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.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Delighting in the Covenant

He has commanded his covenant forever.

Psalm 111:9

The Lord’s people delight in the covenant itself. It is an unfailing source of comfort to them as often as the Holy Spirit leads them into the banqueting house and waves the banner of love. They delight to contemplate the antiquity of that covenant, remembering that before the daystar knew its place or planets ran their course, the interests of the saints were made secure in Christ Jesus. It is peculiarly pleasing to them to remember the certainty of the covenant while meditating upon God’s “steadfast, sure love David.”1 They delight to celebrate it as signed, sealed, and delivered! Their hearts often overflow with joy to think of its immutability, as a covenant that neither time nor eternity, life nor death will ever be able to break—a covenant as old as eternity and as everlasting as the Rock of Ages.

They rejoice also to dine upon the fullness of this covenant, for in it they see all things provided for them. God is their portion, Christ their companion, the Spirit their Comforter, earth their lodge, and heaven their home. They see in it an inheritance that is reserved for every soul possessing an interest in its ancient and eternal gift. Their eyes sparkled when they saw it as a treasure-trove in the Bible; but how their souls were gladdened when they saw in the last will and testament of their Christ that it was bequeathed to them!

More especially it is the pleasure of God’s people to contemplate the graciousness of this covenant. They see that the law was made void because it was a covenant of works and depended upon merit, but they perceive this to be enduring because grace is the basis, grace the condition, grace the bulwark, grace the foundation, grace the capstone. The covenant is a treasury of wealth, a granary of food, a fountain of life, a storehouse of salvation, a charter of peace, and a haven of joy.

1) Isaiah 55:3

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Created Peace

“Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16a)

“Stop it!” Erin shouted. Her older brother Collin was running around the room with her favorite doll in his hands, held high above her head so she could not reach it.

“Not until you give me back my remote-controlled car!” Collin yelled back.

“I was just looking at it,” Erin said defensively. “There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”

“Yes!” shouted Collin. “I never gave you permission to mess with it. I don’t want you to break it. Give it back NOW!”

Have you ever been in an argument like that before? It may have been with a brother, sister, parent, or friend. Because you both wanted your own way, the disagreement and hard feelings went on and on until someone finally gave in.

God has another plan for you. In Romans 12:18, He commands you to “live peaceably with all men.” That is hard to do sometimes! Your siblings and friends do not always want to be peaceful. Sometimes they purposefully do things to annoy you or to start fights with you. But you must remember to turn to God – the Creator of true peace. Peace was God’s idea in the first place, and He brought peace to the world through His Son. Jesus, “the Prince of Peace,” said that He gives peace to all those who choose to follow after Him (John 14:27). If you are a peacemaker, then you will help people see what your heavenly Father is like.

God’s peace is perfect because He created peace.

My Response:
» Am I keeping peace with others?
» Am I looking to the Creator of Peace for the strength to do that?

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Denison Forum – Kanye West asks to be “Ye”: Why God’s name for you matters deeply

Kanye West filed court documents Tuesday to legally change his name to “Ye.” He wants to get rid of his full name—Kanye Omari West—in favor of his longtime nickname with no middle or last name. His parents gave him the name he has carried for his forty-four years of life, but now he wants to rename himself.

In other news, researchers evaluated more than 5,800 foods and their impact on human health and the environment. Among their discoveries: eating a serving of nuts could add twenty-six minutes to your lifespan. However, eating a single hot dog could cost you thirty-six minutes of life. 

By contrast, prayer has been demonstrated clinically to lower depression and anxiety and reduce anger and aggression. Studies also show that prayer can foster a sense of connection with God and others and strengthen marriages. 

However, to pray in transformative ways, we need to “name” ourselves as our Father sees us. 

As we continue our weeklong series on the Holy Spirit, let’s explore today some practical steps we can take to pray in the Spirit in ways that change our lives and our world. 

A woman has an emotional affair with a chimpanzee 

A woman in Belgium has been banned from the Antwerp Zoo after her four-year-long emotional affair with a chimpanzee. Their relationship through the glass surrounding the ape’s enclosure has become so close that it is adversely affecting the primate’s relationships with the zoo’s other chimpanzees. 

We were created for intimacy with our Creator. When we seek intimacy outside his intention for us, the results can be damaging to us and others. 

Seeking such intimacy with the Almighty is urgent, for tomorrow is promised to no one. 

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts made headlines with his death Tuesday at the age of eighty. A beloved Anglican pastor in Tennessee, the Rev. Thomas McKenzie, was killed with his daughter Charlie in a car crash Monday morning. The wreck occurred just thirty minutes after he announced on social media that he was driving her to her senior year of college. 

The good news is that our Father is as close as our next prayer. We are taught to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) because God listens “without ceasing.” He is not bound by the space-time continuum in which we exist, which means he has all of eternity to hear your next prayer. 

And he wants to: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). 

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is meeting with US President Joe Biden later today. Even though I have been to Israel more than thirty times and am a lifelong citizen of the US, I could not meet with either of them. The heads of some of the world’s biggest tech companies met yesterday with President Biden. I was not invited; nor were you, I suspect. 

But you and I can meet with the King of the universe right now. 

Praying on the Temple Mount 

Israel made headlines this week when it began allowing Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, an area previously reserved for prayer only for Muslims. I have prayed at the Western Wall more than thirty times and have visited the Temple Mount numerous times as well. However, due to coronavirus issues, I have not been back to the Holy Land in nearly two years. 

The good news is that I don’t need to be near the site of the ancient temple to meet God in prayer. He is as close as my knees. 

In fact, he’s even closer. 

Paul asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Not only does the Spirit live in believers—when “we do not know what to pray for as we ought,” the good news is that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). What’s more, “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (v. 27). 

When you and I pray, God’s Spirit prays for us and through us. We don’t need to worry that we don’t know what to pray, because he does. He knows “the will of God” and will always pray effectively as a result. 

In fact, the Spirit’s role in prayer redefines our role. Eugene Peterson observed, “If the Holy Spirit—God’s way of being with us, working through us, and speaking to us—is the way in which continuity is maintained between the life of Jesus and the life of Jesus’ community, prayer is the primary way in which the community actively receives and participates in that presence and working and speaking. Prayer is our way of being attentively present to God who is present to us in the Holy Spirit.” 

In response, Kristen Deede Johnson notes: “Scripture is promising that the Spirit himself is interceding for us all the time! We never fully know what we ought to pray for, and that’s all right. The Spirit will take whatever we offer, however rich or impoverished our words are, however present or distracted we feel, and intercede for us in accordance with God’s will. Thanks be to God!” (her italics). 

“God rebuilt my life of prayer” 

In addition, God’s Son is praying to his Father for us: “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Since he “always lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25), you can know that Jesus is praying for you right now.

One more factor: God’s word helps us pray. 

Johnson quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s statement in Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible: “God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer.” Johnson responds: “Praying with the borrowed words of the Bible was one way God rebuilt my life of prayer on a more solid basis, reminding me that prayer is answering God, not generating my relationship with God.” 

Here’s what we’ve learned so far: 

  • God the Father is listening for your next prayer.
  • God the Son is praying for you right now.
  • God the Spirit is praying through you.
  • God’s word will guide your words as you pray its promises and truths.

As a result, prayer is about positioning ourselves to experience the triune God in the guidance of his word. We need not worry about praying correctly—if we truly seek him, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13; cf. Proverbs 8:17). If we will make time to listen before we speak, we will hear his voice through his word, worship, and world. 

What’s more, through our time of intimacy with our Father, his Spirit will mold us into the character of his Son (Romans 8:29). As a carpenter must touch the wood he shapes and a painter must touch the canvas she paints, so the Lord must “touch” us to sanctify us (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23). He does this most fully and powerfully through prayer. 

“They end up less than human” 

Here’s our problem and our opportunity: you and I will experience the Spirit’s transforming power to the degree that we are yielded to the Spirit’s transforming power. 

As we have noted all week, we are commanded by God to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), surrendering daily to his cleansing, leading, and empowering. Have you taken the steps necessary to be filled by him today? If not, why not? 

One way the Enemy tempts us to resist being filled by the Spirit is to deceive us into believing that we don’t need what the Spirit can do in our lives. He knows that self-sufficiency is the enemy of the Spirit’s power. That’s why self-reliance is trumpeted every day by our fallen culture. 

According to author Thomas B. Smith, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” Albert Camus claimed, “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” William Ernest Henley testified, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” 

In The Magna Carta of Humanity: Sinai’s Revolutionary Faith and the Future of Freedomcultural commentatorOs Guinness points to the postmodern “hermeneutics of suspicion” by which generations of college students have been taught that “all relations are negotiated solely by power.” Thus, “the best protection against the unwanted power of others is to approach everyone with suspicion. . . . The outcome is an aging society fueled by pervasive suspicion, mistrust, rumor, conspiracy theories, and cynicism. Nothing is what it appears to be and no one can be trusted, so suspicion is the best insurance against the mounting menace of manipulation by the power of others.” 

While we are taught to be suspicious of the “power motives” of everyone else, we are ironically encouraged to embrace our own. Guinness cites Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, which claims that humans will become “godlings” due to the fruits of artificial intelligence and biogenetic engineering. 

Guinness responds by quoting Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “When humans try to be more than human, they end up less than human.” 

“Only God can make a tree” 

By contrast, you and I can experience today the transformational power of the One who made humans and everything else in our remarkable universe. Joyce Kilmer testified:

I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest / Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day, / And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear / A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me, / But only God can make a tree.

Now God is waiting on your next prayer. 

Let’s sum up what we’ve discovered today: 

  • You were made for intimacy with our Maker.
  • He longs for such intimacy with you.
  • God the Father is listening for your next prayer.
  • God the Son is praying for you right now.
  • God the Spirit is praying through you right now.
  • God’s word will guide your words as you pray its promises and truths.
  • However, you must reject the culture’s insistence on self-reliance.
  • If you submit your mind and life to God’s Spirit right now in prayer, you will experience his transforming presence and grace.

Robert Robinson prayed these now-famous words: 

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the Lord I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Have you given your heart to Jesus yet today?

Upwords; Max Lucado –God Sent Himself

GOD SENT HIMSELF – August 26, 2021

God is with us. Prophets weren’t enough. Apostles wouldn’t do. Angels won’t suffice. God sent more than miracles and messages. He sent himself; he sent his Son. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Jesus has been where you are; he can relate to how you feel. And if his life on earth doesn’t convince you, his death on the cross should. He understands what you are going through. No one penned it more clearly than did the author of Hebrews. “Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin! So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help” (Hebrews 4:15–16 CEV).