In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Cost of Our Salvation

Jesus endured great pain so that we could become children of God.

Philippians 2:5-8

Our culture is inclined to enjoy temporary pleasures while disregarding what God says is the price of transgression (Romans 6:23). Even believers—especially those who have known Jesus a long time—can tend to forget what their sin cost Him. But it’s important to remember that for our sake, Jesus suffered …

•  Physical pain. In the hours leading to His crucifixion, the Lord was mocked, beaten, and humiliated. After being forced to carry the cross, He was nailed to it and hoisted up to die an excruciating death. 

• Man’s sin. Jesus lived a perfect life on earth. But at the cross of Calvary, the Father placed all of mankind’s sins upon Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). There, our Savior experienced the fullness of our transgressions, along with all the guilt, shame, and regret. 

• Abandonment. In the final hours, Jesus was separated from His Father (Mark 15:34). Our sin was the barrier that kept them apart until the work of atonement was finished (John 19:30). 

• Divine judgment. God’s wrath was poured out upon our Lord because of man’s sin. Christ experienced the condemnation we deserved. 

Our Savior suffered greatly on our behalf so we might become part of God’s family (John 1:12). Let’s allow the magnitude of His selfless gift to inspire a loving response. 

Bible in One Year: Numbers 26-27

Our Daily Bread — Being Seen

Bible in a Year:

When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

Acts 9:26

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Acts 9:26–30

In an article on mentoring, Hannah Schell explains that mentors need to support, challenge, and inspire, but “first, and perhaps foremost, a good mentor sees you. . . . Recognition, not in terms of awards or publicity but in the sense of simply ‘being seen,’ is a basic human need.” People need to be recognized, known, and believed in.

In the New Testament, Barnabas, whose name means “Son of Encouragement,” had a knack for “seeing” people around him. In Acts 9, he was willing to give Saul a chance when the other disciples “were all afraid of him” (v. 26). Saul (also called Paul; 13:9) had a history of persecuting believers in Jesus (8:3), so they didn’t think “he really was a disciple” (9:26).

Later, Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement over whether to take Mark with them to “visit the believers in all the towns where [they’d] preached” (15:36). Paul didn’t think it was wise to bring Mark along because he’d deserted them earlier. Interestingly, Paul later asked for Mark’s assistance: “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

Barnabas took time to “see” both Paul and Mark. Perhaps we’re in Barnabas’ position to recognize potential in another person or we’re that individual in need of a spiritual mentor. May we ask God to lead us to those we can encourage and those who will encourage us.

By:  Julie Schwab

Reflect & Pray

How have you been encouraged by someone who believed in you? How can you help others who need encouragement?

Father, help me to see and encourage others.

Learn more about what it means to lead and encourage others.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – God’s Unfailing Love

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

God’s love is unconditional and righteous.

We hear a lot today about love from books, magazines, TV, and movies. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that our society is the most loving on earth. Much of the “love,” though, is nothing more than lust masquerading as love, or selfishness disguised as kindness. But today’s verse tells us that “God is love”; the character of God defines love. To clear up any confusion about love, we need only to look at who God is. And then, of course, we need to seek to love others as God loves us.

First, God’s love is unconditional and unrequited. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God loved us when we were sinners, when we had no righteousness and we didn’t—and couldn’t—love Him back. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it or because we love Him, but because it’s His nature to love.

God’s love doesn’t mean He winks at sin, though. Just as earthly fathers discipline sinning children, “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). True love doesn’t indulge unrighteousness, it confronts it. This kind of tough love isn’t always fun, but it’s for the best: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11).

We’ll study God’s love more in the next lesson, but now it’s only natural to examine how we ourselves are doing in demonstrating love. Is our love unconditional, or do we withhold love from those who hurt us? Do we love only those who love us back? Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Loving those who love us is easy. Christ loved those at enmity with Him, and He expects us to love our enemies too.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His great love toward us and for its greatest manifestation in the Person of Christ.

For Further Study

First John has much to say about God’s love for us and our love for Him and others. Read the entire book, noting each instance of the word love.

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

Joyce Meyer – First Response

Is anyone among you afflicted (ill-treated, suffering evil)? He should pray. Is anyone glad at heart? He should sing praise [to God]. Is anyone among you sick? He should call in the church elders (the spiritual guides). And they should pray over him…

— James 5:13-14 (AMPC)

Sometimes I marvel at how long Christians can struggle in a situation before thinking to pray about it. We complain about our problems, we grumble, we tell our friends, and we talk about how God should do something about it. We struggle with situations in our minds and in our emotions, while we often fail to take advantage of the simplest solution there is: prayer. We are all guilty of having treated prayer as a last-ditch effort. We carry burdens we do not need to bear—and life is much harder than it has to be—because we do not realize how powerful prayer is. If we did, we would pray about everything, not as a last resort, but as a first response.

In today’s scripture, the apostle James offers a simple, three-word solution to some of life’s challenges: He should pray. The message to us in this verse is that no matter what happens over the course of a day, we should pray. We should go to God immediately.

So, when you have a problem, pray; when you have a need, tell God what it is. When you are discouraged or you feel like giving up, pray. When you’re offended, pray. When you don’t know what to do, pray and ask God for wisdom. Whatever situation you find yourself in, pray before you do anything else.

Prayer Starter: Father, please forgive me for grumbling, murmuring, fault-finding and complaining about my problems! You know what I’m facing, and I come to you with all of my troubles. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –The Lord Was There

… although the Lord was there …

Ezekiel 35:10

Edom’s princes saw the whole country left desolate and counted upon its easy conquest; but there was one great difficulty in their way—quite unknown to them—“The Lord was there”; and in His presence lay the special security of the chosen land. Whatever may be the machinations and devices of the enemies of God’s people, there is still the same effectual barrier to thwart their plan.

The saints are God’s heritage, and He is among them and will protect His own. This assurance grants us comfort in our troubles and spiritual conflicts! We are constantly opposed and yet perpetually preserved! How often Satan shoots his arrows against our faith, but our faith defies the power of hell’s fiery darts; they are not only turned aside, but they are quenched upon its shield, for “the Lord was there.”

Our good works are the subjects of Satan’s attacks. A believer never yet had a virtue or a grace that was not the target for hellish bullets: whether it was bright and sparkling hope, or warm and fervent love, or all-enduring patience, or zeal flaming like coals of fire, the old enemy of everything that is good has tried to destroy it. The only reason why anything virtuous or lovely survives in us is this: “the Lord was there.”

If the Lord is with us through life, we do not need to fear death; for when we come to die, we will find that “the Lord is there.” Where the billows are most tempestuous, and the water is most chill, we shall feel the bottom and know that it is good; our feet shall stand upon the Rock of Ages when time is passing away. Dear friend, from the beginning of a Christian’s life to the end, the only reason he does not perish is because “the Lord was there.” When the God of everlasting love shall change and leave His elect to perish, then may the church of God be destroyed; but not until then, because it is written, JEHOVAH SHAMMAH, “The Lord was there.”

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Deserves the First and Best

“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.” (Exodus 13:15)

When the Pharaoh – the supreme ruler of Egypt – was oppressing the Jews and refusing to let them leave Egypt, God gave him many chances to change his mind. But eventually God was done giving second chances to Pharaoh, and He told the Hebrews put lamb’s blood on their doorposts. This act of faith would protect the Hebrews from the Lord’s judgment that would visit the land of Egypt. The Bible tells us that since the Egyptians did not have the blood on their doorposts the firstborn Egyptian sons and animals died. But right next door in Goshen where the Hebrews lived, all the Hebrew firstborns were safe because they believed God and obeyed His command.

After the Hebrews left Egypt (“the exodus”), God told them that from then on He wanted the first of everything. That meant that if they had a cow, the first calf would be sacrificed to the Lord. If they had a sheep, the first lamb belonged to God. This was to be a constant reminder throughout the years that God had gone to great lengths to rescue the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. These “firsts” came to symbolize the best or most important, which God deserved.

Even though we no longer sacrifice calves or lambs, God still deserves the best that we have. Whether it is the talents He has given to us or some money that we earn, God deserves the first and the best. Every boy or girl, man or woman who has trusted in Jesus for rescue from sin owes his or her soul to the Lord. Because of the gratitude in our hearts for this amazing gift of salvation we should give God the first and the best!

Because God has rescued us, He deserves our best

My Response:
» Do I keep the first and best for myself and give God the “leftovers”?

Denison Forum – “Unstoppable” skier was destined for gold—then he went the wrong way

 “Nordic combined skiing” is so named because it combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing. The sport has been dominated in recent years by Norwegian athlete Jarl Magnus Riiber, considered by NBC analyst Johnny Spillane to be “the best Nordic combined skier ever.” As Riiber prepared to compete in this year’s Olympics, Spillane predicted, “If he has a good day, he’s pretty much unstoppable.”

He didn’t have a good day.

Riiber tested positive for COVID-19 upon his arrival at the Games, missing his first event and every training session. He cleared isolation on Monday in time to ski cross-country for ten kilometers on Tuesday. As he entered the first of four 2.5-kilometer loops on the course, he came to a fork. To the left was the cross-country circuit; to the right was the path to the finish line. He had not had a chance to practice on the track, so he had to guess and picked the lane on the right.

He chose poorly. 

After skiing around fifty yards, he realized he was going the wrong way and turned around. It was too late, however—he’d frittered away his lead and finished in eighth place. “It’s a silly mistake,” Riiber said later, “and it’s not fun to show the world that I’m maybe wasting a gold medal on that.”

Let’s consider his mishap as a cultural parable.

What George Clooney thinks about heaven and hell

There are many reasons to believe that we’re skiing in the wrong direction these days, but unlike Jarl Magnus Riiber, it’s not too late to turn around.

Let’s begin by identifying the wrong lane. From surging inflation to rising sea levels to religious persecution to continuing tensions in Ukraine, it’s harder to find good news than bad news in the news.

Harvard history professor Tiya Miles writes for the New York Times: “Everyone around me seems to be talking about the end. The end of nearly a million American lives in the Covid pandemic; the end of American democracy; the end of a public bulwark against racism and blatant antisemitism; the end of the post-Cold War peace in Europe; the end of the stable climate; and the end of our children’s best futures, to name a few undeniable possibilities. A condition of apocalyptic anxiety has overtaken us, raising our collective blood pressure, and sending us deeper into a maelstrom of suspicion, conspiracy thinking, and pessimism.”

Filmmaker Woody Allen complained ironically, “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering—and it’s all over much too soon.” Actor George Clooney added, “I don’t believe in heaven and hell. All I know is that as an individual, I won’t allow this life—the only thing I know to exist—to be wasted.”

They and the multitudes who share their skepticism obviously do not believe that Jesus died and rose again, offering each of us eternal life through his grace and “abundant” life every day (John 10:10). They don’t agree that Christians can now “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) because we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

In short, they do not believe that Jesus is who he claims to be, and their unbelief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is a wrong path Christians must beware, for it is open to us as well.

A girl and boy I will never forget

Mark 6 tells us that when Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, the people were skeptical and “took offense at him” (v. 3). As a result, “he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief” (vv. 5–6).

God created us in his image (Genesis 1:27) with free will and a capacity for choice that he chooses to honor. He therefore will “stand at the door and knock,” waiting for us to open our hearts to him (Revelation 3:20). If we do not believe he is omnipotent, we are unlikely to seek his power for our problems. If we do not believe he is omniscient, we are unlikely to seek his guidance for our decisions. If we do not believe he is omnibenevolent, we are unlikely to trust that his will is best for us.

As a result, we will not experience his power, wisdom, or love. The less we experience of God, the less we believe in him, and the less we believe in him, the less we experience of him. Taking this wrong path inevitably leads us further down the wrong path.

By contrast, I have seen what happens when people take the right path, choosing to believe that Jesus is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do. I have seen Cuban Christians who have no medicines turn to the Great Physician and then experience miraculous healings. I have seen Muslim-background believers facing enormous oppression turn to Jesus for strength and then stand courageously for their Lord.

I will always remember the teenage girl I met in East Malaysia decades ago. Her father told her that if she was baptized as a Christian she could never go home again, so she brought her luggage to the church. And the young Christian I met in Singapore who faced abuse from his father every time he went to church but continued living at home because, as he explained, his father “needed to know about Jesus.”

“God does not give us overcoming life”

A relationship with God, like a relationship with anyone else, requires a commitment that transcends the evidence and becomes self-validating. You cannot prove that a job is the right job until you take it. You examine the evidence, but then you must step beyond the evidence into a relationship. It is the same with being married, or having children, or even reading this article. All relationships require a step of faith that becomes self-validating once we take it.

Oswald Chambers was right: “God does not give us overcoming life; he gives us life as we overcome” (his emphasis). He illustrates: “Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand—’Stretch forth thy hand,’ and as soon as the man did so, his hand was healed, but he had to take the initiative. If we will do the overcoming, we shall find we are inspired of God because he gives life immediately.”

What “overcoming” path is God asking you to choose today?