In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Pursuing the Lord

Seeking God isn’t about following rules; it’s about enjoying His presence.

Psalm 119:1-8

We all have ambitions and desires, but as believers, we should weigh them against God’s Word. As important as our earthly pursuits, responsibilities, and relationships may be, they cannot compare to the value of a life spent seeking our heavenly Father. 

What does it mean to seek God? The phrase describes a wholehearted effort to know the Father and follow Him more closely. Those who pursue this kind of fellowship with God are determined to spend time with Him. They also want to forsake anything that could hinder growth in their relationship with the Lord. God’s committed followers claim His promises and trust Him to fulfill His Word. Their experiences with the Lord bring amazing satisfaction yet cause them to hunger for more of Him. 

The Christian life is meant to be an ongoing pursuit of God. To walk through the door of salvation and stand still, without drawing any closer to Him, is to miss the treasures that are available in Christ. Those who seek the Lord soon discover that knowing Him is the greatest reward of all. 

Bible in One Year: 2 Kings 18-20

Our Daily Bread — Growing in Faith

Bible in a Year:

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:4

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

James 1:2–4

At the beginning of my gardening journey, I’d wake up early and run to my vegetable garden to see if anything had sprouted. Nothing. After an internet search for “fast garden growth,” I learned that the seedling stage is the most important phase of a plant’s lifespan. Knowing now that this process couldn’t be rushed, I came to appreciate the strength of small sprouts fighting their way through the soil toward the sun and their resilience to temperamental weather. After waiting patiently for a few weeks, I was finally greeted by bursts of green sprouts creeping through the soil.

Sometimes it’s easy to praise the victories and triumphs in our lives without similarly acknowledging that growth in our character often comes through time and struggle. James instructs us to “consider it pure joy” when we “face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). But what could possibly be delightful about trials?

God will sometimes allow us to go through challenges and hardships so that we can be molded into who He’s called us to be. He waits in anticipation for us to come out of the trials of life “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4). By staying grounded in Jesus, we can persevere through any challenge, growing stronger and ultimately allowing the fruit of the Spirit to blossom in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23). His wisdom gives us the nourishment we need to truly flourish each and every day (John 15:5).

By:  Kimya Loder

Reflect & Pray

What trials have you been working through recently? What lessons are these circumstances revealing to you?

Dear heavenly Father, sometimes the trials I face seem unbearable. Please give me the strength to persevere, and help me as I grow in faith and develop into the fruit-bearing believer that You’ve called me to be.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Three Kinds of Persecution

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me” (Matt. 5:10-11).

When you speak out for Christ, you can expect harassment, insults, and slander.

Jesus mentioned three broad categories of suffering that Christians will experience. The first is persecution. “Persecuted” (Matt. 5:10) and “persecute” (v. 11) both come from the same Greek root meaning “to pursue” or “chase away.” Over time it came to mean “to harass” or “treat in an evil manner.” Verse 10 literally reads, “Blessed are those who have been allowing themselves to be persecuted.” You are blessed when people harass you for your Christian stance and you willingly accept it for the sake of your Lord.

The second form of suffering is “insults” (v. 11), which translates a Greek word that means “to reproach,” “revile,” or “heap insults upon.” It speaks of verbal abuse—attacking someone with vicious and mocking words. It is used in Matthew 27:44 of the mockery Christ endured at His crucifixion. It happened to Him and it will happen to His followers as well.

The final category Jesus mentioned is slander—people telling lies about you. That’s perhaps the hardest form of suffering to endure because our effectiveness for the Lord is directly related to our personal purity and integrity. Someone’s trying to destroy the reputation you worked a lifetime to establish is a difficult trial indeed!

If you’re going through a time of suffering for righteousness’ sake, take heart: the Lord went through it too and He understands how difficult it can be. He knows your heart and will minister His super-abounding grace to you. Rejoice that you are worthy of suffering for Him and that the kingdom of heaven is yours.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those who treat you unkindly, asking God to forgive them and grant them His grace.
  • Pray that you might always treat others with honesty and fairness.

For Further Study

Throughout history God Himself has endured much mocking and slander. Read 2 Peter 3:3-9, then answer these questions:

  • What motivates mockers?
  • What do they deny?
  • Why doesn’t God judge them on the spot?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthu

Joyce Meyer – How to Relieve Stress God’s Way

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

— Philippians 4:6–7 (ESV)

Stress is one of the biggest problems we face in our society today. Everything is so fast-paced, loud, and excessive that our mental, emotional, and physical systems stay on overload. We are inundated with information. We have newspapers, magazines, and twenty-four-hour news networks that don’t just reach us through our television but through our cell phones and other mobile devices. At one time, a popular web search engine indexed more than 3,307,998,701 web pages! It’s hard enough to think about that number, let alone the content that goes with it. We have information overload, and it is no wonder we have trouble calming our minds down so we can rest.

In addition to what the world throws at us, we have schedules that are insane. There are never enough hours in any day to get everything done we are trying to do. We hurry and rush, we feel frustrated and tired, and we’re the first to say, “I’m under so much stress that I feel I am going to explode.” And stress takes its toll on our confidence.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I can’t change the world around me, but I can bring my life and requests to You. May Your peace guard my heart and mind today. Thank You that I can rest in You, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – A Hard Forehead and Stubborn Heart

All the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.

Ezekiel 3:7

Are there no exceptions? No, not one. Even God’s chosen are described in this way. If the best are so bad, then what must the worst be like? Come, my heart, consider to what extent you share in this universal accusation; as you think, prepare to be ashamed of those things of which you are guilty.

The first charge is impudence, or hardness of forehead, an absence of holy shame, an unholy boldness in evil. Before my conversion, I could sin and feel no regret, hear of my guilt and remain unhumbled, and even confess my iniquity without any accompanying humiliation. When a sinner goes to God’s house and pretends to pray to Him and praise Him, he displays a brazen-facedness of the worst kind! Sadly, since the day of my new birth I have doubted my Lord to His face, murmured unblushingly in His presence, worshiped Him in a slovenly manner, and sinned without bewailing myself on account of it. If my forehead were not like a diamond, harder than flint, I would display more holy fear and a far deeper contrition of spirit. Woe is me, for I am one of the impudent house of Israel.

The second charge is hard-heartedness, and I dare not attempt to plead innocent here. Once I had nothing but a heart of stone, and although through grace I now have a new and fleshy heart, much of my former stubbornness remains. I am not affected by the death of Jesus as I ought to be; neither am I moved as I should be by the lostness of my fellowmen, the wickedness of the times, the chastisement of my heavenly Father, and my own failures. O that my heart would melt at the recital of my Savior’s sufferings and death. Would to God I were rid of this dreadful burden within me, this hateful body of death.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, the disease is not incurable; the Savior’s precious blood is the universal remedy, and it will effectually soften me, even me, until my heart melts as wax before the fire.

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Created Everything in Six Normal Days

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)

Have you ever built something? Maybe you wanted to build a bird-house or a dog-house. Stop and think how long it took you to build whatever you built. How long did it take you? Did it take you a day? Two days? Maybe even a week?

Now take a look around you. Look at the sky, the trees, and the ground. Look at your brother and sister, and your mom and dad and your friends. Now think of all the billions of people in the world and the trillions of animals and the quadrillions of stars and planets. Can you believe that God created all that and everything else in just six days? Not six years. Not six months. Not even six weeks. Just six days!

Almighty God created everything out of nothing. Nothing existed before God created it–nothing except for God himself. If you were to build a bird-house, you would probably copy another one that has already been built. At least you have seen one before to know what one looks like. But, when God created everything, He not only made it, but He imagined everything first. A tree never existed, before God made it; and neither did water or a fish or a human! And God created everything, and He did it out of nothing, in only six days! (Genesis 1:31)

There are some people who would like to tell you that the six days we read about in the Bible are not six actual days. They think that the word “day” represents a year or a hundred years or even thousands of years. However, if God would have wanted to say “a year,” He would have said “a year.” A “day” means a “day.” And our great Creator God created everything in these six days.

So, look around today, and think about all that God has created. He is our Almighty Creator. Praise Him! He created everything for His own glory’s sake, so we ought to worship Him.

God created everything out of nothing in only six days, all by Himself.

My Response:
» Do I meditate on how great the one true God must be?
» Am I living like God created me to live?
» How can I share with others what the Bible says about Creation?

Denison Forum – Man marries a fictional character: Learning to “spot the lie”

The New York Times is profiling a movement called “fictosexuals.” These are people who consider themselves married to a fictional character, whether a doll, a character in a video game, or a similar “person.” One person who “married” a doll wants us to know that as artificial intelligence and robotics allow for more profound interactions with the inanimate, the number of “fictosexuals” is likely to increase.

In other news, Google has launched an “inclusive language” function that warns writers to avoid certain words and phrases that “may not be inclusive to all readers.” It will prompt you to change “mankind” to “humankind” and “policeman” to “police officer,” for example. I wonder if one day I will be prompted to change “same-sex marriage” to “marriage equality” and “sex change operation” to “gender affirmation therapy” as such euphemisms normalize a “personal truth” culture.

Speaking of normalizing behavior once considered immoral, my hometown Dallas Morning News informs us that a local town’s embrace of LGBTQ “Pride” will “show [us] how to do things right” as a “perfect example of community leaders looking farther down the road than how to get a few books banned from the library.”

As the NFL draft approaches tonight, yahoo!sports tells us about a tight end who “could be the first NFL player with same-sex parents.” And celebrity Megan Fox reports that her transgender “brave child” has “chosen this journey for a reason.”

How we got here

The so-called “sexual revolution” could be dated to 1953 when Hugh Hefner began popularizing and normalizing pornography. In 1983, videotape moved films (including pornography) out of theaters and into private homes. In the late 1990s, pornographic films began to be distributed on DVD. Tragically, the internet has now made pornography an epidemic available to every cellphone in America.

Meanwhile, birth control pills were legalized in 1960, allowing couples to have sex outside of marriage without fear of pregnancy. Helen Gurley Brown’s 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl encouraged single women to be sexually active. The decade saw a rising movement protesting the Vietnam War and promoting rock music, the use of drugs, public displays of nudity, and complete freedom of sexual activity.

The Stonewall Riots of 1969 were a galvanizing event in the movement for LGBTQ rights. The intentional strategy that ensued first normalized LGBTQ behavior through popular culture (the TV show Will & Grace was a major contributor) and continues today through Pride Month, the promotion of LGBTQ characters on TV and in movies, and a concerted effort to make such relationships commonplace.

The next stage was legalizing same-sex marriage, beginning in Massachusetts in 2004 and culminating with the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision. As Chief Justice John Roberts warned in his Obergefell dissent, this effort has since moved to legalizing polygamy.

Now advocates are stigmatizing those who disagree as homophobic, prejudiced, and discriminatory. And our culture is moving toward criminalizing such disagreement through the so-called Equality Act and similar legislation.

The urgency of discernment

My point is that evangelical Christians must be discerning of secular culture on a level unprecedented in American history.

Never before have prime-time television shows (and even commercials) normalized LGBTQ behavior as they do today. Never before has pornography been as ubiquitous or as widely accepted as it is today. We are even seeing movements to normalize and legalize prostitution (“sex work”) despite the fact that 89 percent of prostitutes urgently want to escape prostitution.

Sex positivity” endorsing “all forms of sexual expression between consenting adults” has entered the cultural lexicon alongside such euphemisms as “marriage equality” and “gender affirmation therapy.” It is difficult to engage popular culture on any level without being forced to confront unbiblical sexual morality. Our children and grandchildren are growing up in a society that seeks to indoctrinate them with its secular “values” on a very intentional level.

If you’re like me, right now you’re wishing there was an “off-ramp” you could take to escape the cultural collisions of our day. But we discover a better way from an easily overlooked detail in the New Testament.

A surprising choice

Acts 28 tells the story of the Apostle Paul’s voyage to Rome. After spending three months on the island of Malta, he and his entourage “set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead” (v. 11). These were Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda who were considered to be the gods who protected seamen.

Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Luke to include this detail?

Imagine Saul the Pharisee setting foot on a Gentile ship, especially one that displayed such idolatrous figures. But Paul the apostle has learned to use his fallen culture to advance God’s kingdom. He has traveled on Roman roads to Roman cities and employed the Greek language to share God’s word “in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:20) while ultimately writing thirteen of the New Testament’s twenty-seven books.

In the context of today’s article, the apostle would encourage us to balance two priorities: “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18) while using the culture where we can (1 Corinthians 9:22) to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

For example, the New York Times “fictosexuals” story is an opportunity to share the fulfillment God brings to those who are married to “real” people within his blessing. The Google “inclusive language” story is a chance to endorse the biblical equality of men and women (Genesis 1:27Galatians 3:28) while exposing the deeper narrative that seeks to normalize immorality.

A game we should all play

A good friend of mine plays a game with his children when they watch TV called “spot the lie”: they compete to be the first to recognize when something is said or done that is unbiblical. He is teaching them to be not paranoid but discerning.

We should do the same with our children and with our souls.

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Walking With God in Dark Times

Dark, challenging times are never wasted when you follow the Lord.

Genesis 39

Yesterday, we discussed Joseph’s faith. Today we’ll look at some principles that guided him during challenging moments in his life. 

Dark times may continue until God’s purpose is accomplished. The Lord’s plan was to prepare Joseph to rescue his family, as well as the nation of Egypt, from famine. But first, God placed Joseph in the role of a servant, where he earned credibility with Egyptian leaders. Then, it was in prison that the Lord “extended kindness” (Gen. 39:21), positioning him to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. Through these difficult situations, Joseph was chosen by Pharaoh to lead Egypt and save the nation from famine as God planned. 

We learn in both the dark and the light. Besides discovering God’s faithfulness, Joseph learned to handle high and low positions, to say no to temptation, and to discern God’s presence. 

What we learn in the darkness, we’re to share in the light. Joseph did not let imprisonment discourage him from helping others (Genesis 40:1-23). In fact, when interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, he openly shared his faith and God-given knowledge (Genesis 41:15-16). 

No one goes looking for hard times, but they seem to find some of us regularly. Instead of fearing them, we can trust God and embrace His plan, knowing He uses trials for His glory and our gain. 

Bible in One Year: 2 Kings 16-17