In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – How to Listen to God’s Word

Nehemiah 8

It’s amazing how two people can hear the same sermon about the same portion of Scripture and yet walk away with completely different reactions—one could be deeply affected and the other indifferent to the message. Why does this happen? The main reason is the condition of a person’s heart.  

Nehemiah 8 is an amazing scene of God’s people coming together to hear His Word. They had been in captivity for many years and were hungry for His Word. For most of them, this was the first time they heard the Scriptures.

Are you hungry for God’s Word? Do you listen eagerly with an expectant mind and heart? When we genuinely long to know more of the Lord, it’s easier for our mind to focus on what He’s saying—and this is the case whether we’re listening to a pastor or teacher, reading our Bible, or following a book study.

So many things clamor for our focus, but nothing is as important as what the Lord has to say. He is worthy of our undivided attention. Remember, Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be satisfied (Matt. 5:6). Rest assured that whoever listens to God’s Word with an open heart and alert mind will receive from Him.

Bible in One Year: 2 Samuel 13-14

Our Daily Bread — Love Reins Us In

Bible in a Year:

It is better not to . . . do anything . . . that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

Romans 14:21

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Romans 14:1–13

Most young Samoan boys receive a tattoo signaling their responsibility to their people and their chief. Naturally, then, the marks cover the arms of the Samoan men’s rugby team members. Traveling to Japan where tattoos can carry negative connotations, the teammates realized their symbols presented a problem for their hosts. In a generous act of friendship, the Samoans wore skin-colored sleeves covering the designs. “We’re respectful and mindful to . . . the Japanese way,” the team captain explained. “We’ll be making sure that what we’re showing will be okay.”

In an age emphasizing individual expression, it’s remarkable to encounter self-limitation—a concept Paul wrote about in the book of Romans. He told us that love sometimes requires us to lay down our rights for others. Rather than pushing our freedom to the boundaries, sometimes love reins us in. The apostle explained how some people in the church believed they were free “to eat anything,” but others ate “only vegetables” (Romans 14:2). While this might seem like a minor issue, in the first century, adherence to Old Testament dietary laws was controversial. Paul instructed everyone to “stop passing judgment on one another” (v. 13), before concluding with particular words for those who ate freely. “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall” (v. 21).

At times, loving another means limiting our own freedoms. We don’t have to always do everything we’re free to do. Sometimes love reins us in.

By:  Winn Collier

Reflect & Pray

When have you seen people limit their freedom for the sake of other believers in Jesus? What was that like? What’s difficult about those situations where love reins us in?

God, help me to see where I need to encourage others to experience freedom and how I need to limit how I use my own freedoms.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Controlling Yourself

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

Gentleness is power under control.

The Greek word translated “gentle” in Matthew 5:5 speaks of humility, meekness, and non-retaliation—traits that in our proud society are often equated with weakness or cowardice. But in reality they are virtues that identify kingdom citizens.

The same word was used by the Greeks to describe a gentle breeze, a soothing medicine, or a domesticated colt. Those are examples of power under control: a gentle breeze brings pleasure, but a hurricane brings destruction; a soothing medicine brings healing, but an overdose can kill; a domesticated colt is useful, but a wild horse is dangerous.

Christ Himself is the epitome of gentleness. Even when officially announcing His messiahship to Jerusalem, He humbly entered the city astride a donkey (Matt. 21:5). His behavior amid persecution was exemplary: “Christ . . . suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Despite His humility and restraint, Jesus wasn’t weak or cowardly. He never defended Himself, but when His Father’s house was being desecrated, He made a whip and beat those who were defiling it (John 2:13-16; Matt. 21:12-13). He never shirked from pronouncing judgment on unrepentant sinners, and never compromised His integrity or disobeyed His Father’s will.

The hypocritical Jewish religious leaders expected that when Israel’s Messiah came He would commend them for their wonderful spirituality. Instead, Jesus condemned them and called them children of the devil (John 8:44). In retaliation they had Him murdered. His power was always under control; theirs wasn’t.

Our society has little use for gentleness. The macho, do-your-own-thing mentality characterizes most of our heroes. But you are called to a higher standard. When you pattern your life after Jesus, you will have a significant impact on society and will know true happiness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the virtue of gentleness, which He is producing in you by the power of His Spirit. Follow Christ’s example today so that gentleness will mark your character.

For Further Study

Read the following passages, noting the responsibilities and blessings that accompany self-restraint: Proverbs 16:32, Ephesians 4:1-2, Colossians 3:12, and Titus 3:1-2.

Joyce Meyer – Faith Beats Fear

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.

— 2 Timothy 1:7 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Trusting God Day by Day – by Joyce Meyer

“I will not fear,” is the only acceptable attitude we can have toward fear. That does not mean that you and I will never feel fear, but it does mean that we will not allow it to rule our decisions and actions.

The Bible says that God has not given us a spirit of fear. Fear is not from God; it is the devil’s tool to keep us from enjoying our lives and making progress. Fear causes us to run, retreat, or shrink back. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:38 that we are to live by faith and not draw back in fear—and if we do draw back in fear, God’s soul has no delight in us. That does not mean God does not love us; it simply means He is disappointed because He wants us to experience all of the good things He has in His plan for us. We can receive from God only by faith.

We should strive to do everything with a spirit of faith. Faith is confidence in God and a belief that His promises are true. Faith will cause you to go forward, to try new things, and to be aggressive. Unless we make a firm decision to “fear not,” we will never be free from the power of it. “Do it afraid” means to feel the fear and do what you believe you should do any way.

I encourage you to be firm in your resolve to do whatever you need to do, even if you have to “do it afraid!” Trust in Him Choose to walk in faith, trusting God’s promises. Remember to “fear not,” and when you do feel fear, “do it afraid.”

Prayer Starter: Lord God, help me not to allow fear to rule my life, but when I do feel fear, give me the courage to do it afraid. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –What Are Your Chances?

For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?

 Luke 23:31

Among other interpretations of this suggestive question, the following is full of teaching: “If the innocent substitute for sinners suffers in this way, what will be done when the sinner himself—the dry tree—falls into the hands of an angry God?”

When God saw Jesus in the sinner’s place, He did not spare Him; and when He finds the unregenerate without Christ, He will not spare them. O sinner, Jesus was led away by His enemies; and you will be dragged away by fiends to the place appointed for you. Jesus was deserted by God; and if He, who was only imputedly a sinner, was deserted, how much more will you be?

“Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?” What an awful shriek! But what will be your cry when you shall say, “O God! O God! Why have You forsaken me?” and the answer shall come back, “Because you have ignored all My counsel and would have none of My reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you.”

If God did not spare His own Son, how much less will He spare you! What whips of stinging pain will be yours when your conscience smites you with all its terrors. You rich, you merry, you most self-righteous sinners—who would stand in your place when God says, “Awake, O sword, against the man that rejected Me; smite him, and let him feel the sting forever”?

Jesus was spat upon. Sinner, what shame will be yours! We cannot sum up in one word all the mass of sorrows that met upon the head of Jesus who died for us; therefore it is impossible for us to tell you what streams, what oceans of grief must roll over your spirit if you die as you are now. You may die in this state; you may die now. By the agonies of Christ, by His wounds and by His blood, do not bring upon yourselves the wrath to come! Trust in the Son of God, and you shall never die.

One-Year Bible Reading Plan

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Cares for Us

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Every fall, Ricky and his sister Anna got to go with their cousins to the apple orchard. The orchard was way out in the country, and Ricky and Anna could smell the sweet, spicy scent of ripe apples even before all the kids could pile out of Uncle Josh’s truck.

The orchard owners would let them do “taste tests” on all the different kinds of apples, to see if they could tell the difference (sweet, or tart, or juicy, or crisp, and so on). They learned that apple trees need about six to eight weeks of cold winter weather so they can go dormant (which is like hibernating, or sleeping for a while) so that the trees will produce juicier, more flavorful fruit. They also learned that if the owners pruned (cut, trimmed back) a tree, it would produce more–and many times better–fruit than it would have if they had left it alone. And Ricky’s jaw dropped when the owners told them that sometimes a branch from one tree is grafted onto another tree–so that it is possible to have different kinds of apples growing on the same tree!

The Bible talks about God like a husbandman, which is the name for someone whose job it is to care for an orchard or vineyard. Instead of trees or vines, God cares for people! Like the orchard owners, God puts a lot of hard work (and seemingly ugly work) into taking care of His own, and helping them bear the best “fruit.”

Did you know that God prunes (cuts and trims) His people so that they will grow spiritually? In John 15:2, Jesus says, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Sometimes this process that God uses can feel painful for us, but we still ought to rejoice that He is working on us–because it is going to reap good results. We read in James 1:2-3, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

What is that spiritual fruit that God is trying to help us bear? He tells us in Galatians that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffereing, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” We know that God has many good thoughts toward us. (See Psalm 40:5 and Jeremiah 29:11.) And we can be sure it is God’s will for us to bear fruit. (See John 15:8.) Knowing these things and knowing what we know about God’s character and power, we should trust the heavenly “Husbandman” when He “purges” us or when He tries our faith. It is His goal to “grow us” into people who are more and more and more like Jesus Christ. And being more like Christ is the way we bear fruit.

God is our “Husbandman,” and He wants to “grow” us spiritually for His glory and for our good.

My Response:
» Does it feel like God has been “pruning” me or putting me through some uncomfortable “rough weather” lately?
» Does God ever have a mean or evil purpose for doing what He does?
» What kind of fruit is God trying to bring forth out of my life?

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Denison Forum – The latest in the trial of Derek Chauvin: Joining Jesus in leading souls to eternal life

Witness testimony continued yesterday in the trial of Derek Chauvin. The former Minneapolis police officer is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

Los Angeles Police Sergeant Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert, testified in court that Mr. Chauvin used “deadly force” when he knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for a restraint period of nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds. He also stated that “no force should have been used” by Mr. Chauvin once Mr. Floyd was handcuffed and lying on his stomach on the ground.

Many of us will never forget the horrendous video of Mr. Floyd’s arrest and the news of his tragic death. The trial now underway is dominating global headlines, as it should. Bloomberg expects at least twenty-two other trials of international significance to occur this year as well.

Meanwhile, another kind of trial is occurring every day all around the world, one that most do not recognize for the eternal significance it possesses. Every day, Christians are “on trial” for their faith. Every day, skeptics attack our beliefs and seek to undermine the Christian movement. As we have seen this week, such attacks are growing in frequency and severity.

However, there is another way to view this trend: it is actually Jesus who is on trial. Satan is the prosecuting attorney; the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney. The nonbeliever is the jury. You and I are simply witnesses called to the stand by the defense attorney so we can tell the jury what we have experienced and know to be true.

“Asking a person to leave their mind at home” 

So far this week, we have discussed three steps in sharing our witness effectively:

  • Seek the leading and courageous strength of the Lord, knowing that “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).
  • Present your witness in conversation. Tim Keller is right: “All evangelism requires immersion into the various cultures’ greatest hopes, fears, views, and objections to Christianity.”
  • Show what is wrong with the prosecution’s case, the “apagogic” task that prepares the way for biblical truth.

The fourth step is to defend the truth of God’s word.

In Acts 17, Paul announced that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (v. 26). Then he quoted the Greek poet Epimenides of Crete, who wrote, “In him we live and move and have our being” (v. 28a). The apostle followed this with a citation from the Stoic poet Aratus, “For we are indeed his offspring” (v. 28b). By citing authorities his audience accepted, he used evidence from their culture to defend the reasonableness and relevance of biblical truth.

You don’t need a seminary degree to be used by God to do the same with those you influence.

It is important to know and be able to defend the essential truths of the Christian faith. (For more, see my articles on the authority of Scripturebelief in God, the virgin birth, the existence and divinity of Jesus, and miracles.) It is also good to be familiar with vital issues we are facing such as the Equality Act and rising animosity against Christianity. (For more on the Equality Act, please see my recent conversation with Greg Baylor of the Alliance Defending Freedom.) 

But know that the Holy Spirit will lead you to those he has prepared for your message and will use your life, influence, and words to help them trust in your Lord.

The first key is to be available: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). The second key is to resist the temptation to keep your faith personal and private: “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (v. 17). 

In Living in Truth: Confident Conversations in a Conflicted Culture, apologist Mary Jo Sharp writes: “Christians currently face much cultural pressure to leave their religion at home. However, the request is irrational. Christianity is a worldview; so are atheism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. No way exists for people to leave their worldview behind when they go somewhere. The idea is akin to asking a person to leave their mind at home.”

“The first bishop of the church in Athens”

Seek God’s strength and help in standing for Jesus; present biblical truth; show others why they need what God offers; defend your faith with courage and clarity. Last, trust the results to the Lord.

After Paul’s apologetic presentation in Athens, we read that “some mocked” while others said, “We will hear you again about this” (Acts 17:32). However, “some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them” (v. 34). 

Damaris was apparently so well-known in the day that Luke could identify her merely by her name. “Others” were unknown to him but known to our Savior. And early historian Eusebius states that Dionysius “became the first bishop of the church in Athens” (Ecclesiastical History 3.4), the intellectual center of the Greco-Roman world. 

Jesus told us that some seed we sow will fall on pathways and be devoured by the “birds”; others will fall on shallow soil and produce no roots; others will fall among thorns that will choke them; but others will fall on “good soil” and produce grain, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:3–9). 

Our job is to testify as the Spirit leads us, then trust the results to the Lord. Sometimes we will be the first witness in the courtroom to testify, never hearing how the jury decides. Sometimes we will be the last witness and present when the jury decides, hopefully for Jesus. Often, we will be somewhere in the middle of the trial.

The key is to be used by Jesus as he continues his earthly ministry through us. If we will meet with him at the start of the day and surrender ourselves in communion with him through the day, he will author our thoughts, words, and actions in ways that draw others to himself.

What I do for those I love

I have learned that the more I love someone, the more I want to please them and the more I want others to know them. Frederick Buechner noted: “To sacrifice something is to make it holy by giving it away for love.”

What will you make holy for Jesus today?

Upwords; Max Lucado –The Nail of God

Listen to Today’s Devotion

God has penned a list of our faults. The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered; the sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by his hand; those down the list are covered by his blood. Your sins are blotted out by Jesus. The Bible says, “He has forgiven you all your sins: he has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14 Phillips).

He knew the source of those sins was you. And since he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, Jesus himself chose the nails. The hand is the hand of God. The nail is the nail of God. And as the hands of Jesus open for the nail, the doors of heaven open for you.