In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Conquering Faith

We can respond boldly because God’s power is available to us for each battle we face.

1 Samuel 17:1-58

The Lord wants to build strong faith in us so we can stand firm in His mighty power. He does this by placing us in challenging situations that are beyond our strength. If we trust in ourselves, we’ll fail. But we will discover God’s great faithfulness if we imitate David’s example from today’s passage:

• Godly motivation. The young shepherd’s desire was to defend the Lord’s name. In our challenges, we must examine our motives to be certain they’re Christ-centered, not self-focused.

• Recognition of the battle’s nature. David’s struggle in the physical realm was against Goliath. But the real battle was spiritual, and so is ours (Ephesians 6:12). 

• Memory of God’s past faithfulness. David’s confidence was based on the Lord’s power that enabled him to protect his sheep from wild animals. Even if you’re a fairly new Christian, you also have a history of God’s faithfulness to strengthen and encourage you.

• Dependence on the Lord. David didn’t rely on traditional armor or weapons; he trusted the power of God to direct a small stone into the head of Goliath.

The One who conquered sin for you will also watch over, strengthen, and care for you in every challenging situation you face. Trust Him.

Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 22-24

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — The Marriage Metaphor

Bible in a Year:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Ephesians 4:2–13

After twenty-two years together, I sometimes wonder how my marriage to Merryn works. I’m a writer; Merryn is a statistician. I work with words; she works with numbers. I want beauty; she wants function. We come from different worlds.

Merryn arrives to appointments early; I’m occasionally late. I try new things on the menu; she orders the same. After twenty minutes at an art gallery, I’m just getting started, while Merryn is already in the cafe downstairs wondering how much longer I’ll be. We give each other many opportunities to learn patience!

We do have things in common—a shared sense of humor, a love of travel, and a common faith that helps us pray through options and compromise as needed. With this shared base, our differences even work to our advantage. Merryn has helped me learn to relax, while I’ve helped her grow in discipline. Working with our differences has made us better people.

Paul uses marriage as a metaphor for the church (Ephesians 5:21–33), and with good reason. Like marriage, church brings very different people together, requiring them to develop humility and patience and to “[bear] with one another in love” (4:2). And, as in marriage, a shared base of faith and mutual service helps a church become unified and mature (vv. 11–13).

Differences in relationships can cause great frustration—in the church and in marriage. But managed well, they can help us become more Christlike.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray

How have differences between you and those close to you helped you both to grow? How can differences between church members help to develop godliness?

Heavenly Father, please use our differences to help us mature.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Overcoming Jealousy

“Love . . . is not jealous” (1 Cor. 13:4).

Jealousy thrives in a climate of selfish ambition.

Jealousy is an insidious sin that cries out, “I want what you have, and furthermore, I don’t want you to have it.” It replaces contentment with resentment and spawns a myriad of other sins.

The Corinthians, in truth, were jealous of one another’s spiritual gifts. First Corinthians 12:31 literally says, “You are earnestly desiring the showy gifts, but I show you a more excellent way.” The word translated “earnestly desiring” is translated “jealous” in 1 Corinthians 13:4. It means “to boil” and speaks of the inner seething that comes from wanting something that someone else has. In 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul rebukes them for the jealousy and strife that existed among them.

Paul knew what it meant to be victimized by jealous people. During one of his imprisonments he candidly wrote, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment” (Phil. 1:15-17).

Paul’s attitude toward those who envied him was exemplary: “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice” (v. 18). He wasn’t motivated by personal comfort or selfish ambition. He loved Christ deeply and wanted as many people as possible to hear the gospel. As long as Christ was being proclaimed, Paul was happy—regardless of his own circumstances or the motives of others. That should be your perspective too.

Love is the antidote for jealousy. When godly love governs your heart, you can rejoice in the spiritual successes of others, even when you know their motives are wrong. But if you seek prominence and selfish gain, you become an easy target for jealousy and resentment.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Confess any jealousy you might be harboring toward others.
  • Ask God to deepen your love for Christ so jealousy can’t gain a foothold in your heart in the future.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11:2. Is there such a thing as godly jealousy? Explain.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Practice Makes Perfect

You shall walk after the Lord your God and [reverently] fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice…

— Deuteronomy 13:4 (AMPC)

Once we begin listening to and hearing from God, it is important to obey whatever we hear Him say. Obedience increases our quality of fellowship with Him and strengthens our faith. We might say, “Practice makes perfect” when it comes to hearing and obeying Him. In other words, we become more and more confident as we gain experience. It takes a lot of practice to reach the point of complete submission to God’s leading. Even knowing that God’s ways are perfect and that His plans always work, we still feign ignorance sometimes when He asks us to do something that requires personal sacrifice, or we might even be afraid that we are not hearing clearly and therefore too cautious to take action.

Don’t be fearful of sacrifice or of making a mistake. There are many things in life that are worse than being wrong. Jesus said, “Follow Me.” I firmly believe that when we have done our best to hear from God, then we must “step out and find out,” if we truly are hearing His voice or not. Shrinking back in fear all our lives will never allow us to make progress in our ability to hear from God.

He did not say, “You take the lead, and I will follow you.” I have learned that we may as well do quickly whatever God says, because if we don’t, I can guarantee that we will be miserable.

When our children are learning how to walk, we don’t get angry when they fall down. We realize they are learning, and we work with them. God is the same way, and He will teach you how to hear from Him if you walk in faith and not fear.

Prayer Starter: Father, I want to hear Your voice and follow your lead. Please help me to not get out ahead of You, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Stone or Flesh?

And I will give you a new heart . . . A heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

A“heart of flesh” is known by its tenderness concerning sin. To have indulged a foul imagination or to have allowed a wild desire to linger even for a moment is quite enough to make a heart of flesh grieve before the Lord. The heart of stone calls a great iniquity nothing, but not so the heart of flesh.

If to the right or left I stray,
That moment, Lord, reprove;
And let me weep my life away,
For having grieved Thy love.

The heart of flesh is tender to God’s will. Unlike a strong heart that refuses to bow before God’s dictates, when the heart of flesh is given, the will quivers like an aspen leaf in every breath of heaven and bows like a willow in every breeze of God’s Spirit. The natural will is cold, hard iron, which refuses to be hammered into form, but the renewed will, like molten metal, is quickly molded by the hand of grace. In the fleshy heart there is a tenderness of the affections. The hard heart does not love the Redeemer, but the renewed heart burns with affection toward Him.

The hard heart is selfish and coldly demands, “Why should I weep for sin? Why should I love the Lord?” But the heart of flesh says, “Lord, You know that I love You; help me to love You more!” There are many privileges of this renewed heart. It is here the Spirit dwells; it is here that Jesus lives. It is fitted to receive every spiritual blessing, and every blessing comes to it. It is prepared to yield every heavenly fruit to the honor and praise of God, and therefore the Lord delights in it. A tender heart is the best defense against sin and the best preparation for heaven. A renewed heart stands on its watchtower looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Do you have this heart of flesh?

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Sometimes Makes Us Wait

“The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25–26).

“Wait.” Most of the time we don’t like to hear that word, do we? Sometimes we are looking forward to something, like a vacation or a birthday, because we know that something fun or exciting is going to happen. When we have to wait for this type of event, it seems like forever before it comes. But it’s just as hard to wait for something to be over as it is for something that we want to happen. For example, when we are in the dentist chair getting a tooth drilled to fill a cavity, it seems to take a very long time, doesn’t it? No matter what, it’s hard to wait!

Lamentations 3:25 and 26 were written by a prophet named Jeremiah. A prophet was called by God to bring God’s people a special message from Him. Sometimes the people the prophet spoke to were not nice, because they did not want to hear what God had to say. They wanted to keep living the way they wanted to live, instead of living God’s way. That’s what happened to Jeremiah. One time, people threw him into an empty cistern (“a pit that can hold water”). Jeremiah did not have an easy life, but in these verses he writes, “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him.” Jeremiah understood that sometimes waiting, even though it’s hard to do, is really God’s way of showing good to us.

How can waiting be good? We must remember that God is always working for our good, even if we must wait for something that we really want, or even when we must wait for a hard time to be over. If God is always working for our good, then what should we do as we wait for Him? Lamentations 3:25 and 26 say we should first seek God. That means we need to talk to Him through prayer. Don’t be afraid to tell God how hard it is to wait. Ask Him to give you the faith you need to trust Him while you wait. These verses also tell us we should wait quietly and expect God to help us. Waiting quietly means that we don’t complain or fight against what God is trying to do for us. That’s sometimes very hard, but God’s timing is different from our timing. As we wait for Him quietly and with faith that He will work things for our good, our faith will grow. This pleases the Lord. So, the next time you must wait for something, remember that God is working for your good, even though it may be hard to wait.

When God makes us wait, waiting is what’s best for us.

My response:

» When I must wait for something, will I seek God by praying to Him?

» When I must wait for something, I will not complain. I will trust God instead!

Denison Forum – School board votes to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance

The school board in Fargo, North Dakota, has voted to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before their biweekly meetings, ruling that the Pledge does not align with the district’s diversity code. The board’s vice chairman explained that the problem is two words: “Under God.”

The words “under God” were added to the Pledge in 1954 by a joint resolution of Congress and have withstood numerous legal challenges over the years. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, upon signing the bill, stated: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”

How many of our leaders today believe that “spiritual weapons” are “our country’s most powerful resource”?

The Fargo school board certainly does not. In fact, the board’s president recommended that members replace the Pledge of Allegiance with a “shared statement of purpose” which she thought was more appropriate for their work.

In other words, rather than being “one nation under God,” they will be “one nation under us.”

Salman Rushdie remains hospitalized after attack

While our nation slides ever further into moral relativism and missional chaos, many of our geopolitical enemies are choosing the opposite course. Consider Iran as an example.

Author Salman Rushdie was stabbed roughly ten times Friday as he prepared to speak at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York. His family said yesterday that he remains in critical condition in the hospital. Rushdie was taken off a ventilator over the weekend but is being treated for multiple wounds and may lose his right eye.

His attacker’s motives are not yet known, but an initial investigation suggested he had posted on social media about his support of Iran. He may have acted in response to an edict (known as a fatwa) by Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death.

Rushdie’s novel, Satanic Verses, is considered blasphemous by many Muslims. The fatwa calls for Rushdie’s murder and offers a $3 million bounty for anyone who kills him. It has never been revoked by Iran’s leaders.

An Iranian government official denied today that Tehran was involved in the assault, but he added that his country considers “[Rushdie] and his supporters worth [sic] of blame and even condemnation.” The front page of a newspaper in Tehran said yesterday that Rushdie had gotten “divine vengeance” and claimed that former President Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo, his former secretary of state, “are next.”

In related news, the Justice Department unsealed charges last week against a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards for attempting to arrange the murder of former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Mike Pompeo and former State Department Iran policy coordinator Brian Hook have received extended Secret Service protection due to Iranian threats as well.

Three steps to getting elected

A perceptive essay in the New York Times explains why Iran remains such a threat to the US. Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reminds us that the 1979 Iranian revolution was fueled by religious fundamentalists focused on anti-Americanism. From then until today, the regime’s rulers have made their opposition to the United States central to their nation’s revolutionary identity.

Whether the issue is Iran’s nuclear program, its sponsorship of terrorist regimes in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza, or its geopolitical ambition to rebuild the Persian Empire, the ideological pattern is clear: America is the “Great Satan” who must be opposed for the sake of Iran’s survival. Iran’s entrenched leaders depend on this “threat” to legitimize their power, unify their military, and forestall meaningful reforms within their country.

I am reminded of an observation a perceptive friend shared with me many years ago. He noted that to motivate people to your cause, do three things: (1) convince them they have an enemy; (2) convince them they cannot defeat their enemy; and (3) convince them you will defeat their enemy if they vote for you, give you money, or do whatever else you want them to do.

This strategy has empowered Iran’s leaders for more than four decades. The despotic rulers of Russia, China, Cuba, and North Korea are similarly fixated on the “threat” of the West. This missional focus enables and protects their leadership despite their manifest failures to enhance the lives of their people.

Embracing a mission God can bless

On one hand, we have the West’s relativistic insistence on tolerance of all truth claims (except those considered “intolerant”), to the demise of truth and the forfeiture of missional focus. On the other, we have autocratic regimes that focus missionally on external threats (usually America and the West) to enhance their personal power at the expense of their citizens.

Scripture offers us a third way: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Let’s consider three reasons we should embrace this missional command.

One: God cannot empower any other purpose, because to glorify anyone or anything ahead of himself is to commit idolatry. As a result, when we seek to glorify God, we position ourselves to experience his omnipotent power and omniscient leadership. When we don’t, we don’t.

Two: He made all that is, which is why “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). (For more on the stupendous magnificence of God’s creation, see my latest website article, “Supergiant Betelgeuse has unprecedented stellar eruption.”)

Three: He purchased our eternal salvation. We should therefore respond with gratitude: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

I plan to say more tomorrow about living for God’s glory. For today, let’s close with advice from the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (4 BC–AD 65): “Adopt once and for all some single rule to live by, and make your whole life conform to it.”

What “single rule” will you live by today?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Getting Back on Course

If your relationship with God has grown stale, make this the day that you return to Him.

2 Peter 3:17-18

No matter how far away from God you have drifted, you’re always welcome back. That’s the lesson from Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son—the foolish boy who followed a pleasure-filled path to ruin before returning to his father and finding redemption (Luke 15:11-32). Whatever your drifting story, make this the day that you return to God.

As with any sin, the first move toward getting back on course is to confess your sin, acknowledging that you have slipped away from the Lord. Then you repent. If you’re wondering exactly how to do that, here’s my practice: Every morning, I surrender my life to the Lord. During the day, if I consider pursuing something that runs counter to His plan, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I am not my own.

In today’s passage, Peter gives a warning to be on guard against attitudes and ideologies that would carry you away from truth (2 Pet. 3:17). Instead, choose to paddle your lifeboat in the Lord’s direction by meditating on Scripture, praying, and living obediently. Practicing these spiritual disciplines keeps a heart warm toward God.

Bible in One Year: Isaiah 19-22

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — The Key

Bible in a Year:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:29

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 11:25–29

In his classic book The Human Condition, Thomas Keating shares this memorable tale. A teacher, having lost the key to his home, is on his hands and knees searching through the grass. When his disciples see him searching, they join the hunt, but with no success. Finally, “one of the more intelligent disciples” asks, “Master, have you any idea where you might have lost the key?” Their teacher replies, “Of course. I lost it in the house.” When they exclaim, “Then why are we looking for it out here?” he answers, “Isn’t it obvious? There is more light here.”

We have lost the key to “intimacy with God, the experience of God’s loving presence,” Keating concludes. “Without that experience, nothing else quite works; with it, almost anything works.”  

How easy it is to forget that even in life’s ups and downs, God remains the key to our deepest longings. But when we’re ready to stop looking in all the wrong places, God is there, ready to show us true rest. In Matthew 11, Jesus praises the Father for revealing His ways, not to the “wise and learned,” but “to little children” (v. 25). Then He invites “all you who are weary and burdened” (v. 28) to come to Him for rest.

Like little children, we can find true rest as we learn the ways of our Teacher, who’s “gentle and humble in heart” (v. 29). God is there, eager to welcome us home.

By:  Monica La Rose

Reflect & Pray

When are you tempted to look for satisfaction and joy in the wrong places? What helps you remember to find peace, rest, and satisfaction in God instead?

Loving God, how easily I’m drawn to seek satisfaction in whatever looks brightest. Help me turn to You to find true rest.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Agape Love

“. . . And in your brotherly kindness, Christian love” (2 Peter 1:7).

Sacrificial love proves genuine faith.

Classical Greek had three common terms for love. As we saw yesterday, phileo (philadelphia) is the love of give and take, best expressed in friendship. Eros is the love that takes—one loves another strictly for what he or she can get out of that person. It is typical of the world’s sexual and lustful desires, which are always bent toward self-gratification. Agape is the love that gives. It is completely unselfish, with no taking involved. This is the highest form of love, which all the other virtues in 2 Peter 1 ultimately lead to. It seeks another’s supreme good, no matter what the cost. Agape was exemplified perfectly by Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

But what does this highest type of love look like? A brief survey of the one anothers in the New Testament gives an excellent picture. We are commanded to:

Edify one another (Rom. 14:19).
“Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
“Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).
Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).
Forgive one another (Col. 3:13).
Instruct one another (Col. 3:16).
“Comfort one another” (1 Thess. 4:18).
Rebuke one another (Titus 1:13).
Encourage one another to do good (Heb. 10:24-25).
Confess our sins to one another (James 5:16).
“Pray for one another” (James 5:16).
“Be hospitable to one another” (1 Peter 4:9-10).

The Lord Jesus Christ was involved with individuals. He was a true friend who caringly, lovingly, and sensitively interacted with feeble, needy, and unimportant people and made them eternally important.

Nevertheless we still find people spiritualizing love into a meaningless term. “I love so-and-so in the Lord” really means, “He irks me, but I guess I have to love him if he’s a believer.” Don’t let yourself say that. Instead, display genuine love.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that Christ showed agape love toward you on the cross.

For Further Study

Memorize one of the verses in the list of one anothers, and apply it at every appropriate opportunity.

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – There Is Always Hope

And now, Lord, for what do I expectantly wait? My hope [my confident expectation] is in You.

— Psalm 39:7 (AMP)

It’s easy to look at your struggles in life and get discouraged. If you look only at your obstacles, it’s easy to lose hope. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness and feel you won’t recover. You might look at your bank account and feel hopeless. You may drive to work and think, There’s no hope for a promotion. And that is exactly what the devil wants you to do. He knows that if he can keep you hopeless, you cannot move on with bold faith, and you’ll miss God’s great plan for your life.

Resist the temptation to look at what you have lost or don’t have—choose to look at all that God has done, is doing, and will do. When you do, hope will come alive, joy will increase, and your faith will grow. When you live in the garden of hope, something is always blooming. Instead of believing the lie that things are hopeless, choose to declare, “With God, there is always hope!”

Prayer Starter: Lord, help me to resist the temptation to look at what I’ve lost or don’t have but instead, keep focused on what You have already done in my life, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Rest with Our Champion

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?

Romans 8:33

Most blessed challenge! How unanswerable it is! Every sin of the elect was laid upon the great Champion of our salvation, and by the atonement carried away. There is no sin in God’s book against His people: He sees no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel; they are justified in Christ forever. When the guilt of sin was taken away, the punishment of sin was removed. For the Christian there is no stroke from God’s angry hand—no, not so much as a single frown of punitive justice. The believer may be chastised by his Father, but God the Judge has nothing to say to the Christian except “I have absolved you: you are acquitted.”

For the Christian there is no penal death in this world, much less any second death. He is completely freed from all the punishment as well as the guilt of sin, and the power of sin is removed too. It may stand in our way and agitate us with perpetual warfare; but sin is a conquered foe to every soul in union with Jesus. There is no sin that a Christian cannot overcome if he will only rely upon his God to do it. They who wear the white robe in heaven overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and we may do the same. No lust is too mighty, no besetting sin too strongly entrenched; we can overcome through the power of Christ.

Do believe it, Christian—your sin is a condemned thing. It may kick and struggle, but it is doomed to die. God has written condemnation across its brow. Christ has crucified it, nailing it to His cross. Go now and mortify it, and may the Lord help you to live to His praise, for sin with all its guilt, shame, and fear is gone.

Here’s pardon for transgressions past,
It matters not how black their cast;
And, O my soul, with wonder view,
For sins to come here’s pardon too.

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Gracious, Forgiving, and Loving

“And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (Exodus 33:19).

“And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Jonah 4:2).

My sister Jennifer and I were fighting. We raced toward our mom. Bang! Jennifer reached the door first and slammed it shut, trying to keep me from tattling on her. At the same time, I grabbed the hinge, trying to keep the door open. I failed. Suddenly the top knuckle of my middle finger was hanging by a thread of skin.

It took several different doctors and a specialist to sew my finger back together. They told my parents that I would never have feeling in that finger again—if they were even able to save it.

But you know what? God is gracious (kind, good, and sympathetic), and He answers prayers. He answered my parents’ prayers. God not only allowed the doctors to reattach my finger and for it to stay attached, but He also gave me complete feeling in that finger!

Our God is so gracious and loving! He didn’t have to save my finger. My sin and my sister’s sin caused that terrible accident, but not only did our parents forgive us and show us love, God forgave us and healed me. He graciously tended the finger of a small child and graciously healed it when the doctors didn’t think it would heal well. Now today I can play the piano, sew, type, and feel everything that I touch. What a gracious and loving God we have!

God has been gracious, forgiving, and loving to me.

My response:
» How does God show His grace and love to me?
» When was the last time I thanked God for the kindness He’s shown me?

Denison Forum – Mega Millions tops $1 billion and the so-called Respect for Marriage Act: Two ways to deal with discouragement

No one won last night’s Mega Millions drawing, which had a jackpot of $830 million, the fourth-largest in US history. As a result, the grand prize in Friday night’s drawing is now an estimated $1.02 billion, though that number is certain to grow as more tickets are bought ahead of the drawing.

If you bought a ticket but didn’t win last night, consider this: your odds of winning were one in 302.5 million. By contrast, consider your odds of experiencing the following:

  • Having identical quadruplets: one in fifteen million
  • Becoming an astronaut: one in twelve million
  • Being struck by lightning: one in ten million
  • Being crushed by a meteor: one in seven hundred thousand
  • Becoming an Olympic athlete: one in five hundred thousand

Some discouragements are just part of life, but others reframe life. Consider the so-called Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) that has passed the House and is now before the Senate. It would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and require the federal government to recognize any marriage if it is legally performed in any of the fifty states.

Why is this bill so discouraging?

One: If a single state recognizes polygamy as legal marriage, the federal government would be required to do the same, making polygamy the long-expected next domino to fall as marriage continues to be redefined and corrupted. Since a town in Massachusetts has already done this, and the state of Massachusetts was the first to recognize same-sex marriage in 2004, such a scenario seems more plausible than ever.

Two: The RMA goes much further than the 2015 Obergefell decision by focusing on the LGBTQ community and thus rendering marriage genderless. As John Stonestreet notes, “This will harm children and further confuse reality.”

Three: The RMA has no provisions whatever for conscience protections. Legal actions against florists, cake makers, wedding chapels, and others who stand for biblical marriage will undoubtedly continue.

“Those who seek the Lᴏʀᴅ lack no good thing”

We have focused this week on finding victory over temptation and doubt. Today, let’s discuss discouragement.

Our first response should be to expect it. Challenges and setbacks are part of life, even (and sometimes especially) for people of faith.

In Psalm 34, David testified: “Those who seek the Lᴏʀᴅ lack no good thing” (v. 10). However, verse 18 adds, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Apparently, we can still be “brokenhearted” and “crushed” even though God is “near” us.

Verse 19 captures this tension: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lᴏʀᴅ delivers him out of them all.” While God’s timeline may not be ours, the ultimate outcome is beyond doubt: “The Lᴏʀᴅ redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (v. 22).

We know how the story ends, but not when. In the meantime, discouragement is part of life.

“Rejoice in the Lord always”

Our second response should be to seek the joy of Jesus no matter our circumstances.

Paul wrote the letter of Philippians while in prison to a city where he had been imprisoned. Nonetheless, he could exhort his readers: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

“Rejoice” is a present-tense imperative, an ongoing command without conditions or qualifications. While happiness depends on happenings, spiritual joy (the essence of “rejoice”) transcends our circumstances. No matter where we are, we can rejoice “in the Lord”—the phrase means to be intimately, deeply connected to our Master and King.

The darker the room, the more urgent the light. If discouragement has weakened your desire to be with God, this means your spiritual eyes have become adjusted to the dark. In this case, the less you want to be with God, the more you need to be with God.

(For more on the transformative power of meeting God in his word, please see my latest website article, “Where to see a $43 million copy of the US Constitution.”)

“Strength I find to meet my trials here”

There is more to say, so we’ll conclude this discussion tomorrow. For today, let’s close with a remarkable story that caught my eye recently.

Karolina Sandell-Berg (1832–1903) lived a life filled with heartbreak and hope. She was stricken at an early age with partial paralysis but was miraculously healed at the age of twelve. In gratitude, she began writing verses of praise to God and published her first book of spiritual poetry at the age of sixteen.

Ten years later, she was on a boat trip with her father, a Lutheran minister, when he fell overboard and drowned in her presence. Her hymns became even deeper and more heartfelt in the years to come. She wrote over six hundred hymns in total.

She married in 1867, but their only child died at birth. She became ill with typhoid fever in 1892 and died eleven years later. And yet, through all her discouragements, Karolina could testify in perhaps her most famous hymn:

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what he deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest. 

Will you trust your Father’s “wise bestowment” today?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Friendship: A Help to Holiness

Strong friendships allow us to have tough conversations and also challenge us in our walk with God.

John 15:12-15

Of all that God created, one thing did not meet with His approval. With regard to Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The Creator designed people for emotional, mental, and physical intimacy—to share their innermost selves with one another.

Jesus taught His disciples that they should love each other as He had loved them. (John 15:12). In a God-honoring friendship, two people build each other up and spur one another toward Christlikeness. Many people, however, don’t have relationships that sharpen their faith (Proverbs 27:17). They instead settle for the trivial talk of casual acquaintances, about things like the weather or world news.

But the best relationships don’t shy away from vulnerable conversations. Fruitful friendships can begin when men and women risk their pride and comfort to discuss accountability, biblical living, or anything meant to motivate one another in holiness. When there’s trust and submission, two people can confess sin, offer gentle reproof, and share burdens.

The walls we build to keep people at a distance are often defenses against God as well—to keep Him out of our dearest personal business. But if we share openly with a brother or sister in Christ, we will learn to be more honest with God too.

Bible in One Year: Isaiah 4-7

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Live Like You’re Healed

Bible in a Year:

Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

Acts 3:8

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Acts 3:1–10

Two sisters from India were born blind. Their father was a hard-working provider, but he could never afford the surgery that would give them sight. Then a team of doctors came to their region on a short-term medical mission. The morning after their surgery, the girls smiled wide as the nurse unwrapped their bandages. One exclaimed, “Mother, I can see! I can see!”

A man who had been lame since birth sat in his usual spot at a temple gate, begging for money. Peter told the man he didn’t have coins, but he had something better. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6), he said. The man “jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went . . . jumping, and praising God” (v. 8).

The sisters and the man appreciated their eyes and legs more than those who were never blind or lame. The girls couldn’t stop blinking in amazement and celebration, and the man “jumped to his feet.”

Consider your own natural abilities. How might you enjoy these abilities more, and how might you use them differently, if you had been miraculously healed? Now consider this. If you believe in Jesus, He’s healed you spiritually. He’s rescued you from your sins.

Let’s thank the One who made and saved us and dedicate all that He gave us to Him.

By:  Mike Wittmer

Reflect & Pray

How might you use your natural abilities for Jesus? How might you enjoy serving with whatever abilities you have? Thank Him for the pleasure they bring.

Father, thank You for ears to hear You, mouths to praise You, and hands and feet to serve You.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Diligence and Excellence

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence” (2 Peter 1:5).

God’s provision does not preclude our responsibility.

There are some who believe that since God has provided everything needed for the Christian life, believers should expect Him to do everything for them. Their motto is, “Let go and let God!” If Peter had a motto for the Christian life, it would have been more along the lines of the popular World War II song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!” Peter knew the Christian life is a struggle in which believers need to expend the maximum effort to equip themselves with godly virtues—the virtues that, when present in our lives, produce assurance of salvation. He therefore prefaces the list of those virtues in verse 5 by saying, “Now for this very reason also,” thus pointing us back to God’s provision of salvation in verses 1-4. That provision is not meant to eliminate our efforts in living the Christian life but to enable and encourage them. We must, says Peter, live our Christian lives by “applying all diligence” to develop godly virtues.

Heading the list of virtues that should characterize our lives is “moral excellence.” The Greek term arete can also be translated “virtue.” In classical Greek literature, it often referred to the ability to perform heroic deeds. It refers to the quality that makes someone or something stand out as excellent. An arete knife was one that was sharp and cut well; an arete horse was one with speed and endurance; an arete singer was one who sang well.

“Moral excellence,” it should be noted, is not an attitude but an action. In fact, some suggest the meaning “moral energy” for it—the moral energy that gives us the power to do excellent deeds. Our model for that kind of active excellence is Jesus Christ, who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

Never waver in your pursuit of excellence. In the words of Paul to the Thessalonians, “Excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:1).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for supplying everything you need to live the Christian life.
  • Ask Him to help you to be diligent to develop godly virtues in your life.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 4:238:1712:2713:421:5. What do those passages teach about the importance of diligence?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Renew Your Mind

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

— Romans 12:2 (AMPC)

Renewing your mind is not like renewing your driver’s license or library card, which can be done quickly and doesn’t have to be repeated for months or years. Renewing your mind is more like undertaking the job of renewing and refurbishing an old house. It doesn’t happen quickly; it takes time, energy, and effort, and there is always something that needs attention.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can renew your mind by thinking right thoughts one time. To get the mind renewed, you will have to think right thoughts over and over again, until they become rooted in your thinking—until right thoughts come to you more easily and naturally than wrong thoughts.

You will have to discipline yourself to think properly, and you will have to guard against falling into old thought patterns, which can happen very easily. When it does, don’t feel bad—just start thinking rightly again. You will eventually come to the place where wrong thoughts make you uncomfortable and they just don’t fit right into your thinking processes any longer.

Let me be quick to say that you should not feel condemned if you are struggling with your thought life right now or if you face struggles in the days to come. Condemnation only weakens you; it never helps you make progress. Anytime we recognize that we are allowing wrong thoughts into our minds, we should ask God to forgive us and continue pressing on toward our goal.

Celebrate every victory because it helps you to not feel overwhelmed by what still remains to be conquered and remember that God is very patient and long-suffering. He is understanding and will never give up on you.

Prayer Starter: Father, I want to renew and transform my mind. I trust that You will be patient with me and guide me as you practice right thinking, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Behold

 ‘Behold the man!’

John 19:5

If there be one place where our Lord Jesus most fully becomes the joy and comfort of His people, it is where He plunged deepest into the depths of woe. Come, gracious souls, and behold the Man in the garden of Gethsemane; behold His heart so brimming with love that He cannot hold it in—so full of sorrow that it must find expression. Behold the bloody sweat as it distills from every pore of His body and falls upon the ground. Behold the Man as they drive the nails into His hands and feet. Look up, repenting sinners, and see the sorrowful image of your suffering Lord. Consider Him as the ruby drops stand on the thorn-crown and adorn with priceless gems the diadem of the King of Misery. Behold the Man when all His bones are out of joint, and He is poured out like water and brought into the dust of death; God has forsaken Him, and hell surrounds Him.

Look and see, was there ever sorrow like His sorrow that is done unto Him? All passersby pause and look upon this spectacle of grief, a wonder to men and angels, an unparalleled phenomenon. Behold the Emperor of Woe who had no equal or rival in His agonies! Gaze upon Him, you mourners, for if there is no consolation in a crucified Christ there is no joy in earth or heaven. If in the ransom price of His blood there is no hope, there is no joy in the harps of heaven, and the right hand of God shall know no pleasures forevermore.

We need only sit more continually at the cross to be less troubled with our doubts and woes. We need only see His sorrows, and our sorrows we shall be ashamed to mention; we need only to gaze into His wounds and heal our own. If we would live properly, it must be by the contemplation of His death; if we would rise to dignity, it must be by considering His humiliation and His sorrow.

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Works Everything Together for Good

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“Kevin, grab the butter and eggs from the refrigerator, please. And Cara Ann, see if there’s more sugar in the pantry,” instructed Mom as she checked over the recipe. Kevin and Cara Ann were helping their mom make a special treat: a chocolate cake with chocolate icing for Dad’s birthday.

As they finished gathering the necessary ingredients, Mom got out the baking chocolate. “Yummmm!” said Kevin as he watched her set the large, thick bar on the counter.

“Can we have a little bit of that?” asked Cara Ann, her mouth already watering.

“That’s not such a good idea,” Mom replied. “This kind of chocolate doesn’t taste good at all. It’s called bittersweet chocolate. I don’t think you’ll like it.”

But Kevin and Cara Ann pleaded, “Pleeeeeease! Just a teeny bit!” Mom consented and gave them each a sliver of the chocolate bar. “Yuck! Disgusting!” they both said as they started spitting the chocolate into the trash can.

“You were right, Mom,” said Kevin. “That’s awful.”

“But it’s so good in the birthday cake,” pointed out Cara Ann. “Why does it taste so bad by itself?”

Both Cara Ann and Kevin listened as Mom explained that the bittersweet baking chocolate needed the other ingredients in the cake, like the sugar and butter, to make it tasty. Until it was all mixed together, the chocolate would taste nasty.

“That reminds me of our memory verse from Sunday School last week,” said Cara Ann excitedly. “It was Romans 8:28. ‘All things work together for good—’” she began.

“Oh, yeah!” Kevin interrupted. “Our teacher told us that God will take both bad and good things in our lives and combine them to produce something good. That’s just like the gross baking chocolate being mixed with other ingredients to make a delicious chocolate cake.”

“You’re exactly right,” said Mom, nodding her head. “God has a purpose in everything He brings our way—whether it’s enjoyable for us at the time or not. In the end, though, we’ll see that His plan was the best. He’ll bring everything together for good. We just need to trust Him and leave the results in His hands.”

If you belong to God, He is working everything in your life together for your good.

My response:
» Are there some things going on in my life that I don’t really like?
» Have I given those things over to God?
» Am I completely trusting Him to make “all things work together for good” in my life?

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