Denison Forum – Two gifts every child needs to give and every mother needs to receive

Mother’s Day is coming at an unprecedented time for American society.

For the last two years, most mothers were forced to stay inside on this special day due to the pandemic. As a result, Mother’s Day spending is expected to total $31.7 billion this year, up 13 percent from last year. The average consumer will spend 25 percent more compared to the pre-pandemic level of 2019. Approximately 84 percent of US adults are expected to celebrate the holiday.

We should do everything we can do to honor and encourage our mothers. Has there been a time in our lifetime when Americans needed mothers who live and parent biblically more than today?

A “Mother’s Day Strike” to support abortion?

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court leak shocked the nation with reverberations that are continuing today. In one of the most ironic and contradictory announcements I can remember, some pro-abortion activists are calling for a “Mother’s Day Strike” to protest the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade. They want people to cease working, shopping, attending school, and other activities.

While Americans are thanking our mothers for giving us life, they will be protesting for the right to end life. Their decision to use Mother’s Day for their cause reminds me of Ronald Reagan’s statement, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”

Here’s another sign of our times: President Biden announced yesterday that Karine Jean-Pierre will replace Jen Psaki as White House Press Secretary when Psaki steps down on May 13. This is one of the most visible positions in our government. The press secretary’s briefings make the news almost every time they occur.

The president’s announcement was especially noteworthy for this reason: She will be the first Black woman and the first openly gay woman to hold the position.

Two gifts that change our lives

Here’s the good news for mothers and their children (that’s all of us): we have a Father who loves us unconditionally and whose word shows us how to encourage our mothers in empowering and transforming ways.

Ephesians 6 begins: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land’” (vv. 1–3). The text addresses all “children” of all ages and identifies two gifts every mother needs.

The first is to “obey” our mothers—the Greek word is a present active imperative calling us to seek and follow their guidance every day. The second is to “honor” them—the Greek word means to treat them with deference, respect, and kindness. It is also a present active imperative calling us to find ways to honor them every day.

Why are these gifts so important?

When we give them to our mothers, “it may go well with you,” referring to the quality of our lives, and “you may live long in the land,” referring to the quantity of our lives. These are not unconditional guarantees (the righteous Abel died at the hands of his unrighteous brother Cain, for example), but abiding principles. When we obey and honor godly mothers, our society is blessed. Our lives are blessed. And our mothers are blessed.

(There is much more to say about this remarkable text, so I invite you to read my sermon for this Sunday expanding on this biblical passage and its life-changing practical principles.)

Mental health resources I encourage you to consider

Whether you are a mother or a mother’s child, these two gifts can be life-giving. In addition, our ministry has sought in recent days to respond practically to the stress and anxiety of these days. As I noted on Monday, mental health challenges are very real and very pervasive in our society.

Consequently, I invite you to visit these resources on our Denison Forum website:

Rebecca Walls leads Unite, one of the most effective community engagement ministries I know. She has just published an article titled, “How to equip yourself to help others fighting anxiety and depression.” She shows us how to join a live, online overview that explains the basics of relational emotional healing and how to browse a site that helps people find the help they need.

Chris Legg, a pastor and licensed professional counselor, wrote an article titled “Struggling with mental illness? Consider these 7 ideas.” He identifies practical steps for those wrestling with mental illness and discusses ways the church can help.

Chris earlier wrote an article titled “3 reasons why churches fail at mental health.” He discusses the “perfection” trap, the “not-here” trap, and the “Bible is sufficient for everything” trap.

His son, Mark Legg, serves as our Associate Editor and wrote an article titled “Why are teens sadder, lonelier, and more depressed than ever before?” He notes the horrific escalation of sadness and loneliness among American teenagers, warns of mistaken answers, outlines four reasons for increasing persistent sadness, and offers parents some very practical ways to help children find their identity in Christ.

Dr. Lane Ogden, a licensed professional counselor and longtime friend, wrote an expansive article on what the Bible says about mental health. He explains how our minds work and how our thoughts and feelings interact, cites biblical verses on mental health, and identifies practical ways to increase healthy thinking.

I also wrote an article titled “Mental health for pastors: Three ways Jesus practiced self-care.” I focused on social distancing, gratitude in hard times, and the priority of physical health for mental health.

The model for the Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic gifts ever given to our nation. Whom did the French sculptor Bartholdi fashion her after? He never formally answered the question, but as the Statue of Liberty tour website states, “There seems to really be only one person whom the Statue of Liberty most closely resembles.” A portrait of his mother, Charlotte Bartholdi, when placed next to the statue, shows that they are almost identical.

Bartholdi found a way to honor his mother every day.

How will you follow his example?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Impossible Love Made Possible

Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to fulfill God’s two greatest commandments.

Galatians 5:13-23

Jesus said the two greatest commandments are these: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). What an overwhelming assignment! 

In our own strength, we will find success out of reach, but the Lord has provided a way for Christians to accomplish the impossible. The indwelling Holy Spirit works to produce His fruit in us (Gal. 5:22-23). The first quality listed is love, and the remaining eight are actually descriptions of how it is conveyed.  

Love isn’t produced by trying harder to muster good will toward someone who is irritating or hard to get along with. Instead, think of the process more like sap running through a branch on a grapevine. In a similar way, the Spirit flows through us, producing God’s love so we can express it to Him and to others. 

Whenever we demonstrate kindness, patience, or gentleness, it’s God’s doing, not ours. Even the adoration we offer Him isn’t something we produce in our own heart apart from His assistance. Though the command to love is enormous, God’s grace makes it possible. 

Bible in One Year: 1 Chronicles 13-15

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Our Father

Bible in a Year:

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father . . .”

Matthew 6:9

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 6:5–13

Most mornings I recite the Lord’s Prayer. I’m not worth much for the new day until I’ve grounded myself in those words. Recently I’d said only the first two words—“Our Father”—when my phone rang. It startled me as it was 5:43 a.m. Guess who? The phone display read “Dad.” Before I had a chance to answer, the call quickly ended. I guessed my dad had called by mistake. Sure enough, he had. Random coincidence? Maybe, but I believe we live in a world awash in the mercy of God. That particular day I needed that reassurance of our Father’s presence.

Think about that for a minute. Of all the ways Jesus could have taught His disciples to begin their prayers, He chose those two words—“Our Father” (Matthew 6:9) as the starting point. Random? No, Jesus was never less than intentional with His words. We all have different relationships with our earthly fathers—some good, some far less than that. However, praying in the way we should is not addressing “my” father or “your” father, but “our” Father, the One who sees us and hears us, and who knows what we need before we even ask Him (v. 8).

What an amazing reassurance, especially on those days when we might feel forgotten, alone, abandoned, or simply just not worth much. Remember, regardless of where we are and what time of day or night it might be, our Father in heaven is always near.

By:  John Blase

Reflect & Pray

How can you make the Lord’s Prayer a part of your prayer life? What feelings do those two words—“Our Father”—stir in you?

Father, thank You for Your promise to hear me when I pray, regardless of where I may be.

Learn more about prayer.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Priority of Spiritual Unity

“The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:2-4).

Unity in the Spirit is the key to a church’s overall effectiveness.

Unity is a crucial element in the life of the church—especially among its leadership. A unified church can accomplish great things for Christ, but disunity can cripple or destroy it. Even the most orthodox churches aren’t immune to disunity’s subtle attack because it often arises from personality clashes or pride rather than doctrinal issues.

God often brings together in congregations and ministry teams people of vastly different backgrounds and temperaments. That mix produces a variety of skills and ministries but it also produces the potential for disunity and strife. That was certainly true of the disciples, which included an impetuous fisherman like Peter; two passionate and ambitious “sons of thunder” like James and John; an analytical, pragmatic, and pessimistic man like Philip; a racially prejudiced man like Bartholomew; a despised tax collector like Matthew; a political Zealot like Simon; and a traitor like Judas, who was in it only for the money and eventually sold out for thirty pieces of silver.

Imagine the potential for disaster in a group like that! Yet their common purpose transcended their individual differences, and by His grace the Lord accomplished through them what they never could have accomplished on their own. That’s the power of spiritual unity!

As a Christian, you’re part of a select team that is accomplishing the world’s greatest task: finishing the work Jesus began. That requires unity of purpose and effort. Satan will try to sow seeds of discord, but you must do everything possible to heed Paul’s admonition to be “of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, and intent on one purpose” (Phil. 2:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray daily for unity among the leaders and congregation of your church.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, noting how Paul addressed the issue of disunity in the Corinthian church.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Prepare to Love Others

The night is far gone and the day is almost here. Let us then drop (fling away) the works and deeds of darkness and put on the [full] armor of light.

— Romans 13:12 (AMPC)

Before your feet touch the floor in the morning, put on the full armor of God with which you can quench all the fiery darts of the enemy (See Ephesians 6:13–17). Put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the readiness of the gospel of peace.

Don’t let the devil steal your peace in the morning. Start talking to God before you even get out of bed. Tell Him, “I love You, Lord, and I need Your help today. Please strengthen me to walk in the fruit of the Spirit. Help me walk in love all day long. Help me to keep my thoughts on You, Lord.”

Prayer Starter: Thank You, Father, for loving me and for helping me love others. Thank You for the way You guide and direct me as I go through my day and for the wonderful plan You have for my life.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Find Wisdom

Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.

Proverbs 16:20

Wisdom is man’s true strength; and under its guidance he is best able to find and fulfill his reason for living. Wisely handling the matter of life gives to man the richest enjoyment and presents the noblest occupation for his powers; and in this way he finds good in the fullest sense.

Without wisdom, man is like a wild donkey running here and there, wasting strength that might have been profitably employed. Wisdom is the compass by which man is to steer across the trackless waste of life; without it he is a derelict vessel, the victim of winds and waves. A man must be prudent in such a world as this or he will find no good, but will be betrayed into unnumbered ills. The pilgrim will sorely wound his feet among the briers of the wood of life if he does not pick his steps with the utmost caution. He who is in a wilderness infested with thieves must handle matters wisely if he would journey safely.

If, trained by the Great Teacher, we will follow where He leads, we will find good even in the darkness, and celestial fruits to be tasted, and songs of paradise to be sung amid the groves of earth. But where shall this wisdom be found? Many have dreamed of it without possessing it. Where will we learn it? Let us listen to the voice of the Lord, for He has declared the secret. He has revealed to the sons of men where true wisdom lies, and we have it in the text, “blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.” The true way to handle a matter wisely is to trust in the Lord. This is the sure clue to the most intricate labyrinths of life; follow it and find eternal bliss. He who trusts in the Lord has a diploma for wisdom granted by inspiration: Happy is he now, and happier he shall be above.

Lord, in this sweet evening walk with me in the garden, and teach me the wisdom of faith.

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

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Gives Direction

“And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.” (Luke 22:8-13)

If you look at verse 8 above, you see that Jesus asked Peter and John to go prepare a place where they could celebrate the Passover feast. This was the last meal Jesus would share with his twelve disciples, and it needed to be very special. He did not want a crowded place, but somewhere perfect for the occasion. On top of that, it was the day of the feast itself! Have you ever gone out to eat on an Easter Sunday or on Thanksgiving Day, only to find all the restaurant lobbies filled with people waiting to be seated?

Peter and John were entrusted with the task of finding a very special place on very short notice. If you had been in their shoes (their sandals?) you might have left immediately, all worried about having to find this special place. Instead of panicking or leaning on their own wisdom, these men actually took the time to ask Jesus what He desired. In the end, their choice was probably a great blessing to them! If they had hurried away without asking for some direction, they may have wandered the city for a long time and still not found that perfect place that had already been prepared ahead of time.

In the same way, when we have a task to accomplish, no matter how small it seems or how able we feel, we always need to seek the Lord and ask Him for directions. He does not visibly stand before us these days, like He did with Peter and John, but he is with you and will guide you if your heart’s desire is to do what He would have you do. As we see in verses 9-13, Jesus knows what He is doing. He knows all things, and He is the most wise and most able. He has plans that include you, too. Take the time to ask Him for specific directions. Do not lean on your own wisdom and strength; lean on the One Who is most wise and able to help you. Like that room God provided for the disciples’ Passover feast, you will find that God’s guidance always leads to the best thing.

God is the best Guide when we need direction.

My Response:
» When I need direction, is my first response to go to God, or do I rely on other people and things for guidance?
» How can I show that I trust God’s wisdom and strength more than my own?

Denison Forum – The Supreme Court news you may have missed

This week, a Supreme Court ruling made headlines. I’m not referring to the draft by Justice Samuel Alito of a majority opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. The day before the “leak heard ’round the world,” the court ruled that Boston violated the free speech rights of a person when it refused to fly a Christian flag on a flagpole outside City Hall.

The court determined that the city discriminated against Harold Shurtleff because of his “religious viewpoint.” Boston had approved 284 consecutive applications to fly flags before rejecting Shurtleff’s because he wanted to fly a Christian flag.

Here’s the amazing part: the Supreme Court not only overturned lower courts that had sided against Shurtleff, but it did so by a unanimous 9–0 decision. And that decision was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton and is considered the second-most liberal member of the court.

On this annual National Day of Prayer, let’s give thanks for the freedom to have a National Day of Prayer, a right that would be unthinkable for Christians in many countries around the world.

And let’s use this right as God intends, which is more counterintuitive than you might think.

The Supreme Court flip that led to 22 million abortions

I am grateful that the Continental Congress issued a national call to prayer in 1775. I am also grateful that Billy Graham’s call for America’s leaders to unite in prayer during the Korean War led to the National Day of Prayer tradition that began in 1952.

However, I am confident that American leaders who believe in prayer also believe that we need to pray for our nation not just once a year but every day of the year.

The Supreme Court leak has once again exposed the danger of self-governance without personal morality. Presumably, a single person made the decision to leak this document, a decision to betray their trust and the confidentiality of the court that has precipitated a crisis now dominating the news.

Consider another example of the power of one person in a democracy. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s flip on abortion when the Supreme Court considered Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992 caused the court to affirm rather than overturn Roe v. Wade. Had he remained consistent with his long-held position on abortion, more than twenty-two million babies aborted since that time could have been saved. This is the population of Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Idaho, West Virginia, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, the District of Columbia, Vermont, and Wyoming—combined.

We could spend the rest of the day discussing the other moral crises of our day. My point is simple: America needs America’s Christians to pray for America fervently and daily.

But there’s a catch.

“Can man make for himself gods?”

Paul declared, “We ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:29). This seems to be a self-evident assertion: If a human makes an object, how can that object be divine?

The prophet Jeremiah similarly asked, “Can man make for himself gods?” Then he answered his question: “Such are not gods” (Jeremiah 16:20). You and I would obviously agree.

However, the great British pastor Charles Spurgeon would caution us that our response might be too hasty. He wrote: “We pity the poor heathen who adore a god of stone and yet worship a god of gold. Where is the vast superiority between a god of flesh and one of wood? The principle, the sin, the folly is the same in either case.”

Then he added this convicting note: “In ours the crime is more aggravated because we have more light and sin in the face of it. The heathen bows to a false deity, but the true God he has never known; we commit two evils, inasmuch as we forsake the living God and turn unto idols.” He then prayed, “May the Lord purge us all from this grievous iniquity!”

I fear that one such “grievous iniquity” is the way some of us pray. When we make prayer merely a day or an event, we violate the biblical command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). When our prayers are merely transactional—praying for our nation so God will bless our nation—our prayers make God a means to our ends.

I fear that God would consider such prayer to be akin to idolatry. We are not praying to the wrong God, but we are praying for the wrong reasons.

“Prayer is the life of the saint”

A. W. Tozer observed, “The Scripture does not say of Abraham that he believed the text and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Abraham believed God. It was not what Abraham believed, but who Abraham believed that truly counted” (my emphasis).

The purpose of prayer is first that we know God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The psalmist spoke for us all when he prayed, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1–2).

The Scottish minister John Baillie was thus right to pray: “You have breathed your Spirit into my spirit; you have formed my mind to seek you; you have turned my heart to love you; you have made me restless for the rest that can be found in you.”

Oswald Chambers would have agreed. One of the great spiritual geniuses of all time, he observed: “The correct concept is to think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts. Our blood flows and our breathing continues ‘without ceasing’; we are not even conscious of it, but it never stops. . . . Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life of the saint.” As a result, he taught us to “maintain the childlike habit of offering up prayer in your heart to God all the time.”

Our larger prayer

Without question, we should pray for God to bless America. In fact, we are commanded to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1–2) and for our needs (Matthew 7:7). We should pray for our nation as the Jews prayed for theirs (Psalm 122:6).

But our larger prayer should be that Americans would know God. That we would receive not just his gracious favor but his living presence. That we would seek not just what he can do for us but the salvation he alone can give us. That we would experience the spiritual and moral awakening that is our true hope for the future.

Would you make this your prayer for America today?

Would you make it your prayer for your soul?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Supreme Love

All our works for the Lord mean nothing if they’re not done in love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Today’s Scripture is commonly known as the love chapter. Interestingly, Paul didn’t spell out a definition of love but instead described its importance and expression.

This type of love isn’t human in origin; it comes from our heavenly Father and is part of His very nature (1 John 4:16). What the apostle’s describing is an unselfish, sacrificial love that acts on behalf of someone else. God’s desire is to transform all believers into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). And we are most like Christ when we display such selfless care for one another.

The first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13 issue a warning. Without the motivation of love, all our good deeds—including service for the Lord—will profit us nothing. In God’s eyes, a loving spirit is more important than impressive words, knowledge, faith, generosity, and self-sacrifice. When we stand before Christ to be judged for our good works, any deeds done for selfish reasons will not be found worthy of reward.

We’re all blind to some degree regarding our motives, so discerning why we serve God or do good deeds can be difficult. Pray to know your heart’s hidden intentions, and ask the Lord to replace any self-centered motivations with His more excellent way of love.

Bible in One Year: 1 Chronicles 10-12

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — A Heart for Service

Bible in a Year:

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God.

2 Corinthians 9:13

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

2 Corinthians 9:12–13

A ministry in Carlsbad, New Mexico, supports their community by offering more than 24,000 pounds of free food each month to local residents. The leader of the ministry shared, “People can come here, and we will accept them and meet them right where they are. Our goal is . . . to meet their practical needs to get to their spiritual needs.” As believers in Christ, God desires for us to use what we’ve been given to bless others, drawing our communities closer to Him. How can we develop a heart for service that brings glory to God?

We develop a heart for service by asking God to show us how to use the gifts He’s given us to benefit others (1 Peter 4:10). In this way, we offer “many expressions of thanks to God” for the abundance He’s blessed us with (2 Corinthians 9:12).

Serving others was an important part of Jesus’ ministry. When He healed the sick and fed the hungry, many were introduced to God’s goodness and love. By caring for our communities, we’re following His model of discipleship. God’s wisdom reminds us that when we demonstrate God’s love through our actions, “others will praise God” (v. 13). Service isn’t about self-gratification but about showing others the extent of God’s love and the miraculous ways He works through those who are called by His name.

By:  Kimya Loder

Reflect & Pray

What’s motivated your service to the community? How might you be more intentional about using your gifts to bring glory to God?

Heavenly Father, I desire to make a difference in the lives of others. Please give me a heart for service. May it be an act of praise and gratitude to You.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Chosen to be Sent

“Having summoned His twelve disciples, [Jesus] gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles were these” (Matt. 10:1-2).

Every disciple must also be a discipler.

Have you ever met someone who constantly absorbs what the church has to offer, yet never seems to plug into a ministry where he can give to others? I’ve met many people like that. Some have attended church for many years, and have even taken evangelism and other special training classes. But they never quite feel qualified to minister to others or even to share their testimony. Eventually that has a crippling effect on their spiritual lives and on the life of the church in general.

When Jesus called the disciples to Himself, He did so to train them for ministry. We see that in Matthew 10:1-2. The Greek word translated “disciples” means “learners.” “Apostles” translates a Greek word meaning “to dispatch away from” or “send.” In classical Greek it refers to a naval expedition dispatched to serve a foreign city or country. Disciples are learners; apostles are emissaries. Jesus called untrained disciples, but dispatched trained apostles. That’s the normal training process.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says, “Go . . . and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Paul said to Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

As wonderful and important as it is to learn of Christ, you must never be content to be a disciple only. You must also be a discipler!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Matthew 28:18-20. If you aren’t currently discipling someone, ask the Lord for an opportunity to do so.

For Further Study

An important part of discipleship is spending time with Christ. One way to do that is to read through the gospels on a regular basis. You might want to obtain a harmony of the gospels to help in your study. Tell a friend of your plan so he or she can encourage you and hold you accountable.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Loving One Another

Whoever says he is in the Light and [yet] hates his brother [Christian, born-again child of God his Father] is in darkness even until now. Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin. But he who hates (detests, despises) his brother [in Christ] is in darkness and walking (living) in the dark; he is straying and does not perceive or know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

— 1 John 2:9–11 (AMPC)

Hate is an extremely strong and harsh word. Any discussion among believers about hating other Christians would lead most of them to say, “I don’t believe I have ever hated anyone.” If we think about these words of John, however, perhaps he didn’t mean hate as we think of it—feeling great hostility or animosity toward someone. Perhaps our form of hatred today is more like indifference. We don’t really dislike people, but we don’t care enough to help them when they have troubles and problems.

“Most of the loving I see today in the church is based on convenience,” someone told me recently. He went on to say that we will reach out to others as long as it’s convenient or doesn’t demand too much time or effort.

This opens a wide door of opportunity for Satan to separate us from those who most need our love. Jesus commanded us to love each other. In John 13:34–35, He said that people would recognize us as His disciples by our expressions of love toward one another. Perhaps one reason they don’t say that about many of today’s Christians is because too often we’re unwilling to go out of our way to meet the needs of others.

Love is an action verb. If you love others, you do things for them. To hate (in the biblical sense) is to do nothing or to turn away. To make it worse, you judge and criticize others and think, If they really loved God, they wouldn’t be in such a predicament.

You need to see that if you practice God’s “love walk,” you not only grow yourself, but you enable others to grow. The devil can’t do you much harm if you truly walk in loving relationship with others.

In my book Battlefield of the Mind, I shared the story of how I was extremely sick during my fourth pregnancy. When I prayed for healing, God reminded me that I had criticized another woman in our church who was always tired and sick during her pregnancy. Now, here I was in the same circumstances. I realized how wrong I had been and repented. But it took more than repenting—it also became a time of learning for me. God forced me to realize how often I had judged or criticized others because they didn’t measure up to the standards I thought they ought to live by.

All of us make mistakes. All of us have weaknesses. God didn’t call us to point out those weaknesses to the person (or worse, to someone else), but He did call us to care—to show Christ’s love in any way we can. The Bible tells us to be tenderhearted, understanding, and forgiving. That’s how we can win over satanic attacks. Paul says it this way: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin). Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:30–32 AMPC).

God used these verses to help me see that being Jesus’ disciple means being kind to others, tenderhearted, and forgiving. I also realized it meant overlooking their weaknesses and shortcomings. If we truly love others as Christ loves us, it isn’t difficult at all.

Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, I want to love others, and I want to be kind and caring. I also know that I fail at times. In Your name, I ask You to forgive me, and enable me to forgive others who hurt me or don’t live up to my standards, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Our Royal Nature

You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable.

1 Peter 1:23

Peter earnestly exhorted the scattered saints to love each other “earnestly from a pure heart” (verse 22), and he did so not on the basis of the law or human nature or philosophy, but from that high and divine nature that God has implanted in His people. In the same way that a sensible tutor of princes might seek to foster in them a kingly spirit and dignified behavior, finding arguments in their position and pedigree, so, looking upon God’s people as heirs of glory, princes of royal blood, descendants of the King of kings, earth’s truest and oldest aristocracy, Peter said to them in essence, “See that you love one another because of your noble birth, being born of imperishable seed, because of your pedigree, being descended from God, the Creator of all things, and because of your immortal destiny, for you shall never pass away, though the glory of the flesh shall fade and even its existence shall cease.”

We would do well if, in the spirit of humility, we recognized the true dignity of our regenerated nature and lived up to it. What is a Christian? If you compare him with a king, he adds priestly sanctity to royal dignity. The king’s royalty often lies only in his crown, but with a Christian it is infused into his inmost nature. He is as much above his fellows through his new birth as a man is above the beast that perishes. Surely he shall conduct himself in all his dealings as one who is different from the crowd, chosen out of the world, distinguished by sovereign grace, part of God’s “peculiar people.”1

Such trophies of God’s grace cannot grovel in the dust like some, nor live in the fashion of the world’s citizens. Let the dignity of your nature and the brightness of your prospects, O believers in Christ, constrain you to hold fast to holiness and to avoid the very appearance of evil.

1) Titus 2:14, KJV

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

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Loyal to His People

“O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 136:26)

Do you know what it means to be loyal? Stella’s grandpa kept a white pony named Ginger on his farm. Whenever Stella visited Grandpa, she loved to ride Ginger around the pasture. Sometimes Stella would sit on the fence for an hour at a time talking to Ginger. When she would have to leave Ginger and go back home to the city, the pony stayed in her thoughts. Stella often drew pictures of Ginger or wrote about her in stories.

Now the truth is, Ginger was a very stubborn pony, and she was even a little bit mean at times. But if anyone ever said anything bad about her, Stella always stood up for her. She thought of Ginger as her horse. When Grandpa finally had to sell Ginger away to another farm, Stella went out to the empty pasture and found some long white hairs from her tail stuck in the fence. For years afterward, she kept that horsehair in a special little box. Her love for Ginger was loyal.

Did Ginger deserve to be loved like that? No, probably not. And neither do we. But God’s love for His people is just as loyal as that–in fact, it is even more loyal than any human love could be, because God is God. When you read the Old Testament, you can see God showing loyal love to His people, the Israelites, over and over again. He faithfully led them. He defended them against their enemies. He shared the deep thoughts and plans of His heart with them. He revealed Himself to them with wonderful miracles. He did not overlook their sin. When they broke their covenants with Him and went after idols, He always punished them. But even the punishments were signs of His loyalty. He never gave up on His people. He never “let them go.” He always drew them back. When they humbled themselves and sought Him, He mercifully restored them again to a right relationship with Him. And best of all, He sent them a Redeemer–His own dear Son, Jesus Christ.

The Hebrew word for God’s loyal love is hesed. You will often see this word in our English translations as lovingkindness or mercy. God acts the same toward His redeemed people today as He did toward His people Israel in the Old Testament days. He will never give up on His people, nor will He ever give up a good work that He has begun. He loves us with a loyal, steadfast love.

God’s love for His people is loyal and steadfast.

My Response:
» Am I loyal in my love for God?
» How can I demonstrate (show) loyalty like God’s in my relationships with my friends and family members?

Denison Forum – The latest on the Supreme Court leak and “the one and only pro-life argument”

The leak of a Supreme Court draft Monday evening is dominating the news again this morning.

Amy Howe, the Supreme Court analyst at SCOTUSblog, tweeted, “It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff. This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.” Criminal law professor Orin Kerr called the leak “the most egregious violation of confidentiality for a staff member or employee of the court that you can imagine.”

Barricades were erected around the Supreme Court building after the leak in anticipation of public reactions. This turned out to be a wise move, as demonstrators on both sides rallied Monday night and into Tuesday morning. Signs included “[expletive deleted] SCOTUS” and “Sam Alito Retire [expletive deleted].”

One activist wrote, “Seriously, shout out to whoever the hero was within the Supreme Court who said ‘[expletive deleted] Let’s burn the place down.’” Others issued similar calls for violence against the court.

After the Kavanaugh confirmation in 2018, hundreds of protesters tried to break down the Supreme Court’s bronze doors, scaled the building and its statues, and threw tomatoes and water bottles at the cars of justices who had attended his swearing-in. We are left to wonder what the reaction will be if the draft document does in fact mirror the court’s ruling this summer, or if it does not.

What prompted the leak?

Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement yesterday confirming the authenticity of the draft opinion leaked to POLITICO and announcing an investigation into the document’s disclosure, which he described as a “singular and egregious breach” of the court’s trust. According to Axios, “This is the first time in modern history that a ruling has leaked before the court issued it publicly.”

It is being reported that Roberts did not want to overturn Roe v. Wade, resulting in a five-to-four majority for such a ruling. However, draft opinions are far from final since justices often change their minds during the writing process. For example, in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the 1992 Supreme Court was reportedly ready to reverse Roe but ended up affirming it after further negotiation.

Some therefore believe that the leak was intended to “incite violence and bully justices into changing their votes.” On the other side of the coin, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat writes this morning that the leak “might suggest that a leaker on the conservative side hopes to freeze a wavering justice—Kavanaugh being the obvious candidate—into their initial vote.”

Legal experts are discussing the degree of illegality involved in the leak. Some Democrats are calling for Congress to pass a federal law codifying Roe v. Wade, seeking federal legislation that would override laws in states that restrict abortion. Some are demanding that the Senate eliminate the filibuster rule to pass such a bill.

Democrats and Republicans are both claiming that the ruling will help energize their supporters in the midterm elections. And some are calling for the Court to issue its ruling now rather than in late June or early July, arguing that the leak “was meant to corrupt the process.”

Meanwhile, Amazon promised to reimburse employees who travel to obtain abortions; Yelp announced that it would do the same. And as more states restrict abortion, an estimated fifty doctors are traveling across state lines to perform abortions in places with limited abortion access.

A brilliant case for life

How should Christians respond to this furor?

Writing for Public Discourse, law professor Michael Stokes Paulsen outlines what he calls “the one and only pro-life argument.” He makes a brilliant case that the issue comes down simply to this question: whether the unborn child is or is not a living human being. If it is, there can be no moral justification for killing it save in self-defense (saving the life of the mother).

He makes his point by asking whether any moral argument justifies killing “a born, living child.” He compiles all the “good” arguments for abortion: “poverty, economic or social stress, lost or delayed opportunities, single motherhood, male abandonment, sexual autonomy, conscientious but unsuccessful use of contraception, the child’s disability, rape or incest, the emotional or psychological distress of parenthood.” Then he asks whether any of these would “justify what we would otherwise recognize as the simple murder of a living newborn, infant, or toddler.”

Paulsen then compiles all the “bad” motives for forbidding abortion: “hypocrisy, callousness, intentional subjugation of women, discrimination, a desire to impose unwelcome religious beliefs upon others.” And he asks whether they would “render the deliberate killing of born, living human children right.”

His point is clear and compelling: if the unborn child is a living human being, he or she deserves the same protections of the state as any other living human being. In fact, Paulsen notes, “If the unborn child is factually a human life, then saving such lives from the violence of others is a compelling interest if ever there was one. Indeed, it is a moral obligation and imperative.”

Our most urgent imperative

Paulsen is right: as controversy over the leaked Supreme Court document swirls and the political ramifications of overturning Roe v. Wade dominate the cultural debate, the personhood of an unborn child should be our most urgent imperative. That’s why in my website article, “Abortion and the Mercy of God,” I offer an in-depth scientific, medical, and biblical argument that life begins at conception.

For today, let’s focus on this fact: we are in this to advocate for living human beings. We believe that David’s prayer is true of every human from the moment of conception:

You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . . .

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:13–1416).

Would you take a moment to thank God for forming you in your mother’s womb?

Would you thank God that your mother chose to give you life?

Would you ask God what you can do today to help someone else choose life?

NOTE: For a discussion of the moral arguments for and against abortion and biblical responses, I encourage you to listen to a new episode of The Denison Forum Podcast I recorded yesterday with Dr. Mark Turman. Listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Christian Duties

Church community isn’t just for Sundays—it should continually edify our life in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-15

It may be startling to realize the commands in verse 14 of today’s passage aren’t addressed to church leaders but to “brothers and sisters”—terms used to refer to fellow Christians. How adequate do you feel to “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, [and] be patient with everyone”? 

Our life in the community of faith isn’t a matter of merely sitting through a worship service each Sunday. Let’s not think of the church as a place but as a group of believers who are “all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). That means being there to comfort the grieving, guide the straying, and encourage those who are weary from their trials. 

To accomplish this, we must be willing to listen. It’s easy to give a quick answer before truly understanding someone’s situation. But since the outward problem may be but a symptom of an internal spiritual struggle, it’s wise to be patient. When others are given a chance to share, we can better discern how God wants us to respond. 

We should always seek what’s best for one another. In some cases, practical or material help is called for; at other times, it could mean prayer or a willingness to help a person grow spiritually. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what your role is.

Bible in One Year: 1 Chronicles 7-9

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Longing for a Home

Bible in a Year:

Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Psalm 62:8

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Psalm 62:1–8

Anne, the lead character in the Anne of Green Gables stories, longed for a family. Orphaned, she had lost hope of ever finding a place to call home. But then she learned that an older man named Matthew and his sister Marilla would take her in. On the buggy ride to their home, Anne apologized for chattering on and on, but Matthew, a quiet man, said, “You can talk as much as you like. I don’t mind.” This was music to Anne’s ears. She felt no one had ever wanted her around, much less wanted to hear her chatter. After arriving, her hopes were dashed when she learned the siblings had thought they were getting a boy to help as a farmhand. She feared being returned, but Anne’s longing for a loving home was met when they made her a part of their family.

We’ve all had times when we felt unwanted or alone. But when we become a part of God’s family through salvation in Jesus, He becomes for us a secure home (Psalm 62:2). He delights in us and invites us to talk with Him about everything: our worries, temptations, sorrows, and hopes. The psalmist tells us we can “find rest in God” and “pour out [our] hearts to him” (vv. 5, 8).

Don’t hesitate. Talk to God as much as you like. He won’t mind. He delights in our hearts. In Him you’ll find a home.

By:  Anne Cetas

Reflect & Pray

What circumstances have caused you to make God your home? What do you want to talk to Him about?

Help me, God, not to hold back in talking with You when I’ve got something on my heart. Thank You for Your listening ear.

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Love of the Truth Brings Hatred

“‘All these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me’” (John 15:21).

The world, in its general hatred of the truth and ignorance of God, will also hate believers.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time hated Him intensely. If we are committed to following Him wholeheartedly today, we can’t expect to avoid persecution and hardship any more than He did. In John 15:20 our Lord tells us what to expect: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

If our perspective is right, however, this expectation should actually make us happy and even provide a certain sense of security. Receiving persecution from the world because we are Christ’s representatives means we have an opportunity to experience what Paul called “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). As one commentator has said, Christian suffering “is the very means God uses to transform us into the image of His Son.” Troubles and pains can be great reassurances that we have been united with Christ.

As we saw yesterday, it’s no surprise that the world hates us. It despises our general opposition to its system, but aside from that, the world hates believers simply because it doesn’t know God.

This basic ignorance of God usually appears in one of two ways. Either it shows up as apathy and religious superstition (Acts 17:22-23) or as more glaring actions and attitudes of moral and spiritual deviation (Romans 1:18—2:2). Whatever the case, people in the world are just doing what is natural for them because of their sin and depravity.

As a Christian, what should your response be? You should not be indifferent or accommodate the serious challenges you’ll face from the world. Instead, you ought to, by faith, realistically accept the truth of John 15:21, comfortably rest in the teaching of Philippians 3:10, and confidently seek to minister to the world “because the foolishness of God [the gospel] is wiser than men, and the weakness of God [the cross] is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you begin grasping what it means to partake in “the fellowship of His sufferings.”

For Further Study

Read Acts 5:17-42.

  • How is the world’s attitude toward the gospel displayed in this passage?
  • What did the apostles appeal to when faced with severe opposition?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

— Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

Yesterday, in a moment of hot temper, I said something I should not have said, and of course, once I calmed down, I felt bad that I had behaved foolishly. I immediately asked God for forgiveness and apologized to Him. Today, I am rejoicing in the fact that God does not demand perfection from us in order to receive His love.

A person who pressures him or herself to be perfect is properly referred to as a “perfectionist,” and they usually live under a great deal of pressure and disappointment simply because reaching perfection while here on earth is an unattainable goal. Our loving Father knows this, so He sent Christ to die for our sins (imperfections). The truth is that our sins are paid for before we ever commit them!

I urge you to believe that God loves you unconditionally at all times and your fellowship with Him does not need to be interrupted by your imperfections (sins). When you make mistakes, admit them, talk openly with the Lord about them, be willing to turn from them, and remember that it was for people just like you and me that Jesus died!

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You that I don’t need to live under the pressure to be perfect. I want to do everything right, but when I fail, help me remember that Your love for me does not diminish.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Go to Jesus

A very present help.

Psalm 46:1

Covenant blessings are not meant only to be observed but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, you do not make use of Christ as you ought to do. When you are in trouble, why do you not tell Him all your grief? Does He not have a sympathizing heart, and can He not comfort and relieve you? No, you are going to all your friends, except your best Friend, and telling your story everywhere, except into the heart of your Lord.

Are you burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: Use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon you? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to Him at once for cleansing. Do you deplore your weakness? He is your strength: Why not lean upon Him? Do you feel naked? Come here, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Do not stand looking at it, but wear it. Strip off your own righteousness, and your own fears too: Put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to be worn.

Do you feel yourself sick? Call upon the Beloved Physician, and He will give the medicine that will revive you. You are poor, but remember you have a kinsman, who is incredibly wealthy. What! Will you not go to Him and ask Him to give you from His abundance when He has promised that you will be joint heir with Him and has credited all that He is and all that He has to your account? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make a show of coming to Him and yet not to use Him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on His shoulders, the more precious He will be to us.

Let us be simple with Him, then,
Not backward, stiff, or cold,
As though our Bethlehem could be
What Sinai was of old.

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

http://www.truthforlife.org

Scriptures, Lessons, News and Links to help you survive.