In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Blessing of Grace

Ephesians 2:4-10

Why did God save you? Was it because of His love for you, His mercy for your helpless condition, His desire to rescue you from hell, or His providential choice? All of these answers—along with many others—are correct. But do you know what God’s ultimate reason for salvation is?

According to today’s passage, He saved us “so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). We are not the shining stars of salvation; God is. He saved us in order to display His grace, which is His undeserved favor toward us.

God didn’t bestow grace on us at the moment of salvation, only to leave us on our own to live the Christian life as best we can. No, He lavishes it on us every day of our life. Through Scripture, His grace instructs us how to live righteously in this present age, and it empowers us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires (Titus 2:11-12).

Once God extends His favor to us through Christ, He will never take it away. We are saved by grace, we live in grace, and we will be recipients of it throughout eternity.

Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 13-16

Our Daily Bread — Sharing Jesus

Bible in a Year:

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Isaiah 12:4

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Isaiah 12

Shortly after Dwight Moody (1837–99) came to faith in Christ, the evangelist resolved not to let a day pass without sharing God’s good news with at least one person. On busy days, he’d sometimes forget his resolution until late. One night, he was in bed before he remembered. As he stepped outside, he thought, No one will be out in this pouring rain. Just then he saw a man walking down the street. Moody rushed over and asked to stand under his umbrella to avoid the rain. When granted permission, he asked, “Have you any shelter in the time of storm? Could I tell you about Jesus?”

Moody embodied a readiness to share how God saves us from the consequences of our sins. He obeyed God’s instructions to the Israelites to proclaim His name and “make known among the nations what he has done” (Isaiah 12:4). Not only were God’s people called to “proclaim that his name is exalted” (v. 4), but they were also to share how He had “become [their] salvation” (v. 2). Centuries later, our call remains to tell the wonders of Jesus becoming a man, dying on the cross, and rising again.

Perhaps we heard about God’s love when, as Moody did, someone left their comfort zone to talk with us about Jesus. And we too, each in our own way, can let someone know about the One who saves.

By:  Amy Boucher Pye

Reflect & Pray

What has God done in your life that you can share with another? How has He equipped you to present the good news?

Jesus, thank You for setting me free from my sins. Help me to be ready to tell others of Your good news.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Rejecting the World

“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

The world is opposed to everything God stands for.

Loving the world begins with thinking that God doesn’t know what’s best for you and is trying to cheat you out of something you deserve. That thought soon blossoms into a willingness to disregard God’s warnings altogether and take whatever Satan has to offer.

Love of the world started in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day. Genesis 3:6 says, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” What made them think the fruit was good for food or able to make them wise? God didn’t tell them that. In fact, He warned them that they would die if they ate the fruit (Gen. 2:17). But Eve believed the serpent’s lie and Adam followed suit.

Satan continues to propagate his lies but you needn’t fall prey to them if you love God and remember that the world is opposed to everything He stands for. It is spiritually dead; void of the Spirit (John 14:17); morally defiled; and dominated by pride, greed, and evil desires. It produces wrong opinions, selfish aims, sinful pleasures, demoralizing influences, corrupt politics, empty honors, and fickle love.

You can’t love the world and God at the same time because love knows no rivals. It gives its object first place. If you love God, He will have first place in your life. If you love the world, the love of the Father isn’t in you (1 John 2:15).

Galatians 1:3-5 explains that Jesus “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore.” Christ died to deliver us from Satan’s evil system. What greater motivation could there be to reject the world and live to God’s glory?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for greater wisdom and grace to resist the world’s influences.

For Further Study

According to Ephesians 6:10-18, how can you as a believer protect yourself against Satan’s evil system?

Joyce Meyer – Trust God Completely

He who observes the wind [and waits for all conditions to be favorable] will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

— Ecclesiastes 11:4 (AMPC)

How deeply can we trust others? How much of ourselves do we give to others, and how vulnerable are we to them? I suppose the answers to these questions are as varied as the different situations. But considering the questions is definitely food for thought. Those of us who have been hurt by trusting too much tend to pull back when we get into certain situations.

I was once involved with a group of women whom I dearly loved, but eventually I realized our relationship wasn’t healthy for them or for me. I had become too dependent on them, even placing a trust in them that belongs only to God. 

All of us know we’re supposed to place our ultimate trust only in the Lord. But sometimes we encounter individuals or groups who mean so much to us that we give too much of ourselves, or we allow them authority in our lives that belongs only to the Lord. When this happens, our lives are out of balance. And when we get out of balance, we open a door for the devil. 

The words from John’s gospel serve as an appropriate warning to us. He was speaking of the relationship Jesus had with His own beloved disciples. Jesus knew how much—and how little—He could trust even those who were closest to Him. He understood human nature, something all of us have. 

Jesus knew that we, too, would need discernment about trusting others, so He sent His Holy Spirit to guide us and to let us know who we could trust. In 1 Corinthians 12:10, the apostle Paul referred to the spiritual gift called the discerning of spirits, and in verse 31, he urged us to earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts…(AMPC). One of these “great gifts” is discernment, and it helps us distinguish between good and bad, not just bad. 

True spiritual discernment motivates us to pray when a problem is identified. A genuine problem being discerned by a genuine gift will follow the scriptural plan for dealing with it, not fleshly ways that only exaggerate the problem. As we walk closely with God and ask for His guidance, the Spirit will provide it. 

As I mentioned earlier, some seem to have the “gift” of suspicion, and it comes out of an unrenewed mind. Discernment, on the other hand, is the fruit of a renewed spirit.

The book of Acts provides a good example of the discernment and trust issue. The Scriptures describe a couple named Ananias and Sapphira, who were members of the first church in Jerusalem. In those days, believers sold their possessions and shared them with others. This couple sold some land, kept part of the money, and brought the remainder to Peter. That was alright because it was their money. But only giving part of the money and then leading Peter to believe it was all they had earned from the sale of their property was not all right. 

But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart that you should lie to and attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit and should [in violation of your promise] withdraw secretly and appropriate to your own use part of the price from the sale of the land (Acts 5:3 AMPC). Peter pointed out that it was their land and their money. Their sin was in giving only part of the money and claiming it was everything. You have not [simply] lied to men [playing false and showing yourself utterly deceitful] but to God (v. 4b AMPC). 

Both the husband and wife died for that deception. As terrible as that story is, it shows us clearly that the Holy Spirit knows our hearts. And it also shows us that the Spirit can show the intent of our hearts to faithful, committed servants such as Peter through discernment. God wants us to love and trust others, but we need discernment to guide us. There is a line where our trust and commitment must be reserved only for the Lord. When we give that trust to others, not only will we be disappointed for no human can live up to our expectations, but we disappoint God.

So don’t make that mistake. It is wise to use discernment in loving and trusting others, but you will never go wrong by loving and trusting God completely.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I trust You, but I want to trust You even more. When I’m tempted to give the trust to others that only You deserve, please help me to be true to You. Help me, through Jesus Christ, to be sensitive to the leading of Your Holy Spirit, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Rich in Poverty, Strong in Weakness

And for my arm they wait.

Isaiah 51:5

In seasons of severe trial the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust, and so he is compelled to cast himself on God alone. When his vessel is capsizing, and no human deliverance is at hand, he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! Sometimes the multitude of our friends keeps us from God; but when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn, he runs into his Father’s arms, and is blessed to be there! When he is burdened with troubles so pressing and so specific that he cannot tell them to anyone but God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time.

Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble that drives you to your Father! Now that you have only God to trust, make sure that you put your complete confidence in Him. Do not dishonor your Lord and Master by unworthy doubts and fears; but be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Show the world that your God is worth ten thousand worlds to you. Show rich men how rich you are in your poverty when the Lord God is your helper. Show the strong man how strong you are in your weakness when underneath you are the everlasting arms. Now is the time for feats of faith and valiant exploits. Be strong and very courageous, and the Lord your God will certainly, as surely as He built the heavens and the earth, glorify Himself in your weakness and magnify His might in the face of your distress. The grandeur of heaven’s arches would be spoiled if the sky were supported by a single visible column, and your faith would lose its glory if it rested on anything discernible by the physical eye. May the Holy Spirit enable you to rest in Jesus on this closing day of the month.

C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – The LORD Disciplines His Loved Ones

“My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:5b-7)

Melody was playing an old vinyl record, listening to the story of the Three Little Pigs. She laughed at the part where the older, smarter brother-pig (the one who built his house out of bricks) was punishing his younger, silly brothers for their foolishness. They had made their houses out of straw and sticks, mostly so they would have more time left in the day to goof around. They mocked their brother for working all day.

The voice of the older-brother-pig was a gruff, matter-of-fact voice. Melody decided it was a great voice for that character. If she had not heard the beginning of the story, she would have thought he was being awfully mean to his little brothers. But now that she knew how silly they were, she began to wonder if he might be going too easy on them! He was always having to help them get out of trouble with the Big Bad Wolf!

How foolish the little pigs were! They thought their brother was boring and old-fashioned. They just wanted him to relax and play all day with them. They laughed at their brother for always worrying about danger and the Big Bad Wolf. All they could see was how he worked all day building a house that was safe, and he never wanted them to have any fun. They did not understand that he loved them and did not want the Big Bad Wolf to get them.

Do you take it seriously when God disciplines you? Do you understand what it means when He allows you to get in trouble for sins you wanted to hide? We should all be careful to respond rightly to our heavenly Father’s correction. He corrects us because He loves us.

No father who really loves his son will let him get away with doing foolish or dangerous things. Even when parents seem to worry too much, it is because they care. If they did not care, they would not spend the time to help us understand why other choices are better. If they did not care, they would not waste their energy talking to us or punishing us.

God is the best “Father” ever, because He is perfect. He knows what He is doing when He corrects us.

We need to respond rightly to God’s discipline, knowing that He corrects the ones He loves.

My Response:
» How do I react when God lets me get caught in a sin I wanted to hide?

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Denison Forum – Volunteer veterans save hundreds from the Taliban

Who are your heroes? Let me nominate a few more today.

An all-volunteer group of American veterans of the Afghanistan war launched a mission last Wednesday to shepherd hundreds of at-risk Afghan elite forces and their families to safety. ABC News reports that the group, dubbed the “Pineapple Express,” launched their rescue “after nightfall in near-pitch black darkness and extremely dangerous conditions.”

Working unofficially in tandem with the US military and American embassy, they moved people inside the wire of the US military-controlled side of Hamid Karzai International Airport. As of Thursday morning, the group said it had brought as many as five hundred Afghan special operators, assets, and enablers along with their families into the Kabul airport, handing each of them over to US military protective custody.

Their operation was an element of “Task Force Pineapple,” an informal group whose mission began August 15 as a frantic effort to rescue a former Afghan commando who had served with them and was being hunted by the Taliban. These current and former US special operators, aid workers, intelligence officers, and others with experience in Afghanistan ended up smuggling more than 130 people over ten days into the airport.

When we face an enemy more powerful than ourselves, we need the help of someone more powerful than our enemy.

This fact is true not only in Afghanistan but where you live as well.

Harvard’s atheist chief chaplain

By now, you’ve probably seen reports that Harvard University’s new chief chaplain is an atheist. Greg Epstein, who has been the university’s humanist chaplain since 2005, is author of the book Good Without God.

In a day of “angry atheists” such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, I expected such vitriol from him. But when I read his book a few years ago, I was impressed with his purpose:

“If this book accomplishes one thing for or on behalf of the billion nonreligious people, let it not be that we learn how better to convince others that there is no God, or that religion is evil. May we encourage more hospital visits by the nonreligious, both literally and metaphorically. May we do more good work together and build something positive in this world—the only world we will ever have. May we focus more on the ‘good’ than on the ‘without God.’”

Epstein is confident that nonreligious people can “build something positive in this world” because of his “informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals.” He adds, “The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.”

The thesis of his book and his work is simple: “We don’t look to a god for answers. We are each other’s answers.”

However, let’s ask Dr. Phil’s question: How’s that working for us?

A diplomat’s daughter beheaded in Pakistan

Officials in Louisiana have begun surveying the wreckage left by Hurricane Ida. At one point, more than a million people were without power. At least one death so far has been attributed to the storm. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Kate has formed in the Atlantic and constitutes the eleventh named storm in this busy hurricane season.

In Brazil, bank robbers strapped hostages to their getaway cars as human shields, targeting three different banks Monday and tying victims to the roofs and hoods of ten vehicles. The United Nations atomic agency is reporting that North Korea appears to have restarted its main nuclear reactor used to produce weapon fuels, openly threatening to enlarge its nuclear arsenal.

diplomat’s daughter was beheaded in Pakistan. A man in Uganda who had converted from Islam to Christianity was tied up and murdered by his father after refusing to forsake his faith in Jesus.

And stories of atrocities and violence continue to surface daily from Afghanistan. For example, a former interior minister reported that the Taliban “brutally killed” a popular folk singer days after claiming that “music is forbidden” in Islam. And a human rights group is warning that “an estimated ten thousand Christians, many of whom are ‘guilty’ of converting from Islam,” are at risk of being “targeted with deadly violence” in the country.

“Reproductive Freedom Congregations” in Texas

To repeat: when we face an enemy more powerful than ourselves, we need the help of someone more powerful than our enemy.

Yesterday, we identified ways you and I can help people facing the storms of life. Today, let’s identify the enemy behind these storms and the only One more powerful than he is.

Satan is the original terrorist. Jesus called him “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Speaking of the devil, our Lord warned us that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). When we see stealing and killing and destroying, we can know that our enemy is at work.

He is the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), the “prince of this world” (John 12:31), and the “deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Jesus declared: “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

This verse is especially relevant to the trials we face today: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

For example, Satan has so “blinded the minds” of ISIS and other jihadist groups that they think they are serving God by killing Christians. He has so blinded the minds of atheists like Greg Epstein that they think they can solve our most intractable problems without the help of an omnipotent God. He has so blinded the minds of postmodern secularists that they think “their truth” is “the truth.”

Satan can deceive those who claim to be Christians as well. For example, Religious News Service reports that “Reproductive Freedom Congregations” in Texas are “publicly declaring their support” for abortion. And stories about clergy accused of sexual abuse tragically make the news seemingly every day.

Four steps to spiritual victory

Satan is very real and very dangerous. For that reason, we’ll close with practical ways to win the spiritual battles we face. Let’s identify four essential principles.

One: Expect to be attacked.

Scripture warns: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). “Your” is addressed to Christians. If Jesus is your Lord, Satan is your adversary.

Two: Admit that you cannot defeat him in your strength.

The devil is better at tempting than we are at resisting. Just as he “deceived Eve by his cunning” (2 Corinthians 11:3), so he deceives and defeats those who try to withstand his assaults with human capacities.

Three: Surrender to the power of God.

This verse is key: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Note the order: submit and then you can resist.

And note God’s promise: when you submit to God and resist the devil, “he will flee from you.” There is no temptation you cannot defeat in the power of your Lord. His word is clear: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So begin every day by being “filled” with the Spirit (see this article for practical steps to take each morning). Then surrender your temptations and trials to the One who “is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Four: Turn temptation into immediate prayer.

Scripture warns us: “Do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). Here’s how: develop the reflex of taking your temptations instantly to God, submitting them to him and seeking the power of his Spirit.

Erasmus was right: Satan hates nothing so much as for his evil to be used for good. When you use temptations as opportunities for trust, you glorify your Lord and frustrate your enemy.

“Don’t let the storm turn you inward”

I just finished Max Lucado’s encouraging book, You Are Never Alone: Trust in the Miracle of God’s Presence and Power. Let’s close by claiming some of his insights about God’s provision and grace as our Father’s gifts to us today.

Max notes: “You’re stronger than you think because God is nearer than you know.” When we trust our temptations and challenges to our Lord, “Your problem becomes his pathway. The challenge you face becomes a canvas upon which Christ can demonstrate his finest work.”

As a result, he counsels, “Don’t let the storm turn you inward. Let it turn you upward.” But Max also reminds us that we must truly trust our storm to our Savior, warning us that “contingent faith is the faith of sidewalk chalk: it’s beautiful when the sun shines, but it washes away when the rain falls.”

And he also warns us against self-sufficiency that trusts more in ourselves than in our Lord, quoting Charles Spurgeon: “It is not our littleness that hinders Christ, but our bigness. It is not our weakness that hinders Christ; it is our strength. It is not our darkness that hinders Christ; it is our supposed light that holds back his hand.”

By contrast, Jesus is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). This “power at work within us” is the Holy Spirit who already indwells every Christian (1 Corinthians 3:20).

In other words, you already have within you all that you need to trust the God who is for you to defeat the enemy who attacks you.

My youth minister was right

You and I live in a world filled with spiritual conflict: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

My high school youth minister was right: we are either running into Satan or we are running with him.

There is no third option.

However, be encouraged: when you run into Satan, this means you are running with God.

With whom will you run today?

Upwords; Max Lucado – A Precise Prayer

A PRECISE PRAYER – August 31, 2021

Jesus will tailor a response to your precise need. He is not a fast-food cook. He is an accomplished chef who prepares unique blessings for unique situations. When the crowds of people came to Christ for healing, “One by one he placed his hands on them and healed them” (Luke 4:40 MSG).

Had Jesus chosen to do so, he could have proclaimed a cloud of healing blessings to fall upon the crowd. But he is not a one-size-fits-all Savior. He placed his hands on each one, individually, personally. Perceiving unique needs, he issued unique blessings.

A precise prayer gives Christ the opportunity to remove all doubt about his love and interest. Your problem becomes his pathway. The challenge you face becomes a canvas upon which Christ can demonstrate his finest work. So offer a simple prayer and entrust the problem to Christ.

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Dead Men Walking

Ephesians 2:1-5

Zombie movies are science fiction, but did you know that, spiritually speaking, there actually are dead men and women walking around on earth? They look like everyone else, but deep down inside, their spirit is dead. Truth be known, everyone begins life as a spiritual “zombie.”

Human beings are composed of a body by which they interact with the world around them, a soul with which they relate to themselves and others, and a spirit through which they can commune with God. If the spirit is dead in “trespasses and sins,” the person may still lead a successful earthly life, but he won’t be able to connect with God or make himself acceptable in the Lord’s sight. In that way, the dead can do nothing.

It’s easy to imagine how this is true of someone who has given himself fully to debasing sin. But sadly, there are many moral church-going folks who are spiritually dead even though they are externally religious. However, the good news is that no one has to stay dead. Whenever anyone turns from sin and trusts in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation, God in His mercy makes that person alive with Christ.

And the change is permanent. In John 5:24, Jesus Himself says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the one who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 10-12

Our Daily Bread — Mercy and Grace

Bible in a Year:

[Josiah] began to seek the God of his father David.

2 Chronicles 34:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

2 Chronicles 34:1–8

A stately sunflower stood on its own in the center of a lonely stretch of national highway, just a few feet from the fast lane. As I drove past, I wondered how it had grown there with no other sunflowers visible for miles. Only God could create a plant so hardy it could thrive so close to the roadway in the gray gravel lining the median. There it was, thriving, swaying gently in the breeze and cheerfully greeting travelers as they hurried by.

The Old Testament tells the story of a faithful king of Judah who also showed up unexpectedly. His father and grandfather had enthusiastically served other gods; but after Josiah had been in power for eight years, “while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David” (2 Chronicles 34:3). He sent workmen to “repair the temple of the Lord” (v. 8), and as they did they discovered the Book of the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament; v. 14). God then inspired Josiah to lead the entire nation of Judah to return to the faith of their ancestors, and they served the Lord “as long as [Josiah] lived” (v. 33).

Our God is the master of unanticipated mercies. He’s able to cause great good to spring up unexpectedly out of the hard gravel of life’s most unfavorable circumstances. Watch Him closely. He may do it again today.

By:  James Banks

Reflect & Pray

What mercies have you seen from God that you never anticipated? How does the thought that He’s able to bring about unexpected good give you hope today?

Heavenly Father, I praise You for never changing. Your mercies are “new every morning!” (Lamentations 3:23). Help me to look forward to what You have for me today.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Living One Day at a Time

“‘Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’” (Matthew 6:34).

The believer is not to worry about his future.

British pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Although it is very right to think about the future, it is very wrong to be controlled by it.” He was right, because worry is a tremendous force that will endeavor to defeat you. It will try to destroy you today by making you upset and anxious. But if it loses today, it will take you into the future until it finds something to make you worry about. In Matthew 6:34 Jesus says that you have enough to deal with today. Take the resources of today for the needs of today, or you will lose the joy of today.

Lack of joy is a sin too. Many people lose their joy because of worry about tomorrow, and they miss the victory God gives them today. That is not fair to Him. God gives you a glorious and blissful day today; live in the light and fullness of the joy of that day, and use the resources God supplies. Don’t push yourself into the future and forfeit the joy of today over some tomorrow that may never happen. Learn this one little statement: fear is a liar. It will cause you to lose the joy of today. What’s more, God gives strength for only one day at a time. He doesn’t give you grace for tomorrow until tomorrow.

When the Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8), it means He will be doing the same thing tomorrow that He was doing yesterday. If you have any questions about the future, look at the past. Did He sustain you then? He will sustain you in the future. Since there is no past, present, or future with Him, there is no need for you to worry.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for being the same yesterday, today, and forever.

For Further Study

Read Lamentations 3:21-24.

  • What never ceases and never fails (v. 22)?
  • What does that say about God (v. 23)?
  • What does that give you (v. 21)?

Joyce Meyer – Facing Unexpected Storms

And a furious storm of wind [of hurricane proportions] arose, and the waves kept beating into the boat, so that it was already becoming filled.

— Mark 4:37 (AMPC)

Not all storms are in the forecast. I once started a four-session teaching seminar, and after the first session, I noticed I had a sore throat. Each session it got worse, and by the final one I sounded like a squeaky mouse! Having very little voice power and facing a few thousand people who have come to hear you speak is not fun.

Things don’t always work out the way we would like them to, but it is during those times that we need to continue trusting God and believe that He will work good out of our difficulty. I was teaching on the topic “Running Our Race and Finishing Strong,” which is rather humorous if you think about it! I decided to squeak through the final message, and it turned out better than it would have if I had been completely well.

Don’t get distracted by the storms of life. Stay focused and do what you need to do whether it is easy or difficult. The more we use our faith, the stronger it will become!

Prayer Starter: Father, I thank You for Your strength in my weakness. When stormy circumstances come, help me stay focused on You and Your will for me.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Patience in Affliction

Wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:14

It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures that a Christian soldier cannot learn without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier for God’s warriors than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desiring to serve the Lord, does not know what role to play. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Retreat back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption? No, simply wait. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God, and spread the matter before Him; tell Him your difficulty, and plead His promise of help.

In dilemmas between one duty and another, it is best to be humble as a child and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord. It is sure to be well with us when we feel and know our own folly and are genuinely willing to be guided by the will of God. But wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in Him; for unfaithful, untrusting waiting is just an insult to the Lord. Believe that if He keeps you waiting even until midnight, He will still come at the right time; the vision will come and not delay. Wait in quiet patience, not rebelling because things are difficult, but blessing your God for the privilege of affliction.

Never grumble against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses; never wish you could go back to the world again, but accept the circumstance as it is, and put it as it stands, simply and with your whole heart, without any selfish agenda, into the hand of your covenant God, saying, “Now, Lord, not my will, but Yours be done. I do not know what to do. I am at an end of myself, but I will wait until You part the floods or drive back my enemies. I will wait, even if You test me for a while, for my heart is fixed upon You alone, O God, and my spirit waits for You in the deep conviction that You will still be my joy and my salvation, my refuge and my strong tower.”

C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is the Giver of All Life

“But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Timothy 6:11-14)

Jesse looked at his brand new little sister through the hospital’s nursery window. He could not believe that he was a big brother now. A nurse had taken a picture of him with the baby and Mom and Dad. Jesse thought Zoey was a great name, and easy to spell. She had not cried when they put her in his arms, and he held very still so she would not get upset. She was very quiet, light, and fragile – like a China doll. And she was so tiny. Her little foot could fit into the palm of his hand!

Jesse’s mom and dad had told him their reasons for choosing the name “Zoey.” They told him that God is the One Who gives life, and “Zoey” is like the Greek word for “life.” They had prayed a long time for a daughter (Jesse had been praying for a sister, too); and, since God had given her life, they wanted to name her “Zoey.”

The word “quicken” means “to give life,” or “to bring to life.” God was the One Who created Adam and Eve in the beginning, and He still gives life today. The Bible teaches that our “times” are in His hands, and that He can give or take away life. What a great God we must have! Humans do not have that kind of power. Jesse could not have snapped his fingers and gotten a little sister – he had to pray for her and wait for God to give life. God is the One Who gives all physical life.

God is the Giver of all eternal life, too. No normal human being has ever been able to raise himself from the dead like Jesus Christ did. Jesus could do that because Jesus is God. No normal human being has the power to take people to heaven, but Jesus Christ did. He even described Himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He said that nobody could come to God the Father except through Jesus Himself, God the Son.

In I Timothy 6:11-14, the apostle Paul is writing to Timothy about what kind of Christian man he should be. He tells Timothy to run away from wickedness and temptation. He tells Timothy to try to be righteous, godly, faithful, loving, patient, and meek. In other words, Paul is encouraging Timothy to “lay hold on eternal life” and to live this earthly life in a right way. He gives Timothy a “charge” (command) to do these things in God’s sight, and reminds him that God is the One Who brings all things to life.

Maybe Timothy wondered how it could be possible for any human being to live such a holy life as Paul was charging him to live. But he knew that God is the Giver of all life, not just his physical life, but his eternal life. God is a great God, and we can ask Him to help us when we need physical or spiritual help. Are you having trouble believing that you can live rightly? Are you having trouble waiting for God to take care of something you need? Keep praying, like Jesse and his family prayed for Zoey. Keep trusting in the God of the Bible. He is the same God Who gives life to a little baby. And He is the same God Who cared enough to give a way for human sinners to live with Him forever. If He is able to give all life and take care of all living things, then He is worthy of your trust and obedience.

God is the Giver of all life, so it makes sense to trust and obey Him.

My Response:
» How has God shown me in my life that He is the Giver of all life?
» What should I do when I am tempted to be doubtful of God, or to be unloving or impatient with people?

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Denison Forum – The latest on Hurricane Ida: Five ways to join God in redeeming disaster

Dawn broke yesterday over the Hurricane Katrina memorial on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. The granite cross was erected in 2006 beside a plaque engraved with the names of 163 people who lost their lives to the storm in this area. Each year on August 29, a remembrance ceremony is held here.

I wonder if those who built the memorial and those who made a pilgrimage to it every year thereafter imagined that another monster storm would come ashore in the same place on the same day.

Hurricane Ida swept ashore near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, yesterday afternoon as a devastating Category 4 hurricane. With winds of 150 mph, it tied as the state’s most powerful storm with Laura from last year and the Last Island Hurricane of 1856.

All of New Orleans is without power this morning as the storm continues marching northward through Louisiana. It has weakened to a tropical storm, but life-threatening flash flooding is continuing.

This devastation feels personal to me. I was honored earlier this year to deliver the keynote address for the second time at the Louisiana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. I have been privileged to pray personally with Gov. John Bel Edwards and know the governor and his wife to be people of deep personal faith. Many of the religious leaders in the state have become personal friends.

Undoubtedly you know the frustrating impotence of wanting to help friends and loved ones face suffering beyond our capacity to remedy. The loss of a spouse, parent, or child; a diagnosis of terminal disease; the collapse of a marriage—there are storms we cannot calm and broken hearts we cannot mend.

When the two collide, what are we to do? What are some biblical ways we can help friends in a hurricane?

One: Be prepared.

Because of the Fall, “the whole creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22). You and I inhabit broken bodies on a broken planet.

As a result, the first step to helping people in storms is to expect and prepare for storms.

My wife’s parents retired from Houston, Texas, to a farm they built in northern Arkansas. When they built their house, they also built a tornado shelter. When they stocked their kitchen, they stocked their shelter. They knew that the only time to prepare for a storm is before it arrives.

If you doubt the urgency of preparing for disaster, just read today’s news.

For example, the remains of thirteen fallen American heroes were brought home from Afghanistan yesterday. Marine Corp Sgt. Nicole L. Gee was one of them. The bombing killed her six days after the Pentagon tweeted a picture of her cradling an Afghan infant in her arms in Kabul. Gee reposted that photo on Instagram with the caption, “I love my job.”

President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden met with a number of family members present at Dover Air Force Base for the transfer. If you were the president, what would you say to them?

The US is projected to see nearly one hundred thousand more COVID-19 deaths between now and December 1. Seventeen-year-old Jo’Keria Graham was one victim, dying of COVID-19 just a few days before she was to start her senior year of high school. Louisiana hospitals anticipating victims of Hurricane Ida are already packed with patients from the latest coronavirus surge.

Physician Mona Amin told a reporter, “Children are getting hospitalized at higher rates than we’ve ever seen.” She added: “As this Delta variant surges, we are also seeing children of vaccinated parents get admitted for hospitalization for COVID.”

What would you say to their parents?

Two: Be empowered.

Christ the Redeemer will soon have a rival: Christ the Protector. The former is an iconic 125-foot statue of Jesus overlooking Rio de Janeiro; the latter is a 140-foot statue under construction seven hundred miles to the south.

The Wall Street Journal describes Christ the Protector as “one of about three dozen giant statues of Jesus that have been constructed around the world during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” The tallest is a 253-foot statue of Jesus planned in Tamaulipas, Mexico, though so far the project has stalled.

The article explains their popularity: “Even the nonreligious can find solace in a benevolent figure who expresses protection and welcoming.”

Here’s the good news: you can experience such “protection and welcoming” from the real Jesus right now. And you can pray for his compassion for hurting souls to empower your own.

Unlike other religious figures venerated through statues and idols around the world, our Savior has experienced the pain he now redeems. He walked through the same terrifying storm from which he spared Peter (Matthew 14:22–31). He suffered the same hunger, thirst, weariness, and pain he now helps us endure. He faced the temptations he empowers us to defeat (Hebrews 4:15–16).

In God Will Help You, Max Lucado writes: “When we feel lonely, knowing someone understands can make all the difference. You can be surrounded by people but still feel lonely if you don’t feel known. And you can be alone but not lonely if you are known. God became flesh so we would always feel known by him” (his emphasis).

Now we can seek his heart for the hurting people we know.

Our Savior is praying right now for the victims of Hurricane Ida, the crisis in Afghanistan, the coronavirus pandemic, and untold other calamities (Romans 8:34). Join your Savior by asking him for his heart for hurting hearts today.

Three: Be present.

My father suffered a near-fatal heart attack when I was two years old. He was then a heart patient for all the years I knew him before dying ten days before Christmas during my senior year of college.

The events surrounding his death were and are a blur to me. I remember virtually nothing about Dad’s memorial service, burial, and the days before and after.

But I will always remember a friend from college who drove across Houston the day after Dad’s death to spend the day with me. He did not speak a word that I recall. But his unconditional presence felt to me like the presence of Jesus.

That’s because it was. It’s nearly unbelievable but steadfastly true: Christians are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are the visible manifestation of Jesus’ continuing ministry in our world. When we are present with people in their suffering, Jesus is present with them in their suffering.

After we pray in the spirit of Christ, we can answer our prayers by being the presence of Christ.

If you’re in crisis, my first inclination as a trained theologian is to theologize with you. If you’ll sit quietly for a while, I’ll explain to you how the Augustinian free-will theodicy relates to the fall of creation and the hurricanes and other disasters that result. I’ll tell you how Irenaeus’ soul-building model is relevant to your pain, then I’ll outline the eschatological and existential approaches favored by some scholars.

My college friend would sit at your side. When you’re in the storm, which approach would you prefer?

Some doctors treat diseases; other doctors treat patients. When your friend is in the storm, be the latter.

Four: Be prayerful.

What about those with whom you cannot be present?

Though I have been to Louisiana many times over the years, I cannot safely go to its devastated cities and towns this morning. But my prayers can.

I have never been to Afghanistan. I am not invited to the military funerals of our heroes killed there last week. I cannot stand alongside those who are risking their lives for us and those who are grieving for the fallen. But my prayers can.

I cannot be with the family and friends of veteran actor Ed Asner after his death yesterday at the age of ninety-one. I cannot safely visit a COVID-19 ward or fight wildfires in the West.

But my prayers can.

What about those whose suffering is largely their fault? Oswald Chambers was right: “Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.”

God’s word counsels us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, my emphases). As you read the news, pray the news. And pray for the mind and heart of Christ in the power of the Spirit to guide you as you pray.

Five: Be practical.

Texas Baptist Men is the third-largest voluntary disaster relief organization in the US, after the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Their courageous initiative models the best of Christian benevolence.

When others run from disaster, they run to it.

Today is an example. Volunteers are headed to Louisiana this morning in multiple teams, bringing a large kitchen team and a chainsaw team as part of their relief efforts. My wife and I have already donated to their efforts; you can join us here. You can also support the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and other organizations as they mobilize to help.

God’s word is clear: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10, my emphasis).

What “gift” have you received?

Whom will you serve with it today?

“Sore must be the storm”

Are you prepared for the storms you will face today? Empowered by Jesus’ compassion? Present? Prayerful? Practical?

Emily Dickinson wrote:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet—never—in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of me.

But it does. Hope asks more than a “crumb” of us—it asks us to give it to everyone in “the Gale” today.

Will someone be glad tomorrow that you read this article today?

Upwords; Max Lucado – Take Your Needs to Jesus

TAKE YOUR NEEDS TO JESUS – August 30, 2021

Jesus was attending a wedding with the disciples and his mother, Mary, when she approached him with a seemingly irrelevant problem. “‘They have no more wine,’ she told him” (John 2:3). Mary presented the problem, Jesus commanded a solution, and the wineless wedding was suddenly wine flush. And we are left with this message: our diminishing supplies, no matter how insignificant, matter to heaven.

Listen, if Jesus was willing to use divine clout to solve a social faux pas, how much more would he be willing to intervene on the weightier matters of life? He wants you to know that you can take your needs—all your needs—to him. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Growing Faith

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4

Faith isn’t a one-time event with the single purpose of ushering us into salvation. Sadly, some Christians never progress beyond this initial level of faith. But God wants our relationship with Him to continually grow.

Willingness to trust the Lord affects every area of our life—how we feel, what we do, the way He blesses us. In some ways, it comes down to our focus: When you face difficulties or heartbreak, do you notice the impossibility of the circumstances, or do you see the greatness of our Father? Another way to ask the question is, Whose voice are you listening to?

Our focus also affects our emotions. Those who choose to believe God experience peace and joy. But when we doubt, it’s easier for anxiety and fear to creep in. Then, instead of resting in Christ, we fuss and fume, trying to anticipate all possible outcomes and solve problems in our own strength.

We need to realize that our faith is of utmost importance to God, and He takes joy in seeing it grow. He can move heaven and earth to act on our behalf and answer our prayers—and He delights in our choosing to believe that. By trusting Him, we will discover new excitement and adventure in life. We’ll also see that our Father is always faithful.

Bible in One Year: Lamentations 3-5

Our Daily Bread — Heeding the Warnings

Bible in a Year:

Whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Matthew 10:33

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 10:1–7, 32–33

When a pickpocket tried to pilfer my property while I was on vacation in another country, it wasn’t a surprise. I’d read warnings about the danger of subway thieves, so I knew what to do to protect my wallet. But I never expected it to happen.

Fortunately, the young man who grabbed my wallet had slippery fingers, so it fell to the floor where I could retrieve it. But the incident reminded me that I should have heeded the warnings.

We don’t like to dwell on warnings because we think they’ll get in the way of enjoying life, but it’s imperative to pay attention to them. For instance, Jesus gave us a clear warning while sending out His disciples to proclaim God’s coming kingdom (Matthew 10:7). He said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (vv. 32–33).

We have a choice. In love, God provided a Savior and a plan for us to be in His presence for eternity. But if we turn away from God and choose to reject His message of salvation and the real life He offers for both now and forever, we lose out on the opportunity to be with Him.

May we trust in Jesus, the One who chose to save us from being eternally separated from the One who loves and made us.

By:  Dave Branon

Reflect & Pray

Why is rejecting Jesus such a serious thing? How have you chosen to respond to His call?

Heavenly Father, thank You for providing salvation through Jesus. And thank You for sending warnings to remind me of the importance of putting my faith in Him.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – A Lesson from Nature

“‘Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?’” (Matthew 6:26).

If God provides for the birds, how much more will He provide for you.

I can imagine our Lord standing on a hillside in Galilee, looking down over the beautiful north end of the sea, the breeze rippling across the water, the sun bright in the sky. The people were all gathered at His feet. As He was speaking to them, some birds might have flown across the sky.

Our Lord gives life to every bird of the sky and also sustains each one. He doesn’t say to the birds, “I have given you life; now you figure out how to keep it.” And birds don’t get together and say, “We have to come up with a strategy to keep ourselves alive.” Birds have no self-consciousness, no cognitive processes, no ability to reason. But God has given them an instinct so that they have a divine capacity to find what is necessary to live. God doesn’t just create life—He also sustains it.

In Matthew 6:26 Jesus asked the people, “Are you not worth much more than [the birds]?” He was arguing from the lesser to the greater. No bird was ever created in the image of God or designed to be a joint-heir with Christ throughout eternity. Jesus was saying, “If God sustains the life of a bird (the lesser), don’t you think He will take care of you (the greater)?” God’s provision, of course, is no excuse for man’s laziness. A bird has to work for its food, and you have to work for yours. That’s because God has designed that man should eat bread by the sweat of his face (cf. Gen. 3:19). If you don’t work, you don’t eat (cf. 2 Thess. 3:10). Just as God provides for the bird through its instinct, so God will provide for you through your effort.

Suggestions for Prayer

When you see the birds of the air, remind yourself of the Lord’s teaching, and thank Him for His faithfulness to you.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 104, which tells of God’s care over all His creation.

Joyce Meyer – You Have Everything You Need to Enjoy a Great Life

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises…

— 2 Peter 1:3–4 (ESV)

The apostle Peter teaches us that God’s power provides us with everything we need to live and enjoy a godly life, and He has granted us all His promises. This means that everything you need for the healing and strengthening of your soul is available to you in Him. Everything you need to live the great life God has planned for you is already yours. You may be wondering how that is possible, especially if you feel like you are still struggling and there is so much you still need.

The way to access what God has provided for you is through the knowledge of God that comes from personal relationship with Him. Growing in personal relationship with Him means taking responsibility for your spiritual maturity through studying God’s Word, spending time with Him in prayer and worship, and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. No one can build a relationship with God for you. People can tell you about God, but you can only come to know Him in an intimate way if you invest your time and energy in your relationship with Him.

God has provided everything you need through His Son. On the cross, Jesus purchased not only eternal life, but also forgiveness from sin, deliverance, healing, provision, mercy, compassion, hope, power, comfort, peace with God, and countless other benefits. These are powerful and have multifaceted gifts. When you are in relationship with Jesus as your Lord and Savior, everything that is His is also yours. You sever yourself from your old life and enter into new life with Him (see 2 Cor. 5:17). The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20 (ESV), I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Enjoying a new life in Christ is a process. Little by little, you exchange what you had and who you were for what Jesus offers you and who He is. As you invest time studying God’s Word, you are changed into His image from glory to glory (see 2 Cor. 3:18).

There is nothing you could ever need that Jesus has not purchased with His sacrifice or that God has not provided. Notice that 2 Peter 1:3 (ESV) says He has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. That means every single thing. Whatever you need today, God has it for you, and you will find it in relationship with Him.

Prayer Starter: Thank you, Lord, for giving me the tools to have a great day and a great life, because I have been made new through You! In Jesus’ name, amen.