In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Building Lasting Friendships

Strong, godly friendships like Jonathan and David’s are a blessing from the Lord.

1 Samuel 18:1-4

How many friends do you have? And I don’t mean the people you connect with on social media—I’m talking about the few who really know you and stick with you through thick and thin. Such mutual friendships are rare today. 

What does it take to develop this kind of relationship? There could be no finer example than the friendship between David and Jonathan, and three qualities stand out. 

1. The relationship was characterized by mutual respect. This often gets lost in today’s world, but the reality is that we can maintain a genuine friendship only with someone for whom we have high regard. 

2. David and Jonathan felt strong love for one another. Even though they weren’t related, these two friends shared a relationship as deep and loyal as a brotherhood. 

3. Their commitment to each other was genuine. These were no fair-weather friends. Their bond withstood even the attempts by King Saul to kill David. (See 1 Sam. 23:15-18.) Jonathan refused to let anything—not even his own father’s jealous fury—come between him and his friend. 

Think about your best friend. Is the relationship characterized by these qualities? If so, recognize that you have been given a blessing from the Lord. Praise Him for the gift of your friend. 

Bible in One Year: Exodus 13-15 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Love of Learning

Bible in a Year:

Let the wise listen and add to their learning.

Proverbs 1:5

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Proverbs 1:1–7

When asked how he became a journalist, a man shared the story of his mother’s dedication to his pursuit of education. While traveling on the subway each day, she collected newspapers left behind on seats and gave them to him. While he especially enjoyed reading about sports, the papers also introduced him to knowledge about the world, which ultimately opened his mind to a vast range of interests. 

Children are wired with natural curiosity and a love for learning, so introducing them to the Scriptures at an early age is of great value. They become intrigued by God’s extraordinary promises and exciting stories of biblical heroes. As their knowledge deepens, they can begin to comprehend the consequences of sin, their need of repentance, and the joy found in trusting God. The first chapter of Proverbs, for instance, is a great introduction to the benefits of wisdom (Proverbs 1:1–7). Nuggets of wisdom found here shine a light of understanding on real-life situations.

Developing a love of learning—especially about spiritual truths—helps us to grow stronger in our faith. And those who have walked in faith for decades can continue to pursue knowledge of God throughout their life. Proverbs 1:5 advises, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning.” God will never stop teaching us if we’re willing to open our heart and mind to His guidance and instruction.

By:  Cindy Hess Kasper

Reflect & Pray

What fresh truth of Scripture have you added to your knowledge recently? How can you continually pursue a deeper understanding of God’s truth?

Father, please continue to open my mind and heart to grow in knowledge and wisdom as I read from the Scriptures.

Grow deeper in your understanding of faith.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Are You Gentle?

“Walk . . . with all . . . gentleness” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

To become more gentle, begin by looking closely at your attitudes.

We’ve determined that gentleness is essential for those who want to walk worthy. How can you tell if you’re gentle? I’ll give you some practical questions so you can evaluate yourself honestly.

First of all, are you self-controlled? Do you rule your own spirit (Prov. 16:32), or does your temper often flare up? When someone accuses you of something, do you immediately defend yourself, or are you more inclined to consider whether there’s any truth in what’s being said?

Second, are you infuriated only when God is dishonored? Do you get angry about sin or when God’s Word is perverted by false teachers?

Next, do you always seek to make peace? Gentle people are peacemakers. Ephesians 4:3 says they are “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” If someone falls into sin, do you condemn or gossip about that person? Galatians 6:1 instructs us to restore sinning brothers “in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Gossip and condemnation divide believers; forgiveness and restoration unite them. Gentle people don’t start fights; they end them.

Fourth, do you accept criticism without retaliation? Whether the criticism is right or wrong, you shouldn’t strike back. In fact, you can thank your critics, because criticism can show you your weaknesses and help you grow.

Finally, do you have the right attitude toward the unsaved? Peter says, “Always [be] ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). If we’re persecuted, it’s easy for us to think, They can’t treat me like that—I’m a child of God. But God wants us to approach the unsaved with gentleness, realizing that God reached out to us with gentleness before we were saved (Titus 3:3-7).

Consider carefully your answers to these questions, and commit yourself to being characterized by gentleness. Remember that “a gentle and quiet spirit . . . is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4).

Suggestions for Prayer

If any of these questions have pointed out deficiencies in your gentleness, ask God to strengthen those areas.

For Further Study

  • Paul was often criticized by those who wanted to usurp his authority over the church. Study Paul’s response to such people in 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
  • Think about this passage’s application to events in your life.

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Enjoy the Righteousness of Christ

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.

— Joshua 24:15 (AMPC)

The first step in doing anything is choosing to do it. In order to encourage someone, you first choose to look for the best. In order to be at peace, you first choose not to worry. In order to start some- thing new, you first choose to step out and go for it.

You may not know how it’s all going to work out, but you can make some foundational choices today. Begin by saying, Today I choose peace over fear! Today I choose to break that old habit and start a good one! Today I choose not to lash out in anger! Today I choose not to live in the past!

Make a choice, take a step, and never forget to ask for God’s help (His grace) in executing your choice. We can do all things with and through Him, but we can do nothing without Him (see Philippians 4:13).

Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, I know I can’t always choose what happens around me, but I can choose how to respond. Help me to always respond the way You would have me respond. In Your precious name I pray, amen!

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –“Give Me Life”

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.

Psalm 119:37

There are various kinds of vanity. The cap and bells of the fool, the merriment of the world, the dance, and the cup of the dissolute—all these men know to be vanities; they wear upon their chest their proper name and title. Far more treacherous are those equally vain things—the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. A man may follow vanity as truly in a portfolio as in a theater.

If he is spending his life in amassing wealth, he passes his days in a vain show. Unless we follow Christ and make our God the great object of life, we only differ in appearance from the most frivolous. It is clear that there is much need of the prayer of our text: “Give me life in your ways.” The psalmist confesses that he is dull, heavy, all but dead.

Perhaps, dear reader, you feel the same. We are so sluggish that the best motives cannot quicken us, apart from the Lord Himself. What! Will not hell quicken me? Shall I think of sinners perishing, and yet not be awakened? Will not heaven quicken me? Can I think of the reward that awaits the righteous and yet be cold? Will not death quicken me? Can I think of dying and standing before my God, and yet be slothful in my Master’s service? Will not Christ’s love constrain me? Can I think of His dear wounds, can I sit at the foot of His cross, and not be stirred with fervency and zeal? It seems so!

No mere consideration can quicken us to zeal, but God Himself must do it; hence the cry, “Give me life in your ways.” The psalmist breathes out his whole soul in vehement pleadings; his body and his soul unite in prayer. “Turn my eyes,” says the body. “Give me life,” cries the soul. This is a fit prayer for every day. O Lord, hear it in my case this night.

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 Wants To Change You

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

One October day, Brandon was on an airplane flying to Vermont. As the plane dipped its wings over Lake Champlain, Brandon looked out his window. What a sight! All around the misty water below were acres and acres of maple trees that had changed color. Brandon had never seen trees wearing any brighter shades of red, orange, and gold.

If you have become a Christian by trusting Jesus Christ to save you from your sin, God wants to make a glorious change inside of you – an even more beautiful change than the colored leaves of fall. He wants to make you just like His Son, Jesus Christ! Can you imagine what that would be like? You would love God with all of your heart. You would be full of joy. You would be confident in God even when bad things happened. You would be kind and gentle – even toward your brothers and sisters. You would never be selfish. You would never disobey. You would always hate sin.

Long ago, before you ever asked God to save you, He was planning to do this beautiful work in you. His Spirit who lives in you will show you the things that need to change. Will you cooperate with God as He works?

God wants to change you to be like His Son, Jesus Christ.

My Response:
» Is God’s Holy Spirit showing me areas that need to change in my life?
» Am I becoming more like Jesus?

Denison Forum – A balanced review of “Fault Lines,” Voddie Baucham’s critique of modern social justice

Voddie T. Baucham Jr.’s Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastropheprovides an in-depth perspective on how social justice has divided our culture, our country, and the church, and how the tenets of modern social justice employ narratives that do not match with evidence. 

To describe this ideology, he uses his own term, “Critical Social Justice” (CSJ). While he supports social justice, he believes that Critical Theory has taken hold in today’s culture. In this context, Baucham certainly does the job of critiquing and engaging culture. 

Most of the work is aptly summarized in Proverbs 18:17, which he quotes, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

In examining the evidence for and against the idea of systemic, structural racism, Baucham does not deny racial disparity in America. Rather, he challenges the CSJ narrative, which argues that the inequality is due entirely to the racist “DNA” of America. 

While Baucham offers some alternative explanations to the disparity, though not much, he mostly attacks one prominent fallacy in CSJ thinking: “There is unequal outcome, therefore, the structure is to blame.”

He claims, to help us get a broader perspective, that America is objectively less racist than almost any other country. His perspective, as he has lived in Zambia for the past six years, is one of an insider and an outsider.

He is frank, forthright, and defends the gospel. Furthermore, while he masterfully shows that the narrative of CSJ is downright dishonest, misleading, and extremely dangerous to the church and our culture, sometimes I think he doesn’t capture the full scale of the evidence. 

Critical reflections

With full respect and admiration for Baucham’s life, work, intentions, and thought, here are some critical reflections on Fault Lines. 

He addresses some of the evidence but often leaves out the other side. For example, he uses Harvard Economics professor Roland G. Fryer’s paper, “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force,” which shows that, when external factors are controlled, unarmed black and white Americans are shot at relatively equal rates. He cites this to disprove the 2.5 to 1 ratio that is often cited, which states that unarmed black men are killed at 2.5 times the rate of white men. 

However, that same paper also shows that police disproportionately use force against black Americans (even when outside factors are controlled and the offenders comply with officers’ requests). He doesn’t acknowledge the latter point. 

He sometimes uses unscholarly or difficult-to-confirm sources, like a tweet with a video compilation or an obscure YouTube video. One footnote led me through a difficult search, and I ended up listening to an entire podcast because Baucham didn’t cite the original content or timestamp. This, and other references, sometimes lacked context or only gave one side of the picture. 

As another reviewer notes, when Baucham compares the CSJ movement to a “new religion,” complete with its own “creation story” and cosmology, he stretches the comparison. Undoubtedly, the CSJ movement with Critical Race Theory often has religious fervor and generally provides a worldview. Regardless, this comparison seemed forced. 

Additionally, readers must remember that Baucham believes that there is a deep divide on this issue. When we look around, it’s hard to disagree. But, one will notice when reading that this division defines the work, and his charge is to “pick a side.” While he may be completely correct in his analysis, Baucham’s tendency to harp on the division is sometimes tough to swallow. This, compounded with the fact that he spends little time on positive solutions, makes the book sometimes feel partial and unnecessarily divisive.   

Why Christians should read this book

Suffice to say, while those complaints are important, on the whole, Baucham excellently addresses the spreading destruction of CSJ in evangelicalism. For example, he demonstrates that Be the Bridgeand other Christian works on the subject are often rifewith “Ethnic Gnosticism,” whereby the truth can only be heard from people of color and people of color are always to be believed. While humility is important, as Christians we shouldn’t abandon the belief in objective truth. 

He addresses the danger of accepting CSJ, as it can contaminate the gospel with legalism and distracting goals that tend toward disunity rather than unity. Additionally, he provides insider insight into the events of the SBC controversy and its resolution on Critical Race Theory. 

Baucham affirms the importance of ethnic diversity. He values his African heritage highly as an important part of his identity. And, indeed, he affirms that Christians must “do justice.” However, he believes that CSJ can blind us to true justice and avoid the real problems that lead to racial disparity. Insofar as this book is a critique of the movement and its danger to Evangelical Christianity, it does its job excellently. 

If you don’t pick up this work, I would at least recommend that you read and wrestle with the “Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel,” even if you disagree with it. Baucham refers to this document frequently and was a prominent signature on it. 

All in all, Voddie Baucham’s work is a helpful source of argumentation and a fresh perspective very much needed in the CRT debate that rages in our culture. 

In their own words

“I wish I could say this book is meant to help us avoid the impending catastrophe. However, it is not. This catastrophe is unavoidable. These fault lines are so deeply entrenched, and the rules of engagement are so perilously complex, the question is not if but when the catastrophe will strike.”

“In the end, the answer to everything is racism [in the CSJ movement]. Not only is this kind of reasoning logically flawed, but it also flies in the face of a substantial body of sociological research and the historic preaching and understanding of the black church.” 

“The black family matters. Education matters. Decisions and choices matter. And above all, God’s Word matters.” 

“Racism is real. Injustice is real. No matter how many times I say those things, I will still be accused of turning a blind eye to them—not because I deny them, but because I deny the CRT/I view that they are “normal” and at the basis of everything.” 

“Pastors…I believe the church—your church—is under attack. As shepherds, we must defend the sheep. We must repel the wolves. And yes, the wolves are many. However, this one is within the gates and has the worst intentions. He desires to use your genuine love for the brethren as leverage.” 

“Living in Africa for the past five years has broadened my perspective on social justice in two major ways.

1) I have come to understand that the Critical Social Justice movement is global… 

2) I have come to realize that culture does matter, that not all cultures are equal, that Christian culture has produced the highest levels of freedom and prosperity and the lowest levels of corruption and oppression in the world, and that transforming culture is a laudable and worthwhile goal.”

http://www.denisonforum.org/

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – A Reason for Confidence

Negativity doesn’t fit who we are as God’s children—we should have confidence in our almighty Lord.

Proverbs 3:21-26

Negativity affects us in both spiritual and physical ways. Even simply spending time with a pessimistic individual can take a toll. On the other hand, positivity—especially that related to confidence in the Lord—enables us to live as our Father desires.  

As God’s children, we have every reason to live with assurance. His very presence is permanently within us, and He has granted us His peace, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). In addition, He promises to provide for our needs and empower us to obey and serve Him. 

Sometimes, however, we have trouble accepting and living in these spiritual blessings. When that’s the case, we should purposefully take steps to develop confidence in our all-powerful God. This begins with meditating on His Word and drawing near to Him in prayer. As we grow in our understanding of the Lord and His promises, our faith is strengthened and confidence in Him increases.  

The world is full of distrust, fear, and uncertainty. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by negative messages that take your eyes off Christ. Focus on the truth of Scripture and put your confidence in almighty God. Facing each day with His strength will drive away doubt and anxiety.

Bible in One Year: Exodus 10-12 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Stay Awake!

Bible in a Year:

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:41

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 26:36–46

A German bank employee was in the middle of transferring 62.40 euros from a customer’s bank account when he accidentally took a power nap at his desk. He dozed off while his finger was on the “2” key, resulting in a 222 million euro (300 million dollar) transfer into the customer’s account. The fallout from the mistake included the firing of the employee’s colleague who verified the transfer. Although the mistake was caught and corrected, because he hadn’t been watchful, the sleepy employee’s lapse almost became a nightmare for the bank.

Jesus warned His disciples that if they didn’t remain alert, they too would make a costly mistake. He took them to a place called Gethsemane to spend some time in prayer. As He prayed, Jesus experienced a grief and sadness such as He’d never known in His earthly life. He asked Peter, James, and John to stay awake to pray and “keep watch” with Him (Matthew 26:38), but they fell asleep (vv. 40–41). Their failure to watch and pray would leave them defenseless when the real temptation of denying Him came calling. In the hour of Christ’s greatest need, the disciples lacked spiritual vigilance.

May we heed Jesus’ words to remain spiritually awake by being more devoted to spending time with Him in prayer. As we do, He’ll strengthen us to resist all kinds of temptations and avoid the costly mistake of denying Jesus.

By:  Marvin Williams

Reflect & Pray

What part of your prayer life needs to be more devoted and disciplined? How can you intentionally spend more time alone with God this week? 

Jesus, because I’ve been spiritually sleeping, I haven’t been praying. And because I haven’t been praying, I haven’t depended on You. I’m sorry. Please help me to spend more time with You.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Christ’s Gentle Example

“Walk . . . with all . . . gentleness” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Jesus is the greatest example of gentleness: He became angry when God the Father was dishonored, but not when He, the Son, was.

Jesus Christ is our supreme example of gentleness. Paul refers specifically to this in 2 Corinthians 10:1. Jesus Himself said, “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29).

Jesus showed righteous indignation when it was proper. When He found the Temple filled with people selling exorbitantly priced sacrificial animals, He drove them out, pouring out their money and overturning tables (Matt. 21:12). He told them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den” (v. 13). Jesus later said to the scribes and Pharisees, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” (23:33). He did not stand idly by while the Temple was defiled. He spoke out in judgment against hypocrites who dishonored God.

Even though Jesus became angry when God was maligned, He neither retaliated against nor condemned those who attacked Him. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23). When God’s Temple was defiled, Jesus cleaned it out. But when the temple of His body was defiled, enduring the agony of the cross, with mockers all around, all He said was, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). That’s supreme gentleness—total selflessness.

It’s so easy to strike back when someone criticizes or attacks us, but that’s not the way of the gentle Christian trying to walk worthy. The only time we should let the lion in us roar is when God’s honor is at stake. Jesus forgave those who crucified Him. How can we do any less to those who hurt us?

Suggestions for Prayer                

We all fall short of Christ’s example of gentleness.  Pray that God would help you each day to reflect more and more the gentleness of Christ.

For Further Study

Read the account of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion in Matthew 26:47—27:50.

  • Did He have the power to strike back (26:53)?
  • Find all the instances you can in which Christ demonstrated His gentleness.

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Let It Go

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted . . . forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.

— Ephesians 4:32 (AMPC)

The Bible teaches us to forgive “readily and freely.” That is God’s standard for us, no matter how we feel about it. We are to be quick to forgive.

According to 1 Peter 5:5, we can clothe ourselves with the character of Jesus Christ, meaning that we can choose to be long-suffering, patient, not easily offended, slow to anger, quick to forgive, and filled with mercy. My definition of “mercy” is to look beyond what is done to me that hurts and discover the reason why it was done. Many times, people do things even they don’t understand themselves, but there is always a reason why people behave as they do. Perhaps they are hurting and in their own pain they don’t even realize they are hurting someone else.

God forgives! We are to be merciful and forgiving, just as God in Christ forgives us our wrongdoing. He not only sees what we do that is wrong, but He understands why we did it, and is merciful and long-suffering. The choice to forgive others is ours. God will not force anyone to do it. Even if you don’t understand it, believe that God’s way is the best. It works. He can take what Satan meant to destroy you and turn it for your good.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to try to control my anger and forgive quickly. In Jesus’ name, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Learn at the Feet of Jesus

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

Luke 24:45

He whom we viewed last evening as opening Scripture, we here perceive opening the understanding. In the first work He has many fellow-laborers, but in the second He stands alone; many can bring the Scriptures to the mind, but the Lord alone can prepare the mind to receive the Scriptures. Our Lord Jesus differs from all other teachers.

They reach the ear, but He instructs the heart; they deal with the outward letter, but He imparts an inward taste for the truth, by which we perceive its savor and spirit. The most unlearned of men become ripe scholars in the school of grace when the Lord Jesus by His Holy Spirit unfolds the mysteries of the kingdom to them and grants the divine anointing by which they are enabled to behold the invisible.

Happy are we if we have had our understandings cleared and strengthened by the Master! How many men of profound learning are ignorant of eternal things! They know the killing letter of revelation, but its killing spirit they cannot discern; they have a veil upon their hearts that the eyes of carnal reason cannot penetrate.

Such was our case a little time ago. We who now see were once utterly blind; truth was to us as beauty in the dark, a thing unnoticed and neglected. Had it not been for the love of Jesus we should have remained to this moment in utter ignorance, for without His gracious opening of our understanding, we could no more have attained to spiritual knowledge than an infant can climb the Pyramids or an ostrich fly up to the stars.

Jesus’ College is the only one in which God’s truth can be really learned; other schools may teach us what is to be believed, but Christ’s alone can show us how to believe it. Let us sit at the feet of Jesus and by earnest prayer call upon His blessed help, that our dull wits may grow brighter, and our feeble understandings may receive heavenly things.

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 Brings Good out of Sadness

Romans 8:28 “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.”

Will I trust God to bring good out of the sad time I’m going through?

One day, I brought home a bright red helium balloon. I was so proud of it! I could hardly wait to get it out of the car and begin playing with it. But no sooner had my feet touched the pavement of our driveway than it slipped out of my hand and went floating away toward the clouds. I was disappointed and angry. It wasn’t fair! I had lost my balloon before I even had a chance to play with it.

But my dad had an idea. “I’ll get my binoculars,” he said. “Let’s watch your balloon till it’s out of sight.” We stood out in the backyard, my dad and I, for a long time that evening. We passed the binoculars back and forth, tracking the red balloon’s flight into the sky. What fun we had! That evening that had begun so sadly ended up filled with laughter and joy. It was one of my favorite times spent with my father.

God, our Father, sometimes allows things to happen in our lives that seem very bad to us. Things might happen that hurt and disappoint us and make us want to scream, “It’s not fair!” But God has wonderful plans for those painful times. He may want to teach us something new about Himself. He may want us to come closer to Him. We get to know Him better as we pray and trust Him in times of suffering. He causes all things to work together for good to us if we are His children. Maybe someday you will look back on your saddest time as the best time you ever spent with your Father.

God brings good out of His children’s pain and suffering.

Denison Forum – Man drinks bleach at restaurant, awarded more than $9M by jury

William Cronnon was eating lunch at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in April 2014. His waitress accidentally refilled his glass with a mixture of water and Eco-San, a commercial-grade bleach.

According to his attorney, Cronnon went to the emergency room for treatment and developed gastrointestinal issues I won’t describe here. The attorney stated that Cronnon’s injuries were “severe and persistent enough” that he could no longer work. The case went to trial, where a jury awarded Cronnon compensatory damages totaling $4.3 million and punitive damages of $5 million.

I can find no evidence that the waitress intended to harm him or that he intended to be harmed. She sincerely thought she was refilling his glass with water. He sincerely thought he was drinking water. 

But both were sincerely wrong.

Former policeman indicted in death of his mother

This week we’re exploring ways to relate redemptively to our broken society. On Monday, we discussed New York Times columnist David Brooks’ compelling description of America as “falling apart at the seams.” Yesterday, we identified three reasons to choose compassion in responding to those who reject biblical truth and morality.

Today, let’s take an additional step into such solidarity.

Some sins are obviously intentional and deserve the opprobrium of society. An example is the former New York police officer who has been indicted in the death of his mother, who was found nearly decapitated in her Queens home last year. 

At other times, those who suffer are not at fault and deserve our full sympathy and support. An example is the disaster in Tonga caused by the largest volcanic eruption in more than thirty years and the resulting tsunami waves it sent crashing across the Pacific. Clearly, no one on the island could have caused or prevented the destruction they experienced.

Two compelling calls for compassion

Most who reject biblical truth and morality fall in the latter category for two reasons, both of which relate directly to followers of Jesus today.

One: They need our help in understanding spiritual truth.

Scripture teaches: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). This is why non-Christians need Christians to teach and model biblical truth in ways that are accessible and relevant to them.

Much of our Christian vocabulary is foreign to those outside our faith; words like sin and lost feel pejorative to those who have no context for understanding their true meaning. Evangelism feels to them like the unfair imposition of our opinions on them. They view attending our churches in the same way you and I would view attending a Muslim mosque or a Buddhist temple.

They need precisely what you and I needed before others helped us understand and accept the truth of God’s word. They are sincerely lost, but they don’t know they’re lost. They need and deserve someone to show them the path to life in a spirit of compassion and grace.

Two: They are the victims of the true enemy.

Yesterday, I referred to 2 Corinthians 4:4. Here is the full verse: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is why “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

As a result, the first step in influencing the lost is interceding for the lost. It is praying for the Spirit to defeat the work of Satan in their minds and hearts. It is asking God to lead them to himself, to guide and use us to that end, and to protect them from the deceptions and antagonism of our fallen culture.

While some people clearly understand and yet reject biblical truth and are willing accomplices in Satan’s work of deception, the vast majority do not know what they do not know. They do not understand that they are lost and in need of salvation. They do not understand that they are the victims of the enemy of their souls and that they desperately need our intercession and compassion.

A hymn I encourage you to pray

Millions of people in our lost culture are sincerely drinking “water” that leads to death rather than “living water” that leads to life (John 4:14). This is because they need Christians to explain and model biblical truth in relevant and empowering ways while interceding for the lost to hear and respond to the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

If I am holding the only flashlight in a dark room, whose fault is the darkness?

Rather than condemning those who need my witness and intercession, should I not renew my commitment to both?

To have God’s heart for the lost, however, I must first experience God’s heart for myself. I must encounter his loving grace, his transforming mercy, his empowering presence and peace. To that end, I’ll close with a hymn I came across recently that greatly encouraged me. It was written by Charles Wesley, the brother of John and co-leader of the Methodist movement.

Charles wrote the words for more than 6,500 hymns, including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” He could make such a profound impact on his culture and on Christian history because Jesus was so real in his heart, a fact he expressed in words I encourage you to pray slowly to God right now:

Jesus, my all in all thou art;
My rest in toil, my ease in pain,
The medicine of my broken heart,
In war my peace, in loss my gain,
My smile beneath the tyrant’s frown,
In shame my glory and my crown:

In want my plentiful supply,
In weakness my almighty pow’r,
In bonds my perfect liberty,
My light in Satan’s darkest hour,
My help and stay whene’er I call,
My life in death, my heav’n, my all. Amen.

Amen?

http://www.denisonforum.org/

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Relying on Christ

Instead of focusing on our self-esteem, let’s rely on Jesus in our inadequacy.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Our world emphatically proclaims the importance of self-esteem, which is a favorable impression of oneself. It’s not unusual to hear that an individual who values himself will accomplish much. Yet Scripture warns us not to think too highly of ourselves (Rom. 12:3). We should have far greater confidence in Christ than in ourselves.

Despite his impressive credentials (Phil. 3:4-5), Paul knew he was inadequate to complete the ministry God gave him. In fact, today’s passage says that when preaching the gospel to the Corinthians, he came in fear and trembling (1 Cor. 2:3). His message wasn’t delivered with self-confidence but in complete reliance upon the Spirit. And that’s exactly how we should live as well. 

When we rely on God’s power instead of our own abilities, He produces supernatural boldness in us. Even in the midst of difficulty, we can live with confidence because the indwelling Spirit of the living God enables us to follow Him. He directs and strengthens us in every situation as we humble ourselves in dependence upon Him.

Are you facing situations that make you feel inadequate? Instead of shrinking back, consider them as opportunities to put your confidence in the Lord. You can trust the One who is your Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. 

Bible in One Year: Exodus 7-9 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Love’s Greatest Gift

Bible in a Year:

We all, like sheep, have gone astray.

Isaiah 53:6

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Isaiah 53:1–6

My son Geoff was leaving a store when he saw an abandoned walking frame (a mobility aid) on the ground. I hope there isn’t a person back there who needs help, he thought. He glanced behind the building and found a homeless man unconscious on the pavement.

Geoff roused him and asked if he was okay. “I’m trying to drink myself to death,” he responded. “My tent broke in a storm, and I lost everything. I don’t want to live.”

Geoff called a Christian rehabilitation ministry, and while they waited for help, he ran home briefly and brought the man his own camping tent. “What’s your name?” Geoff asked. “Geoffrey,” the homeless man answered, “with a G.” Geoff hadn’t mentioned his own name or its uncommon spelling. “Dad,” he told me later, “that could have been me.”

Geoff once struggled with substance abuse himself, and he helped the man because of the kindness he’d received from God. Isaiah the prophet used these words to anticipate God’s mercy to us in Jesus: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Christ, our Savior, didn’t leave us lost, alone, and hopeless in despair. He chose to identify with us and lift us in love, so that we may be set free to live anew in Him. There’s no greater gift.

By:  James Banks

Reflect & Pray

Where would you be without Jesus? How can you be His hands and feet for someone in need?

Thank You, Jesus, for coming to rescue me. Help me to join in Your search-and-rescue mission and to share Your love with someone who needs You today.

Read Remade in the Image of Jesus .

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Righteous Anger

“Walk . . . with all . . . gentleness” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Our anger must be under control and should occur only for the right reason.

After the previous lesson, you might think that Christians must always be quiet and passive, never getting upset or angry about anything. Actually, believers do have the right to get angry, but only under certain conditions. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” So there is a certain kind of anger that isn’t sinful. It must be under control, and it must be resolved expeditiously.

Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.” Someone who is out of control is vulnerable. He falls into every temptation, failure, and weakness. On the other hand, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (16:32). One who rules his spirit has power and energy, but it’s under control. That same power and energy out of control creates nothing but chaos and sinfulness. Those who are easily angered are not gentle.

Gentle people, on the other hand, control their energies and strengths, but they do have a tough side. They don’t back away from sin or cease to condemn evil. Since the gentle person submits himself to God, he becomes angry over things that offend God, not himself. If someone offends him personally, he doesn’t seek revenge. But when God is maligned, the lion in him roars. Such anger is called righteous indignation. Under God’s control, anger reacts when it ought to react, for the right reason, and for the right amount of time.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask forgiveness if you are apt to get angry for the wrong reasons. Commit yourself to being gentle when you ordinarily would flare up in anger. If you don’t get angry when you see evil, ask God to make you sensitive to what He hates.

For Further Study

  • At the very time Moses was receiving God’s Law on Mount Sinai, the Israelites were involved in idolatry and debauchery. Read Exodus 32. What was Moses’ reaction to their sin?
  • Did he hold a grudge against them (vv. 31-32)?
  • How can Moses’ example be a pattern for your life?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Take Control of Your Anger

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, he who rules his [own] spirit than he who takes a city.

— Proverbs 16:32 (AMPC)

This verse illustrates the power of controlling your anger. God gave us self-control (see Galatians 5:23) to monitor our mouths, thoughts, passions, emotions, and tempers, yet many people don’t know that controlling their emotions is an option. They think the way they feel must dictate their actions. When they get mad, they let the feeling of anger decide how long they will stay angry, and all the while it is stealing their joy from them. In Scripture, we read about Absalom, who held on to his anger for two years, allowing it to build until he ended up killing his own brother (see 2 Samuel 13). 

You need to know that with God’s help, you can get over your anger. Study the Word about anger and the importance of forgiving those who hurt you and pray and ask God to give you grace and strength to forgive (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). Don’t let anger shut down the power of God in your life. 

Power Thought: I forgive quickly and never allow emotion to rule my actions.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me get control over my anger and lean on You and Your Word, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Be Wise Unto Salvation

He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:27

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus had a most profitable journey. Their companion and teacher was the best of tutors, the interpreter one of a thousand, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The Lord Jesus condescended to become a preacher of the Gospel, and He was not ashamed to exercise His calling before an audience of two persons. Neither does He now refuse to become the teacher of even one. Let us court the company of so excellent an Instructor, for till He is made unto us wisdom we shall never be wise unto salvation.

This unrivaled tutor used as His class-book the best of books. Although able to reveal fresh truth, He preferred to expound the old. He knew by His omniscience what was the most instructive way of teaching, and by turning at once to Moses and the prophets, He showed us that the surest road to wisdom is not speculation, reasoning, or reading human books, but meditation upon the Word of God. The readiest way to be spiritually rich in heavenly knowledge is to dig in this mine of diamonds, to gather pearls from this heavenly sea. When Jesus Himself sought to enrich others, He mined in the quarry of Holy Scripture.

The favored pair were led to consider the best of subjects, for Jesus spoke of Jesus and expounded the things concerning Himself. Here the diamond cut the diamond, and what could be more admirable? The Master of the House unlocked His own doors, conducted the guests to His table, and placed His own choice foods upon it. He who hid the treasure in the field Himself guided the searchers to it. Our Lord would naturally discourse upon the sweetest of topics, and He could find none sweeter than His own person and work. With an eye to these we should always search the Word. O for grace to study the Bible with Jesus as both our teacher and our lesson!

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 a Tenderhearted Father

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.” (Psalm 103:13)

One day Laurie and her sister Caroline came home from school, and both of their parents met them at the door. Their dad never came home from work in the middle of the day. They knew something must be wrong.

“Girls,” said their dad without his usual smile, “I have some sad news. Your grandpa died this morning.”

They sat down on the couch, their daddy in the middle with an arm around each of them. And Laurie and Caroline cried. Caroline looked up finally and noticed a tear rolling down her daddy’s cheek. She could hardly believe her eyes! She had never seen her daddy cry before. “He must really miss Grandpa too,” she thought. Later she realized that her dad was crying, not just because he missed Grandpa. He was crying for his daughters because they were sad.

Did you know that God is just as tenderhearted as a loving father? He feels every painful thing that you feel. He wants you to draw near to Him and let Him comfort you.

Maybe you do not have an earthly father in your home protecting, providing, and tenderly caring for you. God wants you to enjoy that special father-child relationship with Him alone. He promises in His Word to be a Father to the fatherless child (Psalm 68:5).

God is a tenderhearted Father who shares His children’s griefs and longs to comfort them.

My Response:
» Have I become God’s child by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ?
» Do I go to my heavenly Father when I need comfort?

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