In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Our Growth as Christians

Christians should reflect Jesus to the world so that all can share in the joy of salvation.

Galatians 2:20

What is the goal of the Christian life? Romans 8:29 expresses it this way: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (emphasis added). This is called sanctification, and it has several stages.

First comes salvation—our redemption from sinfulness through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. What results is forgiveness of sin, which lets us have a relationship with God. 

Next, God gives us opportunity to serve. We were created to do good works in Jesus’ name (Eph. 2:10). 

Then comes frustrated inadequacy. This is a necessary part of the journey and can last varying amounts of time. Though difficult, this phase is beautiful because it leads us into total dependence on Jesus, which is the best part of our spiritual life. And it is what brings us closer to our ultimate goal: becoming a reflection of Christ. 

Sadly, many Christians don’t reach a point of complete reliance on the Lord. The apostle Paul reminds us to fix our eyes on the goal of maturity in Christ (Phil. 3:14). Learning to die to self is painful, but ironically, it’s the only true way to life. 

Bible in One Year: Luke 17-19

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Our Daily Bread — Is God Listening?

Bible in a Year:

If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

1 John 5:14

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

1 John 5:13–15

When I served on my church’s congregational care team, one of my duties was to pray over the requests penciled on pew cards during the services. For an aunt’s health. For a couple’s finances. For a grandson’s discovery of God. Rarely did I hear the results of these prayers. Most were anonymous, and I had no way of knowing how God had responded. I confess that at times I wondered, Was He really listening? Was anything happening as a result of my prayers?

Over our lifetimes, most of us question, “Does God hear me?” I remember my own Hannah-like pleas for a child that went unanswered for years. And there were my pleas that my father find faith, yet he died without any apparent confession.

Etched across the millennia are myriad instances of God’s ear bending to listen: to Israel’s groans under slavery (Exodus 2:24); to Moses on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 9:19); to Joshua at Gilgal (Joshua 10:14); to Hannah’s prayers for a child (1 Samuel 1:10–17); to David crying out for deliverance from Saul (2 Samuel 22:7).

First John 5:14 crescendos, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” The word for “hears” means to pay attention and to respond on the basis of having heard.

As we go to God today, may we have the confidence of His listening ear spanning the history of His people. He hears our pleas.

By:  Elisa Morgan

Reflect & Pray

Pause to consider what you’ve most recently asked of God. What motivated you to ask? How can you know that God hears you?

Father, I come asking and trusting You to hear me because You say that You do.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Avoiding Spiritual Deception

“All Scripture is . . . profitable for . . . reproof” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Scripture is the standard by which you must measure all teaching.

In November of 1978, United States Representative Leo Ryan of California visited the People’s Temple (a California- based cult) in Guyana. He went to investigate reports that some of the people were being held there against their will. The world was shocked to learn that the congressman and his party had been ambushed and killed.

Even more shocking was the grim discovery that followed a few days later. Authorities who entered the compound at Jonestown, Guyana were horrified to find the bodies of 780 cult members who had been shot or had committed suicide by drinking cyanide-laced punch. Their leader, the Reverend Jim Jones, was found lying near the altar—dead from a single bullet wound to the head.

For many, it was the first time they had witnessed the deadly effect of satanic teaching. Editorials and articles for months attempted to explain how such appalling deception and genocide could occur in this day and age. But as tragic as the Jonestown deaths were, most observers missed the greatest tragedy of all: the spiritual damnation that Jim Jones and all other false teachers lead their followers into.

Spiritual deception is a very serious issue to God. That’s why in Scripture He lays down the truth and reproves anything contrary to it. The Greek word translated “reproof” in 2 Timothy 3:16 means to rebuke or confront someone regarding misconduct or false teaching.

If you have a thorough grasp of Scripture, you have a standard by which to measure all teaching. Then you can easily recognize false doctrine and avoid spiritual deception. That’s what John had in mind when he said, “I have written to you, [spiritual] young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14).

False religions will always attempt to distort Scripture because they must eliminate God’s truth before they can justify their own lies. Beware of their subtleties, and be strong in God’s Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for protecting you from spiritual deception.
  • Pray for anyone you may know who has fallen victim to false teaching. Take every opportunity to impart God’s truth to them.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-413-15. How did Paul describe false teachers?

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Joyce Meyer – God Knows You Intimately

For there is not a word in my tongue [still unuttered], but, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.

— Psalm 139:4 (AMPC)

Because we relate to God as individuals—and that’s the way He wants it—we pray as individuals. Even when we pray corporately with others, we are still individuals; we simply join our hearts with others as one voice. During these corporate prayer times, I believe God wants our hearts to be in unity much more than He wants our methods to be the same.

When we say, “Lord, teach me to pray,” we are asking Him to teach us to pray in a distinctly personal way and to enable our prayers to be easy, natural expressions of who we are. We are not supposed to check our individuality at the door of the prayer closet. We need to go to God just the way we are and give Him the pleasure of enjoying the company of the “original” He has made each of us to be. We need to approach God with our strengths, weaknesses, uniqueness, and everything else that so wonderfully distinguishes us from all the other people in the world. God enjoys meeting us where we are, developing a personal relationship with us, and helping us grow to become everything He wants us to be. It is refreshing to realize that we can come to God just as we are and be relaxed in His presence.

Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, thank You for making me an individual and an original, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –A Lofty Doctrine

I chose you out of the world.

John 15:19

Here is distinguishing grace and discriminating regard, for some are made the special objects of divine affection. Do not be afraid to dwell upon this lofty doctrine of election. When your mind is heavy and depressed, you will find it to be a spiritual tonic. Those who doubt the doctrines of grace or who throw them into the shadows miss the richest clusters of grapes; they lose the best wines, the choice food.

There is no balm in Gilead comparable to it. If the honey in Jonathan’s wood when simply touched illumined the eyes, this is honey that will illumine your heart as you love and learn the mysteries of the kingdom of God. You must feed on this; live upon this choice provision, and do not be afraid that it will prove too delicate a diet. Meat from the King’s table will hurt none of His servants. Desire to have your mind enlarged, that you may comprehend more and more of the eternal, everlasting, discriminating love of God.

When you have soared as high as election, linger on its twin peak, the covenant of grace. Covenant engagements are the mighty fortresses behind which we lie entrenched; covenant engagements with our Savior, Christ Jesus, are the quiet resting-places of trembling spirits.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the raging flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
This still is all my strength and stay.

If Jesus undertook to bring me to glory, and if the Father promised that He would give me to the Son to be a part of the infinite reward of the travail of His soul, then, my soul, until God Himself shall be unfaithful, until Jesus shall cease to be the truth, you are safe. When David danced before the ark, he told Michal that election made him do so. Come, my soul, dance before the God of grace, and let your heart leap for joy!

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is a Peacemaker

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

If you have ever seen two kids arguing on a playground or at a park, maybe you had a desire to go up to them and try to calm them down. Did you wonder what you could say? “Excuse me, Sally and Polly. Don’t you think this is a silly and petty argument to have? Wouldn’t you rather be playing quietly with your dolls and making lemonade for one another?” Or, maybe you have thought about saying something like, “Jimmy and Johnny, would you kindly consider the comfort and well-being of the many other people on this playground? We would all like to play in peace, and all your yelling is disturbing to the rest of us.”

If you tried saying one of those two things, you would probably end up getting slapped or knocked down yourself! When we are upset or angry, usually almost anything someone might say to us will only make us even more upset and angry. It takes a very thoughtful, wise, and meek person to know how to calm people down and help them make peace with one another. It is very difficult to help two “enemies” become “friends.”

Did you know that God is a peacemaker? It says in the Bible that God’s whole plan of redemption is all about glorifying Himself by reconciling us to Himself through Jesus Christ. The verb “reconcile” means to bring together, to put right, to make peace with. Since God is holy, He is against sin. There is absolutely no way for Him to be at peace with sinners – at least, not without Jesus Christ. That’s why Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father, except by coming through the Son.

Because He lived a sinless life, died for sinners’ sins, and rose from the grave, Jesus is qualified (able and allowed) to be our bridge, connecting us to God. Instead of seeing their sin, God can “see” believers as having Christ’s own righteousness, not their own sin. Through Jesus Christ, we can be right with God. Instead of being God’s “enemies,” we can be His “friends” (like Abraham, who was called the friend of God because of His faith in the coming Messiah). Jesus Christ is the reason we can be reconciled with God.

2 Corinthians 5 teaches that we who are now reconciled to God ought to be about the business of peacemaking. We ought to be trying to reconcile other people to God. We are Christ’s ambassadors (representatives, spokespeople), and we are to continue what He started in His time of ministry on Earth. He has promised to help and bless us. Matthew 5:9 shows this promise: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” God is interested in being reconciled to people, and we ought to be serving in the ministry of reconciliation, too.

Through Christ, God reconciles believers to Himself and passes on to them the ministry of reconciliation.

My Response:
» Do I really believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life?
» Am I trusting in Jesus Christ to reconcile me to God in spite of my sinfulness?
» If Christ has reconciled me to God, how can I be involved in “the ministry of reconciliation,” too?

Denison Forum – Lauren Daigle urges Christians to pray for courage

“He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Lauren Daigle is one of the most famous musicians in America. Two of her songs have won Grammys; the multiplatinum artist was one of the headlining performers at this year’s Gospel Music Association Dove Awards.

Reflecting on the challenges Christians face in the music industry, she often reflects on Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” She told Christian Post that when she was in high school, she prayed that God would give her a “backbone” to stand up for those who were being bullied. As a result, she testified, “If you ask God for that courage, he will give it to you. He will give you boldness; he will give you courage.”

She encouraged young Christians to ask for courage as well: “Just know you’re not the only one doing it. It will feel like, in the moment, that you’re the only one making a stand. But you’re not the only one making a stand. There are others around you. And we’ve got your back.”

High school stages “drag ball” for homecoming

Lauren Daigle is right: it can feel lonely to stand for biblical morality in our radically secular culture.

My wife and I returned recently from a trip to Vermont, where we found beautiful nature and many gracious people. But we were surprised by the irreligious nature of the culture. For example, I went into seven bookstores during our trip; not one had a Bible for sale.

It is therefore unsurprising that a Vermont high school would stage a “drag ball” for its homecoming halftime show. About thirty students and faculty members dressed as drag queens and kings walked onto the stage and the crowd started to chant, “Drag Ball!” They paraded and danced to show support for LGBTQ persons and lip-synced to the song “Rainbow Reign.”

In other news, the US State Department has issued its first gender-neutral passport. The Wall Street Journal reports that fashion designers are striving to “upgrade gender-neutral clothing.” There will be more to come as polygamy continues to advance, LGBTQ activism focuses on children’s toys and programmingcalls to legalize prostitution escalate, and “zoophilia” (sexual relationships between people and animals) gains acceptance.

The late Paul Powell noticed this statement on a bumper sticker: “With God, all things are possible. Without God, all things are permissible.”

“The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire”

In such days, Lauren Daigle’s observation is truly relevant: “You’re not the only one making a stand.” The Bible is filled with stories of otherwise unknown people whose courageous faith changed the world.

The Book of Acts offers some examples. God sent a disciple named Ananias to minister to Paul after his Damascus Road encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:10–19). Everyone knows of Paul, though few remember Ananias. But without the latter, I wonder if we would know of the former.

Then, when Paul’s enemies in Damascus sought to kill him, “his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket” (v. 25). We have these unnamed disciples to thank for the rest of Paul’s ministry, from his missionary journeys to letters that comprise one-third of the New Testament’s twenty-seven books.

Still later, Barnabas championed Paul before skeptical Christians in Jerusalem (v. 27) and partnered with him in his first two missionary journeys. An unnamed “tribune of the cohort” saved Paul from being executed by a mob in Jerusalem (Acts 21:31–22:29). Paul’s unnamed nephew prevented a plot to kill the apostle (Acts 23:16–22). A Roman centurion named Julius kept sailors from killing Paul after their shipwreck at Malta (Acts 27:43).

One of my favorite biblical stories tells of a Syrian army that surrounded the prophet Elisha and his servant (2 Kings 6:15). The servant was terrified, but Elisha reassured him: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16). He then asked God to open the young man’s eyes, and “he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v. 17).

Angels are with you right now (cf. Hebrews 1:14). The God you cannot see can see you (Genesis 16:13). Jesus’ best friend assures us: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Prisoners serving other prisoners

Let’s consider some examples of God’s people doing things today you may not know they are doing.

In Acts 4, the persecuted early Christians prayed that God would “grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (v. 29). With this result: “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (v. 31, my emphasis).

If we will ask God for the courage to stand for biblical truth and serve with biblical compassion, he will answer our prayer. Then, whether the world knows our name or not, God will use us for his eternal purposes.

Jane Marczewski on “a story worth writing”

Jane Marczewski, the singer who made headlines when she competed on America’s Got Talent but had to withdraw to continue her battle with terminal cancer, is back in the news. In a recent Instagram post, she wrote:

“A journalism professor in a long gray sweater taught me the difference between a story worth writing and a public relations stunt. A real story has meaning even if no one ever hears it; a PR stunt matters only if people are watching.

“And that became a new item on the list of promises to myself: That I would never let my life become a public relations stunt. My life would have meaning, even if no one ever knew it. I wanted to write a story I was proud of, even if nobody read it.”

If we will pray for the courage to share God’s story through ours, he will answer us. And when he does, because his word never fails (Isaiah 55:10–11), our world can never be the same.

Why do you need the courage of Christ today?

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