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