In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Our Source of Hope

Because Jesus paid the price for our sins, we can have hope for the future.

Titus 2:11-14

Some people believe ethical behavior and moral character will get them to heaven. Others think a self-improvement plan is the way to get there. And sadly, there are those who assume they’ll be barred because of their past mistakes. 

The truth is that character and deeds do not determine our eternal state. Rather, the barrier between us and holy God is our sinful nature. Adam and Eve’s sin caused all mankind to begin life spiritually dead and under a sentence of judgment (Rom. 5:12). No amount of good works or moral behavior can change our unholy nature—nor do bad choices make our nature worse. 

Without direct help from the Lord, the entrance to heaven would be closed to everyone, and we’d all face an eternity of separation from God. But the Father had a plan so we could live with Him forever: He sent His Son Jesus to take our sins upon Himself and receive the punishment we deserved. What we were helpless to do, Christ accomplished for us. Through faith in Him, we receive a brand-new nature and get to live in God’s presence forever. 

We don’t have to worry about earning our place in heaven. Because of Jesus, we can be confident of our future there, which gives our life on earth hope and meaning. 

Bible in One Year: Genesis 16-19

Our Daily Bread — Back to the Basics

Bible in a Year:

Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right.

Ezekiel 45:9

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Ezekiel 45:9–10, 17–20

Resolutions, it seems, are made to be broken. Some folks poke fun at this reality by proposing New Year’s vows that are—shall we say—attainable. Here are a few from social media:

Wave to fellow motorists at stoplights.

Sign up for a marathon. Don’t run it.

Stop procrastinating—tomorrow.

Get lost without any help from Siri.

Unfriend everyone who posts their workout regimen.

The concept of a fresh start can be serious business, however. The exiled people of Judah desperately needed one. Just over two decades into their seventy-year captivity, God brought encouragement to them through the prophet Ezekiel, promising, “I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob” (Ezekiel 39:25).

But the nation first needed to return to the basics—the instructions God had given to Moses eight hundred years earlier. This included observing a feast at the new year. For the ancient Jewish people, that began in early spring (45:18). A major purpose of their festivals was to remind them of God’s character and His expectations. He told their leaders, “Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right” (v. 9), and he insisted on honesty (v. 10).

The lesson applies to us too. Our faith must be put into practice or it’s worthless (James 2:17). In this new year, as God provides what we need, may we live out our faith by returning to the basics: “Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39).

By:  Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray

In what ways do you sense you need to get back to the basics? How will you put this into practice in the new year?

Father, may Your Spirit show me the places where I need to put others before myself. Help me love You with all my heart.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Cultivating a Heavenly Perspective

“God…has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3, emphasis added).

Christians hold a dual citizenship. We are citizens of earth, but, more importantly, we are also citizens of Heaven.

It’s been said that some Christians are so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good. But usually the opposite is true. Many Christians are so enamored with this present world that they no longer look forward to heaven. They have everything they want right here. The health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine has convinced them that Christians can have it all, and they pursue “the good life” with a vengeance.

Despite the prevalence of such thinking, the old Negro spiritual well says, “This world is not my home. I’m just a passin’ through.”

Paul reminds us of that truth in Philippians 3:20: “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s why we must set our minds on heavenly, not on earthly things (Col. 3:1- 2). Our deepest affections and highest aspirations should center there. Our actions and decisions should reflect heavenly priorities, not earthly indulgences.

Even though we live in a sin-stained world and must constantly fight against its corrupting influences, God hasn’t left us stranded. He extends to us all the rights and privileges of our heavenly citizenship. Let that assurance encourage you today to live to His glory and rely on His heavenly provisions. Take care not to let impure aspirations or trivial pursuits distract you from your heavenly priorities.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Tell Jesus how thankful and full of praise you are because of the place He is preparing for you in heaven (John 14:1-3).
  • Pray for a greater awareness of the fleeting value of this world and the surpassing value of the world to come (1 John 2:17).

For Further Study

Read Revelation 4-5, 21.

  • What primary activity are the inhabitants of heaven engaged in?
  • List some of heaven’s blessings.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

Joyce Meyer – God Is with You

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

— Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

No matter what your fear is, God’s Word says you are not to fear because He is with you. It is just that simple. I am sure the question comes to mind: If God is with me, why do bad things happen? God never promises us trouble-free lives, but He does promise us His presence and the strength (mental, physical, and emotional) we need to get through our troubles.

Whatever the problem is, you can be assured it will pass, God will be with you all the way through it, and you will be stronger and know God better when it is over than before it began.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank you for being with me at all times. I will not fear with you always by my side! In Jesus’ name, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Take Comfort in God’s Light

And God saw that the light was good.

Genesis 1:4

This morning we noticed the goodness of the light, and the Lord’s dividing it from the darkness. We now note the special eye that the Lord had for the light. “God saw the light”—He looked at it with complacency, gazed upon it with pleasure, saw that it “was good.” If the Lord has given you light, dear reader, He looks on that light with peculiar interest; for not only is it dear to Him as His own handiwork, but it is like Himself, for “God is light.”

It is pleasant for the believer to know that God’s eye tenderly observes that work of grace that He has begun. He never loses sight of the treasure that He has placed in our earthen vessels. Sometimes we cannot see the light, but God always sees the light, and that is much better than our seeing it. Better for the judge to see my innocence than for me to think I see it. It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God’s people—but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe. This is the foundation, “The Lord knows those who are his.”1

You may be sighing and groaning because of inbred sin, and mourning over your darkness; yet the Lord sees “light” in your heart, for He has put it there, and all the cloudiness and gloom of your soul cannot conceal your light from His gracious eye.

You may have sunk low in despondency, and even despair; but if your soul has any longing toward Christ, and if you are seeking to rest in His finished work, God sees the “light.” He not only sees it, but He also preserves it in you. “I, the Lord, do keep it.” This is a precious thought to those who, after anxious watching and guarding of themselves, feel their own powerlessness to do so. The light thus preserved by His grace, He will one day develop into the splendor of noonday, and the fullness of glory. The light within is the dawn of the eternal day.

1) 2 Timothy 2:19

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Can Make You Happy

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom,…yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

A young missionary in China named Hudson Taylor was writing a letter home to his sister Amelia. What happy news could he share? Many of the Chinese people were dying from famine. He had very little money. The other missionaries did not like the way he dressed as the Chinese did. And the girl he loved and wanted to marry had just told him that she would not marry him. Hudson had every reason to be sad. His eyes moved to the Bible beside him on his desk. What had he read that very day about God’s love? He picked up his pen and wrote, “The love of God never changes. Can we ever love Jesus as much as He loves us?”

What would it take to make you happy? Another new toy? A room all to yourself? An “A” on your math paper? Having a certain person for your best friend? Only knowing God and His love for you can make you happy deep down in your heart. Only He can give you happiness that lasts, even when things go wrong.

Knowing God is the only thing that will make you truly happy.

My Response:
» Am I getting to know God through His Word?
» Do I find my happiness in God?

Denison Forum – Did Betty White go to heaven?

By popular acclamation, Betty White was “America’s sweetheart.” I first became acquainted with her on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and laughed along with most of America at her Rose Nylund portrayal in The Golden Girls. She was terrific in Boston Legal and The Proposal among other projects.

Now we have learned that the famed actress filmed a tribute to her fans just ten days before her death. She was participating in a documentary special titled “Betty White: 100 Years Young—A Birthday Celebration” that would play in theaters across the country. The feature-length special will still debut on January 17, but it will be retooled to be a celebration of her life and career. It has been retitled to “Betty White: A Celebration.” 

Her popularity is well deserved and not just for her television career. By one account, she supported twenty-six different charitable causes, from the American Heart Association to the Red Cross and Special Olympics. Her devotion to animals was especially passionate and noteworthy. 

Given her remarkable life, I would imagine many of you cringed at my title for today’s article. Of course someone who was as beloved and did as much good as Betty White would go to heaven, many people will say. 

To even raise the question is to seem intolerant, the worst thing a person can appear to be today. It feels unkind to ask such a question about a cultural icon like Betty White, doesn’t it? 

What did Betty White believe? 

That’s because it’s conventional wisdom that “all good people go to heaven.” Only one in three Americans affirm the statement, “When you die you will go to heaven only because you have confessed your sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.” By contrast, 63 percent of adults believe “having faith matters more than which faith you have.” 

According to a substantive Probe Ministries study, over 60 percent of Born Again Christians believe Muhammad, Buddha, and Jesus are all valid ways to God. Pew Forum reports that 39 percent of Americans say even people who do not believe in God at all can go to heaven. Only 2 percent of Americans think they are going to hell

As a result, most Americans think Betty White’s personal religious beliefs are irrelevant to the question. She was reportedly a member of the Unity Church, which describes itself as being “for people who might call themselves spiritual but not religious.” Its “five principles” state: 

  1. God is all there is and present everywhere. This is the force of love and wisdom that underlies all of existence.
  2. Human beings are divine at their core and therefore inherently good.
  3. Thoughts have creative power to determine events and attract experiences.
  4. Prayer and meditation keep us aligned with the one great power in the universe.
  5. It is not enough to understand spiritual teachings. We must live the Truth we know.

I could find no evidence that the Unity Church teaches the need for people to confess their sins and turn to Christ as their Savior and Lord. 

By contrast, as you know, the Bible clearly teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), it is vital that we “believe in the Lord Jesus” to be saved (Acts 16:31). Scripture teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). God’s word proclaims, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, my emphasis). 

Is Christianity “worth bothering with”? 

Does this mean that Betty White did not go to heaven? I have no way to know that, of course. I did not know her personally and, even if I did, I could not see her heart. I could find no evidence that she believed what Scripture teaches regarding saving faith, but it is not for me to judge the state of her soul. 

What I do know is that she went to heaven only if she had trusted in Christ as her Savior. The same will be true for you and me one day. 

However, my larger point relates less to her and more to you: Is this conversation unsettling for you? I assume you agree with Jesus’ testimony, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). But do you often consider the eternal destiny of those who do not? 

C. S. Lewis wrote: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” 

Billy Graham agreed: “If Christianity is important at all, then it is all-important. If it is anything at all, then it is everything. It is either the most vital thing in your life, or it isn’t worth bothering with.” 

Don’t cheat yourself out of spiritual victory” 

I am praying that today’s article will be a catalyst for us to pray more passionately for those we know who, to our knowledge, do not have a saving relationship with Jesus. I am praying that we will then respond to our prayers by sharing our faith more diligently, winsomely, and courageously with them. 

And I am praying that we will seek in this new year to be the change we wish to see: Christ-followers others can follow to Christ. 

Dr. Graham continued his admonition with the warning: “So don’t give the lie to the Christian faith by professing Christ without possessing him. Don’t lock the church door with the key of inconsistency and keep the lost from coming to Christ. Don’t hinder revival by your unbelief and prayerlessness. Don’t cheat yourself out of spiritual victory by allowing sin to imprison you.” 

Then he added: “The supply of heaven is adequate for the demands of our spiritually starved world. Will we offer that supply to the hungry masses?” 

Who among the “hungry masses” do you know today?

NEW AND NOTABLEThe Denison Forum Podcast has launched! We’re excited to bring you this new, long-form weekly podcast featuring Dr. Mark Turman and me, as well as guests in the future. Throughout this month, you’ll be treated to an inside look at my forthcoming book, The Coming Tsunami. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Also, know that The Daily Article Podcast will continue as a daily podcast narration of this Daily Article email. The Denison Forum Podcast is a new offering from us that goes in-depth on today’s most pressing issues.