In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Building to Last Forever

1 Corinthians 3:11-15

When a high-rise building goes up in my city of Atlanta, Georgia, I think about all the construction involved. Underneath is a grid of steel and concrete giving strength to all the floors stacked overhead. In a similar way, we need a firm foundation to build a life with purpose. Jesus lays that groundwork for believers when they receive His salvation.

Christ’s saving grace gives His followers a new life. Sins are wiped away so that we have a clean “work site,” so to speak. Empowered by Jesus’ strength and wisdom, we can build on His foundation. The decision that needs to be made is whether to shape our eternal legacy with God-serving activities and habits or selfish ones.

Paul separates spiritual construction material into two categories: durable metal and dry kindling (1 Corinthians 3:12). A grass hut is easily destroyed by fire, but at the judgment, we want to greet the Lord from a sturdy structure, built with gleaming bricks of godly service and a diligent application of Scripture.

The life we create is useful to God only if it is consistent with Jesus Christ’s foundation. You might say that He is the architect and the Bible is the blueprint for successful living—and it’s in our best interest to follow those plans.

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 22-24

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Wisely Weeding

Bible in a Year:

Search me, God, and know my heart.

Psalm 139:23

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 139:1–6, 23–24

My grandchildren are running around my backyard. Playing games? No, pulling weeds. “Pulling them up by the roots!” the youngest says, showing me a hefty prize. Her delight as we tackled weeds that day was how much we enjoyed plucking the weedy roots—clearing away each pesky menace. Before the joy, however, came the choice to go after them.

Intentional weeding is also the first step in removing personal sin. Thus, David prayed: “Search me, God, and know my heart. . . . See if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23–24).

What a wise approach, to go after our sin by asking God to show it to us. He above all knows everything about us. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me,” wrote the psalmist. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (vv. 1–2).

“Such knowledge,” David added, “is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (v. 6). Even before a sin takes root, therefore, God can alert us to the danger. He knows our “landscape.” So when a sneaky sinful attitude tries to take root, He’s first to know and point it out.  

“Where can I go from your Spirit,” wrote David. “Where can I flee from your presence?” (v. 7). May we closely follow our Savior to higher ground!

Reflect & Pray

When you ask God to search your heart, what personal wrongs do you discover? How does intentional “weeding” help rid you of a relentless sin?

Loving God, when You show me my personal sin, point me to Your plan to pull those weeds.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Applying the Disciples’ Prayer

“Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (Matt. 6:13).

The Disciples’ Prayer is a pattern to follow for life.

The implications of the Disciples’ Prayer are profound and far-reaching. An unknown author put it this way:

I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself in a spiritual, watertight compartment. I cannot say “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child. I cannot say “who art in heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.

I cannot say “hallowed be Thy name” if I am not striving for holiness. I cannot say “Thy kingdom come” if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful day. I cannot say “Thy will be done” if I am disobedient to His Word. I cannot say “in earth as it is in heaven” if I will not serve Him here and now.

I cannot say “give us . . . our daily bread” if I am dishonest or an “under the counter” shopper. I cannot say “forgive us our debts” if I harbor a grudge against anyone. I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path. I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I do not put on the whole armor of God.

I cannot say “thine is the kingdom” if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject. I cannot attribute to Him “the power” if I fear what men may do. I cannot ascribe to Him “the glory” if I am seeking honor only for myself. I cannot say “forever” if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by the things of time.

As you learn to apply to your own life the principles in this marvelous prayer, I pray that God’s kingdom will be your focus, His glory your goal, and His power your strength. Only then will our Lord’s doxology be the continual song of your heart: “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (v. 13).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to use what you’ve learned from the Disciples’ Prayer to transform your prayers.

For Further Study

Read John 17, noting the priorities Jesus stressed in prayer.

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Grow Continually

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.

— Colossians 1:9-10 (NIV)

Adapted from the resource Starting Your Day Right – by Joyce Meyer

Even though we won’t fully reach it this side of eternity, God’s Word encourages us to strive for perfection by growing into complete maturity and godliness in mind and character, having integrity, like our heavenly Father (see Matthew 5:48).

Paul said that even though he hadn’t attained the ideal of perfection, he pressed on to grasp and make his own that for which Christ had laid hold of him (see Philippians 3:12). Like Paul, let’s strive for maturity and integrity today.

I want to encourage you to invite the Holy Spirit to teach you and help you grow in each area of your life. The more you grow and produce mature, godly behavior, the more you’ll shine and show others God’s love (see Matthew 5:16).

Prayer Starter: Father, please show me where and how I can grow today. Thank You for giving me the grace to shine Your light into this dark world, and to help people find You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Weep for His Pain

With his wounds we are healed.

 Isaiah 53:5

Pilate delivered our Lord to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were intertwined among the sinews, so that every time the lash came down, these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Savior was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this from the Roman soldiers was probably the most severe of His flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over His poor, stricken body.

Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon Him without tears as He stands before you, the mirror of agonizing love? He is at once fair as the lily for innocence and red as the rose with the crimson of His own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing that His stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus, surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our hearts.

See how the patient Jesus stands,
Insulted in His lowest case!
Sinners have bound the Almighty’s hands,
And spit in their Creator’s face.

With thorns His temples gor’d and gash’d
Send streams of blood from every part;
His back’s with knotted scourges lash’d.
But sharper scourges tear His heart.

We may long to go to our bedrooms and weep; but since our business calls us away, we will first ask the Lord Jesus to print the image of His bleeding self upon the tablets of our hearts all the day, and at nightfall we will return to commune with Him and sorrow that our sin should have cost Him so dearly.

One-Year Bible Reading Plan

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God’s Love Is His Choice

 “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers….” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8a)

Question: Why does God love us?
Answer: Because He loves us.

Does that sound like the correct answer to the question? Do you think your teacher would count that answer right if you wrote it on a test? The truth is, that is the right answer to the question, according to Deuteronomy 7. God told His special people, the nation of Israel, that He loved them simply because He had chosen to love them.

God has also chosen to love us, even if we are not Jews. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world–everyone. Romans 5:8, which was written both to Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews), says that God displayed His love for us while we were still sinners. How did God display His love? He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place.

Why should God love us? The answer to that question does not really have anything to do with us. God did not love us because we were attractive or because we were loveable. He did not love us because there was anything we could do for Him. He chose to love us, knowing we were helpless, lost sinners. There was nothing we could give Him in return. He chose to love us because He is God, and it is His nature to love. Out of His great love, He gave His Son’s precious blood to redeem us. Once we are His children, we can be sure that nothing will ever separate us from His love. His love is unchanging, everlasting, a love that never fails.

Where would we be today if it were not for the wonderful love of God? If God had not loved us, there would be no hope of salvation. Isn’t that a reason to thank Him every day of our lives for His gracious choice to love us?

God’s love for us was His choice because His nature is Love.

My Response:
» Have I accepted the gift of God’s love–salvation in Jesus Christ?
» Do I thank God for His wonderful love?
» Do I try to share that love with others?


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Denison Forum – Three stories of good news for the church in the culture: The best way to observe Silent Wednesday

Doramise Moreau stands next to the new car she received for her community service at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church, Monday, March 8, 2021, in Miami. Moreau is a part-time janitor at a technical school. She spends most of her time shopping for ingredients and helping to cook meals for 1,000 to 1,500 people a week that show up for food at the church. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

When Miami Beach declared a state of emergency recently due to spring break partyers who overwhelmed the city, Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church was providing about fifteen hundred meals on Friday night for people in their neighborhood who might not have enough to eat. The story was so significant that it was reported in the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is back in the news. Last December, they raised millions of dollars to help churches, charity groups, and individuals, including giving one needy family a car and money to buy a house. This was part of their “culture code of generosity” by which they set aside ten percent of their income to help those in need. Now they have donated more than two hundred MacBook laptops to high school seniors and staff at a school in their area. 

And a church in West Virginia has responded to the escalating drug abuse crisis of our day by opening an addiction recovery house. David Stauffer, lead pastor of Gateway Christian Church in Saint Albans, was called to serve on a grand jury a few years ago. He recalled that around forty-eight of the fifty cases presented in just a few days were drug related. “I was convicted in that courtroom,” he told the Christian Post. His church’s recovery house is one response. 

American church membership falls below 50 percent 

According to Gallup, the proportion of Americans who consider themselves members of a church, synagogue, or mosque has fallen below 50 percent for the first time since Gallup first asked the question in 1937. At that time, church membership was 73 percent. 

Here’s the other side of the story: as author Glenn T. Stanton notes, church attendance is at an all-time high, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the population. Baylor University sociologist Rodney Stark reports that the percentage of Americans who attend a local church has grown from 17 percent in 1776 to 69 percent today. And Baylor scholar Byron Johnson adds that “theologically conservative denominations (evangelical churches, Pentecostal churches, and especially non-denominational churches) are not in decline but are alive and well.” 

Dr. Johnson’s point is especially relevant to today’s Daily Article. Many of the churches and denominations that are in decline track and prioritize membership; many that are experiencing growth measure success in other ways. Many do not keep membership rolls, and they are reaching people in nontraditional ways such as weekday services, outreach events, and community ministries. 

We can define success by numbers on membership rolls or by members engaged in spiritual growth and cultural transformation. The two are not exclusive, of course. But if we must choose, we should choose the latter. 

Why Jesus wanted a silent Wednesday 

Jesus illustrated our point powerfully on this day of Holy Week. The gospels record no activities on this Wednesday. As best we can tell, he spent the day with his disciples at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany, a village two miles east of Jerusalem. 

Solitude with his Father was Jesus’ consistent pattern, from early in the morning (Mark 1:35) to evening (Matthew 14:23) and through the night (Luke 6:12). Writing on this subject, I noted that “Jesus knew he needed what only his Father could supply.” If he needed his Father to guide and empower him, how much more do we? 

Here’s an observation I would add today: Jesus not only needed intimacy with his Father, he wanted intimacy with his Father. 

He spent time with his Father because he wanted to speak with him, listen to him, and commune with him. His spiritual life was driven not just by what he needed from his Father but by who he knew his Father to be—a God of infinite love (1 John 4:8), power (Psalm 147:5), wisdom (Romans 11:33), mercy (Ephesians 2:4), and unconditional grace (Romans 5:8). 

We need to spend time with people for transactional reasons—we need their help, support, forgiveness, or guidance. We want to spend time with people for transformational reasons—we want to be with them and to become more like them. 

“He it is that bears much fruit” 

A transformational relationship with our Father empowers us to feed the hungry, meet the needs of students, and minister to drug addicts. It drives us to measure success by spiritual growth and cultural transformation more than by membership rolls in institutional churches. 

On this Silent Wednesday, let’s accept Jesus’ invitation to “abide” in him (John 15:4) by spending time alone with him in his word, worship, and world. Let’s claim his promise that “whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” (v. 5a). Let’s remember his warning that “apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5b). 

John Donne testified: “I count all that part of my life lost which I spent not in communion with God or in doing good.” As we have learned today, the first leads inevitably to the second. 

When was the last time you prayed, read God’s word, and spent time in worship because you needed something from God—his forgiveness, guidance, or help? 

When was the last time you prayed, read God’s word, and spent time in worship because you wanted simply to be with your Father? 

Why not today?

http://www.denisonforum.org/

Upwords; Max Lucado –The Matter of the Heart

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Isn’t there a time or two when you went outside for a solution when you should have gone inward? Reminds me of the golfer who was about to hit his first shot on the first hole. He swung and missed the ball. Swung and whiffed again. Tried a third time, missed again. In frustration he judged, “Man, this is a tough golf course.” He may have been right, but the golf course wasn’t the problem.

You may be right, as well. Your circumstances may be challenging, but blaming them is not the solution. Nor is neglecting them. Consider the prayer of David. He said, “Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Real change is an inside job. You might alter things a day or two with money and systems, but the heart of the matter is, and always will be, the matter of the heart.

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In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – God’s Will and Prayer

Nehemiah 1

Certain aspects of God are beyond our full understanding, and one of them is how He uses our prayers to work out His will. Although He is the sovereign, omnipotent, all-knowing God who needs no one’s help, He has chosen to allow us to participate in the achievement of His divine plans through our prayers. 

Nehemiah was moved to pray after hearing about the hardships of the Jews who’d returned to Jerusalem following Babylonian captivity. At the time, he was doing his job as the cupbearer to the King of Persia. But the Lord quickly answered Nehemiah’s prayer by paving the way and providing the resources that would allow him to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem.

Although we may not see answers as dramatic and obvious when we pray, the Lord still wants us to present our needs and believe that He’ll respond in a way that furthers His will for our life. There will be times when we can’t perceive any change, but that doesn’t mean God is not working everything for our good. And remember, even when we don’t pray as we should, the Holy Spirit helps our weakness by interceding for us according to God’s will (Rom. 8:26-28).

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 19-21

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Got Your Nose

Bible in a Year:

I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.

Exodus 12:12

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Exodus 12:12–19

“Why are the statues’ noses broken?” That’s the number one question visitors ask Edward Bleiberg, curator of Egyptian art at the Brooklyn Museum.

Bleiberg can’t blame it on normal wear and tear; even two-dimensional painted figures are missing noses. He surmises that such destruction must have been intentional. Enemies meant to kill Egypt’s gods. It’s as if they were playing a game of “got your nose” with them. Invading armies broke off the noses of these idols so they couldn’t breathe.

Really? That’s all it took? With gods like these, Pharaoh should have known he was in trouble. Yes, he had an army and the allegiance of a whole nation. The Hebrews were weary slaves led by a timid fugitive named Moses. But Israel had the living God, and Pharaoh’s gods were pretenders. Ten plagues later, their imaginary lives were snuffed out.

Israel celebrated their victory with the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when they ate bread without yeast for a week (Exodus 12:1713:7–9). Yeast symbolizes sin, and God wanted His people to remember their rescued lives belong entirely to Him.

Our Father says to idols, “Got your nose,” and to His children, “Got your life.” Serve the God who gives you breath, and rest in His loving arms.

By:  Mike Wittmer

Reflect & Pray

What false god is suffocating your life? How might you show God you’re trusting only in Him?

Father of life, I give You my life. Help me recognize that any perceived “enemies” in my life are nothing compared to Your power.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – God-Centered Teamwork

“He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow-workers” (1 Corinthians 3:8-9).

Humble teamwork in ministry gives God all the glory and promotes humility.

Paul’s agricultural illustration of planting and watering makes it clear that the ministry works best in a team concept and that all credit for results must go to God. Paul (the one planting) and Apollos (the one watering) had done their God-appointed work faithfully and well, but they had to wait on the Lord for whatever was accomplished.

Paul mentions just two kinds of ministry in today’s passage: planting the seed of the gospel by evangelism and watering it by further teaching. However, the apostle’s point applies to every kind of ministry you might engage in. You might be tempted to think that your ministry is glamorous or significant and that everything revolves around your efforts. Or you could be envious of another believer who has a more public ministry than you. But all God’s work is important, and Paul is reminding us that whatever work He has called us to is the most important ministry we can have.

First Corinthians 3 also reminds us that all believers who minister are one in the Body of Christ. If you recognize and accept this fact, it is a sure guarantee that humility will be present as you serve God. Humility simply leaves no place for fleshly competitiveness or selfish jealousy toward other Christians.

God will be certain to recognize your individual, faithful work—“according to [your] own labor”—in His day of rewards. But Jesus also taught His disciples and us the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) to keep our perspectives balanced regarding the corporate nature of ministry in God’s kingdom. None of us should look with pride at our own service and see ourselves as deserving more reward than someone who worked less time or in a less prominent position. It is not our ministry, any more than it was Paul’s or Apollos’s. It is God’s, and all the glory goes to Him, not us.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would give you a greater sense of humble gratitude for whatever type of ministry opportunity you have.

For Further Study

Compare Matthew 19:27-30 with 20:1-16.

  • Why could the disciples have been tempted to feel superior?
  • What does the landowner’s behavior in the parable suggest about the character of God?

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Anointed to Bring Deliverance

 The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed one, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity], to proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound].

— Luke 4:18-19 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Battlefield of the Mind – by Joyce Meyer

Did you know Jesus’ first public appearance recorded in Luke’s gospel was in His hometown’s synagogue in Nazareth? When the leader handed Him the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus read the words you see in today’s verse. What the people there didn’t understand yet was that what He was reading to them was describing Himself: “The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me . . . to announce release to the captives” (v. 18). Isn’t that what Jesus did then? Isn’t that what Jesus does now? He said God had anointed Him specifically for that task. If that’s true—and I don’t doubt it for a second—do I honor Jesus by remaining a captive? Do I honor Him by believing that I can never overcome my past? Because Jesus received the anointing to deliver me, there’s only two possible results: He sets me free or He doesn’t.

This is what happens on the battlefield of the mind, as I’ve pointed out again and again—the enemy and Jesus are both always speaking to you. Your deliverance (and mine) depends on which voice we listen to. If we listen to Jesus and believe Him, He says that deliverance is not only possible, but it becomes our reality. If God anointed Jesus for that purpose, it means God empowered Him to open prison doors and set captives free. You and I can’t be set free until we start to believe it’s possible. If you believe that God loves you, wants only the best for you, and has a perfect plan for your life, how can you doubt?

Even if you’ve had a terrible, heartbreaking and abusive past, as I did, please know that so many others are walking through this with you, and that healing and freedom are possible for you. Even one of the most broken people in the Bible—a man who was possessed by multiple demons, living in a graveyard and far beyond human help—was completely restored and set free when he met Jesus (see Mark 5:1-20). Jesus did that because that’s what the Lord does—He sets prisoners free, and He’ll set you free.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for anointing Jesus to set me free. Please forgive me for the times I’ve listened to the enemy’s voice that makes me feel like I’m beyond help. You are the Deliverer. Thank You for delivering me from everything that holds me back from fully serving You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Jesus Our Counselor

He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors.

 Isaiah 53:12

Why did Jesus cause Himself to be enrolled among sinners? This wonderful condescension was justified by many powerful reasons. By doing so He could better become their advocate. In some trials there is an identification of the counselor with the client, nor can they be looked upon in the eye of the law as separate from each other. Now, when the sinner is brought to the bench, Jesus appears there Himself. He stands to answer the accusation. He points to His side, His hands, His feet, and challenges Justice to bring anything against the sinners whom He represents. He pleads His blood, and pleads so triumphantly, being numbered with them and having a part with them, that the Judge proclaims, “Let them go, deliver them from the pit, for He has provided a ransom.”

Our Lord Jesus was numbered with the transgressors in order that they might feel their hearts drawn toward Him. Who can be afraid of one whose name appears on the same list with us? Surely we may come boldly to Him and confess our guilt. He who is numbered with us cannot condemn us. Was He not entered in the transgressor’s list that we might be written in the red roll of the saints? He was holy and written among the holy; we were guilty and numbered among the guilty. He transfers His name from that list to this dark indictment, and our names are taken from the indictment and written in the roll of acceptance, for there is a complete transfer made between Jesus and His people.

All our condition of misery and sin Jesus has taken; and all that Jesus has comes to us. His righteousness, His blood, and everything that He has He gives us as our dowry. Rejoice, believer, in your union to Him who was numbered among the transgressors; and prove that you are truly saved by being clearly identified with those who are new creatures in Him.

One-Year Bible Reading Plan

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – We Cannot Hide From God

 “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:24)

There is no place we can go to hide from God.

When God told Jonah to go to Ninevah, Jonah disobeyed and “rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” He boarded a ship headed for Tarshish, but God saw him even there. You probably know the rest of the story. God sent a mighty storm. Knowing that the storm was meant for him, Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard. He was swallowed by a huge fish, and was carried in the fish’s stomach for three days. He repented of his sin, prayed to God, and God answered his prayers, causing the fish to spit Jonah out onto the land.

God sees our disobedience.

Sometimes when we do wrong, we try to hide it from our friends, our parents, and even God. But it doesn’t work. God sees us no matter where we go. He always knows what we are doing and what we are thinking. Jonah couldn’t leave God’s presence by going to Tarshish. God is everywhere.

God also sees our troubles.

Sometimes when we are hurting, we think no one else understands; but God always does. When you feel lonely, you aren’t really alone. You can pray to God and ask him for help no matter where you are. There is no place you can go that he won’t hear you. Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the fish, and God answered his prayers.

The next time you want to disobey, and you think no one is around, remember that God is. He can always see you. And the next time you feel lonely, or think there is trouble in your life that no one else understands, ask for God’s help.

The Bible teaches that there is nowhere we can go that the Lord is not there. That means we can never hide from Him, but it also means He is always there when we need Him. Call on Him. No matter where you are or what kind of trouble you are in, He can always hear you.

God is already everywhere we could go. We cannot escape from His presence, and we can count on Him to be close by at all times.

My Response:
» Have I been forgetting that God is omnipresent (everywhere at once)?
» How should remembering that God is everywhere keep me from doing wicked things?
» How should remembering that God is everywhere keep me from worry or fear?


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Denison Forum – A stranded megaship and censored Christians: Three ways to engage our critics with redemptive truth

What ship is longer than the Eiffel Tower’s height and, when loaded, weighs more than twenty-two Eiffel Towers? 

A week ago, most of us would have had no idea. Today, you likely know the answer: the Ever Given, the massive vessel that ran aground in the Suez Canal last Tuesday.

In the days since, according to the Wall Street Journal, over three hundred and sixty vessels waited to pass through the canal. Since 13 percent of all maritime trade and 10 percent of seaborne oil shipments transit through the canal, this has been a global problem. Yesterday, salvage teams were finally able to free and refloat the megaship, allowing traffic to resume. 

As they worked over the last week, if you had been standing on the banks of the canal, you would probably have felt impotent in your own strength to solve such a massive problem. 

That’s the way many of us feel about the culture we are called to engage with the gospel today. 

Satan-themed sneakers and rising censorship 

The rapper Lil Nas X has been making headlines with his Satan-themed sneakers. Christian cakemaker Jack Philipps is back in court, this time facing a lawsuit from a transgender lawyer who requested a gender-transition cake. 

Meanwhile, an article in the Wall Street Journal reports that religious groups and figures have been silenced by tech companies at the rate of about one a week. The writer states: “It seems likely that religious groups and individuals will face mounting threats from tech companies. Their views on marriage, sexuality, life and other moral issues are unpopular among the Silicon Valley set.” 

However, he concludes: “Religious groups should refuse to silence themselves, change their views, or otherwise back down. Censorship is a symptom of a national collapse in civic culture. Curing the deeper disease will take all the courage and conviction we can muster.” 

Where do we find such “courage and conviction”? 

“When they heard it, they marveled” 

Today is Tuesday of Holy Week. On this day, Jesus faced his critics in a daylong series of debates (cf. Matthew 21–23). Perhaps their most famous exchange came when his opponents asked our Lord, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17). This was a very hot cultural button in the day. 

The taxes to which they referred were the poll-tax or “census” tax paid by all males over the age of fourteen and all females over the age of twelve. It was paid directly to the Roman emperor. And it required the use of a coin which was despised by the Jewish people. 

This was the “denarius,” a silver coin minted by the emperor himself. It was the only Roman coin that claimed divine status for the Caesar. One side pictured the head of Emperor Tiberius with the Latin inscription, “Tiberius Caesar son of the divine Augustus.” The other side pictured Pax, the Roman goddess of peace, with the Latin inscription “high priest.” 

This coin was idolatrous in the extreme. The tax it paid led to a Jewish revolt in AD 6 that established the Zealot movement. This movement eventually resulted in the destruction of the temple and the Jewish nation in AD 70. In Jesus’ day, the Zealots were growing in power and influence. 

As a result, Jesus’ critics were challenging him to take a position on the most inflammatory issue of the time. If he said it was right to pay this tax, the Jewish public would turn from him and his movement would end. If he said it was wrong to pay the tax, he would be considered a traitor to Rome and the authorities would arrest and execute him. Either way, the hands of his enemies would be clean and yet they would be rid of their enemy. Or so they thought. 

You know Jesus’ timeless response. He asked for “the coin for the tax” (v. 19) and then asked, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (v. 20). They said that it was Caesar’s. Jesus replied, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21). With this response: “When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away” (v. 22). 

Three lessons on Holy Tuesday  

How can this Holy Tuesday exchange guide us in responding to those who oppose our faith? Let’s consider three principles. 

One: Engage our critics. 

In the face of such vociferous opposition, Jesus could have retreated to the safety of Galilee or deferred on this controversial subject. Instead, he spoke directly to the question at hand, refusing to keep the salt of God’s word in the saltshaker or his light under a basket (Matthew 5:13–16). Like him, we are called to respond to those who reject our Lord, knowing that the greater their opposition to the truth, the more they need the truth. For more, please see my newest video below, “Caring for a culture that rejects the gospel.”

Two: Use reason to defend revelation. 

Jesus was wiser than the wisest man who ever lived (Matthew 12:42). Now “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) and are indwelt by the Spirit who “will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). By submitting to the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and loving God with our minds (Matthew 22:37) through excellent scholarship (cf. Luke 1:3) and continued study (cf. 2 Timothy 4:13), we can stay “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). I plan to say more on this subject tomorrow. 

Three: Stay faithful whatever the outcome. 

Jesus’ critics were defeated on this occasion, but they were undeterred. On Maundy Thursday, they arranged for Jesus’ arrest and illegal trial. On Good Friday, they incited the crowds to turn against him, leading to his torture and murder. 

But the writer Susan Coolidge was right: “Earth’s saddest day and gladdest day were just three days apart!” Because of Easter, Paul could testify, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). 

Can you say the same today?

http://www.denisonforum.org/

Upwords; Max Lucado –The Dwelling Place of God

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Do-it-yourself Christianity isn’t much encouragement to the done-in and worn-out. “Try a little harder” is little encouragement for the abused. At some point we need more than good advice; we need help. Somewhere on this journey we realize that the fifty-fifty proposition is too little. We need help from the inside out. The kind of help Jesus promised. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it does not see him or know him. But know him, because he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).

Note the dwelling place of God: in you. Not near us, above us. But in us. In the hidden recesses of our beings dwells not an angel, not a philosophy, not a genie, but God. Imagine that.

Home

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Restoration of Prayer

Psalm 51

There’s something refreshing about a cool shower after a hot, humid day spent working outside. All the filth and sweat is washed away, dirty clothes are replaced with clean ones, and you feel like a new person. Imagine having this kind of experience spiritually every day when you bow in prayer to confess your sins and receive cleansing. The weight of guilt is lifted, and you come away restored to the joy of your salvation. 

Last week, we learned about David and Bathsheba. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of confession after having sinned against the Lord in connection with Bathsheba. In Psalm 32, which scholars believe also stemmed from this transgression, David speaks of the physical and spiritual turmoil he experienced when he tried to hide his wrongdoing and refused to acknowledge his sin (Psalm 32:3-4). After he finally humbled himself in repentance, the Lord forgave and cleansed him and removed his burden of guilt and shame (Psalm 32:5).

Confession is a privilege and a refreshing spiritual “shower” that renews us in our relationship with the Lord. We come away cleansed of sin, relieved of guilt, renewed in our love and commitment to Christ, and filled with joy and hope.

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 17-18

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Our Daily Bread — Facing the Battles with God

Bible in a Year:

In the Lord I take refuge.

Psalm 11:1

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 11

The heroic deeds of US Army soldier Desmond Doss are featured in the 2016 movie Hacksaw Ridge. While Doss’ convictions wouldn’t allow him to take human life, as an army medic he committed himself to preserving life even at the risk of his own. The citation read at Doss’ Medal of Honor ceremony on October 12, 1945, included these words: “Private First Class Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one by one to the edge of the escarpment. . . . He unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer.”

In Psalm 11, David’s conviction that his refuge was in God compelled him to resist suggestions to flee rather than face his foes (vv. 2–3). Six simple words comprised his statement of faith: “In the Lord I take refuge” (v. 1). That well-rooted conviction would guide his conduct.

David’s words in verses 4–7 amplified God’s greatness. Yes, life can sometimes be like a battlefield, and hostile fire can send us scattering for cover when we’re bombarded with health challenges or financial, relational, and spiritual stresses. So, what should we do? Acknowledge that God is the king of the universe (v. 4); take delight in His amazing capacity to judge with precision (vv. 5–6); and rest in His delight in what’s right, fair, and equitable (v. 7). We can run swiftly to God for shelter!

By:  Arthur Jackson

Reflect & Pray

When have you experienced life’s hostile fire and been tempted to find shelter in something other than God? Can you recall times when God came to your rescue and your hope in Him was renewed?

Father, help me to see You more clearly than any force that opposes me and run to You for true safety and security.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Servanthood: Humility in Action

“‘Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave’” (Matthew 20:26-27).

In God’s sight, greatness is marked by a humble, servant’s heart.

Bible commentator R.C.H. Lenski once wrote that God’s “great men are not sitting on top of lesser men, but bearing lesser men on their backs.” Jesus would have agreed with Lenski’s observation, but He did not see it as wrong to desire greater usefulness to God. Those standards of usefulness, however, are much more demanding than any worldly ideals for self-serving, domineering leadership. For example, Paul lists for us the high standards God has for church overseers (1 Tim. 3:1-7). God considers men great who are among those willing to be servants.

In Matthew 20:26-27, Jesus was speaking of genuine servanthood, not the “public servant” who merely uses his position to gain power and personal prestige. The original Greek word for “servant” referred to a person who did menial labor and was the lowest level of hired help. Jesus could have used a more noble word to denote obedient discipleship, but He picked this one (from which we get deacon) because it best described the selfless humility of one who served.

But in verse 27, Jesus intensifies His description of God’s way to greatness. He tells us if we want to be great in His kingdom, we must be willing to be slaves. Whereas servants had some personal freedom, slaves were owned by their masters and could go only where their masters allowed and do only what their masters wanted. The application for us as believers is that “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

If you desire real spiritual greatness, you will be willing to work in the hard place, the lonely place, the place where you’re not appreciated. You’ll be willing to strive for excellence without becoming proud, and to endure suffering without getting into self-pity. It is to these godly attitudes and more that Christ will say, “Well done, good and faithful slave . . . enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you cultivate a servant’s heart.

For Further Study

  • Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and make a list of the qualifications for an overseer (elder).
  • Meditate on the implications of each trait, and write down ways in which humility relates to these leadership qualities.

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Joyce Meyer – The Growing Times

…Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).

— Ephesians 4:15 (AMPC)

– by Joyce Meyer

When we look back over our lives, we often see that we didn’t grow during the easy times, but we grow significantly during hard times. In the easier times, we’re able to enjoy what we’ve gained during the harder times.

This is really a life principle. You work all week, then you receive your paycheck and enjoy your time off. You exercise, eat right, and take care of yourself, then you enjoy a healthy body. You clean your house, or basement, or garage, and then you enjoy your neat, clean surroundings each time you walk through them. This concept reminds me of Hebrews 12:11 (NIV): No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

To be truly victorious, we need to grow to the place where we’re not afraid of hard times but are actually challenged by them, because God uses them to ultimately prepare us for the good times. I encourage you today to ask God for the grace to appreciate and grow, even in the difficult things you’re facing. When you do, He’ll work in and through you to accomplish it (see Philippians 2:13).

Prayer Starter: Father, please help me today to see how You’re working in my life and give me the grace I need to grow, even in the harder things I’m dealing with. Thank You for promising to be there for me, and for working in me and through me to bring about real maturity. In Jesus’ name, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org