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?

Read in browser »

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.