In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Biggest Mistake

John 3:1-4

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made? Many people may not recognize their greatest error until after death, when their expectation of life in heaven is replaced by the horrible reality that they are denied entrance for rejecting Christ.

Nicodemus was a man who had built his life on knowing and doing the right things. As a Sanhedrin member—one of the highest ranks for a Pharisee—he appeared incredibly righteous from man’s perspective. Surely he was destined for heaven. What a shock it must have been when Jesus said the only way to see the kingdom of God was to be born again. Nicodemus hadn’t done anything to be born physically, and now he was being told there was nothing he could do to be born again, either. And no matter how many good deeds he had done, they could never get him into the kingdom of God.

The false belief that we can earn our way to heaven is still prevalent today. Churches are filled with people who think they are saved by participating in religious activities and living a moral life. But if we believe this lie, we will be greatly disappointed after death. The only way to be saved from eternal disaster is to be born again by believing in Jesus.  

Bible in One Year: 2 Kings 13-15

Our Daily Bread — At Our Worst

Bible in a Year:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Ephesians 4:20–32

“She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” This sentence, pronounced by Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is the reason I will never forget that novel and its impact on me. Because after reading that one sentence, I firmly decided I would never like Mr. Darcy.

But I was wrong. Like Austen’s character Elizabeth Bennet, I had the humbling experience of slowly—and quite reluctantly—changing my mind. Like her, I’d been unwilling to get to know Darcy’s character as a whole; I preferred to hang onto my reaction to one of his worst moments. After finishing the novel, I wondered who I’d made that same mistake with in the real world. What friendships had I missed because I wouldn’t let go of a snap judgment?

At the heart of faith in Jesus is the experience of being seen, loved, and embraced by our Savior—at our worst (Romans 5:81 John 4:19). It’s the wonder of realizing we can surrender our old, false selves for who we truly are in Christ (Ephesians 4:23–24). And it’s the joy of understanding that we are no longer alone but part of a family, a “body” of those learning to walk the “way of love”—real, unconditional love (5:2).

When we remember what Christ has done for us (v. 2), how can we not long to see others the way He sees us?

By:  Monica La Rose

Reflect & Pray

Why do you think you sometimes cling to negative judgments about others? What experiences have you had of “being wrong” about someone?

God, it’s really hard, sometimes, to let go of that impulse to judge and compare, to resist that need to see myself as better than others. Help me to grasp, deep in my heart, the truth that I don’t need to compete and that I am loved.

Joyce Meyer – Discover and Use Your Gifts

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…and before you were born I consecrated you.

— Jeremiah 1:5 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Healing the Soul of a Woman – by Joyce Meyer

One of the things that happens as God heals your soul is that you begin to see yourself as He sees you. You receive His love in new ways, and you realize that He has made you special and that He has a unique purpose for your life. God has gifted you to fulfill His purpose for your life, but if you are like a lot of people, you may not have recognized your gifts. When we are in pain in our soul, sometimes all we can focus on is what seems wrong about us. It can be difficult to see what is good and right about us. As God begins to heal our mind, will, and emotions, we find it easier to think about positive things and even recognize positive aspects of ourselves.

I encourage you to start asking God to show you something special about the way He has made you. To some people, He has given a very tender, compassionate heart. Some He has made able to lead others effectively, while others He has created to be excellent followers. Some can cook, some can sew, and some cannot do those things, but they can do other things. To some, He has given a gift of being able to communicate clearly, to teach, to make scientific discoveries, or to write beautiful music.

Only you can discover all the ways He has made you unique as an individual. Romans 12:6–8 talks about giving ourselves to our gifts. In other words, we are to find out what things we are good at and then devote ourselves wholeheartedly to exercising those gifts.

People usually enjoy doing what they are gifted to do. Some people feel they are not good at anything, but that is not true. When we make an effort to do what others are good at doing, we often fail because we are not gifted for those things; but that does not mean we are good for nothing. We should look for what we are good at and do that. As we do what God has created and gifted us to do, we find joy and fulfillment in life.

People who are secure and confident in God know that God has created them to be unique and that they have a special purpose. They realize that He loves them and has a plan for them, and they see no need to compare themselves to others, which is very freeing. I encourage you to be secure enough to enjoy what other people can do and to enjoy what you can do, but never try to be anyone except yourself. Say positive things about yourself instead of negative things because that will help release the gifts God has placed in you.

Prayer Starter: Thank you, Lord, for giving me gifts and talents. I know I may not be good at everything, but that’s okay. I’m good at what You made me to be good at. Thank you, Jesus! Amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Remember Me

Do this in remembrance of me.

 1 Corinthians 11:24

It appears that Christians may forget Christ! There would be no need for this loving exhortation if there were not a fearful possibility that our memories might prove treacherous. Nor is this an empty notion: It is, sadly too well confirmed in our experience, not as a possibility, but as a lamentable fact. It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb and loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God could forget that gracious Savior; but if startling to the ear, sadly it is too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the crime. Forget Him who never forgot us! Forget Him who poured His blood out for our sins! Forget Him who loved us even to death! Can it be possible? Yes, it is not only possible, but conscience confesses that it is too sadly a fault with all of us that we treat Him as a stranger, like an overnight guest. Instead of Him being a permanent resident in our memories, we treat Him as a visitor. The cross where one would expect that memory would linger and disinterest would be an unknown intruder is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness.

Doesn’t your conscience say that this is true? Don’t you find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Some other love steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of Him upon whom your affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you ought to be fixed steadily upon the cross. It is the incessant turmoil of the world, the constant attraction of earthly things, that takes the soul away from Christ. While memory works to preserve a poisonous weed, it allows the rose of Sharon to wither. Let us charge ourselves to tie a heavenly forget-me-not around our hearts for Jesus our Beloved, and whatever else we let slip, let us hold tight to Him.

One-Year Bible Reading Plan

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is with You in the Dark

 “If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” (Psalm 139:11-12)

Are you afraid of the dark? It is easy to feel afraid at night, isn’t it? The dark makes everything look a little bit different. When Eileen was a little girl, she used to worry that there was a robber or maybe even a bear hiding in her closet. Eileen sometimes felt afraid that her toys would come to life after she went to sleep! Things that she and her family would laugh about during the day would start to seem very real and frightening when the sun went down and things got dark.

God is not afraid of the dark. These verses from Psalm 139 tell us that He can see just as well in the dark as He can in the light! In fact, night is just as bright as day to Him. Nothing can be hidden from Him, not even in the darkest dark. And that includes you!

Did you know that fear is a sin? God does not want His children to be controlled by fear (Romans 8:15; 2 Timothy 1:7). Fear takes our minds off the powerful, loving God who is greater than anything that could ever hurt us. If you are God’s child, you could trust Him to take care of you, even if there really were a robber or a bear in your room!

Next time you get ready to go to sleep, ask your mom, dad, brother, or sister to read Psalm 139 to you right before the light goes out. Then lie there and think about what it says. God is with you all the time. He is with you in the dark. He sees you. He knows your fears. He wants you to turn away from your fears and think about Him. He wants you to learn to trust Him–even in the dark.

God sees you and takes care of you in the dark.

My Response:
» Am I trusting God to take care of me when I lie down to sleep at night?
» When I do feel afraid, what are some ways I can remind myself of God’s watchful care over me?

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Denison Forum -Fresh off another Oscar win, Pixar looking to cast its first openly transgender character: How should we respond?

Pixar Animation Studios has become perhaps the most preeminent name in children’s entertainment. They have been a mainstay at the Oscars for more than two decades and, this year, developed two of the five movies nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. Soul took home the award, becoming the eleventh such Pixar property to do so.

The success of their recent offerings is not the only reason they are in the news today, however.

Last week, word began to circulate that they were looking to cast someone to voice the character Jess in an upcoming project. Jess is described as someone who is “compassionate, funny, and always has your back.” They are looking for a 12–17-year-old who is “enthusiastic, outgoing, funny, and energetic” who also feels “comfortable acting in front of a microphone” and can “authentically portray a 14-year-old transgender girl.”

If that last part caught you by surprise, that’s kind of the point.

As of this writing, we don’t know much about the character’s role, the size of the part, or even if the project will be a feature-length or short film. But when it airs, Jess will become the first openly transgender character in a Pixar project. And while the company started heading this direction by including the first openly homosexual character in Onward last year—a cyclops cop named Officer Specter—it’s still a big step that caught many by surprise.

So how should we respond to this news?

To answer that question well requires looking at the issue on a couple of different levels.

Know what you don’t know

To start, it’s important to acknowledge what we don’t know.

As referenced above, Pixar has not given details on the size and prominence of the transgender character’s role, but history would seem to indicate it will be minor. The homosexual cop in Onward had one scene in the movie, and the only reason her sexual orientation was revealed is that a quick line mentioned her “girlfriend.”

When news broke that the live-action Beauty and the Beast would include a “gay moment,” many quickly denounced the film and called for its boycott. To this day, it’s not completely clear when that moment occurred, and the most likely scene is when two men bump into each other on the dance floor at the conclusion of the film.

My point in referencing both of those examples is this: if word had not leaked prior to the screening of each movie that they would contain a homosexual character, most people—and almost every child—who watched it would have never noticed.

It’s unclear if Jess’ transgender identity will be clearly noticeable, but it seems likely that at least part of the reason the story is making the rounds now is so that when it actually occurs, people will be looking for it.

The inclusion of characters in children’s programs who overtly embrace a lifestyle that runs counter to God’s truth as revealed in the Bible should not be taken lightly. The first such instances are often a test to see how far companies can push the limits before it begins to hurt their bottom line.

At the same time, the reaction—and overreaction—from Christians to announcements of LGBTQ characters in the past has often done more to publicize and advance that agenda than if a more measured approach had been taken. Blanket outrage usually does little more than temporarily rile up those who already agree with you, only to then make it seem like that anger was misplaced if the reality ends up being relatively minor and otherwise difficult to notice.

Let’s not make the same mistake this time.

There’s no harm in waiting for more information before deciding how you will react. In fact, far greater harm is likely to come if you don’t.

Should you see the film?

But while we wait for more information, many of us will already begin struggling with whether or not we will see the film when it’s released.

As the parent of two kids who are most likely going to want to see this movie, this discussion hits pretty close to home. And while there’s a lot that goes into that decision, ultimately there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Just be sure to include God in the discussion as, if you are open to his guidance and committed to following it, he will let you know what to do.

What we should not do, however, is pretend that shielding kids from a single film will shield them from the broader issue.

The days when it was safe to simply hand your child the TV remote and walk away ended a long time ago. While Pixar may be the biggest name in the children’s entertainment business to recently go down this path, they are far from the first. Fortunately, a quick Google search is usually enough to learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

While researching parental reviews for children’s programming may seem strange, it’s becoming an essential part of the parenting—and grandparenting—experience. After all, it’s worth taking an extra two minutes before telling your kids yes to help protect them from material they may not be old enough to process well.

And if they are old enough to have those conversations, perhaps viewing a film as a family could offer a better introduction than waiting for school or friends to have the first word on the subject.

Reacting with wisdom

Tony Evans once said that “wisdom may be defined as the ability to take spiritual truth and consistently apply it to life’s realities.”

As we prayerfully search for ways to respond well to the increasing attempts to render spiritual truth secondary to cultural norms, it will be of even greater importance to seek wisdom to apply God’s word to life’s realities in a way that is both relevant and faithful to Scripture. 

Pixar’s latest project could be a great opportunity to practice that wisdom in your family, with your friends, and on your social media. But as you do, remember that wisdom and outrage seldom coexist well. One usually ends up dominating the other.

Which will you choose today?

Upwords; Max Lucado –Glory Days Await

Listen to Today’s Devotion

God has a promised land for you to take. I sat across the table from a man in midlife misery. He described his life with words like stuck and rut and stalled. He’s a Christian, but he can’t tell you the last time he defeated a temptation or experienced an answered prayer. Twenty years into his faith he fights the same battles he was fighting the day he came to Christ. It’s as if the door to spiritual growth has a lock and everyone has a key but him.

Joshua 21:43 says, “So the Lord gave Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give…and they took possession of it and dwelt in it.” The Promised Land! God’s vision for your life. Yours for the taking. Expect to be challenged—the enemy won’t go down without a fight. But your glory days await you.