In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Gift of Teaching

Teachers, who faithfully study and share truth with others, are God’s provision for the church.

Titus 1:5-11

God has given believers spiritual gifts for the common good of the body of Christ. And teaching is an essential gift for church leaders, who must be able to exhort and correct while holding firmly to the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-13). But this God-given ability isn’t limited to church authorities. Other members in a fellowship are also endowed with this competency and are responsible to use it faithfully. 

The gift of teaching isn’t characterized merely by the ability to speak eloquently, for there are many empty talkers who sound good but are spreading deception. True teachers combine good communication skills with diligent study of the Bible. In fact, they delight in deepening their understanding of God’s Word and long to share what they’ve learned. Such Christians are organized and analytical in their thinking, as well as thorough and accurate in their explanations of Scripture.

Have you been blessed with this ability? If so, God’s intention is that you use it faithfully and carefully for the benefit of your church. And keep in mind both the privilege and responsibility inherent in the gift of teaching—that “whoever speaks is to do so as one who is speaking actual words of God” (1 Peter 4:11).

Bible in One Year: Galatians 1-3

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Daily Dependence

Bible in a Year:

Give us today our daily bread.

Matthew 6:11

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 6:6–13

One morning our younger kids decided to get up early and fix breakfast for themselves. Tired from a grueling week, my wife and I were trying to sleep until at least 7:00 a.m. on that Saturday morning. Suddenly, I heard a loud crash! I jumped out of bed and raced downstairs to find a shattered bowl, oatmeal all over the floor, and Jonas—our five-year-old—desperately trying to sweep (more like smear) the gooey mess off the floor. My children were hungry, but they chose not to ask for help. Instead of reaching out in dependence, they chose independence, and the result was definitely not a culinary delight.

In human terms, children are meant to grow from dependence to independence. But in our relationship with God, maturity means moving from independence to dependence on Him. Prayer is where we practice such dependent ways. When Jesus taught His disciples—and all of us who have come to believe in Him—to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), He was teaching a prayer of dependence. Bread is a metaphor for sustenance, deliverance, and guidance (vv. 11–13). We’re dependent on God for all that and more.

There are no self-made believers in Jesus, and we’ll never graduate from His grace. Throughout our lives, may we always begin our day by taking the posture of dependence as we pray to “our Father in heaven” (v. 9).

By:  Glenn Packiam

Reflect & Pray

What’s the “bread” you’re praying for today? How do you reveal your trust in God as you call out to Him?

Dear Jesus, You’re my Creator and my Sustainer. Please help me to trust in You.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – God’s Final Revelation

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

Jesus not only brought but in fact was God’s full and final revelation.

A Samaritan woman declared, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us” (John 4:25). The expectation of that day, even among the Samaritans, was that Messiah would unfold the full and final revelation of God. The Holy Spirit, through the writer of Hebrews, affirms that to be true: “God . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

The Old Testament had given divine revelation in bits and pieces. Every piece was true, yet incomplete. But When Jesus came, the whole picture became clear, and though rejected by His own people, He was, in fact, the fulfillment of the messianic hope they had cherished for so many centuries.

The Old Testament age of promise ended when Jesus arrived. He is God’s final word: “As many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20).

God fully expressed Himself in His Son. That’s why John said, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:14, 18). Paul added that in Christ “all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).

The practical implications of that truth are staggering. Since Christ is the fullness of divine revelation, you need nothing more. In Him you have been made complete (Col. 2:10), and have been granted everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). His Word is sufficient, needing no additions or amendments.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to teach you how to rely more fully on your resources in Christ.

For Further Study

Read John 1:1-18 as a reminder of the fullness of God’s revelation in His Son.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – I Want a Mind Change

And you [He made alive], when you were dead (slain) by [your] trespasses and sins in which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of this world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God].

— Ephesians 2:1-2 (AMPC)

I find a great deal of comfort in thinking about who I used to be and who I have become. It helps me not to be discouraged when I make mistakes or find that I still struggle over some issues. I’m greatly encouraged when I consider where I started and where I am now.

In Ephesians 2, Paul described those outside of Christ. He wrote that unbelievers follow the prince of the power of the air, who is Satan, and they follow the way their master leads. In verse 1, he pointed out that all were once dead through their sins, but believers are now alive in Jesus Christ. He tells us we’re not governed or led by our lower nature—the impulses of the flesh.

Many Christians have trouble in this area because they haven’t learned to control their thoughts. A lady once told me, “It simply didn’t occur to me that I needed to direct my mind and keep it healthy and positive. If ministers preached or taught about the control of our thoughts, I never heard it. One day, however, I read an article about the power of thoughts, and God convicted me. That’s when I knew I needed to change my thinking.”

This lady said she drove down the street of a busy city and she spotted a sign, a cartoon of a car with big eyes for the front lights and tears flowing, and the words, “Please help me! I need an oil change.”

As she passed by, she thought, I need a mind change. I don’t like being the way I am, letting my mind go wherever it wants. Part of my responsibility as a child of God is to keep my thoughts healthy and strong.

“I want to make it clear that I went to church,” she said, “and I had been active for years. I knew a lot of Scripture, and I even did some volunteer work at the church. But I didn’t control my thoughts. Even when I sang in church, my mind jumped from subject to subject. We’d be singing about joy and grace, and I’d think about the dishes still in the sink, the unfinished laundry, or what I wanted to eat for lunch.

“I attended church, and I was faithful, but I was not faithful in attending to the Word. I listened when the preachers quoted Scripture. I usually followed along with my own Bible, but I didn’t really think about what I was hearing or what my eyes were reading. I was doing the right things outwardly, but I wasn’t thinking the right things. My mind was a mess, and I didn’t know what to do about it.”

“I need a mind change,” she suddenly said aloud to herself. Just then, she actually pondered the words she had spoken. She was like the car on the sign—she needed a change—a mind change. She needed to let the Holy Spirit direct her thoughts instead of the devil. As she prayed, she felt confident there would be a positive change.

She thought to herself, Is there anything I am supposed to do? She realized that if she didn’t make lifestyle changes, the devil would soon make the new thinking as muddy and gunky as the old thinking was.

For the next several days, she looked up all the scriptures she could find that used the word study or meditate. She also looked up scriptures that talked about the mind or thoughts. She read those verses, wrote them on slips of paper, and pondered them.

Here are three of them:

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he… (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV).

And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude] Ephesians 4:23 AMPC).

My hands also will I lift up [in fervent supplication]to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes (Psalm 119:48 AMPC).

The more she meditated on the right things, the less trouble she had with Satan trying to control her thoughts. That’s how it works with all of us: The more we focus on God, the less often the devil can defeat us.

Prayer of the Day: Thank You, Father God, for giving me a mind change. Help me always to be free to serve You with my heart, my soul, and my mind. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – He Humbled Himself

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth … from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

John 1:14, John 1:16

The actor Steve McQueen led an amazing, albeit sometimes sordid, life. He died in 1980, but before illness claimed him, a faithful pastor shared the gospel with him, and he bowed down and trusted in Christ. After his conversion, he had a faithful routine of Bible study and Sunday worship that went unnoticed by the public. He remained in awe of the truth that though his life was messy with divorces, addictions, and poor moral choices, God would show him such love.

McQueen grew to understand that God had made him nothing so that in the discovery of his nothingness, he might then become something. God does the same with us as well.

In this, we are called to follow the pattern of Jesus Himself. From the day of His birth, Christ set aside His previously uninterrupted glory in order to come to this fallen, helpless world on our behalf. He came not on a chariot but to a manger; He came not with a scepter but to a stable. Jesus was as much an earthly servant as He is the heavenly sovereign.

To say that He made Himself nothing, however, doesn’t mean that He transitioned from being God to being man, and then back to being God again. When we read that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” we should reflect on the awe-inspiring paradox that our marvelous Savior poured Himself into His humanity without giving up His deity. He is fully God and fully man!

Our finite human minds sometimes focus on Christ’s deity so much that we don’t remember that He was no less human than you or me; and at other times we can become so preoccupied with His humanity that we lose sight of His divinity. The Scriptures hold Christ’s two natures in perfect tension: although He was found in human form (Philippians 2:8), He was not merely who He appeared to be.

There is more to Jesus than meets the eye. He may have looked just like any other man, but no other man can stand in a boat during a storm and calm the sea. Only God can heal the lame or restore sight to the blind. This man alone deserves the worship of angels and the praise of all creation. Yet Jesus didn’t approach the incarnation asking, What’s in it for Me? Instead, He arrived knowing that He “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He was willing to leave everything and become nothing so that those who acknowledge their nothingness can be given everything. He became flesh so that He might serve, and He beautifully modeled humility to all who might follow Him. How will you look to His example in your tasks and responsibilities today?

GOING DEEPER

Philippians 2:1-13

Topics: Christ’s Birth Deity of Christ Humanity of Christ Incarnation of Christ

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

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – What Pleases God More than Anything

“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” / “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12 / Ephesians 5:17)

William Law was born in 1686, and he died in 1761. Maybe you have never heard of him. He was not a celebrity or a politician or a war hero. He was not even a popular evangelist or a missionary martyr. Whatever he did in his life was not “important” enough to get him fame or to keep him memorable to us who are living now, more than 200 years after he has gone to be with the Lord.

But William Law – whoever he was – wrote this:

      “From morning to night, keep Jesus in thy heart,
       long for nothing, desire nothing, hope for nothing
       but to have all that is within thee changed into
       the spirit and temper of the holy Jesus.”

What is your idea of “success”? Is it that you would make a lot of money? Is it that people would know your name and remember all the things you did in your life? For William Law, “success” meant becoming more and more and more like Jesus Christ, from the inside out. He wanted to keep Jesus as his main goal. He wanted to be Christlike more than he wanted anything else. We don’t remember much about William Law today. In the world’s eyes, he was probably never very “successful.” But Christians can learn from his writings, and Christians can learn from his personal example.

If you are trusting in Christ as your Savior, is it your desire to learn God’s will for your life? God’s idea of “success” is not that a person does a lot of famous things or earns a lot of money. The Bible teaches that God wants Christians to glorify Him by becoming more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ. That is God’s idea of “success” for His people. This is what God wills; this is what God wants. 1 Thessalonians 4:3a says, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.”

Sanctification is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. Sanctification is what William Law was longing for. Why? Because it was William Law’s greatest desire to please God by becoming like Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

To trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, yet never think about Him, never read the Bible, never pray to Him, and never tell others about Him – that must be a disappointment to Him. Because of Who Christ is and what He has done for us, becoming more like Him should be our greatest desire – no matter what else we are able to do in our lives, and no matter what else we might be remembered for.

God is pleased when we are becoming more like His Son.

My Response:
» Am I more concerned about pleasing myself or pleasing God?
» What is my idea of a “successful” life, and does it match up with God’s idea of “successful”?
» How have I been changing to become more like Jesus Christ?

Denison Forum – What gift-wrapped grandpas and Grinch-inspired breakfasts remind us about the real meaning of our Christmas traditions

Note: Thank you to Dr. Ryan Denison for writing today’s Daily Article. He is the Denison Forum Senior Editor for Theology and has written more than four hundred articles for Denison Forum.

One of my favorite parts about the Christmas season is the diverse ways in which people celebrate it. Sure, there are probably some time-tested standards that apply to most of us—putting up decorations, church on Christmas Eve, maybe a party or two—but Christmas is also the season when people tend to get a little creative with their family traditions.

In a recent article from The Atlantic, writers asked readers to send in some of their favorite family traditions for the holiday season. While the responses vary from the patently absurd to the heartwarming and inspiring, they clearly hold a special place in the lives of those who carry them out each year.

For example, LaRae LaBouff writes about how her family would routinely have fifteen to thirty people gather at their grandparents’ house each year to celebrate Christmas. As a result, once the gifts were unwrapped, the floor was littered with wrapping paper, ribbons, and other vestiges of the festivities.

They would place all the trash in a large can and then her grandfather would climb in and push everything down so that it would fit. The kids would then cover him with ribbons and bows. The tradition was known as “Throwing Pop Away” and became a key part of their Christmas experience.

As LaRae’s grandfather got older and began to suffer from cancer, however, he could no longer make it into the trashcan. Rather than give up the tradition, they began filling a smaller cardboard box so that he could still stand inside and be covered up.

She writes that in the years since his passing, other family members have stepped up to take his place and be wrapped in remembrance of their departed patriarch.

But while not everyone’s traditions are as tender and sweet as LaRae’s, they can still bring joy to those who keep them.

A Grinchy breakfast and a science experiment gone wrong

Nate Ransil writes about how he married into the family tradition of starting Christmas day off with the most absurd breakfast they can create. The tradition originated when his wife’s grandfather decided one year that there was just too much good on Christmas, so there needed to be at least one thing the kids wouldn’t look forward to. To that end, he decided to take their traditional breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and orange juice, stick it in a blender, and serve it as breakfast smoothies.

While the idea began as a joke, Nate’s father-in-law thought it was funny and created a challenge whereby certain family members would be responsible for creating the themed Christmas menu each year.

One year they chose The Grinch, crafting a breakfast of Who pudding, rare Who roast beast, toadstool sandwiches, and bananas with a greasy black peel. Another year, the meal was inspired by Elf and featured spaghetti, crumbled Pop-Tarts, and maple syrup. He writes that last year his son and brother-in-law decided to create a science lab with frog legs, lychee fruit “eyeballs” floating in a jar, brains made of Jell-O, and bowls of worms.

While I doubt I’ll be replicating this particular tradition anytime soon, Ransil described how it always leads to a lot of laughter and the knowledge that “nobody else in the world is eating the same thing we are right now.”

When traditions become more important than people

I highlighted these examples because they offer us a good reminder that our Christmas traditions do not need to come from someplace of profound spiritual meaning in order to be meaningful to you and your family. Rather, it’s the sense of joy, unity, and remembrance they inspire that is most important. They have purpose to the extent that they bring us closer to those we love most.

However, if we’re not careful it can be easy for the tradition to become more important than the people who keep it.

In many ways, that was the primary problem Jesus encountered with the religious leaders throughout his ministry. Most of the scribes and Pharisees were well intentioned, spiritually driven individuals who just wanted to help people know God better. The problem was that they had fallen into the trap of thinking that the best way to accomplish that purpose was by adhering so strictly to their religious traditions that they left little room for the Lord to work.

Over time, they robbed God’s people of the joy they should have found in a relationship with him by insisting on a relationship with the law instead. Their traditions became more important than the people they were meant to help.

But, before we judge them too harshly, let us remember that we are far from immune to making the same error today. And there are few times of the year when that mistake can be easier to make than during the Christmas season.

Blessing God by blessing those he came to save

Take a moment to think back on some of your most cherished traditions. Do you know why they were started? Do they still fulfill the same purpose today? In what ways have they evolved over the years to make room for new family and friends to take part? And is there anything the Lord might want to change to help them better accomplish that purpose this year?

The best traditions are those that bring people together and add depth to our relationship with others. And whether they are silly, sacred, or somewhere in between, it’s worth taking the time to make sure that they are still a means to that end rather than the end itself.

So as we draw steadily closer to Christmas Day, let’s endeavor to make sure that every facet of our celebrations and traditions bless God by blessing the people he came to save.

Will yours?

Denison Forum