In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – How to Handle the Bible

Once we realize the power of Scripture, we long to read, understand, and implement it.

Psalm 1:1-3

The value we place on something determines how we treat it. For example, you probably wouldn’t give much thought to an old shoebox. But if someone put $10,000 inside it, you’d protect it. Similarly, once we realize the worth of Scripture, we no longer read merely out of obligation. Here are six things God tells us about how to read His “instruction manual for life.”

  1. Turn to it daily with eager expectation for what the Lord will reveal.
  2. Meditate upon the Word to more fully absorb its meaning and implications.
  3. Study God’s truth. There are a variety of ways to do this. For example, using a concordance or search engine, follow a specific word through the Old and New Testaments.
  4. Believe what the Lord says.
  5. Obey. In other words, apply what you read to your life situation.
  6. Share what you learn. This will encourage others while strengthening you and sinking the lesson deep in your heart.

The Bible is living truth that protects and guides, pierces and encourages. From it, we learn how to be saved. When we grasp Scripture’s value, our interaction with God’s Word will prove its worth.

Bible in One Year: Zechariah 6-10

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Where to Turn

Bible in a Year:

The Lord longs to be gracious to you.

Isaiah 30:18

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Isaiah 30:12–18

Everyone in high school admired Jack’s easygoing attitude and athletic skill. He was happiest in midair above a half-pipe ramp—one hand holding his skateboard, the other stretched out for balance.

Jack decided to follow Jesus after he started attending a local church. Up to that point, he’d endured significant family struggles and had used drugs to medicate his pain. For a while after his conversion, things seemed to be going well for him. But years later he started using drugs again. Without the proper intervention and ongoing treatment, he eventually died of an overdose.

It’s easy to turn back to what’s familiar when we face difficulty. When the Israelites felt the distress of an upcoming Assyrian attack, they crawled back to the Egyptians—their former slave masters—for help (Isaiah 30:1–5). God predicted that this would be disastrous, but He continued to care for them although they made the wrong choice. Isaiah voiced God’s heart: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion” (v. 18).

This is God’s attitude toward us, even when we choose to look elsewhere to numb our pain. He wants to help us. He doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves with habits that create bondage. Certain substances and actions tempt us with a quick sense of relief, but God wants to provide authentic healing as we walk closely with Him.

By:  Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Reflect & Pray

Why is it important to recognize God’s grace in times of failure? How can you better mirror His faithfulness in your relationship with Him?

Dear God, please set me free from sinful patterns. Help me to turn to You when I’m tempted to find relief in something else.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Principles for Spiritual Victory

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10).

You can be victorious!

This month we’ve learned many things about spiritual warfare that I pray will better equip you for victory in your Christian life. In concluding our brief study of Ephesians 6:10-18, here are some key principles I want you to remember:

  1. Remember that Satan is a defeated foe. Jesus came to destroy his works (1 John 3:8) and will someday cast him into eternal hell (Rev. 20:10).
  2. Remember the power of Christ in your life. John said, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). The same power that defeated Satan indwells you. Consequently, you are never alone or without divine resources.
  3. Remember to resist Satan. You have the power to resist him, so don’t acquiesce to him by being ignorant of his schemes or deliberately exposing yourself to temptation.
  4. Keep your spiritual armor on at all times. It’s foolish to enter combat without proper protection.
  5. Let Christ control your attitudes and actions. The spiritual battle we’re in calls for spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-4), so take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (v. 5). Feed on the Word and obey its principles.
  6. Pray, pray, pray! Prayer unleashes the Spirit’s power. Be a person of fervent and faithful prayer (cf. James 5:16).

God never intended for you to live in spiritual defeat. I pray you’ll take advantage of the resources He has supplied that your life might honor Him. Enjoy sweet victory every day!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His promise of ultimate victory in Christ.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 6:10-18.

  • Review each piece of armor.
  • Is any piece missing from your personal defense system? If so, determine what you will do to correct the deficiency.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Experience God’s Love

[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]….

— Ephesians 3:19 (AMPC)

I sense the Holy Spirit urging me this morning to meditate on how much God loves me, and I want to urge you to do the same thing. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it, but simply because He is love, and He delights in loving us.

Although we walk by faith and we don’t base what we believe on mere experience or what we see with our natural eyes, it is nonetheless encouraging and energizing when we do see and experience the manifestation of our faith. God’s Word teaches us to pray to experience His Love, and to be conscious and aware of His Love (see 1 John 4:16, Ephesians 3:19).

Watch daily for all the ways in which God reveals His love for you. It may be in giving you favor, or providing something you enjoy, or giving you great joy. He can reveal Himself in countless ways and learning how to recognize them is not only an exciting adventure, but it also feeds and builds our faith.

God loves you more than you can imagine. He loves you every moment of your life, and He is reaching out to you right now with His healing and energizing love. Receive it!

Prayer of the Day: Father, teach me to recognize all the ways in which You reveal Your love to me. Let me experience it, enjoy it, and share it with other people, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – One Mind, One Purpose, One Spirit

Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Philippians 2:2-3

While it is of course beneficial for church members to take initiative in ministry, a healthy body of believers will not be driven by individual ideas and agendas. Our minds must first be united in the gospel if the church is truly going to be under Christ’s headship. Without that unity, we will instead be driven by our own selfish and competing desires and agendas.

The Bible has so much to say about our minds because as we think, so we are. When we train our minds to think correctly, we will then learn to love properly and serve together in one spirit and purpose. Part of our mental battle is rooted in our old, selfish, human nature. One of our greatest stumbling blocks is not so much hate as self-love: we are inclined toward an attitude of conceit, which runs completely counter to the character of our Lord, and our lack of humility becomes an obstacle that prevents us from experiencing harmony with those around us. Even our good deeds often have tainted motives.

If we are to be unified in Christ, we cannot insist on our own way. Instead, we need to “count others more significant than ourselves.” This means that we remind ourselves of the best in others before thinking of ourselves, that we are quicker to ask what would be best for others than what would be most convenient for ourselves, and that we are willing to enter into the lives and struggles of others rather than standing aloof. Genuine humility doesn’t take the front seat or begin with “me” all the time. It is instead “the nothingness that makes room for God to prove his power.”[1] It is a trait, Paul tells us, that Jesus Himself exhibited: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself” (Romans 15:2-3).

When we think of ourselves first, it is difficult—impossible, in fact—to put God’s word into action. But when we learn to put others first, we will be far more ready to care for their concerns before our own. In so doing, we can truly be unified within the body of Christ. You likely know people who exhibit this kind of godly humility. Praise God for them now, and pray that you will see how you can follow their example—and, supremely, follow the example of Christ Himself. He counted what you needed as of greater significance than His own comfort—even than His own life. Paul’s challenge to each of us is this: “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5, NIV).

GOING DEEPER

John 3:22-36

Topics: Christian Living Christian Thinking Unity

FOOTNOTES

1 Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, 2nd ed. (1896), p 50.

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Wants Us to Live by Faith

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38–39).

How is a person saved? You have probably memorized a verse that gives the answer to that question. Ephesians 2:8 says that we are saved by grace, through faith. If you are a Christian today, you were saved only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But does that mean that we Christians don’t need faith anymore? No, we need faith for the rest of our lives! All of the Christian life is like a long journey toward Heaven, and the road that we’re traveling could be called “Faith.” God says that “the just,” or those who have been made righteous through Christ (Christians), will live by faith.

Faith, as Hebrews 11:1 explains, means being confident of something that we cannot see. If there is anything in your life right now that seems difficult, sad, or confusing, God is asking you to live by faith. You cannot see how the situation is going to turn out. You cannot see what direction your life will take in the future. Perhaps you are having trouble seeing anything good about the situation you are in. If that is the case, you are going through a trial that God is using to strengthen your faith. He wants to see whether—and how much—you will trust Him, even when you can’t see all of the answers, results, and reasons.

What do you know about the God you cannot see? You know that He is wise. You know that He loves you. You know that He wants you to grow into a stronger, more contented, and happier Christian. So exercise some faith! Believe that God is working for your good in ways that you cannot understand right now. Praise Him for the things He is doing and for the things He is going to do in the future. It takes faith to do this—but faith is what we live by!

God wants us to live by faith when things happen that we can’t understand.

My response:

» What do I need to have faith about?

» What seems sad, confusing, or difficult in my life today?

» Am I complaining and questioning God about it, or am I living by faith, trusting God even when I can’t see any good?

Denison Forum – The latest on Hurricane Ian: Did a Native American blessing protect Tampa Bay?

 “Her only way out is on a boat.” That’s what a daughter told rescuers in North Fort Myers about her mother, whose home was swamped by five feet of water. “We don’t know when the water’s going to go down. We don’t know how they’re going to leave, their cars are totaled,” she said.

This is just one of the stories emerging from Florida, which was hit by the fifth-largest hurricane ever to strike the US when Hurricane Ian came ashore Wednesday afternoon. Emergency crews are working to rescue trapped residents from flooded homes; President Biden warned that there may be “substantial loss of life” in the state. About 2.6 million customers are still without power this morning.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “The impacts of this storm are historic, and the damage that was done has been historic.” An insurance expert warned that the hurricane could cost $30 billion in losses, which would be “one of the most severe loss events in US history.” One Florida Gulf Coast resident said she’s lived in the area for nearly thirty years and had not seen damage this extensive. “This is the first time that I’ve ever lost everything,” she said.

Now Ian has reached hurricane strength again and is expected to make landfall in South Carolina today. More devastation is still to come.

As horrific as these days have been, on a numeric level they could have been even worse. The Tampa Bay region was the largest metropolitan area in the potential path of the storm. Earlier this week, the hurricane was on a trajectory to make a direct hit on the city.

Then the storm turned.

“Thank goodness for the Tocobagans”

Residents around the Tampa Bay region were urged to evacuate Tuesday as they prepared for what was predicted to be their first direct hurricane hit since October 25, 1921. In the century since, their area has grown from a few hundred thousand people to more than three million today.

Many live in low-lying neighborhoods that are highly susceptible to storm surges and flooding. A 2015 report concluded that Tampa Bay is the most vulnerable place in the US to storm surge from a hurricane. A National Weather Service meteorologist called such a disaster “our worst-case scenario for the Tampa Bay area.”

Then, Tuesday evening the hurricane shifted east, sparing Tampa Bay a direct hit. Why?

Here’s one explanation: according to local legend, blessings from Native Americans who once called the region home have largely protected it from major storms for centuries. The legend includes the many sacred burial mounds built by the Tocobagan tribe, which some believe were meant as guardians against invaders, including hurricanes.

When Hurricane Irma weakened before it struck the area in 2017, a local historian said, “I wasn’t a believer before, but I am now. Thank goodness for the Tocobagans is all I have to say.”

However, another resident said, “I don’t know if I believe that legend. I do believe in the power of God.”

Five ways to pray effectively

Those of us who “believe in the power of God” know that praying for God’s power is essential to experiencing his best. We are told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), remembering the warning, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Prayer does not earn God’s favor—it positions us to receive what his grace intends to give.

But, for what exactly are we to pray?

Let’s consider this paradoxical principle: Pray to God as if you were God. I know that sounds a bit heretical, but let me explain. If I were God, this is how I would want you to pray to me for the victims of Hurricane Ian and for anyone else in need of intercession today:

Be specific. No one, not even God, can answer generic prayers that have no answers. “Be with us,” for example, is not only unnecessary since Jesus promised he would be with us “always” (Matthew 28:20)—it is also impossible to quantify. If you wouldn’t know when God answered your prayer, your prayer is not specific enough.

Be bold. He is God, and “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). So “let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Charles Spurgeon noted: “Thy sigh is able to move the heart of Jehovah; thy whisper can incline his ear unto thee; thy prayer can stay his hand; thy faith can move his arm.”

Be honest. God already knows your heart (1 John 3:20) and invites you to “reason together” with him (Isaiah 1:18); the Hebrew is literally translated as “argue it out.” If Jesus could ask “why,” so can you (Matthew 27:46). If Paul could plead for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” so can you (2 Corinthians 12:8). When you don’t have faith, you can pray for the faith to have faith (Mark 9:24).

Be persistent. Jesus taught us to “ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). The Greek says literally, “Ask and keep on asking.” It’s not that persistent prayer changes God—it positions us to be changed by God. Right now, you and I are thinking about God. When we pray, we connect with him. And no one who truly experiences God can be the same.

Be childlike. One of the reasons Jesus called us to “become like children” (Matthew 18:3) is that children often trust their parents more than their parents trust their Father. Ask your hard questions, but know that your fallen and finite mind cannot by definition understand the supernatural mind of God (Isaiah 55:9). Ask for what you want but trust your Lord for what is best.

“The will to win is wasted”

Whenever and for whomever you pray, look for ways the Lord wants to use you to answer your prayers.

God is “able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20, my emphasis). We are the hands and feet of Jesus, the body by which he continues his earthly ministry today (1 Corinthians 12:27). He touched hurting bodies with his hands; today he touches them with ours. He spoke to people needing God’s word with his voice; today he speaks to them with ours.

The bestselling author James Clear noted, “The will to win is wasted if it is directed toward trivial affairs.”

Toward what “affairs” will you direct your prayers and your actions today?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Book of Books

The Bible is an infallible source of truth.

Isaiah 55:9-11

Step into almost any bookstore, and you can find a volume on pretty much any topic you have in mind. Want new direction for your life? Are your children disobeying? Are you hoping to live in a healthier way? There are books that were written to help, but do the authors have trustworthy credentials? 

There is a place to find accurate information and true guidance: The Bible will bless and benefit everyone who reads and applies its wisdom. Here’s what Scripture’s Author—“the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16)—says about His own Word: 

  1. The Bible gives direction for life (Psalm 119:105). God uses His Word to lead us, no matter what our circumstances may be. 
  2. Scripture strengthens us in grief or difficulty (Psalm 119:28Psalm 119:116). By spending time processing what God says, we’re reminded that He loves us, cares about our situation, and can handle whatever we’re facing. 
  3. God’s Word helps us understand our inner motivations (Hebrews 4:12). Scripture acts like a mirror that lets us see ourselves as we truly are. 

The Bible is the very mind of God put into words so that we can know Him more fully. To what extent do you depend upon this amazing Book as your foundation for life?

Bible in One Year: Zechariah 1-5 

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — The Coffee-Bean Bowl

Bible in a Year:

We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:15

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

John 12:1–7

I’m not a coffee drinker, but one sniff of coffee beans brings me a moment of both solace and wistfulness. When our teenage daughter Melissa was making her bedroom uniquely hers, she filled a bowl with coffee beans to permeate her room with a warm, pleasant scent.

It’s been nearly two decades since Melissa’s earthly life ended in a car accident at age seventeen, but we still have that coffee-bean bowl. It gives us a continual, aromatic remembrance of Mell’s life with us.

Scripture also uses fragrances as a reminder. Song of Songs refers to fragrances as a symbol of love between a man and a woman (see 1:3; 4:11, 16). In Hosea, God’s forgiveness of Israel is said to be “fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:6). And Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet, which caused the house of Mary and her siblings to be “filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3), pointed ahead to Jesus’ death (see v. 7).

The idea of fragrance can also help us be mindful of our testimony of faith to those around us. Paul explained it this way: “We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Just as the scent of coffee beans reminds me of Melissa, may our lives produce a scent of Jesus and His love that reminds others of their need of Him.

By:  Dave Branon

Reflect & Pray

How can you be “the fragrance of Christ” to someone today? How has your life caused others to sense the presence of the Savior?

Dear heavenly Father, help me to pass along an aroma of life that makes others know I represent You.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Praying for Others

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

God wants you to look beyond your own problems and pray for the needs of others.

The great preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in Barcelona, Madrid and other places, there were psychological clinics with large numbers of neurotics undergoing drug treatments and others attending regularly for psychoanalysis and such like. They had their personal problems, their worries, their anxieties, their temptations, having to go back week after week, month after month, to the clinics in order to be kept going.

“Then came the Civil War; and one of the first and most striking effects of that War was that it virtually emptied the psychological and psychiatric clinics. These neurotic people were suddenly cured by a greater anxiety, the anxiety about their whole position, whether their homes would still be there, whether their husbands would still be alive, whether their children would be killed.

“Their greater anxieties got rid of the lesser ones. In having to give attention to the bigger problem they forgot their own personal and somewhat petty problems” (The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10 to 20 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], p. 357).

That’s a negative illustration of a positive principle: your own problems pale as you pray in the Spirit on behalf of others. Praying “in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18) is praying in concert with the Holy Spirit—in harmony with His Person and will. It’s synonymous with praying according to God’s will (1 John 5:14).

As the Holy Spirit intercedes for you (Rom. 8:26-27), you are to intercede for others. That’s not always easy in our contemporary religious environment where self- centeredness is praised rather than shunned, and more and more professing Christians are embracing the health, wealth, and prosperity heresy. But God’s mandate is for us to love one another, pray for one another, and look out for one another’s interests (Phil. 2:3-4). Let that mandate govern all your relationships.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Make a list of people you want to intercede for.
  • Spend time praying for each person, asking God to show you specific ways to minister to his or her needs.

For Further Study

Read Philippians 2:1-11.

  • What should be your attitude toward other believers?
  • How did Christ set an example of proper attitudes?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Be Spiritually Alive

No man has at any time [yet] seen God. But if we love one another, God abides (lives and remains) in us and His love (that love which is essentially His) is brought to completion (to its full maturity, runs its full course, is perfected) in us!

— 1 John 4:12 (AMPC)

We cannot give away what we don’t have. Trying to love others is useless if we have never received God’s love for ourselves. We should love ourselves in a balanced way, not a selfish, self-centered way. I teach that we should love ourselves, not be in love with ourselves.

To love yourself, you simply need to believe in the love God has for you; know that it is everlasting, unchangeable, and unconditional. Let His love affirm you and make you feel secure, but don’t begin to think of yourself more highly than you should (see Romans 12:3). Loving ourselves does not mean we love all our behavior; it means that we love and accept the unique person God has created us to be.

I believe loving ourselves in a balanced way is what prepares us to let love flow through us to others. Without receiving God’s love for us in a healthy, appropriate way, we may have feelings of affection or respect for others, a humanistic type of love; but we certainly cannot love people unconditionally unless God Himself inspires and provokes that love.

The Holy Spirit purifies our hearts so we can allow the sincere love of God to flow through us (see 1 Peter 1:22) to others. This is part of being filled with the Spirit.

God wants us to express love to others. When we think of others and how we can bless them, we keep ourselves filled with the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of Love.

Prayer of the Day: Lord, please help me to express love to others and share Your love that is in me, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Our Compassionate Shepherd

When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”   Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”

Luke 7:13-14

The coming of the kingdom of God was not heralded by spectacular and dramatic victories over the powers and authorities of the world but through something much more transformative: the great compassion of its King.

Throughout their accounts of Jesus, the Gospel writers present us with encounter after encounter demonstrating Christ’s unparalleled compassion. In these incidents, Christ’s power is revealed as His compassion is extended. In chapter 7 of his Gospel, for instance, Luke highlights Jesus’ compassionate response to a sorrowful widow—a response which clears any doubts about His greatness.

The woman in this part of Luke’s narrative was in true need. Her husband was already gone, and now her son had just died. In an ancient Middle-Eastern society, this meant that she had no means of protection or provision. She faced a life of sadness, loneliness, and precariousness—and then the end of the family line.

But then Jesus entered into the extremity of this woman’s life, and “when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

All it took to arouse the compassion of our tender Shepherd was seeing this grieving woman. Literally, that word “compassion” means “His bowels moved”—our equivalent would be “His stomach churned.” When Jesus, through whom and for whom all things were created, sees sadness and grief in this broken world, He feels it. Here is a King who cares deeply.

Even more beautiful is that Jesus had the power to meet this widow’s need, and so He chose to do something only He could do: to bring the dead back to life. He didn’t just restore a deceased son alive again to a mourning mother and thereby meet her need and obliterate her grief, though. More importantly, Jesus revealed Himself to the crowd (and to us!) in all of His power, kindness, and authority—even authority over death.

Scenes such as this show us that Jesus doesn’t simply comment on or cry over sickness and death, those great enemies of mankind. He overcomes them. He hears the cries of the sorrowful, and He comforts them, not only in an earthly, temporal sense but also in a final, perfect, and eternal way, by offering Himself as the means of salvation to all who believe.

Your King is not merely infinitely powerful; He is infinitely compassionate. And the combination of those two qualities in Him is sufficient to bring you through every sadness and grief of this world, until you stand in His presence and He wipes every tear from your eye.

GOING DEEPER

Luke 7:1-17

Topics: Grace of God Jesus Christ Mercy Suffering

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Kind to Sinners

“For we ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, . . . but after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared” (Titus 3:3a–4).

Have you disobeyed your parents recently? How did they treat you the day after you disobeyed? They probably gave you food to eat, provided you with clothing to wear, and allowed you to keep living under their roof—at the very least. They may even have done something especially nice for you. Your parents’ love for you does not change after you disobey them. They continue to show love and kindness to you, day after day, even when you disappoint or disobey them. That’s because loving you is natural for them. You are in their family. Loving you is part of who they are as your parents.

God loved us even when we were not in His family. Romans 5:8 says He showed His love for us while we were outside His family, still lost in our sins. Titus 3:3–4 tell us that He loved us even after we had been foolish, disobedient, and hateful. If you are saved today, God loved you and showed mercy to you after you had sinned against Him thousands of times. He brought you into His family and gave you eternal life (Titus 3:7). He saved you just because of His mercy. He showed kindness and love to you—because that is His nature. It is part of Who He is. God is kind to sinners.

Are you ever tempted to think God is not kind? Have you ever thought that because He has not given you some of the things you want, He does not love you? God has already proven His love and kindness toward you. He has already shown you much greater love and kindness than you could ever deserve. He will not keep back His kindness from you now. Sometimes God waits to give us good things, and sometimes He refuses to give us things we want because He knows they would harm us. When you are tempted to doubt God’s kindness and love, just look back to the day He saved you. He loved you when you were still a sinner—and He will always love you. It is part of Who He is.

God is kind and loving toward sinners.

My response:

» Have I remembered God’s gift of salvation today?

» Have I thanked Him for His love and kindness?

Denison Forum – A hurricane we’ll talk about “for many years to come”: A reflection on doubt and hope

As it neared the Florida coast, Hurricane Ian was so gigantic that the International Space Station could see it on the distant horizon. Hurricane Charley, a horrific 2004 storm that killed fifteen people and left more than one million people without power, could fit entirely inside Hurricane Ian’s eye. The storm stretched five hundred miles east to west, twice the width of the Florida peninsula.

After wiping out power on the entire island of Cuba, Hurricane Ian made landfall yesterday afternoon near Cayo Costa, Florida, as a Category 4 storm. Wind gusts of 140 mph were recorded in Cape Coral. Storm surges up to eighteen feet have been seen. Homes were moved, obliterated, and submerged. Streets in Naples looked like rivers; there are reports of vehicles floating out into the ocean. More than 2.2 million people are without power in Florida today.

The storm is tracking across eastern Florida this morning. It is expected to move off the Florida coast later today and approach the coast of South Carolina tomorrow. Orlando set a daily record with 7.72 inches of rain reported yesterday at the international airport; the previous high for the same date was 2.68 inches of rain. Central and Northeast Florida are expected to receive isolated totals of thirty inches of rain today.

This is a storm we’ll talk about “for many years to come,” according to National Weather Service Director Ken Graham.

“The conclusion I dread”

I cannot imagine how people who have lost everything are feeling this morning. But I can say as a cultural apologist and a pastor that, in the face of great suffering, asking “why” is normal and appropriate.

  • If our God were not all powerful, we could not blame him for what he could not prevent. No one faults me for the existence of cancer.
  • If our God were not all loving, we would not be surprised when he does not intervene at times like this. No one who knew of Hitler’s vehement hatred for the Jews could be surprised by his role in the Holocaust.
  • If our God were not all-knowing, we could understand why he doesn’t stop what he doesn’t see. You cannot know what you cannot know.

But Christians claim that God is all three. We believe that his character and capacities do not change; if he could part the Red Sea and calm the stormy Sea of Galilee, he could prevent tragedies like Hurricane Ian. But he did not.

For most of us, our fear at times like this is not that God does not exist. Rather, we agree with C. S. Lewis, who wrote after his wife’s death: “The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’”

“The gift we most desire”

At the same time, I think we should ask ourselves why we are asking such questions. Perhaps the very fact that this disaster provokes such angst for us shows that we believe, perhaps subconsciously and intuitively, that this is not the way the world should be.

Why? Nothing in our experience as fallen humans on a fallen planet guarantees a life without tragedy.

To quote C. S. Lewis again, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

In Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular WorldHenri Nouwen expressed this explanation profoundly:

“I know that the fact that I am always searching for God, always struggling to discover the fullness of Love, always yearning for the complete truth, tells me that I have already been given a taste of God, of Love, and of Truth. I can only look for something that I have, to some degree, already found. How can I search for beauty and truth unless that beauty and truth are already known to me in the depth of my heart?

“It seems that all of us human beings have deep inner memories of the paradise that we have lost. Maybe the word innocence is better than the word paradise. We were innocent before we started feeling guilty; we were in the light before we entered into the darkness; we were at home before we started to search for a home. Deep in the recesses of our minds and hearts there lies hidden the treasure we seek. We know its preciousness, and we know that it holds the gift we most desire: a life stronger than death.”

“The universal way of the soul’s deliverance”

Today is a day for grief and mourning, for solidarity with millions of people who are suffering through one of the worst natural disasters in US history. It is a day to ask hard questions and, perhaps, to recognize that even in despair there is hope and in mystery there is Mystery.

My purpose this morning is not to offer the victims of Hurricane Ian a logical explanation for their suffering but rather to point them—and us—to the One who heals broken hearts and calms stormy souls.

As Jesus wept for Lazarus, he weeps for Florida. And he asks us to trust him with our suffering and confusion, our doubts and grief. Those times of our greatest pain, when we understand him the least, are the very times when we need him the most and therefore need to trust him the most.

Such trust positions us to experience all that his redeeming love and healing grace stand ready to give.

In his classic The City of God, St. Augustine observes that “the universal way of the soul’s deliverance” comes from One whose “design . . . is impenetrable by human capacity.” For example, he notes that when Abraham was promised, “In your seed shall all nations be blessed” (Genesis 12:3), he had to leave his homeland and father’s house and, by obedience, worship the one true God “whose promises he faithfully trusted.”

Abraham could have such confident faith in the midst of his many tribulations because he was “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

So can we.

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Abiding Life

Our service for the Lord becomes joy-filled and effective when we depend on Him to guide our steps.

John 15:1-5

Yesterday I shared with you about a time when the Lord reminded me that I am not the vine—He is. For years I had tried to accomplish by myself what Jesus wanted to achieve through me. My desire was to impress God and earn His approval. His goal, on the other hand, was for me simply to abide

The Holy Spirit’s job is to live the life of Christ through us. This is known by a variety of names, including the exchanged life, the Spirit-filled life, and the abiding life. All of these describe the joyful existence Paul spoke of in Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” 

Seen from the outside, a branch does not appear to be doing anything. But that doesn’t mean that the abiding life is passive. Jesus was the perfect example of a Spirit-filled life, and He certainly didn’t sit around! He worked hard out of a reservoir of divine energy (John 8:28). All of Christ’s wisdom, knowledge, and courage was drawn from God through the Holy Spirit. 

Christians bear fruit through surrender. We “take root” in the Lord by meditating on His Word, praying, and serving. We reserve nothing for ourselves to control but fully rely upon Him. That’s not passive living; it’s an abiding life.

Bible in One Year: Zephaniah 1-3Haggai 1:1-15Haggai 2:1-23

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Out of the Heart

Bible in a Year:

Out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Matthew 15:19

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 15:12–20

A rescue mission nicknamed “Operation Noah’s Ark” might sound fun for animal lovers, but it was a nightmare for the Nassau Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. After receiving complaints about the noise and the horrid stench coming from a certain house, workers entered the Long Island home and found (and later removed) more than four hundred animals from their neglected conditions.

We may not be holding hundreds of animals in filthy conditions, but Jesus said we might be harboring evil and sinful thoughts and actions in our hearts that need to be exposed and removed. 

In teaching His disciples about what makes a person clean and unclean, Jesus said it isn’t dirty hands or “whatever enters the mouth” that defiles a person, but an evil heart (Matthew 15:17–19). The stench from our hearts will eventually leak out from our lives. Then Jesus gave examples of evil thoughts and actions that come “out of the heart” (v. 19). No amount of external religious activities and rituals can make them clean. We need God to transform our hearts.

We can practice Jesus’ inside-out ethic by giving Him access to the squalor of our hearts and letting Him remove what’s causing the stench. As Christ uncovers what’s coming from our hearts, He’ll help our words and actions be aligned with His desires, and the aroma from our lives will please Him.

By:  Marvin Williams

Reflect & Pray

Why is it important to take frequent inventory of your heart? How can you seek God’s help?

Loving God, my heart is desperately wicked. Only You can fully know it and remove the evil that’s in it.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Knowing God

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

Your desire to know God should motivate you toward fervent prayer.

Man’s highest purpose is to know God. Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Of us He said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me” (John 10:14). John added that “we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 5:20).

Every Christian knows God through salvation, but beyond that lies an intimate knowledge of God. That should be the quest of every believer. Moses prayed, “Let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight” (Ex. 33:13). David entreated his son Solomon to “know the God of [his] father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind” (1 Chron. 28:9). Even the apostle Paul, who perhaps knew Christ more intimately than any human being thus far, never lost his passion for an even deeper knowledge (Phil. 3:10).

Such passion is the driving force behind powerful prayer. Those who know God best pray most often and most fervently. Their love for Him compels them to know and serve Him better.

How about you? Is your knowledge of God intimate? Does the character of your prayers reveal that you’re in the process of knowing God?

Paul’s admonitions to “pray at all times in the Spirit” and “be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18) presuppose that you know God and desire to see His will fulfilled in His people. If not, you’ll never appreciate the importance of interceding on behalf of others.

Suggestions for Prayer

The martyred missionary Jim Elliot once prayed, “Lord, make my life a testimony to the value of knowing you.” Let that be your prayer each day.

For Further Study

Read 1 Chronicles 28.

  • What did God forbid David to do?
  • What would happen to Solomon if he failed to know and serve God?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – God Knows Everything About You…and He Loves You

O Lord, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me.

— Psalm 139:1 (AMP)

In order to be in a close relationship with God, it is important to know that He is pleased with you, in spite of your perceived flaws and imperfections.

Many people suffer terribly with secret worries that they are not pleasing to God. They are afraid that God is angry with them because of the mistakes they have made. But the truth is that you are righteous through the work of Jesus, not through your own works. You are imperfect, you will make mistakes, and God is not surprised when you do. He knew every mistake you would ever make when He called you into relationship with Himself.

Psalm 139 tells us plainly that God knows what we are going to do before we ever do it, so try to keep in mind that God knows all about you, and He loves you anyway.

Prayer of the Day: Lord, I need You and I thank You for making me right with You, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Evidence of Genuine Faith

Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.

Luke 6:46-48

Jesus wants to see our lips and our lives align. Hence he ends His Sermon on the Plain with this most searching of rhetorical questions: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” He saw a contrast between what people were saying and how they were behaving, and He wanted to call them to perform a serious spiritual self-examination. He wanted them, just as He wants us, to see that a verbal profession of faith in Him must be accompanied by moral obedience to Him.

Jesus did not teach that entry into the kingdom of heaven is through the good works of obedience. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, plus nothing (see Ephesians 2:8). All that we bring to Christ is the sin from which we need to be forgiven. What, then, is He teaching? Simply this: that only those who obey Him—those who express their faith by their works—have truly heard and have been transformed by the gospel. As the Reformers observed, it is faith alone that saves, but the faith that saves is not alone. The apostle John, picking up on Jesus’ words, says in his first letter, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). Scripture makes it clear that the manner in which we hear and obey Jesus’ words has significance for all of eternity because it reveals the true state and reality of our faith.

No accumulation of visible religious works and no number of religious words will be able to disguise our private behavior from God. The real test of those who name the name of the Lord, says Paul—and let’s not evade for one instant the chilling demand of this—is that they “depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). Therein lies the evidence of genuine faith.

While none of us will live a perfect life, we are all called to live changed lives. We live under the lordship of Christ; His Spirit is now within us. Will we have complete success? No. But we will be different, and our lives will increasingly demonstrate that we have “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). So consider your own life. Do you call Jesus Lord? Good! But, crucially, can you point to evidence in your life—in what you do not do and in what you do, in the temptations you fight and the virtues you strive for and the forgiveness your repentantly ask for—that He is truly your Lord?

GOING DEEPER

James 2:14-26

Topics: Faith Morality Obedience

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Wants Us to Trust Him

“Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:4a).

“And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31).

Every evening at dusk, I fill my bird feeders with bird seed. In the morning—to the birds’ amazement, I’m sure—there is more seed for them to eat. If they could talk, I wonder if they might say, “Where did this come from? It was almost gone when we went to bed. Does the seed grow overnight? This is a mystery we don’t understand. But we sure are happy when we see the food again!” I give my birds food because I care about them.

When Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promised Land, the people were hungry and needed food for their health and strength. Moses couldn’t go to the grocery store to buy food. Instead, He depended on God to supply what the people needed. But the Israelites were unhappy with Moses. They accused him of taking them into the wilderness to kill them (Exodus 16:4b).

God heard the complaint from His people and told Moses that He would “rain bread” from Heaven. God also gave strict instructions, telling the Israelites how much food they could have each day, but some did not obey Him. They did not believe there would be enough food for them the next day, so they gathered more than God had instructed, and they kept some overnight. During the night worms infested it, and the next day it stank and had to be thrown away. God provided manna during the morning, but as soon as the sun came out, the manna melted. In the evening God provided meat. He wanted the Israelites to know “that I am Lord your God” (Exodus 16:12b). The Israelites did not have to worry about food again. They knew exactly where it had come from.

God wants us to trust Him and believe that He will provide all that we need. Today, thank God for all the provisions that He gives you daily. Can you name some of His blessings?

My response:

» Do I tell God my needs and trust Him to provide them?

» Do I thank God for the blessings He has already given me?

» When God meets one of my needs, do I remember to thank Him?