In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – A Lesson in Pruning

It can be painful when God cuts fleshly habits and attitudes from our life, but that allows growth in Christlikeness.

John 15:1-5

Years ago I lived in Fruitland, North Carolina. It was apple country, and several of my parishioners were growers. When I stopped by to visit one of them, I found him mercilessly cutting branches from one of the trees. He told me that to produce an abundant crop of the best fruit, he had to prune the branches. It might look as if the tree was going to die, but new growth would spring from the wounds. 

Our conversation helped me understand why the Lord sometimes acts as a pruning knife in our lives. To get a plentiful crop of spiritual fruit, He must remove anything that hinders us from becoming the person He designed us to be. The process is often painful as God cuts away fleshly habits and worldly attitudes, but His pruning results in us becoming a more accurate reflection of Jesus Christ.

Being loved by God doesn’t mean being coddled. Our comfort is not His primary interest. Just as a grower prunes an apple tree to get a bountiful harvest, so God must sometimes cause us pain in order to bring forth greater spiritual growth, Christlike character, and abundance.

Bible in One Year: Exodus 25-27

Our Daily Bread — The Potter’s Wheel

Bible in a Year:

The pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Jeremiah 18:4

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Jeremiah 18:1–6

In 1952, in an effort to prevent clumsy or careless people from breaking items in a shop, a Miami Beach storeowner posted a sign that read: “You break it, you buy it.” The catchy phrase served as a warning to shoppers. This type of sign can now be seen in many boutiques.

Ironically, a different sign might be placed in a real potter’s shop. It would say: “If you break it, we’ll make it into something better.” And that’s exactly what’s revealed in Jeremiah 18.

Jeremiah visits a potter’s house and sees the potter shaping the “marred” clay with his hands, carefully handling the material and forming “it into another pot” (v. 4). The prophet reminds us that God is indeed a skillful potter, and we are the clay. He is sovereign and can use what He creates to both destroy evil and create beauty in us.

God can shape us even when we’re marred or broken. He, the masterful potter, can and is willing to create new and precious pottery from our shattered pieces. God doesn’t look at our broken lives, mistakes, and past sins as unusable material. Instead, He picks up our pieces and reshapes them as He sees best.

Even in our brokenness, we have immense value to our Master Potter. In His hands, the broken pieces of our lives can be reshaped into beautiful vessels that can be used by Him (v. 4).

By:  Katara Patton

Reflect & Pray

What comfort can you find in knowing God is a potter who can form something new from your broken pieces? How can you relax as the Potter reshapes you into a beautiful vessel?

God, You’re the Potter and I’m the clay. Mold me as You wish. Remind me that I’m in Your skillful and caring hands.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Forbearing Love

“. . . Showing forbearance to one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

In order to walk worthy, we must forgive our enemies and love them.

The term forbearance is not often used today and is therefore unfamiliar to many of us. The Greek word translated “showing forbearance” means “suppressing with silence.” It carries the idea of throwing a blanket over sin. First Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” and Proverbs 10:12 declares, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” A forbearing person doesn’t trumpet other people’s sins but rather forgives them. Forbearance has room for the failures of others. A forbearing person also loves people in spite of the wrongs they might have done to him.

Agape, the word used for “love” in this verse, is the love that gives but never takes. It’s the kind of love that seeks the highest good for another, no matter what the cost. God showed His agape by giving us His only Son (John 3:16). Jesus said, “Greater love [agape] has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). Agape is unconquerable benevolence and invincible goodness; it is completely selfless.

Perhaps the greatest description of forbearing love is the summary Jesus gives in Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” We were God’s enemies before He saved us, but He was willing to send His Son anyway (Rom. 5:10). Since we are God’s children, we must also seek our enemies’ highest good, whatever it costs us. Such cost ought to include more than simply enduring slander and persecution from our enemies. Genuine forbearing love will assume the more difficult task of loving those who hate us.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He showed forbearing love in sending Christ to die for undeserving sinners.
  • Pray for your enemies and for strength to love them as you should.

For Further Study

  • Besides Christ, the clearest example of forbearing love is Stephen’s attitude toward those who stoned him. Read his story in Acts 6—7, and note his love toward his executioners.
  • Think about people you have a hard time loving, and pray that God would show you specific ways you can show love to them. Then follow through!

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

Joyce Meyer – Loving God with Your Words

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

— Psalm 34:1 (NKJV)

It is good to have love for God in your heart, but even better to express it with the words of your mouth. Tell God several times each day that you love Him; say with the psalmist David: ” I love You fervently and devotedly, O Lord my Strength” (Ps. 18:1). It isn’t good enough to merely think, “God knows how I feel.” Are you blessed when people tell you they love and appreciate you? Of course you are, and it blesses God when we verbalize our love and praise for Him. Verbal expression of love and gratitude improves all our relationships, including our relationship with God.

Don’t offer your petitions to God without telling Him how grateful you are for what He has already done for you. As parents we are more likely to answer the request of a thankful child than we are a grouchy and ungrateful one. As an employer I want to do even more for employees who are appreciative. Offering our continual gratitude to God for His goodness and mercy in our lives moves Him to want to do even more for us. Our gratitude shows God that we are mature enough to handle even more blessing and responsibility.

Women often say, “I know my husband loves me, but I wish he would tell me more often.” Let’s try to be more diligent in telling God and the people in our lives that we love and appreciate them and what they mean to us.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I thank You and praise You for all the wonderful things you have done for me and are doing right now. I love You and I’m so grateful for You. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – The Place of Service

But Martha was distracted with much serving.

Luke 10:40

Her fault was not that she served: The condition of a servant is commendable in the Christian. “I serve” should be the motto of all the princes of the royal family of heaven. Nor was it her fault that she had “much serving.” We cannot do too much. Let us do all that we possibly can; let head and heart and hands be engaged in the Master’s service. It was no fault of hers that she was busy preparing a feast for the Master. Happy Martha, to have an opportunity of entertaining so blessed a guest; and happy, too, to have the spirit to throw her whole soul so heartily into the engagement. Her fault was that she grew “distracted with much serving,” so that she forgot Him and only remembered the service. She allowed service to override communion, and so presented one duty stained with the blood of another.

We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: We should do much service and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune. Joshua never grew weary in fighting with the Amalekites; but Moses, on the top of the mountain in prayer, needed two helpers to sustain his hands.

The more spiritual the exercise, the sooner we tire in it. The choicest fruits are the hardest to rear; the most heavenly graces are the most difficult to cultivate. Beloved, while we do not neglect external things, which are good enough in themselves, we ought also to see to it that we enjoy living, personal fellowship with Jesus.

See to it that sitting at the Savior’s feet is not neglected, even though it be under the specious pretext of doing Him service. The first thing for our soul’s health, the first thing for His glory, and the first thing for our own usefulness is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus and to see that the vital spirituality of our faith is maintained over and above everything else in the world.

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Sovereign

“But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.” (Psalm 115:3)

Imagine being surrounded by a large invisible net. Imagine that everywhere you go – school, your house, your friend’s house – you are surrounded by this net. The net is there to stop everything from touching you. If someone throws a volleyball at you during P.E. class, it would just bounce off of nothing. If someone throws their carrots at you in the lunch room, the carrots won’t touch you. Nothing can get past the net!

One of God’s gifts to us is His sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is much like an invisible net. Situations in life – both good and bad – cannot touch you without getting God’s permission.

The word sovereignty is a big word with a simple meaning. Sovereign means “chief” or “highest in power.” To say that God is sovereign means that God is the One in charge of everything – it means nothing can get past God’s control. A car accident can’t harm you without God’s permission. Surprises and blessings can’t touch you without God’s permission. God is in control of everything!

God’s sovereignty is like a net that surrounds and protects you.

My Response:
» How does knowing that God is sovereign change my life?

Denison Forum – Bengals fan saves the life of a Raiders fan

The NFL playoffs are making headlines today, but an event outside of a game a week ago took on a meaning that transcended what happened in the stadium.

A Las Vegas Raiders fan named Ed Fernandes came to Cincinnati to watch his team play the hometown Bengals. Near the stadium gate, he stumbled and fell. Bengals fan Jerry Mills, an intensive care nurse, started CPR, keeping Fernandes alive until emergency personnel took over. Even though he and his patient were rooting for different teams, he said later, “It doesn’t matter who you are, you deserve to live. That’s what matters.”

In other football news, a high school coach in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, had to cancel workouts last Monday due to severe weather in the area. So he told his team, “Find an elderly or disabled neighbor and shovel their driveway. Don’t accept any money—that’s our Monday workout.” An elderly resident said later, “They did a fine job, and I’ll never forget it. They were a bright spot on a stormy morning.”

Why did I click instantly on these stories? For the same reason I assume you enjoyed reading them on a Monday morning: we all need hope. In these days of pandemic headlines, winter storms, political animosity, and moral decay, we need to know that things are not as bad as they seem and that they can get better.

Aristotle called hope a “waking dream.” Today, let’s discover God’s dream for our broken world.

“Every life deserves a lifetime”

We’ll make last Saturday’s March for Life our case study. As thousands of pro-life supporters gathered in Washington, DC, many carried signs worth seeing today. Among them:

  • “Every life deserves a lifetime”
  • “Every baby deserves a birthday”
  • “Choose life—your mom did”
  • “Abortion does not kill a potential human being—it kills a human being with great potential”
  • “Our salvation began with an unplanned pregnancy.”

Participants were especially optimistic because the Supreme Court will issue a ruling this summer that could overturn or significantly limit Roe v. Wade. In addition, legal and legislative work to restrict abortion and protect life over the last five decades has made enormous progress. The number of abortions per one thousand women has declined by over half from its peak in the early 1980s and a growing number of Americans—now 71 percent—want limits on abortion.

This progress has come as legislators have crafted pro-life laws. Attorneys have argued for pro-life rulings in the courts. Churches have worked to uphold life to their members and larger culture. Various ministries have cared for women with unplanned pregnancies and their families. And intercessors have prayed for decades.

While much progress has been made, much progress remains.

Woman told to get an abortion or lose her job

Even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe this summer, the battle will then shift to the states (where it should always have been). And, as Anglican priest and New York Times columnist Tish Harrison Warren writes, social incentives to choose abortion must be confronted on a wide range of issues.

She notes that employers have, on occasion, demanded that women have an abortion or lose their job. She writes that women she met while working in campus ministry told her that their student insurance covered abortion but not maternity care. College students reported that when they became pregnant unexpectedly, their student health centers did not offer them information on what to do if they wanted to continue with the pregnancy. She observes that universities rarely offer on-campus housing for students with children.

Many women who chose abortion have told Harrison Warren about boyfriends, husbands, fathers, or mothers who pressured them to abort. They talked about how they couldn’t afford to have a baby and spoke of being afraid they couldn’t finish school. Many felt panicked and alone.

There is only one organization in America that can respond to every one of these issues.

Singing “The Blessing” over their nation

A good friend recently shared with me a YouTube video I encourage you to watch today. It gathers over sixty-five churches and Christian movements in the UK representing hundreds of others. They came together as a mass choir to sing “The Blessing” over their nation. Their example reminded me that the church as God designed it is the hope of the world.

God’s word calls the church the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), the visible manifestation of Jesus’ ongoing ministry on earth. No other organization can make this claim. When the various members of the body all do their part, the body functions as no other can.

Some reading this article can help women facing unplanned pregnancies to gain the financial support they need to choose life. Others can help with housing, education, and medical care. Others can help them choose adoption if that is best for their unborn child. Others can give them the community and encouragement they need to carry their child to term. Others can pray for them with unconditional support and grace.

No Christian can do everything, but every Christian can do something. And together, we can save more lives and be used to save more souls than ever before.

Living on a rooftop in a Chicago winter

Southern Baptist Pastor Corey Brooks has become deeply grieved about violence on the streets of Chicago. So, he is spending one hundred days (November 30 to February 28) on a rooftop above the streets, where he invites people to come and talk with him about their lives, share ideas, and discuss solutions and opportunities for the city.

He plans to build a community center in his neighborhood to offer practical help and the hope of Christ. He explains: “We believe the government cannot change hearts. They can legislate laws, but it is faith in Christ that changes hearts.”

The city has taken notice. The local Fox station posts a video segment each day of Brooks talking with members of the community and with people from as far away as New York and Florida.

Pastor Brooks testifies, “My greatest desire is to redeem this community from poverty-entrenched hopelessness to entrepreneurial-infused hope. Hope undergirded by God’s unconditional love and acceptance.”

If God is not calling you to spend a Chicago winter atop a building, how is he calling you to join his body in bringing his redemptive hope to our otherwise hopeless world?