In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Children of God

Our Father loves us and has provided everything we need to live righteously.

1 John 3:1-10

When we trust in Christ, we become children of God. By using this language, Scripture indicates the nature of our relationship with Him: He is our Father, and we should respond as His children. This means we must learn to listen, obey, and love Him more and more. 

The Father speaks clearly to us through Scripture. Many people claim they’re interested in hearing from God yet struggle to find time to read His Word. Then there are those who say, “I don’t understand it” and give up. But living within every child of God is the Holy Spirit, who helps to overcome any hindrances and brings correct interpretation of the Word. If you keep reading the Scriptures faithfully, He’ll give you understanding. 

Once a person is born into God’s family, nothing can ever destroy that relationship—not even sin. However, disobedience grieves the Father and hinders fellowship and communication with Him. Restoration, which is essential for spiritual growth, comes through confession and repentance (1 John 1:9). 

Today’s Scripture passage gives characteristics of the children of God. Are you a member of His family? If so, your life should be characterized by obedience and righteousness. 

Bible in One Year: 2 Corinthians 1-4 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Who You Are

Bible in a Year:

Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

1 Timothy 4:12–16

In 2011, after a decade of childlessness, my wife and I chose to start afresh in a new country. Exciting as the move was, it required my leaving a broadcast career, which I missed. Feeling lost, I asked my friend Liam for advice.

“I don’t know what my calling is anymore,” I told Liam dejectedly.

“You’re not broadcasting here?” he asked. I said I wasn’t.

“And how is your marriage?”

Surprised at his change of topic, I told Liam that Merryn and I were doing well. We’d faced heartbreak together but emerged closer through the ordeal.

“Commitment is the core of the gospel,” he said, smiling. “Oh, how the world needs to see committed marriages like yours! You may not realize the impact you’re having already, beyond what you do, simply by being who you are.”

When a difficult work situation left Timothy dejected, the apostle Paul didn’t give him career goals. Instead, he encouraged Timothy to live a godly life, setting an example through his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Timothy 4:12–1315). He would best impact others by living faithfully.

It’s easy to value our lives based on our career success when what matters most is our character. I had forgotten that. But a word of truth, a gracious act, even a committed marriage can bring great change—because through them something of God’s own goodness touches the world.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray

Who has touched your life and what qualities did they have? How can you set an example of faithfulness today?

Dear God, help me to remember that the work I do isn’t as important as the person I become. Please make me more like You.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Deity of Christ

“[Christ] existed in the form of God” (Philippians 2:6).

Christ possesses the very nature of God.

In the second part of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christiana and her children travel toward the Celestial Country. During their pilgrimage, Interpreter introduces them to one of his male servants, whose name is Great-heart. When Christiana asks Great-heart to explain the nature of Christ’s forgiveness, part of his answer is: “He [Christ] has two natures in one Person, easy to distinguish but impossible to divide. There is a righteousness that belongs to both of these natures, and each righteousness is essential to that nature, so that one might as easily kill that nature as to separate its righteousness from it.” Bunyan was affirming through his character Great-heart what Scripture says of Christ: He is God.

The apostle Paul stated the same truth, saying that Christ “existed in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6). The Greek word translated “existed” (huparcho) is not the common verb for “being” (eimi). Huparcho stresses the essence of a person’s nature—his continuous state or condition. It expresses what one is, unalterably and inalienably, by nature. Paul’s point was that Jesus Christ is unalterably and continuously existing in the form of God.

Clarifying the meaning of the Greek word translated “form” (morphe) is crucial to a proper understanding of this verse. According to respected Greek scholars Moulton and Milligan, morphe “always signifies a form which truly and fully expresses the being which underlies it.” The word describes essential being or nature—in this case the essential being of God.

In using the word morphe in Philippians 2, Paul was saying Jesus possessed the unchangeable, essential nature of God. That interpretation of the first phrase of verse 6 is strengthened by the second phrase, which says Jesus was equal with God. Being in the form of God speaks of Christ’s equality with God.

Perhaps, like Great-heart, you know someone who needs to be grounded in the fundamental doctrines of God’s Word. Just as Great-heart helped Christiana, so also you can help someone learn about the deity of Christ and other great truths of God’s Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for an opportunity to teach someone the basic doctrine of Christ’s nature.

For Further Study

Memorize Colossians 2:9, a verse that proves the deity of Christ.

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – The Beauty of Faith

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.

— Psalm 37:5 (NKJV)

I see more clearly than ever before how simple and beautiful faith is and how self-effort complicates life and steals peace and joy. Man’s mind plans his own way (see Proverbs 16:9), but God’s ways are much higher than ours and they always work better (see Isaiah 55:9). I have finally learned that whenever I feel frustrated, it almost always indicates that I have trusted myself to do what only God can do. It is my signal to return to full faith in God and once again enjoy His peace.

Apart from faith we cannot please God (see Hebrews 11:6), and apart from Him, we can do nothing (see John 15:5). If you are worried or feel burdened by anything, I urge you to let it go and return to simple faith in God without delay. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass (Psalm 37:5 NKJV). God already has a perfect plan for your situation, and as you rest in Him, He will work!

Prayer of the Day: Father, thank You that You are working in my life while I rest in You. I trust You to do the right thing at the right time. Help me walk in faith at all times.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Knowing the Creator

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

John 1:9-10

While each of the Gospels takes a different approach to detailing Jesus’ life, their purpose is the same: that, as John puts it, “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Those words come near the end of his Gospel and were intended to remind even his earliest readers that God graciously took the initiative to pursue His people in order that we might know and love Him.

Although Jesus was the Creator of the world He entered into, the world did not recognize Him. He came down from heaven in the form of a man, navigating city streets and moving among us so that we could live with Him in the light rather than have to live in darkness for all of eternity. Yet today, not unlike 2,000 years ago, many don’t understand the immensity of the gift of life in this world that Christ has given us, and therefore they forfeit the gift of eternal life that Christ was born to offer us, because they don’t know Him.

In his great treatise in the book of Romans, Paul wrote that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” In other words, as a result of God’s common grace, the creation displays enough evidence to at least bring us to the point of becoming theists. Because of this, men and women “are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

Even with that context, however, Paul goes on to say that although men and women “knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). They knew of God’s existence but, suppressing that knowledge, they refused to know Him as Lord and Savior.

This is a humbling warning to us. If we should neglect to give God the honor and praise He is due, we risk forgetting the glorious ways He continues to pursue us, even today.

The word, truth, and story of Jesus have been made available in the Western world for hundreds of years—but still, so often men and women go about their weeks without any recognition of who Jesus truly is. Believers are not immune from living lives that, Sunday mornings or morning devotions apart, bear no mark of a knowledge of and relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior. Imagine the difference it would make if we lived each moment calling to mind the truths that He is the light and the new life within us, that He makes it possible to live with God for all of eternity, that He is our great Lord and gentle Savior, and that He is surely worth knowing.

GOING DEEPER

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Topics: Christ as Lord Creation Gospel

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

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God’s Laws Are Good

“And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.” (Deuteronomy 6:24)

Eileen’s class was getting ready to put on a play, and they had been working on the scenery for several days. The play was about the Pilgrims, and yesterday the students had painted a long strip of paper bright blue to represent the ocean. They had carefully carried the paper to the gym and laid it on the floor to dry. This morning, their teacher, Mrs. Grimes, told them they were all going to walk to the gym and check to see if the paint on their “ocean” had dried. If it had, they would carry it back to the classroom and practice for the play.

“Remember,” said Mrs. Grimes, “when we get to the gym – we’re going to walk.”

Eileen could hardly contain her excitement enough to stay quietly in line as they walked down the hall. She couldn’t wait to see how the “ocean” had turned out. As soon as her feet hit the gym floor, she gave up trying to walk. It wasn’t that she had forgotten Mrs. Grimes’s rule exactly, but it would be so much fun to run, and weren’t gym floors made for running anyway?

But Eileen had forgotten one thing – she didn’t have her gym shoes on. Splat! Her feet slipped out from under her, and she fell hard. She hit her chin on the floor, and blood started running from the cut.

Mrs. Grimes hurried over to help Eileen up. “See?” she said. “This is why I told you not to run. Let’s go get your cut cleaned up.”

Mrs. Grimes had made the rule about walking on the gym floor to keep her students safe. Eileen disobeyed because she didn’t like the rule. She thought the rule was meant to keep her from having fun. But as soon as she fell, she realized that the rule was good after all.

God tells us in His Word that His law is for our good. Think about the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. Did God tell us to stay away from idols to keep us from having fun? Did he command us not to lie, steal, or murder to cause trouble for us? No, just the opposite is true. Obeying brings us good. Trouble and pain come to us when we break God’s laws. Keeping God’s commandments does not save us – only Jesus can do that. But after we are saved, obeying God’s commandments is the only way to ensure our happiness (Psalm 1:1-3). God’s laws are good, and they are given for our good.

God has given us commandments to follow for our own good.

My Response:
» Do I believe that God’s commandments are loving?
» Do I believe that He has given His commands for my good?
» Am I trying hard to obey them with God’s help?

Denison Forum – My city is home to the most cheating spouses in America

The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Researchers have identified the US cities with the highest rates of marital infidelity, comparing two hundred of the largest metro areas with regard to relationship satisfaction, life satisfaction, infidelity intent, and affair activities. The results are in: the three most “unfaithful” cities in America, in order, are Dallas, Texas, Fort Worth, Texas, and Houston, Texas.

This news hits close to home for me: I have lived in Dallas since 1998, I worked for many years in Ft. Worth, and I was born and raised in Houston.

We in Dallas refer to ourselves as the “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” We are home to some of the largest churches in America. In fact, Christianity Today once called our city “the new capital of evangelicalism.” But as the infidelity report illustrates, we are clearly living in a cultural mission field.

No matter where you live in America, so are you.

Tax-exempt status “now up for debate”

My wife and I were discussing yesterday’s Daily Article, which focused on ways Christianity is under attack in our society. Janet noted that for years, many of us have been warning that a post-Christian and even anti-Christian day was coming to our nation. Now, she said, it’s here.

Here’s why she is right.

The Supreme Court tragically discovered a constitutional “right” to abortion in 1973 and only overturned that ruling this year, but Christian doctors have not (yet) been required to perform abortions. Euthanasia is available in various forms in ten states, but Christian physicians are not (yet) required to provide physician-assisted suicide.

However, as I noted in yesterday’s article, the so-called Respect for Marriage Act will make an unbiblical and even anti-biblical definition of marriage the law of the land by congressional action. Many fear that this legislation threatens religious liberty on an unprecedented level.

For example, Roger Severino of the Heritage Foundation warns that “the tax-exempt status of religious schools and nonprofits is now up for debate. Additionally, the Left will try to use the bill to sue faith-based adoption agencies and contractors to drive them out of business as they have done in multiple states and localities already.”

Hospital chaplain fired for pro-life beliefs

Rev. Jay McCaig had been a hospital chaplain in Orlando for ten years before he was fired for anti-abortion posts on his personal Facebook page. He says he never spoke about his pro-life views with patients or employees at the hospital.

Earlier this year, a jury in Minnesota ruled against a pharmacist who refused to dispense a morning-after pill on the basis of his pro-life beliefs. The jury decided that the pharmacist had inflicted emotional harm and said the woman who requested the pill should be entitled to $25,000 in damages.

We could go on: the so-called Equality Act that has passed the House of Representatives twice has been called “the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America.” According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a lawsuit filed by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project would “punish religious colleges and their students by stripping them of much-needed financial aid simply because of their beliefs.”

As I have noted often, LGBTQ advocates have been implementing a decades-long strategy to normalize LGBTQ behavior through popular media and culture, legalize it in the courts, stigmatize those who disagree as “homophobic” and “dangerous,” and then criminalize such disagreement. All four phases of this strategy are clearly at work in our society today.

“Learning how to do what he said”

One significant way you and I can respond is to model the incarnational love of God to our broken culture. As I have noted this week, Christmas is God’s gift to us not because we are worthy of his love but because God is love (1 John 4:8). Because we cannot earn his love by what we do, we cannot lose his love by what we do.

When our Savior was born in a feed trough in a Bethlehem cave, he proved that he will be born again in any heart that is open to his grace. That grace will then transform our lives into his Bethlehem and demonstrate his love to our broken world.

Now it is our responsibility to show his love to those who reject it. When we defend biblical morality boldly and courageously but “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15), we disprove the caricature that Christians are bigoted and hateful. When we remember that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4), we will offer them the compassion we received from those who led us to Christ.

Philosopher and bestselling author Dallas Willard noted: “The idea of having faith in Jesus has come to be totally isolated from being his apprentice and learning how to do what he said.” Here’s what Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Both verbs are present-tense imperatives, unconditional commands to you and me today.

My dear friend’s wisdom

To have the servant heart of the One who “came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28), submit your life and your day to his Holy Spirit right now (Ephesians 5:18). Ask his Spirit to manifest the “fruit” of love in your life for those you encounter (Galatians 5:22). Then measure success by the degree to which others experience the love of Christ in your compassion.

My dear friend, the Dallas businessman Ray Nixon, shared this truth with me yesterday: “When the mouth is open, the heart is on display.”

What will your heart display today?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Enjoying Life

Enduring satisfaction comes only from God.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-23

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

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

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

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 11-13

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Warning Sounds

Bible in a Year:

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

Proverbs 15:1

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Proverbs 15:1–7

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

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

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

By:  Tom Felten

Reflect & Pray

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

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

http://www.odb.org

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

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

God’s will is revealed in His Word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – God Does What Is Best for You

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

— Psalm 119:116 (AMPC)

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

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

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

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


http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – God Hears Our Cries

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

Exodus 2:23-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOING DEEPER

Mark 5:21-43

Topics: Prayer Promises of God Trials

FOOTNOTES

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

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

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Just

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe this story will help us understand:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My business ethics experience in Beijing

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He who makes rich is made poor”

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

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

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

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

“The New Testament example of the Christian experience”

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

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

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

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

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Living in Grace

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

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

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

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

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

Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 7-10 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — A Hot Meal

Bible in a Year:

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

Matthew 25:40

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 25:34–40

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

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

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

By:  Katara Patton

Reflect & Pray

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

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

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Conquering in Conflict

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

Faith is the key to spiritual conquest.

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – God Does What Is Best for You

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

— Psalm 119:116 (AMPC)

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

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

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

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

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Worship in Unity

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

1 Corinthians 1:10

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

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

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

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

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

GOING DEEPER

Nehemiah 8:1-12

Topics: Unity Worship

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

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Faithful

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

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

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

      T.  P.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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