Charles Stanley – Genuine Repentance

 

2 Corinthians 7:8-10

Because we desire to be more like Jesus, we make resolutions, ask Him to help us, and try to behave differently. Yet despite our best efforts to do things God’s way, we slide back into old habits. Frustrated, we may ask Him, “Why can’t I change?”

Overcoming sinful attitudes and behaviors starts with genuine repentance.

Conviction. The Holy Spirit will reveal the areas in which we’ve sinned and convict us of wrongdoing. Through Scripture, He’ll show us God’s standard and what needs to change. Repentance begins with understanding where we have gone astray.

Contrition. The next step—grieving over our iniquity—is followed by confession to the Lord. It’s simply human nature to sense regret when we are caught in misbehavior, deal with the consequences of poor choices, or feel ashamed that people know about our sin. In contrast, genuine sorrow arises from the knowledge that we’ve sinned against God. True contrition will lead us to humble confession.

Commitment. Real repentance is complete when we wholeheartedly pledge to turn from our old ways and move toward righteousness. God knows we won’t live perfectly, but He looks for a surrendered heart that diligently seeks to obey Him.

Paul used strong language when telling us to turn from iniquity: “Put to death … whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3:5 NIV). What sin are you struggling to overcome? Have you genuinely repented, committing to turn from it permanently? Let the Holy Spirit empower you to change.

Bible in One Year: Luke 12-13

 

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Our Daily Bread — Mending Hearts

Read: Matthew 5:1-16

Bible in a Year: Jeremiah 9-11; 1 Timothy 6

You are the light of the world.—Matthew 5:14

Not long ago I went to a seamstress to have some clothing altered. As I entered her shop I was encouraged by what I saw on the walls. One sign read, “We can mend your clothes but only God can mend your heart.” Near it was a painting of Mary Magdalene weeping in anguish as the risen Christ was about to reveal Himself to her. Another sign asked, “Need prayer? Let us pray with you.”

The owner told me that she had run this small business for fifteen years. “We’ve been surprised how the Lord has worked here through the statements of faith we have posted in different places. A while back someone trusted Christ as their Savior right here. It is amazing to watch God work.” I told her I too was a Christian and commended her for telling others about Christ in her workplace.

Not all of us are able to be so bold in our workplace, but we can find many creative and practical ways of showing others unexpected love, patience, and kindness wherever we are. Since leaving that shop, I’ve been thinking about how many ways there are to live out our Lord’s statement: “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). —Dennis Fisher

Dear Father, use me to be a light today to the world around me. I love You and want others to know and love You too.

How can you be a light in your world? Read Truth With Love: Sharing the Story of Jesus by Ajith Fernando at discoveryseries.org/hp141.

God pours His love into our hearts to flow out to others’ lives.

INSIGHT: Today’s reading deals with the Beatitudes in our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. Those who recognize their own spiritual bankruptcy will be helped as they “seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). The gift of God’s grace in our lives manifests itself in doing good to others, which brings glory to God (5:16). We are blessed by God so we can bless others. —Dennis Fisher

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Pharisees

“You are nothing but a Pharisee,” said Maggie with vehemence. “You thank God for nothing but your own virtues; you think they are great enough to win you everything else.”(1)

Whether familiar or new to the scathing words of Maggie Tulliver to her brother Tom in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, it is clear that she is not speaking complimentarily.

The word “Pharisee,” as this interchange illustrates, is often used as something of a synonym for hypocrite, a haughty individual with a holier-than-thou air about them. Webster’s dictionary further articulates this common usage, defining the adjective “pharisaical” as being marked by “hypocritical censorious self-righteousness,” or “pretending to be highly moral or virtuous without actually being so.”(2) To be called a Pharisee is far from a compliment; it is to be accused of living with a false sense of righteousness, being blind and foolish with self-deception, or carrying oneself with a smug and hypocritical legalism.

The etymology of the word from its roots as a proper noun to its use as an adjective is one intertwined with history, drawing on the very tone with which a rabbi from Nazareth once spoke to the religious group that bore the name. In seven consecutive statements recorded in the book of Matthew, Jesus begins his stern rebukes with the scathing introductions: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” “Woe to you blind guides!” His conclusion is equally pejorative: “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?”(3) The word “Pharisee” has become far more associated with this critique than its greater context. Thus Maggie can call her brother a Pharisee and not be thinking of the Jewish sect of leaders for which Jesus had harsh words, but of the harsh words themselves.

Yet taking something out of context, even if Webster’s dictionary grants the permission, can be dangerously misleading. These were not always the connotations of the word Pharisee, and we do ourselves and the words of Jesus a disservice by assuming that his harsh words are all we need to remember about them. Quite ironically, the description “pharisaical” would once have been a great compliment. The Pharisees were highly regarded guardians of the strict interpretation and application of Jewish Law. They were known for their zeal and for their uncompromising ways of following the God of their fathers. It is likely that the apostle Paul was a Pharisee, and it is suggested that much of his Christian theology owes something to the shape and content of this earlier training.(4) In other words, to be a Pharisee was not an easy life riddled with loopholes and duplicities, like we might assume. The Pharisees were so certain there was a right way to follow God that they sought to follow this God to that very letter with all of their lives.

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – The Law Reveals Sin

“What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7).

God’s holy standard exposes man’s rebellious heart.

So far in Romans, Paul has told us what the law can’t do: it can’t save us (3—5) or sanctify us (6). At this point the apostle anticipates and answers a question that naturally arises: What, then, was the purpose of the law? Was it evil? In the next few days we’re going to consider three important purposes the law served.

First, the law reveals sin. Sin is a violation of God’s righteous standard (1 John 3:4); if no such standard existed, there would be no sin. In Romans 3:20 Paul said that “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Romans 4:15 adds, “Where there is no law, neither is there violation,” and Romans 5:13 reveals that “sin is not imputed when there is no law.”

To the question “Is the Law sin?” Paul replies emphatically, “May it never be!” Such a question is as absurd as it is blasphemous; an evil law could never proceed from a holy God. Paul goes on to say, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law.” The law brought the proud Pharisee Saul of Tarsus face to face with his utter sinfulness, revealing his need for a Savior and preparing his heart for his life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.

The specific commandment Paul cites, the injunction against coveting, is revealing. Coveting is an internal attitude, not an external act. It was the realization that God’s law applied to his attitudes, not merely his external behavior, that devastated Paul. He was forced to realize that all his external self-righteousness was worthless because his heart wasn’t right.

I pray that you too will be “obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (Rom. 6:17).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps. 139:23-24).

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 1:14-20; Amos 5:21-27; Matthew 23:25-28. What does God think of mere outward conformity to His law?

 

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Wisdom Hunters – Patient Endurance

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.   Revelation 13:10

Patient endurance is not easy, but many times it is necessary. If you change jobs every two years, ten times in a row, you do not have twenty years of work experience. You have two years of work experience in ten different places. So, make sure that you learn what God intends for you to learn where you are, before you move on. This is one of Satan’s ploys. His desire is to keep you reactive to life, accompanied by a shallow faith.

Your faith has the opportunity to go deep when you stay somewhere for a while, but your faith remains shallow when you run from resistance. Resistance is a faith builder. When you are pressed against by life (what sometimes seems from all sides), you have the opportunity for growth. This is where patient endurance can serve you well. Patient endurance says that I will stay in this marriage, because it is for better or for worse. I will allow God to change me for the better, and I will trust Him to do the same for my spouse over time.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).

Patient endurance is illustrated throughout the Bible. Jesus patiently endured the cross. He patiently endured His critics and, ultimately, He more than restored His reputation when He proved His claims by His resurrected life. David patiently endured the fallout from his adultery and murder. He had pushed himself to the point of totally turning his back on God, but ultimately, he turned back to God and became a broken and humbled leader. Hannah patiently endured her inability to bear children. Her faithfulness to God during barrenness was a testimony of encouragement to friends, family and a nation. Her womb was empty, but her faith was pregnant with God possibilities.

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Today’s Turning Point with David Jeremiah – Enraptured

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

1 Thessalonians 4:17a

Recommended Reading

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18

Do you know the actual word “rapture” is not found in most English translations of the Bible? It’s not in the King James Version, the New King James Version, or the New International Version. But that doesn’t diminish its reality or our excitement about it. According to the apostle Paul, one day soon Christ will descend from heaven with a shout and believers who are alive at the time will be “caught up” or “caught away” to be with Him.

When the Bible was translated into Latin in the fourth century, the translators rendered the original Greek phrase with the Latin word raptura, a term used meaning “snatched away.” That’s the source of our English term “rapture.” Later when the Bible was translated into English, the scholars bypassed the Latin term and used the more literal words, “caught up.” The meaning, however, is the same.

In our modern society, the word “rapture” also means being caught up in excitement and joy. When Jesus descends from heaven with a shout, we, His children, will be caught up with Him in the clouds, and we’ll feel rapturous joy in our hearts.

Many people do not seem to think Jesus will come back in their lifetime; if they did it would affect the way they lived.

Tom Blackaby, in Experiencing God at Home Day by Day

Read-Thru-the-Bible

Luke 11 – 12

 

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Joyce Meyer – When It’s Time for Something New

 

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

When what you are doing no longer gives you joy—when there is no life in it for you anymore— that is a strong indication that God is finished with whatever He was doing through you. Prayer will help you find out if God is leading you to make changes.

Some individuals don’t have any joy because they are trying to do things God is not calling them to do anymore. They are simply trying to ride a dead horse, so to speak. My advice is this: When the horse isn’t moving, it is time to dismount!

Seek God’s direction and have the boldness to say, “I did things a certain way for a long time, and I was grateful to have the chance to do it, but this isn’t the way God is leading me now. I believe God is leading me to do something new.”

Prayer of Thanks: Father, thank You for showing me when it is time to do something new. I trust You to lead and guide me, and I know that joy always comes with Your plan. I thank You in advance that You will make it abundantly clear which direction You want me to take.

From the book The Power of Being Thankful by Joyce Meyer.

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Girlfriends in God – Learning to Give Joy Away Part 2

Today’s Truth

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Philippians 4:12

Friend to Friend

I once heard a story that offers a great prescription for joy. A young believer came to a man who had followed Christ for many years with the complaint that he had lost his joy. The older and wiser Christian responded, “Go do something for someone else. Repeat that act of kindness nine times. Then you will find joy.”

When we develop the habit of looking for a need and then meeting that need, we will experience joy as never before. Many times, instead of looking for a need, we look the other way.

One of the most amazing paradoxes in the Christian life is that the more we give, the more we receive. We simply cannot out-give God!

In Luke 6:38 we find an amazing promise, “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving – large or small – it will be used to measure what is given back to you.”

Continue reading Girlfriends in God – Learning to Give Joy Away Part 2

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Will Be Saved

“For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord, and believe in your own heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Many years ago, God clearly led me in the preparation, planning and production of a little booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws. Still widely used today, its volume of copies to date might well be second only to the Bible itself. More than a billion copies have been distributed and one can reasonably conclude that many millions have received Christ as a result of reading its message.

In something so succinct, it of course was impossible to include all of the appropriate Scriptures under each of the four laws. This verse for today, Romans 10:9, is one of those that might have been used with the Law Four, for it fits in well with the wording:

“We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.”

The three passages used (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8,9; Revelation 3:20) clearly direct the seeker after God. And of course this verse in Romans clearly confirms all that the other passages affirm.

Two conditions precede salvation, the apostle Paul is saying to the church in Rome: (1) “Tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord,” and (2) “Believe in your own heart that God has raised Him from the dead.” Simple, yet significant and meaningful, are these two preparatory steps.

As you share your faith with others today and in the days to come, recall with joy these two simple conditions that must be met.

Bible Reading: Romans 10:8-13

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: “Dear Lord, I thank You with all of my heart for the simplicity of the gospel and, with the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I will share this good news with all who will listen.”

 

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Ray Stedman – The Value of Prophecy

Read: 1 Corinthians 14

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 1 Corinthians 14:1-3

That ties this back to the love chapter. Love is to be the basic, biblical reason for exercising a spiritual gift. Love is the hunger to reach out for someone else’s benefit. That is to be the controlling theme throughout this whole chapter in the discussion of tongues and prophesying. Love is building up someone else. To that end, desire spiritual gifts, so that they may be a means of helping others and fulfilling love.

Clearly the one spiritual gift that is most effective in that direction is prophesying. The gift of prophesying is not predicting the future. That may be an element occasionally in it, but it is the explanation of the present in the light of the revelation of God. The closest term we would call it by today is biblical preaching that unfolds the mind of God and applies it to the daily struggles of life. That is prophesying. That is the gift for a congregation to desire above all others.

Beginning with Verse 2 and on through Verse 5, Paul compares the gifts of prophesy and tongues. Anyone who speaks in tongues is not understood in a congregation because he speaks mysteries in the Spirit. The reason for that was he was speaking in a language that they did not understand. At Corinth people would stand up and speak in these languages, perhaps recognizable as being languages used somewhere nearby (as on the Day of Pentecost), but the people there did not understand the language, and so they could not know what the speaker was saying.

In contrast, Paul now describes the gift of prophesying, which Paul says has a threefold effect. First, it builds people up. The word is oikodomen in the Greek, oiko means house, and domen means to build. To build a house on a solid foundation is the idea; and the work of prophesying gives people a foundation. One of the major problems among Christians today is the struggle they have with the sense of their true identity. Many people are emotionally torn apart because they do not understand that they are new creatures in Christ; they are no longer what they once were. Because they still get feelings of being what they once were, they believe those feelings, and they react accordingly. There is an up-and-down experience that they can never get away from. Prophesying corrects that. It teaches us who we are in Christ.

Continue reading Ray Stedman – The Value of Prophecy

Words of Hope – Daily Devotional – A God of Second Chances

READ:  Psalm 51:1-17

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (v. 10)

Moses killed an Egyptian, David committed adultery, and Peter denied Christ. Every human being including those whose life stories are included in the Bible has sinned against God. Only Jesus was without sin. I imagine Moses, David, and Peter all felt guilt in the midst of their failures.

What guilt weighs heavy on your heart? What brings feelings of embarrassment and shame? Do you realize that God wants to give you a fresh start? He can forgive your faults and failures. Need evidence? Moses was later used to lead God’s people out of slavery. David confessed his sin (see Psalm 51) and sought to honor God as a king. Peter was restored by Jesus and boldly proclaimed the good news in the early church.

You are not a failure. You are not damaged goods. You are loved by God and he longs to create in you a clean heart and renew a right spirit within you. The person you fault in the mirror is a person in whom God sees great potential. He can restore you and give you a fresh start so you can humbly serve him with gratitude and purpose.

The world is filled with people who feel they can’t possibly be forgiven for the sins they’ve committed. Don’t buy that lie of Satan. Our God can restore the joy of salvation and empower us to do mighty things for him!

PRAYER

Glorious God, as you have enabled me to receive a fresh start, help me to encourage others as they start afresh. Amen.

Greg Laurie – Be Faithful

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.—Romans 14:10

Maybe you are serving the Lord somewhere right now, working hard behind the scenes, and you’re saying, “No one notices what I’m doing. This is a thankless job.”

Be faithful in the little things. God is paying attention. As 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”

It may be that God will open up some wonderful new opportunities for you here in this life, possibilities that you never dreamed of. Then again, it may not be until Heaven that you receive full recognition and reward for all that you have done. Jesus said, “Your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:4).

As Christians we will one day stand before God. We will give an account for what we have done with our talents, our gifts, our resources, our time, and all that He has given us (see 1 Corinthians 3:11–15). This is described as the judgment seat of Christ, which is not to be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment spoken of in Revelation 20. The judgment seat of Christ is a place where rewards are given.

When we die and go to Heaven, we will be there because of what Christ did for us. But then each of us will stand before Him, and the fire of God’s judgment will go through our lives and determine what we did with them. If we wasted our lives, if we wasted our time, if we wasted our resources, we are still saved because of what Christ has done for us. But we will have nothing to show for our lives.

It is our blessed responsibility to fully utilize all our energies to please our Master by faithfully using what He has given us. Let’s be faithful.

 

https://www.harvest.org/

Kids 4 Truth International – The LORD’s Word Is Tried and True

“As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God. The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.” (Psalm 18:30-31,46)

Have you ever gone to the store with your parents and seen little tables where the store workers are giving away free samples? If a store is just beginning to sell a special new dipping sauce, for example, they might have a big bowl of chips out, and they might invite anyone to grab a chip and dip it in the sauce. Or maybe a bakery has a new cookie recipe, so they want everyone to know how good their new cookie is going to taste! Everyone is welcome to stop by the table and try a cookie (or at least a bite). If you go to an ice cream shop, and you cannot decide what flavor of ice cream you want, a worker might dip a little spoon into a flavor you aren’t sure about, pull out the spoon with a bite of ice cream on it, and hand it to you. Then you can see (taste!) for yourself whether you really like that flavor enough to get a whole scoop of it.

What did the psalmist mean when he wrote that God’s Word is “tried”? Does that mean some people have tried it out and decided they liked it? Well, in a way that’s true. The Word has been tried, or tested, and proven to be true. It truly is the Word of God. God Himself says so, the Word itself says so, and many people have come to believe by faith that God’s Word is what He says it is.

But God’s Word does not need the approval of human beings. Even if everyone read the whole Bible through – and even if every human being alive were to decide that the Bible was just another storybook – the Bible would not be any less true, and it would not stop being God’s Word. Truth is always true, no matter what people think of it.

Continue reading Kids 4 Truth International – The LORD’s Word Is Tried and True

The Navigators – Jerry Bridges – Holiness Day by Day Devotional – What Is Grace?

Today’s Scripture: Romans 5:20

“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

What, then, is the grace by which we’re saved and under which we live? Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment. It’s the love of God shown to the unlovely. It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against him.

Grace stands in direct opposition to any supposed worthiness on our part. To say it another way: Grace and works are mutually exclusive. As Paul said in Romans 11:6, “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Our relationship with God is based on either works or grace. There’s never a works-plus-grace relationship with him.

Furthermore, grace doesn’t first rescue us from the penalty of our sins, furnish us with some new spiritual abilities, then leave us on our own to grow in spiritual maturity. Rather, as Paul said, “he who began a good work in you [by his grace] will [also by his grace] carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

Paul asks us today, as he asked the Galatian believers, “after beginning with the spirit, are you now trying to obtain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3, NIV). Although the issue of circumcision was the specific problem Paul was addressing, notice that he didn’t say, “are you trying to attain your goal by circumcision?” He generalized his question and dealt not with the specific issue of circumcision, but with the broader problem of trying to please God by human effort, any effort—even good Christian activities and disciplines performed in a spirit of legalism. (Excerpt taken from Transforming Grace)

 

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The Navigators – Leroy Eims – Daily Discipleship Devotional – When God Makes a Promise

Today’s Scripture: Genesis 25-26

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20

When God’s Word promises something, and we claim it in prayer, but nothing happens, what are we supposed to believe?

I talked to a pastor who was struggling with this issue. He was preparing a sermon on Proverbs 22:6, which says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The pastor’s struggle was that he’d seen too many children turn away from the Lord, even though they had godly parents and a solid Christian upbringing.

I assured him that I believed the promise in Proverbs 22:6 was true, but that many issues were involved. One is the God-given free will of our children. Another is that we need to keep praying for our children and grandchildren, because all the evidence isn’t in yet.

In today’s passage, we find Isaac, the heir to all of God’s promises, facing a similar issue. The land of Canaan was being plagued by a severe famine that forced Isaac to live in the land of the Philistines. What good is a Promised Land if you can’t live in it?

But God is faithful. And while Isaac was in the land of Gerar, God came to him to buck up his flagging spirits. God said in Genesis 26:3, “I will be with you and will bless you.”

A great fact emerges here that stays with us throughout the rest of the Bible: Just because a person is walking by faith and claiming the promises of God doesn’t mean his life will be easy and free of difficulty. But through it all is the guiding, protecting hand of God. And, in it all, we can find the unfailing promises of God.

Prayer

Lord, give me a grateful heart for Your promises that I have not yet seen fulfilled. Amen.

To Ponder

When it comes to God’s promises, His delays are not His denials.

 

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BreakPoint – A Call to Church Discipline: The Courage of Watermark Church`

What’s courageous church leadership look like these days? It looks like Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas.

Recently, Watermark removed a man caught in sexual sin from its membership rolls. Watermark is one of those rare churches these days that practices church discipline. After the man’s Facebook post titled, “Watermark Church Dismissed Me for Being Gay,” was picked up by the Dallas Morning News, the church is, no surprise, being accused of religious intolerance. A Morning News columnist wrote an opinion piece titled “Watermark megachurch banned a gay man that it didn’t deserve to have as a member.”

What most of the media coverage neglects to tell is that the decision to remove the man was neither arbitrary nor sudden. After the man decided to actively pursue a homosexual relationship over a year ago, friends and church leaders began meeting with him to understand how to better love and help him.

But, as Pastor Wagner wrote, “this friend made clear to us that he no longer believed same-sex sexual activity was inappropriate for a follower of Jesus Christ and no longer desired to turn from it. Like any member whose beliefs move away from the core commitments, biblical convictions, and values of Watermark, it became appropriate to formally acknowledge his desire to not pursue faithfulness to Christ with us.”

And so the church did the only logical thing—it removed him from its membership rolls. But now, they are made the villain of the story for holding members accountable to live by Christian teaching on human sexuality. At the risk of repeating what I said about the recent story about InterVarsity, “News Flash: evangelicals have evangelical beliefs.”

But I also want to say this: the Church needs this kind of countercultural courage that Watermark leadership is demonstrating—not only by this story, but by practicing church discipline in the first place! That’s so rare.

The Protestant Reformers listed three marks of a true church—preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments rightly, and church discipline. Back in the 1800s, according to Jonathan Leeman, author of “Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus,” Baptist churches in America removed about 2 percent of their members per year—and yet they grew faster than the overall growth in the population.

Continue reading BreakPoint – A Call to Church Discipline: The Courage of Watermark Church`

Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE PRIDE OF FALSE TEACHERS

Read 2 PETER 2:10–16

Recall the story of Balaam (Numbers 22—24). Frightened of the vast nation of Israel moving through the land, King Balak of Moab hired Balaam to curse them. Balaam, a powerful prophet or sorcerer, was eager to accept the assignment—and the payment that came with it—but encountered a problem: the Lord would not allow him to curse His people. Instead, blessings poured from his mouth.

There has been no shortage of those who are willing to lead God’s people into destruction as long as they can make a profit from it. Peter describes the arrogance of these false teachers, who disregard the power of God and spiritual reality. Their pride infects both their blasphemous teaching and their sacrilegious lifestyle, which openly celebrates the pursuit of pleasure (vv. 12–13). They don’t respect God’s authority over either their beliefs or their actions.

These false teachers demonstrate a shocking disregard for others. They will seduce others into adultery, if it suits their whim. They will exploit others for financial gain, if they feel like it. They will profane the gathering of believers for worship and celebrations such as the Lord’s Supper, if they can get away with it (v. 14). The trinity worshiped by these heretics is Me, Myself, and I.

In the midst of this fiery pronouncement of judgment on the pride of these false prophets, don’t miss the note of reassurance for believers. God used a donkey to restrain Balaam, and He is able to protect His people today from the curse of false teachers (v. 16; see Num. 22:21–35). When we are tempted to despair, remember that if God can make a donkey speak, He is able to curtail the power of false prophets and the devastation of their heresy.

APPLY THE WORD

Peter uses the story of Balaam to warn of ungodly teachers and to remind us of the protection of God. Take some extra time to read those chapters in Numbers, noting the ways that Balaam opposed Israel and also the ways that God thwarted his plan. Note especially the prophecy about Jesus, the best promise of all (Num. 24:15–19).

 

http://www.todayintheword.org

Denison Forum – CHURCH BELL RINGS IN IRAQ FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TWO YEARS

A church bell rang for the first time in two years as Iraqi Kurdish forces continued their push toward Mosul. Located in Bartella, this primarily Christian town is nine miles from the ISIS stronghold. Kurdish forces secured around thirty-eight square miles and “a significant stretch” of the highway as they sought to retake the city from ISIS. The night was longer than expected, but the joyful ringing of the bell in the morning was sweeter than anticipated.

Around thirty thousand Iraqi security force personnel, assisted by US-led coalition air strikes, launched the long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul over a week ago. But tragically, these great gains accompanied heartbreaking losses.

UN reports indicate that ISIS fighters killed fifteen civilians and threw their bodies into a river to spread terror and send a signal. A Middle Eastern news service noted, “ISIS terrorist gangs executed nine of its members for fleeing the battle against the security forces in Mosul, by throwing them in trenches containing a burning oil.” In 2003, Iraq boasted an estimated 1.3 million Christians. Now, leaders put that number at fewer than four hundred thousand.

Despite their dwindling numbers and dire circumstances, the bell in Bartella rang. For those who have ears to hear, the ringing of the bell sounds like Jesus in Matthew 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Jesus never promised his followers a comfortable life, but he did assure them he would provide comfort in this life (2 Corinthians 1:2–4).

The situation in Iraq provides perspective when considering the difficulties in the American context. Our circumstances are different, but our mission is the same: his kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Christians take part in a global movement that seeks to make peace in the chaos and bring hope to the downcast. Peace never comes idly; rather it requires hard work against the status quo. Hope is not found in a political candidate but a resurrected King. Christians are more than a voting bloc; we are people who deeply believe that God is good regardless of what is happening and Jesus is Lord regardless of who is elected.

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