Charles Stanley – Essential Truths of the Faith

 

Ephesians 4:11-16

It’s fairly easy to coast through the Christian life without thinking too deeply about the essentials of our faith. Every child of God knows the basics of the gospel, since they are necessary for salvation. But once we are saved, we need to grow in our understanding of the doctrines that are foundational for Christianity.

We must believe that the Bible is true. Scripture is the heavenly Father’s self-revelation about His nature, plan of salvation, and dealings with mankind. It’s the final authority on life, faith, salvation, and conduct (2 Peter 1:3), and we can trust that it’s without error because God inspired its writers and protected its transmission throughout history (2 Timothy 3:16).

There is only one God who expresses Himself in three persons—Father, Son, and Spirit. The concept of the Trinity is supported in numerous Scriptures, including Jesus’ baptism when all three were present and the Great Commission in which we are told to make disciples and baptize them in one name—that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:16-17; Matt. 28:19).

The Lord is the Creator of all things. As His creatures, we exist for Him and through Him, and He has authority and power over us (1 Corinthians 8:6). God is not simply a greater version of us; He is in a totally different category because He is self-existent and the source of life. We, on the other hand, are dependent upon Him for our next breath.

These three essentials keep us grounded in the truth. If we doubt them, we will find ourselves deceived by other doctrines (Eph. 4:14).

Bible in One Year: Isaiah 31-35

 

 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Ready for Restoration

 

Bible in a Year :Psalms 51–53; Romans 2

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?

Psalm 85:6

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 85

While stationed in Germany in the army I purchased a brand-new 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. The car was a beauty! The dark green exterior complemented the brown leatherette interior. But as the years took their toll, stuff began to happen, including an accident that ruined the running board and destroyed one of the doors. With more imagination, I could have thought, “My classic car was a perfect candidate for restoration!” And with more money, I could have pulled it off. But that didn’t happen.

Thankfully the God of perfect vision and unlimited resources doesn’t give up so easily on battered and broken people. Psalm 85 describes people who were perfect candidates for restoration and the God who is able to restore. The setting is likely after the Israelites had returned from seventy years of exile (their punishment for rebellion against God). Looking back, they were able to see His favor—including His forgiveness (vv. 1–3). They were motivated to ask God for His help (vv. 4–7) and to expect good things from Him (vv. 8–13).

Who among us doesn’t occasionally feel battered, bruised, broken? And sometimes it’s because of something we’ve done to ourselves. But because the Lord is the God of restoration and forgiveness, those who humbly come to Him are never without hope. With open arms He welcomes those who turn to Him; and those who do, find safety in His arms.

By Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray

Are there signs in your life that restoration is in order? What’s your response to the God of restoration?

Lord, help me not to ignore the signs that restoration is needed in my life.

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Nothing Without Love

 

Oft quoted at weddings, preeminent celebrations of romantic love, a poem is read extolling the virtue of love:

Love is patient and kind
Love is not jealous or boastful…
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never ends.

What many may not realize is that this is a poem from the pen of the apostle Paul. And while this poem is used to paint a picture of young love at weddings, its intent far transcends the romance of the occasion, and a fairly limited understanding of this virtue.

Romantic love was not in the apostle’s mind when he penned this verse. Instead, tremendous conflict in the fledgling Corinthian church caused Paul great grief. There were dissensions and quarrels over all kinds of issues in this community; quarrels over leadership and allegiance, over moral standards, over marriage and singleness, over theology, and quarrels so extreme that lawsuits were being filed!(1)

So after reminding the Corinthian followers of Jesus that they represented his body—a body with many members and unique gifts and functions—Paul lifts up love as the height of what it means to be a mature human being:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing….Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away….but now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (13:1-3, 8, 13).

Often, as I survey various communities in our world today, I see the same kind of division and derision, as was present in the Corinthian community. More often than not, one encounters a war of information, argumentation based on this book or that claim, this person’s authority or that person’s expertise. Quick to criticize and lambaste, noisy gongs and clanging cymbals abound; but the love that never fails is a rare and fleeting occurrence. How does one make sense of all this, particularly in light of Paul’s proclamation that without love we are nothing?

Perhaps part of the reason why there is so little love is that there is a fear that to love is somehow to compromise. Many feel the strong need to disassociate with the way love is commonly defined; as unthinking acceptance, an anything goes, an “I’m okay you’re okay” easy love as bland and undefined as gelatin. Surely, the Apostle Paul’s understanding goes far beyond this flabby view of love. After all, he spends the majority of his first letter to the Corinthians exhorting their bad behavior by virtue of their lack of love.

Yet, I sometimes worry that a reticence to extend love to others without condition belies a forgetfulness about the conditions of our acceptance by God. Paul writes to the Romans, “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). If God loved us while we were yet sinners, why do we find it so hard to love others?

In a world that largely perceives Christians to be in-fighters, hypocritical, argumentative, and judgmental naysayers, would it not demonstrate maturity to reexamine our fear of what it might look like if we tried to take Paul’s words about love to heart?

Would it or could it look like creating seminaries in the prisons, as has been done at Louisiana’s maximum security prison at Angola? Would it or could it look like working with different Christian fellowships towards a vital social goal despite denominational differences or theological disagreements? Would it or could it look like proactive movement to engage the culture rather than reactive retreat? Would it, or should it look like growing into mature human beings? Paul continues,

When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

In Jesus, the full stature and maturity of humanity is on display. He taught that love was the summary of all that had gone before, and fulfillment of the entire law and the message of the prophets—love God and love your neighbor as yourself. If the greatest of the virtues is love, as affirmed by Jesus and the apostle Paul, can all who seek to follow envision becoming a community that seeks to make love their chief responsibility and goal?(2) Now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the Speaking and Writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

 

(1) See 1 Corinthians 1:10-14; 3:1-10; 4:14-21; 5:1-13; 6:1-11; 7; 8:1-4 as examples.
(2) Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34.

 

http://www.rzim.org/

Joyce Meyer – Love Does Something

 

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share — 1 Timothy 6:18

Adapted from the resource Love Out Loud Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

Our ministry has taken various people on mission trips to minister to desperately needy people, but they don’t all respond the same way. Everyone feels compassion, but some individuals become quite determined to find ways to make a difference.

Indifference makes an excuse, but love finds a way. Everyone can do something!

I remember a woman who decided she had to help in some way. For a while she couldn’t figure out what to do because she had no extra money to contribute and she couldn’t go live on the mission field.

But as she continued to pray about the situation, God encouraged her to look at what she had, not at what she did not have. She realized she was very good at baking cakes, pies and cookies.

So, she asked her pastor if she could bake during the week, and offer her baked goods for sale on Sundays after church as long as the money went to missions. This became a way for her and other church members to be involved in missions, and it kept her active doing something to help someone else.

Another woman is a massage therapist, and she organized a special spa day and donated all the proceeds to help poor people. She raised one-thousand dollars for missions and also testified that the day of giving was life changing for her, those who worked with her, and those who attended.

We all need to be loved, but I believe our personal joy is strongly connected to loving others. Something beautiful happens in our hearts when we give.

Prayer Starter: Lord, help me to not only feel compassion, but to find creative ways to express my love for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Help for Hard Times

 

“He cares for them when times are hard; even in famine, they will have enough” (Psalm 37:19).

I recall that, in the early 1930’s during the time of the great depression in America, many people experienced hard times. It was not always easy to fully appreciate the fact I know now to be true: God always cares for His children.

“When times are hard” can refer not only to the material, but also to the physical and the spiritual. And during any of these times – whether in poverty, poor health or spiritual doldrums – our great God always cares for us.

In Bible times, God often proved the truth of the assertion that He cares for His people in periods of famine. And no doubt multitudes of sufferers around the world today would attest to that fact, in spite of their suffering.

When physical suffering is involved, it is not always easy to see the hand of God. But one sure way to increase faith is to exercise the sacrifice of praise – praise to our wonderful God for the positive fact that “all things do work together for our good if we love God and are called according to His purpose.”

When spiritual poverty is concerned, we need only retreat to that time and place in our lives where we wandered away from God, whatever degree of wandering that involves, whether large or small. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Bible Reading: Psalm 37:16-22

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: At all times of difficulty in my life – spiritual, material, physical – I will look for God’s hand of blessing in the joyful assurance that He cares for me.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – Need a Spiritual MRI?

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

What would an X-ray—an MRI—of your soul reveal?  Regrets over teenage relationships? Remorse over a poor choice?  You become moody, cranky…angry or irritable.  That’s understandable if you have shame lodged in your soul.

Interested in an extraction?  Confess!  Request a spiritual  MRI.  Psalm 139: 23-24 is just that:

“Search me, O God and know my heart;

try me, and know my anxieties;

see if there’s any wicked way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.”

We need a grace-based confession.  God, I’ve done what You say is wrong.  Would you wash away my guilt and make me clean again?  No chant, no candle needed.  Just a prayer of honest confession.  Try it.

Read more GRACE

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – The Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting: Moving forward by not moving on

What more is there to say?

The news is once again headlined by reports of a mass shooting, complete with essentially the same statements of remorse, promises of prayer, and debates about gun laws we’ve heard countless times before.

As of this writing, details continue to emerge regarding the latest attack, this time at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. Three were killed, including a six-year-old boy and a thirteen-year-old girl, while another twelve were injured. Police also shot and killed the suspected shooter.

The gunman, who has since been identified but will remain unnamed in this article, bypassed security by entering the festival grounds via a nearby creek and then cutting a hole in the surrounding fence.

He started shooting around 5:41 on Sunday evening, and, by the grace of God and the accuracy of festival security, stopped shooting less than a minute later.

Yet that was all the time it took to forever alter the lives of countless individuals.

So, where do we go from here?

Keep the focus on the people rather than the issues

We could spend this time debating our nation’s gun laws and what guidance we can find in Scripture. The former has been at the crux of most comments coming from those in the political sphere. And, while the latter is always helpful, we’ve been there before.

We could look at the mental health aspects of the discussion. We could examine the degree to which the most sustainable solutions will focus on who is allowed to wield guns rather than how the guns are acquired. But that too seems like a topic better saved for another day.

Instead, I think it’s best for us to just spend some time owning the fact that four people are dead and countless others injured, physically and emotionally, before we hurry off to try and fix it.

The time for discussion about those other issues will come, but that discussion will be better served if we’ve actually grappled with the gravity of the situation rather than sought to escape it before it sinks in.

Continue reading Denison Forum – The Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting: Moving forward by not moving on