyond our limitations and ignore the warnings our body gives us when it hurts or is exhausted.

I urge you to take good care of yourself, because if you wear out the body you have, you cannot go to a store and buy a new one. Many of the things we do that give us stress overload are things we could change if we would. Be honest with yourself about why you are doing some of the things you do and let God help you prune off the ones that are wearing you out and bearing no good fruit.

Peace is meant to be the normal condition for every believer in Jesus Christ. He is the Prince of Peace, and in Jesus we find our own inheritance of peace. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit, which He gives as we live in obedience to His Word.

Prayer of the Day: Lord Jesus, thank You for the peace You give—peace that operates in the midst of a storm. And because of Your peace, I can manage my stress today and every day, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – The Pathway to Happiness

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Psalm 32:1

Several years ago, the BBC conducted a survey of some 65 countries in the world and reported on which were the most and least happy. When individuals were asked what contributed to their joy, there was no clear consensus. The path to happiness was elusive.[1]

In the ESV, Psalm 32 begins with the word “blessed,” but “happy” may be the more evocative and more fitting translation. Indeed, the same Hebrew word that is used here is often translated into the Greek word for “happy” elsewhere, both in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and in the New Testament. The word is used at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus began to speak to His followers by telling them, “Blessed [that is, happy] are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3).

Many of us would like to be happier than we are. But how? Some think that if they could travel more, they would be content. Some think in more grandiose terms: for instance, that by establishing justice in their part of the world, they would be happier. Others reason there is joy to be found in appreciating the beauty of creation or exploring spirituality. Yet we are continually confronted by the fact that something spoils our ventures and settles like dust upon all our dreams. Happiness derived from these things is always brittle; it is easily broken and it cannot last. The chase after happiness or the attempt to hold on to happiness becomes a burden.

Our search for lasting happiness remains futile as long as we fail to look where the psalmist says it is fundamentally to be found: in a relationship with our Creator God, which begins with forgiveness. We might not think to look there, because it seems like an oxymoron that we would find happiness by first considering the seriousness of our transgressions and our need for forgiveness. But the Hebrew word for “forgiven” actually means “lifted” or “removed.” The happiness and peace we desire comes only when the burden of sin is taken away. And then we are free to enjoy all that life offers, without asking created things or people to bear the weight of being the source of our ultimate joy.

This truth was Augustine’s experience. He spent the first part of his life in an untrammeled commitment to indulgence. Then, after reading the Bible and meeting God in His word, he emerged from his haze, later writing, “O God, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”[2] Do you believe what Augustine believed? The basis for his statement is found in the opening verse of this psalm. You do not need to walk through life encumbered by sin and sorrow, because God has offered you forgiveness and a relationship with Him through Jesus. You do not need to chase after happiness the way the world does. When your burdens are lifted and you know that God knows the worst of you and loves you anyway, you experience phenomenal, lasting happiness.

GOING DEEPER

Psalm 32

Topics: Forgiveness Joy

FOOTNOTES

1 Michael Bond, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” New Scientist, October 4, 2003, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18024155-100-the-pursuit-of-happiness/. Accessed April 13, 2021.

2 Confessions 1.1.

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – Jesus Came To Save Sinners

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10 – and read verses 1-10 for context)

In Bible times, Jewish tax-collectors were hated men. Do you know why? They were considered to be traitors – because they worked for the Roman government. They were considered to be thieves – because they cheated their own countrymen out of money that was not rightfully supposed to be taken. Maybe you have heard a song about Zacchaeus, who was a Jewish tax-collector during the time of Jesus’ ministry. Zacchaeus may have been rich, but he was hated by his fellow-Jews, and he was not a happy man. His riches and his job did not make him happy. If Zacchaeus believed that quitting his job as a tax-collector would help him be friends again with his countrymen and help make him happy, he might have tried it – but he must not have thought that, because he did not quit collecting taxes. Instead he decided to try something unusual: He decided to listen to what Jesus had to say.

Zacchaeus was not a tall man. In fact, he was such a short man that he could not see Jesus above the crowds of people who gathered around Him. So Zacchaeus climbed up into a tree to get a better look. This might have been humbling for such a rich man, to climb up into a tree like a little child trying to see over the crowd. But maybe Zacchaeus was used to being mocked by his fellow-Jews, anyway, or maybe he just wanted to see Jesus so much that he didn’t care what people might think of him.

This little man was open to Jesus’ message. He was learning a lot about himself and how short he had fallen of God’s glory. The Bible says that we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. From his place up in the tree, Zacchaeus was getting a glimpse of his own sinful heart.

Suddenly, all eyes were on Zacchaeus. If he was able to hide before, there was no possible way of hiding now. Jesus had looked up into his tree and told Zacchaeus to come down. Jesus was inviting Himself to Zacchaeus’ house for supper. What was this little sinful man’s reaction? Zacchaeus got down out of the tree joyfully and took Jesus to his home. The Jewish people were not happy about Jesus’ decision to dine in the home of Zacchaeus, of all people – a cheating, stealing, unpatriotic tax-collector!

Neither Zacchaeus nor Jesus seemed to mind what the people were saying. For Zacchaeus’ part, he had learned that he was a sinner, and he was sorry for what he had done. He stood before Jesus and told Him he had decided to give half of everything he owned to the poor, and he promised Him to pay back four times the amount of anything he owed to anyone he had cheated. After promises like that, Zacchaeus would probably not be a rich man anymore, at least not for a long time! The Bible does not say he stopped collecting taxes after that, but he was a saved tax-collector after that, not a cheating or traitorous tax-collector. And best of all, Zacchaeus was a joyful man after that.

Jesus wasn’t listening to the people’s complaining, either. When Jesus heard Zacchaeus’ testimony of faith and repentance, He said, “This day is salvation come to this house”! And Jesus did eat with Zacchaeus and his family, even though the people said He was eating with sinners. Jesus said He had “come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Maybe the people did not think they were sinners who needed saving, but Zacchaeus knew for a fact that he was lost and needed to be saved from his sin. Because this little man humbled himself and placed his trust in the only Savior of lost sinners, he was gloriously saved. Jesus did not come to help those who think they can save themselves; He came to help those who know – by faith, through grace – that He is their only hope for salvation.

Jesus came to seek and save sinners who need His salvation.

My Response:
» Do I sometimes look at others and think of them as worse sinners than I am?
» Did Jesus really come to save only the sinners who look better off than other sinners?
» How can I, like Zacchaeus, show others by my life that I have changed my mind about sin and following Jesus?

Scriptures, Lessons, News and Links to help you survive.