In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Getting Back on Course

If your relationship with God has grown stale, make this the day that you return to Him.

2 Peter 3:17-18

No matter how far away from God you have drifted, you’re always welcome back. That’s the lesson from Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son—the foolish boy who followed a pleasure-filled path to ruin before returning to his father and finding redemption (Luke 15:11-32). Whatever your drifting story, make this the day that you return to God.

As with any sin, the first move toward getting back on course is to confess your sin, acknowledging that you have slipped away from the Lord. Then you repent. If you’re wondering exactly how to do that, here’s my practice: Every morning, I surrender my life to the Lord. During the day, if I consider pursuing something that runs counter to His plan, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I am not my own.

In today’s passage, Peter gives a warning to be on guard against attitudes and ideologies that would carry you away from truth (2 Pet. 3:17). Instead, choose to paddle your lifeboat in the Lord’s direction by meditating on Scripture, praying, and living obediently. Practicing these spiritual disciplines keeps a heart warm toward God.

Bible in One Year: Isaiah 19-22

Our Daily Bread — The Key

Bible in a Year:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:29

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 11:25–29

In his classic book The Human Condition, Thomas Keating shares this memorable tale. A teacher, having lost the key to his home, is on his hands and knees searching through the grass. When his disciples see him searching, they join the hunt, but with no success. Finally, “one of the more intelligent disciples” asks, “Master, have you any idea where you might have lost the key?” Their teacher replies, “Of course. I lost it in the house.” When they exclaim, “Then why are we looking for it out here?” he answers, “Isn’t it obvious? There is more light here.”

We have lost the key to “intimacy with God, the experience of God’s loving presence,” Keating concludes. “Without that experience, nothing else quite works; with it, almost anything works.”  

How easy it is to forget that even in life’s ups and downs, God remains the key to our deepest longings. But when we’re ready to stop looking in all the wrong places, God is there, ready to show us true rest. In Matthew 11, Jesus praises the Father for revealing His ways, not to the “wise and learned,” but “to little children” (v. 25). Then He invites “all you who are weary and burdened” (v. 28) to come to Him for rest.

Like little children, we can find true rest as we learn the ways of our Teacher, who’s “gentle and humble in heart” (v. 29). God is there, eager to welcome us home.

By:  Monica La Rose

Reflect & Pray

When are you tempted to look for satisfaction and joy in the wrong places? What helps you remember to find peace, rest, and satisfaction in God instead?

Loving God, how easily I’m drawn to seek satisfaction in whatever looks brightest. Help me turn to You to find true rest.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Agape Love

“. . . And in your brotherly kindness, Christian love” (2 Peter 1:7).

Sacrificial love proves genuine faith.

Classical Greek had three common terms for love. As we saw yesterday, phileo (philadelphia) is the love of give and take, best expressed in friendship. Eros is the love that takes—one loves another strictly for what he or she can get out of that person. It is typical of the world’s sexual and lustful desires, which are always bent toward self-gratification. Agape is the love that gives. It is completely unselfish, with no taking involved. This is the highest form of love, which all the other virtues in 2 Peter 1 ultimately lead to. It seeks another’s supreme good, no matter what the cost. Agape was exemplified perfectly by Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

But what does this highest type of love look like? A brief survey of the one anothers in the New Testament gives an excellent picture. We are commanded to:

Edify one another (Rom. 14:19).
“Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
“Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).
Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).
Forgive one another (Col. 3:13).
Instruct one another (Col. 3:16).
“Comfort one another” (1 Thess. 4:18).
Rebuke one another (Titus 1:13).
Encourage one another to do good (Heb. 10:24-25).
Confess our sins to one another (James 5:16).
“Pray for one another” (James 5:16).
“Be hospitable to one another” (1 Peter 4:9-10).

The Lord Jesus Christ was involved with individuals. He was a true friend who caringly, lovingly, and sensitively interacted with feeble, needy, and unimportant people and made them eternally important.

Nevertheless we still find people spiritualizing love into a meaningless term. “I love so-and-so in the Lord” really means, “He irks me, but I guess I have to love him if he’s a believer.” Don’t let yourself say that. Instead, display genuine love.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that Christ showed agape love toward you on the cross.

For Further Study

Memorize one of the verses in the list of one anothers, and apply it at every appropriate opportunity.

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

Joyce Meyer – There Is Always Hope

And now, Lord, for what do I expectantly wait? My hope [my confident expectation] is in You.

— Psalm 39:7 (AMP)

It’s easy to look at your struggles in life and get discouraged. If you look only at your obstacles, it’s easy to lose hope. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness and feel you won’t recover. You might look at your bank account and feel hopeless. You may drive to work and think, There’s no hope for a promotion. And that is exactly what the devil wants you to do. He knows that if he can keep you hopeless, you cannot move on with bold faith, and you’ll miss God’s great plan for your life.

Resist the temptation to look at what you have lost or don’t have—choose to look at all that God has done, is doing, and will do. When you do, hope will come alive, joy will increase, and your faith will grow. When you live in the garden of hope, something is always blooming. Instead of believing the lie that things are hopeless, choose to declare, “With God, there is always hope!”

Prayer Starter: Lord, help me to resist the temptation to look at what I’ve lost or don’t have but instead, keep focused on what You have already done in my life, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Rest with Our Champion

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?

Romans 8:33

Most blessed challenge! How unanswerable it is! Every sin of the elect was laid upon the great Champion of our salvation, and by the atonement carried away. There is no sin in God’s book against His people: He sees no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel; they are justified in Christ forever. When the guilt of sin was taken away, the punishment of sin was removed. For the Christian there is no stroke from God’s angry hand—no, not so much as a single frown of punitive justice. The believer may be chastised by his Father, but God the Judge has nothing to say to the Christian except “I have absolved you: you are acquitted.”

For the Christian there is no penal death in this world, much less any second death. He is completely freed from all the punishment as well as the guilt of sin, and the power of sin is removed too. It may stand in our way and agitate us with perpetual warfare; but sin is a conquered foe to every soul in union with Jesus. There is no sin that a Christian cannot overcome if he will only rely upon his God to do it. They who wear the white robe in heaven overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and we may do the same. No lust is too mighty, no besetting sin too strongly entrenched; we can overcome through the power of Christ.

Do believe it, Christian—your sin is a condemned thing. It may kick and struggle, but it is doomed to die. God has written condemnation across its brow. Christ has crucified it, nailing it to His cross. Go now and mortify it, and may the Lord help you to live to His praise, for sin with all its guilt, shame, and fear is gone.

Here’s pardon for transgressions past,
It matters not how black their cast;
And, O my soul, with wonder view,
For sins to come here’s pardon too.

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 Gracious, Forgiving, and Loving

“And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (Exodus 33:19).

“And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Jonah 4:2).

My sister Jennifer and I were fighting. We raced toward our mom. Bang! Jennifer reached the door first and slammed it shut, trying to keep me from tattling on her. At the same time, I grabbed the hinge, trying to keep the door open. I failed. Suddenly the top knuckle of my middle finger was hanging by a thread of skin.

It took several different doctors and a specialist to sew my finger back together. They told my parents that I would never have feeling in that finger again—if they were even able to save it.

But you know what? God is gracious (kind, good, and sympathetic), and He answers prayers. He answered my parents’ prayers. God not only allowed the doctors to reattach my finger and for it to stay attached, but He also gave me complete feeling in that finger!

Our God is so gracious and loving! He didn’t have to save my finger. My sin and my sister’s sin caused that terrible accident, but not only did our parents forgive us and show us love, God forgave us and healed me. He graciously tended the finger of a small child and graciously healed it when the doctors didn’t think it would heal well. Now today I can play the piano, sew, type, and feel everything that I touch. What a gracious and loving God we have!

God has been gracious, forgiving, and loving to me.

My response:
» How does God show His grace and love to me?
» When was the last time I thanked God for the kindness He’s shown me?

Denison Forum – Mega Millions tops $1 billion and the so-called Respect for Marriage Act: Two ways to deal with discouragement

No one won last night’s Mega Millions drawing, which had a jackpot of $830 million, the fourth-largest in US history. As a result, the grand prize in Friday night’s drawing is now an estimated $1.02 billion, though that number is certain to grow as more tickets are bought ahead of the drawing.

If you bought a ticket but didn’t win last night, consider this: your odds of winning were one in 302.5 million. By contrast, consider your odds of experiencing the following:

  • Having identical quadruplets: one in fifteen million
  • Becoming an astronaut: one in twelve million
  • Being struck by lightning: one in ten million
  • Being crushed by a meteor: one in seven hundred thousand
  • Becoming an Olympic athlete: one in five hundred thousand

Some discouragements are just part of life, but others reframe life. Consider the so-called Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) that has passed the House and is now before the Senate. It would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and require the federal government to recognize any marriage if it is legally performed in any of the fifty states.

Why is this bill so discouraging?

One: If a single state recognizes polygamy as legal marriage, the federal government would be required to do the same, making polygamy the long-expected next domino to fall as marriage continues to be redefined and corrupted. Since a town in Massachusetts has already done this, and the state of Massachusetts was the first to recognize same-sex marriage in 2004, such a scenario seems more plausible than ever.

Two: The RMA goes much further than the 2015 Obergefell decision by focusing on the LGBTQ community and thus rendering marriage genderless. As John Stonestreet notes, “This will harm children and further confuse reality.”

Three: The RMA has no provisions whatever for conscience protections. Legal actions against florists, cake makers, wedding chapels, and others who stand for biblical marriage will undoubtedly continue.

“Those who seek the Lᴏʀᴅ lack no good thing”

We have focused this week on finding victory over temptation and doubt. Today, let’s discuss discouragement.

Our first response should be to expect it. Challenges and setbacks are part of life, even (and sometimes especially) for people of faith.

In Psalm 34, David testified: “Those who seek the Lᴏʀᴅ lack no good thing” (v. 10). However, verse 18 adds, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Apparently, we can still be “brokenhearted” and “crushed” even though God is “near” us.

Verse 19 captures this tension: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lᴏʀᴅ delivers him out of them all.” While God’s timeline may not be ours, the ultimate outcome is beyond doubt: “The Lᴏʀᴅ redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (v. 22).

We know how the story ends, but not when. In the meantime, discouragement is part of life.

“Rejoice in the Lord always”

Our second response should be to seek the joy of Jesus no matter our circumstances.

Paul wrote the letter of Philippians while in prison to a city where he had been imprisoned. Nonetheless, he could exhort his readers: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

“Rejoice” is a present-tense imperative, an ongoing command without conditions or qualifications. While happiness depends on happenings, spiritual joy (the essence of “rejoice”) transcends our circumstances. No matter where we are, we can rejoice “in the Lord”—the phrase means to be intimately, deeply connected to our Master and King.

The darker the room, the more urgent the light. If discouragement has weakened your desire to be with God, this means your spiritual eyes have become adjusted to the dark. In this case, the less you want to be with God, the more you need to be with God.

(For more on the transformative power of meeting God in his word, please see my latest website article, “Where to see a $43 million copy of the US Constitution.”)

“Strength I find to meet my trials here”

There is more to say, so we’ll conclude this discussion tomorrow. For today, let’s close with a remarkable story that caught my eye recently.

Karolina Sandell-Berg (1832–1903) lived a life filled with heartbreak and hope. She was stricken at an early age with partial paralysis but was miraculously healed at the age of twelve. In gratitude, she began writing verses of praise to God and published her first book of spiritual poetry at the age of sixteen.

Ten years later, she was on a boat trip with her father, a Lutheran minister, when he fell overboard and drowned in her presence. Her hymns became even deeper and more heartfelt in the years to come. She wrote over six hundred hymns in total.

She married in 1867, but their only child died at birth. She became ill with typhoid fever in 1892 and died eleven years later. And yet, through all her discouragements, Karolina could testify in perhaps her most famous hymn:

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what he deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest. 

Will you trust your Father’s “wise bestowment” today?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Friendship: A Help to Holiness

Strong friendships allow us to have tough conversations and also challenge us in our walk with God.

John 15:12-15

Of all that God created, one thing did not meet with His approval. With regard to Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The Creator designed people for emotional, mental, and physical intimacy—to share their innermost selves with one another.

Jesus taught His disciples that they should love each other as He had loved them. (John 15:12). In a God-honoring friendship, two people build each other up and spur one another toward Christlikeness. Many people, however, don’t have relationships that sharpen their faith (Proverbs 27:17). They instead settle for the trivial talk of casual acquaintances, about things like the weather or world news.

But the best relationships don’t shy away from vulnerable conversations. Fruitful friendships can begin when men and women risk their pride and comfort to discuss accountability, biblical living, or anything meant to motivate one another in holiness. When there’s trust and submission, two people can confess sin, offer gentle reproof, and share burdens.

The walls we build to keep people at a distance are often defenses against God as well—to keep Him out of our dearest personal business. But if we share openly with a brother or sister in Christ, we will learn to be more honest with God too.

Bible in One Year: Isaiah 4-7

Our Daily Bread — Live Like You’re Healed

Bible in a Year:

Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

Acts 3:8

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Acts 3:1–10

Two sisters from India were born blind. Their father was a hard-working provider, but he could never afford the surgery that would give them sight. Then a team of doctors came to their region on a short-term medical mission. The morning after their surgery, the girls smiled wide as the nurse unwrapped their bandages. One exclaimed, “Mother, I can see! I can see!”

A man who had been lame since birth sat in his usual spot at a temple gate, begging for money. Peter told the man he didn’t have coins, but he had something better. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6), he said. The man “jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went . . . jumping, and praising God” (v. 8).

The sisters and the man appreciated their eyes and legs more than those who were never blind or lame. The girls couldn’t stop blinking in amazement and celebration, and the man “jumped to his feet.”

Consider your own natural abilities. How might you enjoy these abilities more, and how might you use them differently, if you had been miraculously healed? Now consider this. If you believe in Jesus, He’s healed you spiritually. He’s rescued you from your sins.

Let’s thank the One who made and saved us and dedicate all that He gave us to Him.

By:  Mike Wittmer

Reflect & Pray

How might you use your natural abilities for Jesus? How might you enjoy serving with whatever abilities you have? Thank Him for the pleasure they bring.

Father, thank You for ears to hear You, mouths to praise You, and hands and feet to serve You.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Diligence and Excellence

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence” (2 Peter 1:5).

God’s provision does not preclude our responsibility.

There are some who believe that since God has provided everything needed for the Christian life, believers should expect Him to do everything for them. Their motto is, “Let go and let God!” If Peter had a motto for the Christian life, it would have been more along the lines of the popular World War II song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!” Peter knew the Christian life is a struggle in which believers need to expend the maximum effort to equip themselves with godly virtues—the virtues that, when present in our lives, produce assurance of salvation. He therefore prefaces the list of those virtues in verse 5 by saying, “Now for this very reason also,” thus pointing us back to God’s provision of salvation in verses 1-4. That provision is not meant to eliminate our efforts in living the Christian life but to enable and encourage them. We must, says Peter, live our Christian lives by “applying all diligence” to develop godly virtues.

Heading the list of virtues that should characterize our lives is “moral excellence.” The Greek term arete can also be translated “virtue.” In classical Greek literature, it often referred to the ability to perform heroic deeds. It refers to the quality that makes someone or something stand out as excellent. An arete knife was one that was sharp and cut well; an arete horse was one with speed and endurance; an arete singer was one who sang well.

“Moral excellence,” it should be noted, is not an attitude but an action. In fact, some suggest the meaning “moral energy” for it—the moral energy that gives us the power to do excellent deeds. Our model for that kind of active excellence is Jesus Christ, who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

Never waver in your pursuit of excellence. In the words of Paul to the Thessalonians, “Excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:1).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for supplying everything you need to live the Christian life.
  • Ask Him to help you to be diligent to develop godly virtues in your life.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 4:238:1712:2713:421:5. What do those passages teach about the importance of diligence?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

Joyce Meyer – Renew Your Mind

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

— Romans 12:2 (AMPC)

Renewing your mind is not like renewing your driver’s license or library card, which can be done quickly and doesn’t have to be repeated for months or years. Renewing your mind is more like undertaking the job of renewing and refurbishing an old house. It doesn’t happen quickly; it takes time, energy, and effort, and there is always something that needs attention.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can renew your mind by thinking right thoughts one time. To get the mind renewed, you will have to think right thoughts over and over again, until they become rooted in your thinking—until right thoughts come to you more easily and naturally than wrong thoughts.

You will have to discipline yourself to think properly, and you will have to guard against falling into old thought patterns, which can happen very easily. When it does, don’t feel bad—just start thinking rightly again. You will eventually come to the place where wrong thoughts make you uncomfortable and they just don’t fit right into your thinking processes any longer.

Let me be quick to say that you should not feel condemned if you are struggling with your thought life right now or if you face struggles in the days to come. Condemnation only weakens you; it never helps you make progress. Anytime we recognize that we are allowing wrong thoughts into our minds, we should ask God to forgive us and continue pressing on toward our goal.

Celebrate every victory because it helps you to not feel overwhelmed by what still remains to be conquered and remember that God is very patient and long-suffering. He is understanding and will never give up on you.

Prayer Starter: Father, I want to renew and transform my mind. I trust that You will be patient with me and guide me as you practice right thinking, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Behold

 ‘Behold the man!’

John 19:5

If there be one place where our Lord Jesus most fully becomes the joy and comfort of His people, it is where He plunged deepest into the depths of woe. Come, gracious souls, and behold the Man in the garden of Gethsemane; behold His heart so brimming with love that He cannot hold it in—so full of sorrow that it must find expression. Behold the bloody sweat as it distills from every pore of His body and falls upon the ground. Behold the Man as they drive the nails into His hands and feet. Look up, repenting sinners, and see the sorrowful image of your suffering Lord. Consider Him as the ruby drops stand on the thorn-crown and adorn with priceless gems the diadem of the King of Misery. Behold the Man when all His bones are out of joint, and He is poured out like water and brought into the dust of death; God has forsaken Him, and hell surrounds Him.

Look and see, was there ever sorrow like His sorrow that is done unto Him? All passersby pause and look upon this spectacle of grief, a wonder to men and angels, an unparalleled phenomenon. Behold the Emperor of Woe who had no equal or rival in His agonies! Gaze upon Him, you mourners, for if there is no consolation in a crucified Christ there is no joy in earth or heaven. If in the ransom price of His blood there is no hope, there is no joy in the harps of heaven, and the right hand of God shall know no pleasures forevermore.

We need only sit more continually at the cross to be less troubled with our doubts and woes. We need only see His sorrows, and our sorrows we shall be ashamed to mention; we need only to gaze into His wounds and heal our own. If we would live properly, it must be by the contemplation of His death; if we would rise to dignity, it must be by considering His humiliation and His sorrow.

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Works Everything Together for Good

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“Kevin, grab the butter and eggs from the refrigerator, please. And Cara Ann, see if there’s more sugar in the pantry,” instructed Mom as she checked over the recipe. Kevin and Cara Ann were helping their mom make a special treat: a chocolate cake with chocolate icing for Dad’s birthday.

As they finished gathering the necessary ingredients, Mom got out the baking chocolate. “Yummmm!” said Kevin as he watched her set the large, thick bar on the counter.

“Can we have a little bit of that?” asked Cara Ann, her mouth already watering.

“That’s not such a good idea,” Mom replied. “This kind of chocolate doesn’t taste good at all. It’s called bittersweet chocolate. I don’t think you’ll like it.”

But Kevin and Cara Ann pleaded, “Pleeeeeease! Just a teeny bit!” Mom consented and gave them each a sliver of the chocolate bar. “Yuck! Disgusting!” they both said as they started spitting the chocolate into the trash can.

“You were right, Mom,” said Kevin. “That’s awful.”

“But it’s so good in the birthday cake,” pointed out Cara Ann. “Why does it taste so bad by itself?”

Both Cara Ann and Kevin listened as Mom explained that the bittersweet baking chocolate needed the other ingredients in the cake, like the sugar and butter, to make it tasty. Until it was all mixed together, the chocolate would taste nasty.

“That reminds me of our memory verse from Sunday School last week,” said Cara Ann excitedly. “It was Romans 8:28. ‘All things work together for good—’” she began.

“Oh, yeah!” Kevin interrupted. “Our teacher told us that God will take both bad and good things in our lives and combine them to produce something good. That’s just like the gross baking chocolate being mixed with other ingredients to make a delicious chocolate cake.”

“You’re exactly right,” said Mom, nodding her head. “God has a purpose in everything He brings our way—whether it’s enjoyable for us at the time or not. In the end, though, we’ll see that His plan was the best. He’ll bring everything together for good. We just need to trust Him and leave the results in His hands.”

If you belong to God, He is working everything in your life together for your good.

My response:
» Are there some things going on in my life that I don’t really like?
» Have I given those things over to God?
» Am I completely trusting Him to make “all things work together for good” in my life?

Denison Forum – CIA director says Vladimir Putin is “entirely too healthy”

President Joe Biden tested positive yesterday morning for COVID-19. According to a White House statement, “He is fully vaccinated and twice boosted and experiencing very mild symptoms.”

In other political news, US Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for New York governor, was assaulted at an event last night, though he escaped serious injury. Italy’s president dissolved parliament yesterday following the resignation of the country’s prime minister. And CIA Director William Burns responded to rumors about Vladimir Putin’s health by stating, “As far as we can tell, he’s entirely too healthy.”

Geopolitics are not the only place to find illustrations of our uncertain times. Over one hundred million Americans are under heat warnings and advisories (for more on the heat crisis, see Dr. Ryan Denison’s insightful new article.) Ghana has confirmed its first outbreak of the highly infectious Marburg virus, which has a fatality rate of up to 88 percent.

And experts who gathered in Rome this week for a conference organized by the University of Notre Dame warned that religious freedom is under attack all over the world.

“Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth”

This week we’ve explored reasons to trust God’s will in uncertain times. Let’s close with this fact: the more uncertain the times, the more we need to trust God’s will. The more difficult the surgery, the more we need a skillful surgeon. The heavier the burden, the more we need a strong friend.

However, it can be hard to trust God when it’s hard to trust God. That sounds like something Yogi Berra would say, but it’s true. The more difficult the times, the more we are tempted to blame God for them. And the more we are tempted to double down on ourselves.

From Socrates to today, Western society has taught us that to “know thyself” is the key to wisdom. Self-reliance is the path to personal success and significance, or so we’re told.

Epicurus (341–270 BC) claimed, “Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.” Ralph Waldo Emerson agreed: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” So did Ayn Rand: “Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself.”

Joseph Campbell assured us, “You become mature when you become the authority of your own life.” And Steve Jobs famously advised, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.” (For more on our cultural self-reliance and our need for what only God can do, please see my new article, “‘Nap boxes’ and the providence of God.”

However, as you consider the news I’ve reported today and the daily drumbeat of crises in the headlines, let me ask: How is self-reliance working for us?

Why Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane

In challenging times, I recommend a look back that empowers a look up.

The Garden of Gethsemane is my wife’s favorite place in Israel. It was here that Jesus chose to die for us. As he watched the soldiers marching through the eastern walls of Jerusalem, into the Kidron valley, and up the Mount of Olives, he had abundant opportunity to flee what he knew was coming.

If he had retreated back to Galilee, the authorities in Jerusalem would have been pleased—this would have ended the threat of a revolt by his followers without risking the wrath of these same followers over his arrest and execution. And yet he stayed where he was, sealing his death.

However, there’s even more to the decision our Savior made that night.

Judas had already conspired with the authorities to betray Jesus, but arresting this popular figure needed to happen under the cover of darkness and outside the city lest the crowds hear of this plot and rise up against it. How could this be arranged?

Jesus solved their problem. He waited for them late at night and outside the city walls at a place Judas could find him: “Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples” (John 18:2).

It was there that Jesus chose what would come the next day: he would suffer the most grievous form of torture ever devised, bear the sins of all of humanity on his sinless soul, and be separated from his Father for the only time in all of eternity. It was there that he chose to die on a cross so you could live eternally.

He would do it all over again, just for you.

“I choose to trust God in everything I do”

When we remember the love that drove Jesus to the cross and we consider that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), we realize that he loves us today as much as on the day he died for us. As a result, we can trust his word and will to be best for us because he only wants what is best for us.

Now we can name our challenges, entrust them to his compassion, claim his ongoing intercession for us (Romans 8:34), and ask that his Spirit empower us to love our Lord and our neighbor as we are loved. In this way, we will become catalysts for the spiritual renewal our culture needs so desperately.

Let’s close the week with a remarkable illustration of my thesis: Alena Wicker has been accepted to the University of Alabama Heersink School of Medicine. What makes this news so remarkable? Alena is thirteen years old. She graduated from high school at the age of twelve and is now a junior in college.

After her acceptance to medical school, she posted a note on Instagram thanking her mother: “A little black girl adopted from Fontana, California. I’ve worked so hard to reach my goals and live my dreams. Mama I made it. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Alena also testified to the ultimate source of her opportunities: “Thanking God for every open door and for allowing my gifts to make room for me.” She added on Facebook: “No matter what happens in life I choose to trust God in everything I do.”

Will you follow her example today?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Nagging Sense of Dissatisfaction

If your soul feels depleted, make unhurried time with Jesus a priority.

Isaiah 55:1-3

Have you ever found yourself simply standing in front of the refrigerator, not looking for anything specific but wanting to fill a longing? At other times, our craving involves something other than food, such as a career, possessions, or relationships. Our souls are continually trying to find satisfaction, but nothing in this world will fill the void.

Since we were created for relationship with God, He placed deep within us a yearning for Him. Though we may not recognize it as such, everyone knows this feeling of dissatisfaction and whenever we attempt to find fulfillment with worldly substitutes, disappointment and disillusionment are bound to follow.

We can choose to fill our empty souls from one of two menus. Satan’s is long and full of enticing options that seem to promise fulfillment and pleasure, perhaps by means of riches, renown, or acceptance. His choices look as if they will bring contentment, but it’s pure deception. God’s menu, on the other hand, is quite small—it offers just one option: Jesus. He is the only one who can truly fill the void.

Have you found the satisfaction you seek, or is there always a vague sense of discontent in your soul? When you spend focused, unhurried time with Jesus, He will satisfy you as nothing else can.

Bible in One Year: Song of Solomon 5-8

Our Daily Bread — God Sees You

Bible in a Year:

You are the God who sees me.

Genesis 16:13

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Genesis 16:7–16

Early mornings can be painful for my friend Alma, a single mom of two. She says, “When everything is quiet, worries surface. As I do household chores, I think about our financial concerns and the kids’ health and studies.”

When her husband abandoned her, Alma bore the responsibility of raising her children on her own. “It’s difficult,” she says, “but I know God sees me and my family. He gives me the strength to work two jobs, provides for our needs, and lets my kids experience His guidance each day.”

Hagar, an Egyptian maidservant, understood what it meant to be seen by God. After she got pregnant by Abram, she began to despise Sarai (Genesis 16:4), who in turn mistreated her, causing Hagar to flee to the desert. Hagar found herself alone, facing a future that seemed bleak and hopeless for her and her unborn child.

But it was in the desert that “the angel of the Lord” (v. 7) met her and said, “The Lord has heard of your misery” (v. 11). The angel of God gave Hagar guidance on what to do, and He assured her of what the future would hold. From her we learn one of the names of God—El Roi, “the God who sees me” (v. 13).

Like Hagar, you may be on a difficult journey—feeling lost and alone. But remember that even in the wasteland, God sees you. Reach out to Him and trust Him to guide you through.

By:  Karen Huang

Reflect & Pray

How could knowing God as El Roi—the God who sees—change your view of your current circumstances? How can you respond to Him?

Dear God, thank You that I’ll never have to journey through life alone. I know that You see me and will always be with me.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Remembering Your Inheritance

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

Victory over present circumstances comes when you focus on your eternal inheritance and praise God for it.

One amazing privilege you have as a Christian is to be the beneficiary of a rich and exciting spiritual inheritance. Jesus gave us a glimpse of its magnitude when He said, “The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'” (Matt. 25:34). The kingdom itself is part of your inheritance!

This inheritance is shared by every child of God. Hebrews 9:15 says that Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that . . . those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Jesus commissioned Paul to preach to the Gentiles “so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Him]” (Acts 26:18).

No one can fully understand “all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Consequently, at times you might forget that you’re a child of the King and begin to act like this world is all you have to live for. God may even have to discipline you from time to time to correct your behavior. But someday you will be all God created you to be and will know the full glory of your inheritance. In the meantime, be diligent to “set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth” (Col. 3:2). Focus on your inheritance and praise God for it. That will help you see beyond your present circumstances to the glory that awaits you when Jesus calls you home.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the rich inheritance that is yours in Christ.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter chapter 1.

  • What spiritual privileges did Peter mention?
  • What commands did he give?
  • Is there any connection between those privileges and commands? Explain.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

Joyce Meyer – Choose Your Thoughts

…But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.

— 1 Corinthians 2:16 (AMPC)

One of my favorite things to say is, “Where the mind goes, the man follows,” because the way you think determines the way you live.

If you think you’re going to be defeated, then you’re going to have an attitude that leads to defeat. But if you choose to think about God’s promises, you’re going to have a faith-filled, expectant attitude.

Yesterday, you may have let your mind focus on the negative— what you can’t do, how badly you’ve messed up, all the things that could go wrong—but today you can submit your mind to the Word of God. You can actually choose the thoughts you are going to dwell on.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can change your thoughts today. You can choose a better, more positive, more fulfilling life.

Prayer Starter: Thank You, Father, for helping me think positive thoughts. I am grateful that I am not a prisoner to negative thinking and that I can choose happy, and joy-filled thoughts, which will lead to a more fulfilling life, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Rejoice

Why do I go mourning?

Psalm 42:9

Can you answer this, believer? Can you find any reason why you are so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told you that the night would never end in day? Who told you that the sea of circumstances would ebb out till there should be nothing left but long stretches of the mud of horrible poverty? Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice and hail to deeper snow and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Don’t you know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter?

Be full of hope! Hope forever! For God does not fail you. Do you not know that God loves you in the midst of all this? Mountains, when in darkness hidden, are as real as in day, and God’s love is as true to you now as it was in your brightest moments.

No father chastens always. The Lord hates the rod as much as you do; He only cares to use it for that reason that would make you willing to receive it—namely, it brings about your lasting good. You will yet climb Jacob’s ladder with the angels and behold Him who sits at the top of it—your covenant God. You will yet, amidst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them and works your lasting good by them. Come, sing in the midst of tribulation.

Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Make the wilderness blossom like the rose! Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then, forever with the Lord, your bliss shall never wane.

Faint not nor fear, His arms are near,
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe and you shalt see,
That Christ is all in all to thee.

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – Faith Pleases God

“But without faith it is impossible to please him [God]” (Hebrews 11:6).

Remember the Old Testament stories about Noah building an ark, baby Moses floating in a basket, and Daniel surviving the lions’ den? Did you know that those people are also in the New Testament? The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is often called the “faith” chapter. It reminds us of people such as Noah, Moses, and Daniel to show us what faith is and how faith pleases God.

Faith caused Noah to obediently build an ark even though he had never seen rain. Faith caused the midwives to hide Moses when all the other Hebrew baby boys were being murdered by the Egyptians. Faith caused Daniel to continue praying to God even though he knew that doing so meant being thrown into a den of hungry lions. We know the ending of those stories. We know that God saved Noah and his family, rescued baby Moses, and kept Daniel safe. But, Noah, Moses’ parents, and Daniel could not see the end of their stories. They did not know how their faith would affect them, but they did know that faith pleased God—and that was all that mattered!

Obedience to God requires faith, and faith pleases God. Living by faith does not mean you get what you want, nor does it keep you from being teased or persecuted. But faith does please God, and that is the only thing that should matter. You will not know the outcome of your faith in God at the time you are obeying and trusting Him, but you know that your faith pleases God regardless of how it affects you.

Revelation 4:11 tells us that God created all things and that all things were created for His pleasure. As a person who was created by God, you must please Him. That is impossible to do without faith. And it is impossible to live by faith that pleases God unless you first have faith in God for your salvation.

Faith pleases God, and it proves that someone believes in God and seeks after Him (Ephesians 2:8–10).

My response:
» Have I trusted God to save me?
» Am I afraid to trust God if I cannot see how things will turn out? Or do I trust Him no matter what?
» How can I demonstrate faith in God today?