In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Pursuing God

Psalm 63:1-8

If I were to ask whether you’d like a deeper relationship with God, you would probably say yes. But are you willing to do what is necessary to achieve it? Many Christians today are trying to find a shortcut to a closer relationship with the Father. But intimacy takes times and effort; knowing God better is a lifelong pursuit. Here’s how we discover the depths of His character through His Word: 

Meditation involves reading a Bible passage several times and thoughtfully considering what it says about God. Today’s psalm, for example, encourages us to ponder the Lord’s power, glory, and lovingkindness.  

Study allows us to draw from several Bible passages to gain a greater understanding of the Lord. We benefit by considering the context and writing style of the verses and then asking ourselves what they reveal about God.

Prayer is our response to meditation and study of the Word. What we discover about God overflows into praise, gratitude, and petitions that align with His will.

We can’t cut corners if we want to walk closely with the Lord. But the rewards of a deep relationship with Him are worth the wait and effort—only through intimacy with Him will we know true satisfaction and joy.

Bible in One Year: 2 Samuel 10-12

Our Daily Bread — Through Thick and Thin

Bible in a Year:

The cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.

Exodus 40:38

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Exodus 40:34–38

On January 28, 1986, the US Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart seventy-three seconds after takeoff. In a speech of comfort to the nation, President Reagan quoted from the poem “High Flight” in which John Gillespie Magee, a World War II pilot, had written of “the high untrespassed sanctity of space” and the sense of putting out his hand to touch “the face of God.”

Although we can’t literally touch God’s face, we sometimes experience a stunning sunset or a place of meditation in nature that gives us an overwhelming sense that He’s near. Some people call these moments “thin places.” The barrier separating heaven and earth seems to grow a little thinner. God feels a little closer.

The Israelites may have experienced a “thin place” as they sensed the nearness of God in the desert wilderness. God provided a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to lead them through the desert (Exodus 40:34–38). When they were staying in the camp, “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 35). Throughout all their travels, they knew God was with them.

As we enjoy the incredible beauty of God’s creation, we grow conscious that He’s present everywhere. As we talk with Him in prayer, listen to Him, and read the Scriptures, we can enjoy fellowship with Him anytime and anywhere.

By:  Cindy Hess Kasper

Reflect & Pray

What places in nature make you feel especially close to God? How can you seek Him anytime and anywhere?

Father, help me to seek and find You even when I’m lost in a desert wilderness.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Maintaining Spiritual Sensitivity

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

Sin is a serious issue with God. He never winks at it or takes it lightly.

Satan desires to desensitize Christians to the heinousness of sin. He wants you to stop mourning over sin and start enjoying it. Impossible? Many who once thought so have fallen prey to its power. It usually doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, the process can be slow and subtle— almost imperceptible. But the results are always tragic.

How can you remain alert to the dangers of sin and protect yourself from compromise? First, be aware of your sin. David said, “My sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Peter said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Those men shared a common awareness of their own sinfulness and it drove them to God for forgiveness and cleansing.

Second, remember the significance of the cross. If you allow a pattern of sin to develop in your life, you’ve forgotten the enormous price Christ paid to free you from its bondage.

Third, realize the effect sin has on others. The psalmist said, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law” (Ps. 119:136). Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). Your heart should ache for those enslaved to sin.

Finally, eliminate anything that hinders your sensitivity to sin, such as deliberately sinning, rejecting God’s forgiveness, being proud, presuming on God’s grace, or taking sin lightly. Such things will quickly dull your spiritual senses and give Satan the opportunity to lead you into greater sin.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He brings comfort and happiness to those who mourn over their sin.
  • Ask Him to guard your heart from anything that will diminish your sensitivity to the awfulness of sin.

For Further Study

Read 1 Samuel 15.

  • What was Saul’s sin?
  • Did he mourn over his sin? Explain.

Joyce Meyer – The Source of Happiness

For You, O Lord, have made me glad by Your works; at the deeds of Your hands I joyfully sing.

— PSALM 92:4 (AMPC)

Focusing on our problems will prevent us from rejoicing and being glad. Look for the good in your life and your joy will increase. You might have a problem, but if you focus on what’s good, then you will discover there are some good things in your life also. The world is full of people and situations that don’t please us, so if we are waiting for perfect circumstances to make us happy, we will be waiting forever.

That’s why we must learn not to base our happiness and joy on outward circumstances, but on the Lord’s presence inside us.

Thankfully, we can learn not to fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in everything to give thanks and praise to God. Then the peace that passes all understanding will be ours.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for the gifts of joy and contentment. Regardless of the circumstances around me, I choose to praise You and realize that You are the true source of my joy. Thank You for Your goodness in my life. I choose to put my hope in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –A Mournful List of Honors

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?

 Psalm 4:2

An instructive writer has made a mournful list of the honors that the blinded people of Israel awarded to their long-expected King.

  1. They gave Him a procession of honor, in which Roman legionaries, Jewish priests, and men and women took part, He Himself bearing His cross. This is the triumph that the world awards to Him who comes to overthrow man’s greatest enemy. Derisive shouts are His only acclamations, and cruel taunts His only songs of praise.
  2. They presented Him with the wine of honor. Instead of a golden cup of generous wine, they offered Him the criminal’s anesthetic potion, which He refused in order that he might, in all its unmitigated horror, taste death; and afterwards when He cried, “I thirst,” they gave Him vinegar mixed with gall, thrust to His mouth upon a sponge. What wretched, detestable inhospitality to the King’s Son.
  3. He was provided with a guard of honor, who showed their esteem of Him by gambling over His clothes, which they had seized as their treasure. The bodyguard of Jesus was a quaternion of brutal gamblers.
  4. A throne of honor was found for Him upon the bloody tree. The cross was, in fact, the full expression of the world’s feeling toward Him. “There,” they seemed to say, “you Son of God, this is the manner in which God Himself should be treated, could we reach Him.”
  5. The title of honor was nominally “King of the Jews,” but this was distinctly repudiated. They really called Him “King of thieves” by preferring Barabbas and by placing Jesus in the place of highest shame between two thieves. In this way His glory was turned into shame by the sons of men, but it shall nevertheless still gladden the eyes of saints and angels, world without end.

One-Year Bible Reading Plan

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Tells Us To Wait on Him

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Adele’s pet dog Molly is so smart. Molly seems to be aware of everything that goes on. She hears everything! Adele has to spell words out when she talks about F-O-O-D or a S-Q-U-I-R-R-E-L, so Molly will not understand her. But it is very hard to trick Molly, even when you spell words out! She is so smart, it is easy to think of her as a human being rather than a dog. And Adele loves Molly dearly, but Molly does have one fault. There is one thing that Molly has never learned. For the past eight years she doesn’t quite understand what is meant by the word “wait”!

Adele knows that she has probably not helped Molly learn the meaning of “wait!” because Adele is always quick to get Molly whatever she acts like she wants. Molly stares at Adele for a long time if she wants some food. If Adele sits on the couch, Molly will sit right in front of her and stare and stare. Not just for a short time. It is an actual staring contest, as far as Molly is concerned! And Adele gets “out-stared” every single time. Exasperated, Adele finally gets up and goes to get Molly’s food. Molly has no concept of “wait,” and she has found a way to get what she wants when she wants it!

All of us have had to “wait” for something. It may be for dinner, a school bus, or a friend. It may be waiting to get over a cold, or waiting to go visit some special place or favorite family members. Waiting is not an easy thing to do–not for a dog, and not for us! It requires patience and understanding. Most of all, it requires trust.

In our world today we expect to get what we want when we want it. But God has instructed believers about waiting and about what (or Whom) we should be waiting for. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” This verse tells us Whom we should look to for what we need: We should wait on the Lord. At least Adele’s dog knows whom she ought to wait on in order to get her food. It would do Molly no good to sit and stare at the mailman, or at a tree trunk. Molly waits (if only briefly!) on Adele, because Adele is, in Molly’s world, the best source for F-O-O-D. When a Christian needs something, that Christian should go to the God of the Bible for it.

Psalm 27:14 also shows us how we can endure the waiting, by strengthening our hearts and taking courage. Similarly, Romans 8:25 says, “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” The only patience Molly shows is the ability to stare for as long as it takes to get what she wants. Dogs and human beings are not born with patience. They have to learn it. Christians can learn patience, by God’s grace, and they can trust that the Lord’s timing is the best possible timing.

God wants believers to show their trust by waiting patiently on Him.

My Response:
» Am I in a situation right now where I am having to wait on God?
» Is my typical response to wait patiently, or is it just to figure out ways I can hurry things up?
» Are God’s perfect will and God’s perfect timing worth even the longest wait?

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Denison Forum – Why Baylor Coach Scott Drew is such an appealing Christian: Three steps to conversations that affect eternity

Scott Drew is one of the most appealing Christians in America these days. As the head coach of the Baylor University men’s basketball team, which won the NCAA championship in convincing fashion Monday night, he is understandably in the media spotlight. In stories about the team and their victory, Coach Drew’s faith almost always comes up.

For example, Sports Illustrated quotes ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who said of him: “He has an optimism, a sense of faith and a sense of family and togetherness that is real. People said early on he’s a phony; he’s a charlatan. But the more you see it, you know it’s real stuff. He’s like that Sunday school preacher, but he believes what he’s preaching. Optimism, with him, is like breathing.”

Such an attractive witness is especially vital in a day when evangelical Christians are being assailed on all sides. From lawsuits alleging discrimination on Christian campuses to accusations of right-wing political agendas to escalating threats against religious liberty, believers need to defend what we believe with urgency and compassion.

Yesterday, we discussed the priority of biblical thinking and God’s call to stand for biblical truth. Today, let’s look at practical ways to answer his call.

One: Choose courage before courage is required 

We will frame today’s conversation in light of Acts 17 and Paul’s transformative encounters with the Greco-Roman culture of his day. From his experiences, we find a roadmap for effective engagement with our post-Christian culture.

The chapter opens with Paul’s experience in Thessalonica, where he and his followers faced a mob that falsely accused them of insurrection against Rome (vv. 1–9). Here we learn that standing for biblical truth often requires us to stand against untruth, commitments that often come at a significant cost.

Paul made the decision to stand courageously for his Lord long before he reached Thessalonica. Jesus warned him shortly after his conversion, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). In nearly every city he visited in the Book of Acts, Jesus’ prediction came true.

Paul knew that his strength came not from himself but from his Lord. That’s why he could testify, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). And he could state, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). He knew that he needed the Spirit to guide him, use him, and protect him. So do we.

Before we go any further, would you stop and ask Jesus for the strength and courage you will need to stand for his word today? 

Two: Invite people to consider biblical truth 

Back to Acts 17. After Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica, he and his team traveled to Berea, where they began ministry in the synagogue there (v. 10). Luke reports: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (v. 11). As a result, “Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (v. 12). 

From the Bereans we learn a second principle: invite people to investigate biblical truth. 

You and I cannot convict people of sin or save souls; this is the work of God’s Spirit (John 16:8–11). Our job is to present the truth and invite people to consider its claims on their lives. When we do so in an open, winsome, conversational way, they are often more receptive than if they feel pressured by us. 

Charles Spurgeon noted: “The gospel is like a caged lion; you don’t have to defend it—just let it out of the cage.” If we will share God’s word in the power of God’s Spirit, answering questions as they arise in a spirit of genuine inquiry, God will use us to plant eternal seeds of truth in the souls we encounter.

Would you invite God’s Spirit to lead you as you share God’s word with those you meet today? 

Three: Show people their need for biblical truth

Now we follow Paul to Athens, where he was invited to address the Areopagus, the intellectual leaders of the leading intellectual capital of the day (vv. 19–21). He began his address by referring to an altar he had discovered in their city with the inscription, “To the unknown God” (v. 23a). He stated, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (v. 23b).

Paul proceeded to use reason in sharing the gospel with these rationalists. He showed them the illogic of believing that the God who made the universe would live in manmade temples such as they had constructed in their city (vv. 24–25). Next, he quoted their poets’ declarations that we are made by God as his offspring (v. 28) and exposed the contradiction of worshiping such a personal God as if he were “like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (v. 29).

The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers he addressed (v. 18) prided themselves on their logical consistency. By showing them the flaws in their reasoning, he opened the door to explain to them the logical and reasonable conclusion: the God who made them and everything else now calls them to repent and turn to him before facing judgment for their mistakes (vv. 30–31). 

Here Paul employed what is known as the “apagogic” task, which Merriam-Webster defines as “proceeding by the method of disproving the proposition that contradicts the one to be established.” He knew that people will seldom consider biblical truth unless they first believe they need biblical truth. If their beliefs are true and trustworthy, why would they change them?

Are you willing to help people face the (perhaps difficult) truth that they need to know the truth?

An hour on a train 

We’ll continue tomorrow with two more practical steps. For today, let’s close with a question that was asked of the famed apologist Francis Schaeffer: “What would you do if you met a really modern man on a train and you just had an hour to talk to him about the gospel?” Schaeffer replied, “I’ve said over and over, I would spend forty-five to fifty minutes on the negative, to really show him his dilemma—that he is morally dead—then I’d take ten to fifteen minutes to preach the gospel.” 

Schaeffer explained: “I believe that much of our evangelistic and personal work today is not clear simply because we are too anxious to get to the answer without having a man realize the real cause of his sickness, which is true moral guilt (and not just psychological guilt feelings) in the presence of God.” 

The Holy Spirit knows the heart of every lost person you know and wants to use us to lead them to salvation. However, we must choose to be courageous in sharing God’s word and helping them see their need for biblical truth.

Are you available to be used by God’s Spirit today?

Upwords; Max Lucado – He Canceled the Record

Listen to Today’s Devotion

How would you feel if a list of your weaknesses were posted so that everyone, including Christ himself, could see? Yes, Christ has chronicled your shortcomings. And yes, that list has been made public. But you’ve never seen it. Neither have I.

Come with me to the hill of Calvary. Watch as soldiers shove the carpenter to the ground and stretch his arms against the beams. One presses a knee against a forearm and a spike against a hand. Jesus turns his face toward the nail just as the soldier lifts the hammer to strike it.

Couldn’t Jesus have stopped him? Why? Why didn’t Jesus resist? Through the eyes of Scripture we see what others missed but Jesus saw. Colossians 2:14 says, “He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.”