In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Wholehearted Devotion

2 Chronicles 31:20-21

King Hezekiah of Judah faithfully served the Lord with his whole heart (2 Chronicles 29:2). After the nation had fallen into idolatry, he reestablished proper worship of God. But his devotion to the Lord also extended into his personal life, and that’s exactly how we should live as well.  Our seeking after God should be characterized by:

• Wholeheartedness. A united heart has one preeminent desire—to please the Lord. But a divided heart tries to live both for self and for God. Warning that we cannot serve two masters, Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and follow Him (Matt. 6:24Luke 9:23).

• Diligence. Devotion to God includes careful attention to His Word and unwavering effort to obey Him. Faith is the foundation upon which we diligently build qualities of Christian maturity (2 Peter 1:5-8).

• Persistence. The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. We need endurance to overcome obstacles that hinder us from finishing the course God has set for us (Heb. 12:1).

Living wholeheartedly for the Lord is impossible in our own strength. But if we’ll humble ourselves and ask, He will give us the grace to diligently and persistently live for Him.

Bible in One Year: 2 Samuel 7-9

Our Daily Bread — Companions in Christ

Bible in a Year:

I thank my God every time I remember you.

Philippians 1:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Philippians 1:3–8

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is a decades-long project that’s resulted in a greater understanding of the importance of healthy relationships. The research began with a group of 268 sophomores at Harvard University in the 1930s and later expanded to, among others, 456 Boston inner-city residents. Researchers have conducted interviews with the participants and pored over their medical records every few years. They discovered that close relationships are the biggest factor in predicting happiness and health. It turns out that if we surround ourselves with the right people, we’ll likely experience a deeper sense of joy.

This appears to reflect what the apostle Paul is describing in Philippians 1. Writing from prison, Paul can’t help but tell his friends that he thanks God for them every time he remembers them, praying “with joy” (v. 4). But these aren’t just any friends; these are brothers and sisters in Jesus who “share in God’s grace,” partners in the gospel with Paul (v. 7). Their relationship was one of sharing and mutuality—a true fellowship shaped by God’s love and the gospel itself.

Yes, friends are important, but fellow companions in Christ are catalysts of a true and deep joy. The grace of God can bind us together like nothing else. And even through the darkest seasons of life, the joy that comes from that bond will last.

By:  Glenn Packiam

Reflect & Pray

Who are the friends that surround you? What’s the substance of your relationships? How has the grace of God shaped your choice of companions?

Dear God, thank You for the gift of friendship. Help me to express my gratitude to those who have been faithful companions to me. Give me the grace to strengthen and encourage them.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Jesus’ Admonition in Gethsemane

“He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41).

The need for spiritual vigilance by Christians is constant, but it can’t be achieved in the power of the flesh.

Jesus must have been terribly disappointed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He found the three disciples sleeping. As He labored diligently in prayer before the Father, Peter, James, and John began their desertion of Jesus. They could not even stay awake and offer Him support during His time of greatest need.

Given all that was happening, the Lord’s question, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” was not a harsh rebuke. In the spirit of a mentor, Jesus exhorted the three about their need for divine help: “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation.”

The phrase “keep watching and praying” indicates that all believers must have vigilance. Jesus wants all of us to anticipate temptation and seek God’s help to resist the adversary, just as He did during His vigilant prayer in the Garden.

Our own best efforts to overcome Satan will certainly fail. The only way to deal with the Devil is to flee immediately from him into God’s presence and prayerfully leave matters with Him.

But even when we know and seek to practice what Jesus told the disciples, it is often difficult to do what is right. Jesus saw His three dearest friends’ reaction and was in the midst of His own spiritual struggle, so He acknowledged, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The apostle Paul also knew the spiritual battle was real and very difficult (Rom. 7:15-23). But Paul was confident, too, that the only source of victory in our most intimidating spiritual challenges is obedience to the power of Jesus Christ: “Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vv. 24-25).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for any recent times when you have failed to be alert and diligent when praying.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 5:6-11.

  • What is the first key to spiritual success?
  • Why must we be alert for Satan?
  • What makes faithfulness in suffering worthwhile?

Joyce Meyer – Love Not Sleep

My eyes anticipate the night watches and I am awake before the cry of the watchman, that I may meditate on Your word.

— Psalm 119:148 (AMPC)

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

It is interesting that our popular greeting is “Good morning.” Somewhere along the way, someone realized that if we get started off right in the morning, we will have a good day. Proverbs 20:13 says, Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes and you will be satisfied with bread. And Psalm 57:8–9 encourages us to wake up ready to sing praises: Awake, my glory (my inner self); awake, harp and lyre! I will awake right early [I will awaken the dawn]! I will praise and give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.

Good rest is very important, and we all need to be rejuvenated in order to face the day and be productive. Starting every day with a good attitude, studying God’s Word and getting in some praise and worship helps get every day off to a good start!

Prayer Starter: Father God, thank you for good rest. I know I can face every challenge today because You are with me. I lift up all of my concerns to You right now. I choose to believe Your Word. Thank you for rejuvenating me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Outside the Camp

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp.

 Hebrews 13:13

Jesus, bearing His cross, went to suffer outside the gate. The Christian’s reason for leaving the camp of the world’s sin and religion is not because he loves to be isolated, but because Jesus did so; and the disciple must follow his Master. Christ was “not of the world.” His life and His testimony were a constant protest against conformity with the world. Although He displayed overflowing affection for men, He was still separate from sinners.

In the same way Christ’s people must “go to him.” They must take their position “outside the camp,” as witness-bearers for the truth. They must be prepared to walk the straight and narrow path. They must have bold, unflinching, lion-like hearts, loving Christ first, and His truth next, and Christ and His truth more than all the world. Jesus desires His people to “go . . . outside the camp” for their own sanctification.

You cannot grow in grace to any high degree while you are conformed to the world. The life of separation may be a path of sorrow, but it is the highway of safety; and though the separated life may be painful and make every day a battle, yet it is a happy life after all. No joy can excel that of the soldier of Christ: Jesus reveals Himself so graciously and gives such sweet refreshment that the warrior feels more calm and peace in his daily strife than others in their hours of rest.

The highway of holiness is the highway of communion. It is in this way we shall hope to win the crown if we are enabled by divine grace faithfully to follow Christ “outside the camp.” The crown of glory will follow the cross of separation. A moment’s shame will be well rewarded by eternal honor; a little while of witness-bearing will seem nothing when we are forever with the Lord.

One-Year Bible Reading Plan

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Cares When We Are Distressed

 “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Psalm 18:3,6)

Have you ever heard a kitten or a rabbit that was in pain? A rabbit’s scream is a terrible sound. If a rabbit is caught in a bush or a trap, and especially if he is frightened or wounded – or both – he is probably going to scream.

What if you were to hear a call even more desperate than that of a small animal? What if you were to hear a fellow human being call out in distress (in pain or great fear of danger)? Would you answer? What if you were walking along in your neighborhood one day, and what if you were to hear a voice call out, “Help! Somebody – please help!”

Well, you might be afraid! That would be a natural reaction in an emergency. You might feel like there isn’t much you could do – whether you’re limited by your age or size or knowledge or whatever the case may be. But if you heard someone desperate and calling for help, you would probably do everything in your power to try to be of at least a little help! Maybe you could find the nearest phone and call 9-1-1 or some kind of emergency response number. Or maybe you could run to find out what was wrong and see if there is some way to contribute to fixing the problem. It may not be very much, but you would probably do all you could!

There are hundreds of verses in God’s Word that reveal (show) Him to be a God Who comes to the rescue when we call out to Him for help. The marvelous thing about having the God of the universe as our Deliverer is that – unlike well-meaning humans who might respond in an emergency – God has no limitations at all! He is always present and all-knowing – so He knows when we are in trouble, maybe even before we ourselves are aware of the trouble. He is all-powerful, so nothing could possibly keep Him from helping if He wanted to help.

God does want to help. Being our highest Source of comfort and strength and power and mercy brings glory to His name, and He loves to help His people who trust Him. These verses about calling out to God in our distress do not have to do only with physical danger or emergencies that we can see and touch. We should also look to God – first and foremost! – when we find ourselves in spiritual danger!

Are you tempted to sin? Are you losing a battle in submitting your reactions to God and responding rightly to what He is bringing into your life? Are you worried or upset or afraid or confused about what God wants you to do next? If so, good! It’s not good that you are in trouble, but it’s good if that trouble drives you to call out to the best possible Savior and Deliverer you could ever have: God.

More than anyone or anything else, God is able and willing to deliver us out of our troubles.

My Response:
» Am I in some kind of physical trouble right now?
» Am I in some kind of emotional or spiritual trouble right now?
» Am I calling on and trusting in God to help me when I need Him?

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Denison Forum – The Los Angeles Times publishes Easter articles attacking Easter faith: Three steps to biblical thinking for biblical living

There was a day when Easter Sunday elicited cover stories and headlines on Easter themes in American media. I remember sympathetic biographies of biblical figures along with reflective essays on the abiding lessons of Jesus’ resurrection.

Things have changed.

The Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed for Easter Sunday titled, “How Christians came to believe in heaven, hell and the immortal soul.” Written by Bart Ehrman, one of the most notorious anti-Christian critics in contemporary culture, it is an astonishingly false portrait of Judeo-Christian faith and history. The book on which the essay is based has already been soundly debunked, but many who read Ehrman’s Easter article may nonetheless be persuaded by the falsehoods it perpetrates.

Two days earlier, the Los Angeles Times published a different op-ed, this one for Good Friday. Titled “Why America’s record godlessness is good news for the nation,” the article responds to the recent Gallup report that church membership has fallen below 50 percent for the first time.

The author celebrates what he calls “organic secularization,” by which “members of a society become better educated, more prosperous, and live safer, more secure and more peaceful lives” and thus turn from religion. In his view, “highly secular democracies” do a “much better job” of meeting human needs than faith-based charities. As a result, he concludes that we should celebrate the growing secularism of our day.

The author ignores the remarkable growth among evangelical and conservative churches and ministries in our day. Nor does he take note of the seminal work by Robert D. Putnam and David Brooks, among others, which highlight the social connections that are especially strengthened in religious communities. And he dismisses the relevance of “a heavenly reward that fewer and fewer of us believe in,” as if our personal beliefs (or lack thereof) change eternal reality.

The two anti-Christian articles have this in common: both were published on two of the most significant holy days in the Christian year. And both are based on selective arguments that conflate personal opinion with objective truth.

Christians who were intellectual giants 

As intellectual attacks on Christian faith and practice continue to escalate, it is vital that Christians respond with intellectual passion and compassion. Such a commitment is nothing new for us. In fact, the rational and reasonable nature of our faith has been foundational to its transformative effect across Christian history.

Scholar Stanley Jaki demonstrated conclusively that modern science was “stillborn” in other cultures but came to life in the fertile soil of Christian reason. The list of great scientists who were also committed Christians is both large and inspiring.

Women were some of the greatest heroes in Scripture, as Shannon Bream shows in her powerful book, The Women of the Bible Speak. From the early church to today, women have excelled as theologians and leaders.

Hans Küng’s seminal book, Great Christian Thinkers, was enormously influential and encouraging. J. R. R. Tolkien’s role in leading C. S. Lewis to faith in Christ stands as just one example of an intellectual giant who influenced an intellectual giant.

Biblical thinking for biblical living 

How can we stand for biblical truth with clarity and compassion today? 

First, make a daily commitment to love God with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). 

God’s call still resounds today: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). This is a present-tense imperative, a daily checklist of God’s continuing commands to each of us each day. 

According to the Barna Group and the American Bible Society, only 9 percent of US adults read the Bible daily. Are you in their number?

Second, immerse your mind in God’s word (John 17:17). 

God’s word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). This means that Scripture will instruct us in the right path, stop us when we choose the wrong path, set us in the right direction again, and keep us there. 

As a result, it is vital that we meet God every morning in his word and then consult biblical truth as we face decisions and challenges all through the day. Biblical thinking leads to biblical living. Was this your experience yesterday? Will it be today?

Third, respond to falsehood with biblical truth (1 Peter 3:15–16). 

Paul’s commitment should be ours: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). To destroy means to refute. Arguments refers to truth claims; lofty opinion refers to arrogant thinking. Raised against the knowledge of God means to be opposed to what God has revealed.

After refuting all such falsehoods, we are called to take every thought captive, meaning literally to “capture” each and every thought. We do this to obey Christ and his word, heeding Paul’s testimony as God’s commission to us.

A dear friend of mine has taught his children how to watch television and movies biblically: they compete to “spot the lie” whenever they see something unbiblical. Imagine the difference if all of us did the same for ourselves and those we influence. 

“Did not our hearts burn within us?” 

Tomorrow, I plan to discuss practical ways you and I can respond biblically to unbiblical truth claims. For today, let’s renew our commitment to thinking biblically. 

On the first Easter, the risen Christ who met the disciples on the road to Emmaus “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). In response, they later said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (v. 32). 

When last did your heart burn within you? Why not today?

Upwords; Max Lucado –The Fruit of Sin

Listen to Today’s Devotion

What is the fruit of sin? Step into the briar patch of humanity and feel a few thistles. Shame. Fear. Disgrace. Discouragement. Anxiety. Haven’t our hearts been caught in these brambles? The heart of Jesus, however, had not. He had never been cut by the thorns of sin. Anxiety? He never worried. Guilt? He was never guilty. Fear? He never left the presence God. He never knew the fruits of sin until he became sin for us.

And when He did, He felt anxious, guilty, and alone. Can’t you hear the emotion in His prayer? “My God, my God, why have you rejected me?” These are not the words of a saint; this is the cry of a sinner. And these are words that we should say, but these are words we don’t have to say because Jesus said them for us. He took on the fruit of sin so that we could enjoy the fruit of eternal life.