Denison Forum – The deaths of Loretta Lynn and Steve Jobs: “Have the courage to follow your heart”

Legendary country singer and songwriter Loretta Lynn passed away yesterday at the age of ninety. The Washington Post calls her “a trailblazer for other female country performers” and notes that she was the first woman to win the Country Music Association’s award for entertainer of the year.

Speaking of historic deaths, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away on this day in 2011. In a 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, he offered this now-famous advice: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” He added: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

By following his “heart and intuition,” Jobs reinvented the music industry with the iPod and iTunes (Apple Music now has over one hundred million songs), reinvented personal communications with the iPhone, changed the way we consume media with the iPad, made computers accessible to non-technical people with Macintosh, changed the way software and hardware are sold, and built Apple from nothing into what is today the world’s most valuable company with a market cap of $2.347 trillion.

“You should have a target on your back”

I thought about the courage of Steve Jobs and Loretta Lynn in light of an article by evangelical cultural commentator Dr. Michael Brown titled “If you’re a Christian, you should have a target on your back.” He offers specific examples:

  • “If you speak up for the unborn, you will be targeted.
  • “If you uphold marriage and family as God intended, you will be targeted.
  • “If you claim salvation is only through Jesus, you will be targeted.
  • “If you resist LGBT activism in the schools, you will be targeted.
  • “If you preach the word of God with brokenness and humility but without compromise or dilution, you will be targeted.”

He cites Paul’s assertion: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12) and states, “If we’re not being persecuted, resisted, or targeted on some level for our godly living and preaching in Jesus, then something is wrong.”

Jesus warned his followers, “Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

Does the world hate you today?

This week, we’ve explored both secular and biblical responses to the antagonistic secularism of our day. Today, let’s seek the courage to employ both in service to our Lord and our culture.

One: Pray for sacrificial courage.

It is not easy to be vilified for believing what Christians have believed for twenty centuries, but that’s where we are today. No one likes being called intolerant and bigoted.

But we can claim the fact that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). And we can pray now for the courage we will need today.

Two: Choose courage for the sake of those who need biblical truth.

The gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). As a result, when we share our faith, we are not imposing our values on others—we are giving them the greatest gift they will ever receive. Conversely, if we cower before their opposition, we dishonor our Lord and harm the very people we are called to serve.

Pope St. Gregory the Great (AD 540–604) observed: “Pastors who lack foresight hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men. . . . [They] are not zealous pastors who protect their flocks, rather they are like mercenaries who flee by taking refuge in silence when the wolf appears.” He added, “The word of reproach is a key that unlocks a door, because reproach reveals a fault of which the evildoer is himself often unaware.”

Three: Love people whether they love our Lord or not.

John warned us: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). We are called to stand for biblical truth because we love those with whom we share it. The more they reject it, the more they need it.

The sicker the patient, the more urgent the physician.

Cornel West observed: “You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.” As Erma Bombeck noted, loving our children enough to let them hate us is “the hardest part of all.”

“The world cannot hate us”

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is considered the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. They will spend it fasting from food and water as they face their wrongdoings and seek forgiveness.

We can join them by taking time for our own introspection and confession. Are there areas of your life where you are compromising with the standards of the world? Where you are less than courageous in your public faith? Where you are hiding your light (Matthew 5:15) rather than shining as a light in the world by “holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15–16)?

Let’s pray today for the courage of our convictions. And let’s trust God to answer our prayers as we choose to stand boldly for our Lord.

Missionary and martyr Jim Elliot wrote in his biography, “The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!”

Will you be dangerous today?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Responses to Christ

Our job is to share Christ, but we are not responsible for the result.

Isaiah 6:1-13

The Lord is often ignored, reviled, belittled, and denied, but one day every eye will see Christ clothed in majesty and power. John 12:41 says that Isaiah was given a vision of Christ’s glory, and today’s reading records the prophet’s response. On seeing the Lord seated upon a throne in all His splendor, Isaiah recognized the depths of his own sinful condition and cried out, “Woe to me, for I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5). 

Peter had a similar reaction to Christ. When Jesus miraculously filled the fishing nets to overflowing, Peter fell down before Him, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). But the religious leaders of the time responded in a very different way. When they heard Jesus’ preaching and saw His miraculous signs, they became angry and attributed His power to Satan (Luke 11:15). 

As believers, we are Christ’s ambassadors in the world, and there are varied responses to our presence. Some welcome the message we bring, while others react with reluctance or even outright hostility. In fact, Jesus warned us this would be the case (John 15:18), but we should never let negative reactions discourage us from faithfully sharing the gospel or living righteously.  

Bible in One Year: Matthew 5-7

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Our Heart’s True Home

Bible in a Year:

My whole being longs for you.

Psalm 63:1

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Psalm 63

“Bobbie the Wonder Dog” was a collie mix separated from his family while they were on a summer vacation together more than 2,200 miles from home. The family searched everywhere for their beloved pet but returned heartbroken without him.

Six months later, toward the end of winter, a scraggly but determined Bobbie showed up at their door in Silverton, Oregon. Bobbie somehow made the long and dangerous trek, crossing rivers, desert, and snow-covered mountains to find his way home to those he loved.

Bobbie’s quest inspired books, movies, and a mural in his hometown. His devotion strikes a chord within, perhaps because God has placed an even deeper longing in our hearts. Ancient theologian Augustine described it this way: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This same longing was desperately yet eloquently expressed by David in a prayer as he hid from his pursuers in Judah’s wilderness: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

David praised God because His “love is better than life” (v. 3). Nothing compares with knowing Him! Through Jesus, God has sought us out and made the way for us to come home to His perfect love—regardless of how distant we once were. As we turn to Him, we find our heart’s true home.

By:  James Banks

Reflect & Pray

What do you look forward to most about one day seeing Jesus? In what ways will you seek Him today?

Jesus, thank You for making the way for me to come to You through Your life, death on the cross, and resurrection. 


http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Why Study the Bible?

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

The Holy Spirit protects you from false doctrine, but that doesn’t eliminate the need for diligent Bible study.

For the next few days we’ll consider several benefits of Bible study. Today we’ll address the broader question of why Bible study is necessary at all.

Perhaps you know believers who think Bible study is unnecessary. Bible reading, they say, is sufficient because we have the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things. Often they cite 1 John 2:27 in support of their view: “As for you, the anointing [the Holy Spirit] which you received from [God] abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”

That passage, however, isn’t implying that Bible study or Bible teachers aren’t necessary. On the contrary, John was exhorting his readers to abide in what they’d already learned (v. 24) and shun only those teachers who deny Christ and try to deceive believers.

The Holy Spirit is the believer’s resident lie detector, granting discernment to shield him or her from false doctrine. Although a Christian may be temporarily confused by false teachers, ultimately he can never drift into apostasy or deny Christ. If anyone does depart from the faith, his departure is proof that he was never a true believer in the first place (v. 19).

The Spirit protects you from error, but you must fulfill your responsibility as a student of the Word. Even a man of Timothy’s spiritual stature needed to study the Word diligently and handle it accurately (2 Tim. 2:15).

I pray that the psalmist’s attitude toward Scripture will be yours as well: “O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His precious Word.
  • Ask Him to give you a deeper love for its truths.

For Further Study

Read Titus 1:7-16 and 2 Timothy 2:2.

  • What skills must an overseer have regarding God’s Word?
  • Why are those skills necessary?
  • Do those skills apply to church leaders only? Explain.
  • Are you skilled in handling God’s Word?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Our Responsibility—God’s Responsibility

So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.

— Matthew 6:34 (AMPC)

Every believer has the responsibility to live right—to be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. Motivated by the reverential fear of the Lord, we can learn to live carefully and begin to make a difference in the world we live in. You and I need to be careful about what we allow into our spirits and how we live our lives. Proverbs 4:23 says to guard our heart with all diligence because out of it flows the issues of life. I believe we should have a careful attitude about how we live—not a casual or a careless one. We need to be careful about what we watch, what we listen to, what we think about, and who our friends are.

I’m not saying we need to live according to the strict and demanding dictates of man. Some would say we must not wear makeup or that we must wear colorless clothing from our necks to our ankles. That is nothing more than legalistic bondage to a bunch of rules and regulations. I had a very legalistic relationship with God for years and was miserable, so the last thing I want to do is teach legalism. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t compromise. We should recognize our responsibility as Christians to live our lives in such a way that unbelievers will be attracted to God by our behavior.

James 4:17 (AMPC) says, …any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin. In other words, if we are convicted that something is wrong, then we must not do it—even if we see a hundred other people doing it and getting by with it. They may seem to be getting by with it, but sooner or later, we will all reap what we sow.

We know that worry and anxiety are not characteristics of a godly Christian. Yet still, many Christians worry. You can choose to worry, or you can reject worry and choose to live with joy and peace. Most people don’t want to hear that message, and they seem to find an odd comfort in thinking that worrying is beyond their control. It is not. Worry is a sin against God.

As long as I’ve been in the church, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone make that statement. But it is sin. It is calling God a liar. It is saying that God is not sufficiently able to take care of you and provide for your needs.

Faith says, “God can do it.” Worry says, “God isn’t able to help me.”

When you worry, you not only call God a liar, but you have also allowed the devil to fill your mind with anxious thoughts. The more you focus on the problems, the larger they become. You start to fret and may even end up in despair.

Think of the words of the great apostle: I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency] (Philippians 4:13 AMPC). Or think of the words from the psalmist: Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass (Psalm 37:5 AMPC).

Jesus told His disciples not to be anxious and, as quoted above, not to worry about tomorrow. But He did more than teach those words; He lived them out: And Jesus replied to him, Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have lodging places, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (Matthew 8:20 AMPC). That wasn’t a complaint but a simple fact of life. Jesus trusted His Father’s provision for Him even when He didn’t know where He would sleep or what He would eat.

Jesus taught that we are not to worry about anything in life. He wasn’t speaking about planning and thinking ahead. He was saying that some people never act because fear holds them back. They can always tell you 10 things that can go wrong with every plan. Jesus wants us to live a stress-free life. If you are worrying about what might happen, you’re hindering God from working in your life.

I heard about a couple whose daughter was diagnosed with a serious illness that wasn’t covered by insurance. The parents were struggling to pay all the medical bills. Not knowing what else to do, they both went into their bedroom for a lengthy time of prayer. Afterward the husband said, “It was really quite simple. I am God’s servant. My responsibility is to serve my Master. His responsibility is to take care of me.”

The next day, the doctors told them that their daughter was eligible to be part of an experimental surgery and all expenses would be paid. The wife smiled and said, “God is responsible, isn’t He?” What a testimony to their faith and trust in God who always remains faithful and responsible and in all things. God is no respecter of persons. What He does for one, He will do for another (see Romans 2:11). I encourage you to stop worrying and start trusting in Him.

Prayer of the Day: Lord God, I know that worry is a sin against You. In the name of Jesus, help me overcome all anxieties and worry and enable me to trust You to provide for every need I have, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – The Shaky Rock

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

John 21:15

Jesus’ appearance on the beach in John 21 occurred after His resurrection and therefore after His crucifixion and all the events surrounding it—including Peter’s cowardly denial of even knowing Christ. We can safely assume that Peter felt shame at his failure of loyalty and faith. We can just imagine him confiding to the other disciples, I had my chance, and I blew it. I betrayed Him. Here I am, the one who thought he would play the hero, standing as a testimony of the worst cowardice. So, as Jesus spoke to him, surely Peter wondered, What will He say? What part do I have in His people now?

Jesus didn’t write off Peter’s failure; He acknowledged it. After their meal together, Jesus addressed Peter by his old name, Simon, which means “listen.” At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had changed Simon’s name to Peter, which means “rock” (John 1:42). This change symbolized a shift that would occur in Simon Peter’s character and calling: he was shaky, but he would become firm like a rock. There on the shore, however, Jesus wanted to remind Peter of his shakiness. Before Peter could become steady, he needed to understand that his behavior had displayed neither a firm faith nor any measurable boldness rooted in Christ’s love.

Like Peter, you and I will sometimes feel sidelined by our failures, our backsliding, our unbelief. We will feel the ache of a dislocated faith; we will need the Master Surgeon to reach out and put our love back in place, sometimes painfully but always restoratively. Notice that it is indeed Peter’s heart, his love and devotion, that Jesus is most concerned about. Other qualities are desirable and necessary, yes, but it is our love for Christ that is indispensable. Where is our love? Is it built on shaky sand or on a firm rock?

Yet even as Christ puts our love back in alignment, He entrusts us with kingdom work. Jesus still chose to use Peter to build His church. How surprising that Jesus entrusted His “lambs” to the disciple who (with the exception of Judas) had most let him down and in whom was the greatest gap between profession and action. But how encouraging for us that Jesus would do so: for if He was willing to use someone like Peter, He will be willing to use someone like me and you. Jesus still chose to give Peter great responsibility, but that responsibility was meant to test Peter as well. The test of love for Jesus is whether a life displays obedience and action. The book of Acts shows how Peter, with the enabling of God’s Spirit, responded to the test.

The story of Peter, the shaky rock, stands as a reminder to us that God is a God of grace and second chances. Our weaknesses reveal our need for a strength that is not our own, a measure of might that is found only in our great Rock of Ages. Therefore, knowing that such strength is available to us from the Savior who died for us and commissions us in His service, you can walk into your day and do His bidding out of love for Him.

GOING DEEPER

Acts 5:17-42

Topics: Faith Grace of God Restoration

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 Speak Kindly to One Another

“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).

At times, you will say something that you wish you hadn’t. There is a saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This isn’t true. Physically, sticks and stones can hurt you if someone throws them at you, but you will probably recover from the injury. Emotionally, when someone says hurtful words, recovery isn’t as easy. You may be able to forgive—this is what God wants you to do—but forgetting is almost impossible. No matter how old you get, at times you will remember how you felt when someone hurt you with their words or by their actions.

We are taught in James 3 how our tongues can harm others. (We use our tongues to speak, so “tongues” here means “words.”) Sometimes you may intentionally want to say something against another person because you are angry and you want to get even. This is a time when you must decide to be a godly example and say nothing.

Today make sure that what you say does not harm someone. You are the only one who has control over your tongue.

My response:

» Do I ask God to help me control my tongue?

» How can I use my tongue to build others up instead up tearing them down?

» When someone says something hurtful to me, do I pray for the person and for myself so that I don’t say something hurtful in return?

Denison Forum – Why Hurricane Ian caught so many in Florida off guard

Trust seems to be a scarce commodity these days.

For example, the would-be winners of almost $29,000 at an Ohio fishing tournament were disqualified recently after it was discovered that their fish were stuffed with lead weights and fish fillets.

On a much more somber note: as of this morning, the death toll from Hurricane Ian has risen to at least 103. Part of the problem is that the storm was predicted until the last thirty-six hours to strike Florida further north than where it landed. As a result, many in the Ft. Myers region were unprepared for the violence of the hurricane when it hit their area.

The main American forecast model insisted for days that the storm would strike the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend areas as a Category 2 storm. The European model, which uses faster supercomputers, consistently signaled a more southernly and stronger storm track for Florida. (Its prediction ended up being far closer to the actual outcome.) The National Hurricane Center then split the difference, leading to a predicted landfall north of where the storm came ashore.

In other news, an Indonesian police chief and nine elite officers were removed from their posts after at least 125 people (including thirty-two children) were killed in a soccer stadium crush. And the polls were wrong once again, this time in Brazil, where the incumbent president received more votes than had been predicted and is now in a runoff with his leading challenger.

Each day’s news provides more proof that we are fallen people living in a fallen world. Why, then, is it hard to convince secular people that they need more than secular society can provide?

Moving the Overton window

If lost people understood that they needed Christ, they would turn to him. The fact that they do not shows that they do not believe they need any more “spirituality” than they already have. Thus, as we noted yesterday, they must want what we know they need.

We might think that disasters like Hurricane Ian would turn many toward God since such tragedies clearly show us our finitude and frailty. They force us to confront the mortality we are otherwise so good at ignoring. And they prove that we need to be ready today for what might come tomorrow.

However, for many, natural disasters are invitations to question the love, power, or even the existence of God. And they align with a cultural narrative that reinforces self-reliance. As the Stoic Epictetus said, “No man is free who is not master of himself.” His words could be the mantra of our day.

Consequently, the spiritual Overton window (the range of what is socially acceptable) has moved the cultural center to the left. The younger you are, the further to the left you have moved.

If I do not believe I have cancer

Now, for the first time in American history, a majority of Americans reject biblical truth on a wide range of moral issues. For many, “morality” is defined as “doing whatever you want to do that doesn’t harm someone else.” This is a logic trap: for me to disagree causes you harm and thus crosses this line.

Why is this definition of morality so appealing?

Consider an example: the LGBTQ population is at most 5.6 percent of American society. But if we decide that the Scriptures and/or Christian tradition are wrong on LGBTQ issues that do not affect 95 percent of us personally, we can then decide that they are wrong on other issues that do.

Once we determine that Christianity is wrong about homosexuality, we can decide that it is wrong about abortion. Or premarital sex, or cohabitation, or pornography, or euthanasia, or a host of other decisions.

This relativistic view of morality rejects the only solution for our problem: “You know that [Christ] appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). If I do not believe I have cancer, I will not consult an oncologist, much less consent to the chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery she prescribes.

How can we respond biblically to such deception? How can we speak the truth in love when such truth is so unpopular?

One: Pray with passion

Because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). This is a spiritual conflict that must be fought with spiritual weapons. Thus, praying fervently for spiritual awakening and moral renewal is priority one for Christians.

Two: Guard your heart

We must be the change we want others to adopt. Here’s where to start: David testified, “I will ponder the way that is blameless” (Psalm 101:2). To become “blameless,” make this commitment: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless” (v. 3, my emphasis).

If we do, we must deal with it immediately. Like cancer, denying sin permits it to metastasize: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Ask the Spirit to show you anything you need to confess, then confess what comes to your thoughts and claim God’s forgiving grace (v. 9).

Three: Seek the power of God

Are you living and working in supernatural power? God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). In these critical days, we dare not limit his power by our faith. Settle for nothing less than his best.

God will never ask you to do something he will not enable you to do. “He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14) and thus empowers our frailty with his omnipotence and our finitude with his omniscience. You can do “nothing” without Christ (John 15:5) but “all things” with him (Philippians 4:13).

Theologian R. C. Sproul observed, “The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in.”

Do you?

Denison Forum

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Holiness of God

God is perfectly just and merciful.

Revelation 4:1-11

The scene in today’s passage gives us a glimpse of a holy God who is worthy of mankind’s worship. He’s perfectly pure in His thoughts, motives, choices, and actions, and His holiness is also revealed in His separateness from all evil and transgression. Since God cannot tolerate or ignore sin, every wrong must be punished—with the penalty paid either by the offender or by an adequate substitute. And Jesus Christ is the fully sufficient substitute who paid what every one of us owed. What’s more, He’s the only one who can reconcile sinful mankind to God. 

The Son of God took on human flesh and lived a sinless life. Then, as 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV) tells us, Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the cross” to pay the penalty of divine wrath. His resurrection is the proof that the sacrifice was acceptable to His heavenly Father. All who trust in Christ as their substitute are reconciled to God, but those who reject the Savior must themselves bear God’s wrath for their sin.

If we’ll acknowledge our unworthiness, confess our sins, and trust in Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf, our sins will be forgiven. The Judge of all humanity declares us not guilty. What’s more, He also credits us with Christ’s righteousness. And someday we’ll join the saints in heaven praising our gracious, holy God. 

Bible in One Year: Matthew 1-4

http://www.intouch.org/

Our Daily Bread — Mirror Test

Bible in a Year:

Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it . . . will be blessed in what they do.

James 1:25

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

James 1:22–27

“Who’s in the mirror?” the psychologists conducting the self-recognition test asked children. At eighteen months or younger, children don’t usually associate themselves with the image in the mirror. But as kids grow, they can understand they’re looking at themselves. Self-recognition is an important mark of healthy growth and maturation.

It’s also important to the growth of believers in Jesus. James outlines a mirror recognition test. The mirror is “the word of truth” from God (James 1:18). When we read the Scriptures, what do we see? Do we recognize ourselves when they describe love and humility? Do we see our own actions when we read what God commands us to do? When we look into our hearts and test our actions, Scripture can help us recognize if our actions are in line with what God desires for us or if we need to seek repentance and make a change.

James cautions us not to just read Scripture and turn away “and so deceive [ourselves]” (v. 22), forgetting what we’ve taken in. The Bible provides us with the map to live wisely according to God’s plans. As we read it, meditate on it, and digest it, we can ask Him to give us the eyes to see into our heart and the strength to make necessary changes.

By:  Katara Patton

Reflect & Pray

What do you see when you look into the mirror of Scripture? What changes do you need to make?

Dear God, please help me use Scripture as a mirror into my life, my motives, and my actions. 

http://www.odb.org

Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Ministry of the Word

“My Word . . . shall not return to Me . . . without accomplishing what I desire” (Isa. 55:11).

“Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3).

God’s Word is both productive and nourishing.

The Bible contains many precious promises, two of which relate specifically to itself. First, the prophet Isaiah said that the Word is productive: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I send it” (Isa. 55:10-11).

As you administer the Word, it may encourage a fellow Christian, bring a sinner to repentance, or even confirm an unbeliever in his sin. Whatever the response, be assured that the Word always accomplishes its intended purpose.

The Word is like a messenger that runs to do God’s work: “He sends forth His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments; who can stand before His cold? He sends forth His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow. He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel” (Ps. 147:15-19). Just as God sends the natural elements to accomplish His purposes, He also sends His Word.

The Word is also nourishing. Moses wrote, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3). God’s Word feeds believers, causing spiritual growth.

How should you respond to such a powerful and productive Word? Trust it, so you can live each day in confidence. Proclaim it, so others will come to know its author. Obey it, so it can continue its transforming work in you, making you more like Christ each day.

Suggestions for Prayer

God’s promises are intended to bring you great joy and encouragement. List seven promises that are especially meaningful to you. Use one each day for one week as a focal point for prayer and praise.

For Further Study

What promises does Jesus make in John 14:1-14?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Joyce Meyer – Higher Obedience

The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

— Isaiah 1:11 (NIV)

In today’s scripture, God says that His people have obeyed Him with their actions, while indicating that what He really wants is obedience from the heart. True obedience to God is not about legalistically obeying His teachings, but about obeying with a good attitude and pure motives, out of love for Him.

The enemy tries to trap people in legalism, telling them that they must obey God in order for Him to accept them. This is a lie! God loves and accepts us unconditionally, all the time, no matter what. We don’t have to do anything to earn His love, but we do have a chance to obey Him as a way of responding to His great love.

We should obey God all the time, whether we want to do it or not, and we are better off when we obey with a good attitude. I want to encourage you today to come up higher in your obedience and to make sure your heart is right toward God in everything you do. Ask Him to give you pure motives, an open heart to hear His voice and know what He would have you do, prompt obedience rooted in love, and the desire to honor Him in your life. A lifestyle of pure-hearted obedience to God always brings blessings.

Prayer of the Day: Father, help me to obey You not only with my actions but in my heart. In Jesus’ name, amen.

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Devoted to the Word of God

 “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering.

Acts 6:4-5

While the Spirit-filled events of Pentecost and the resulting ministry were extraordinary, the apostles and their followers did not begin saying afterward, Well, now the Spirit of God teaches me; therefore, I don’t need to listen to anybody else. Instead, when filled with the Holy Spirit, they were all ears for the authoritative preaching and teaching of God’s word. This teaches us an important lesson: the Spirit of God always leads the people of God to devote themselves to the word of God.

This is why the book of Acts is full of the centrality of preaching. The apostles recognized that God’s supreme instrument for renewing His people in the image of His Son was and is through His word, as His Spirit works through it. Here in Acts 6 we see an example of the priority and protection the apostles gave to those called and equipped to teach. The apostles recognized the sobering importance of being entrusted as servants to bring before the people the very words of God Himself.

The Old Testament books refer to the “oracles” of the prophets; this word can also be translated as “burden” (see, for instance, Isaiah 13:1, KJV). It describes a weight upon the heart and mind that comes about because of the awesome responsibility of speaking God’s truth to people. Back in the nineteenth century C.H. Spurgeon acknowledged this burden by declaring his pulpit to be more influential than the throne of the king of England, for he brought a message from the throne of God to that pulpit and delivered the truth of Christian doctrine.

We must pray for and protect those called to teach the truths of Scripture, whether to a congregation, or to little children, or in any other context. It is no small thing to stand regularly between a holy God and His people, declaring His word. It is a heavy burden as well as a wonderful privilege.

In addition to praying for our teachers and preachers, we must also be humble and eager to sit and learn under the authoritative teaching of God’s word. Such an example of devotion was set by the early church in their dedication to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42). Contemporary devotion ought to look the same; we must be committed to teaching that is based on the New Testament truths revealed to the apostles and built upon the foundations of Old Testament doctrine. We must not be spending all our time snacking on the fast food of box sets that soak up our time, TV networks that confirm what we already think, and books or video games that offer escape from the real world. Instead, we need to feast on the word of God. Let that be your spiritual food and you will find each day that the Spirit of God leads you deeper into the truths and the joys within it.

GOING DEEPER

Psalm 119:81-96

Topics: God’s Word Preaching

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

http://www.truthforlife.org

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Holy

 “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14–16).

Are you a picky eater? You know what I mean. You have to inspect anything new or different just looking for something wrong. OH, NO! IS THAT A SPECK OF GREEN OR BLACK? And there had better not be any onions in this meal! That is a picky eater.

God is picky too. He can be because He is holy. That means that nothing in Him or about Him is wrong, dirty, out of place, or bad. He is the One Who sets the standard, or measurement, for holiness. When the Israelites sacrificed a lamb, it had to be as perfect as possible. No spots, no blemishes, no sicknesses of any kind. Only the best is good enough for a holy God.

First Peter 1:14–16 command Christians to be holy, as God is holy. How is that possible? It is not. We are sinners. Our sin disqualifies us from holiness. How then can we obey this impossible command? God is holy. If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives in you. The Holy Spirit is God. You have God living in you. He makes you holy.

Think of it this way. You are a child of God. God is the King of Kings. That makes you the child of a king. You had nothing to do with it. You were born into this royal family. You need to act like a king’s child. It starts with your thinking. Learn how God in His holiness thinks. Then think the same way. Your actions will follow your thinking.

God is holy.

My response:

» When I think about God, do I stop to consider how holy He is?

» Do my actions show that I care about pleasing my holy God?

Denison Forum – New California law blocks parents who oppose “gender-affirming” therapies for their children

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are visiting Puerto Rico today and Florida on Wednesday to view areas devastated by Hurricane Ian. There have been eighty-seven confirmed deaths from the storm as of this morning, but the number is expected to rise.

Meanwhile, a cultural storm is brewing that is devastating not just a part of our country but our entire society.

The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade one hundred days ago yesterday, which was a historic victory for life. However, of all the massive consequences so far, one is especially foundational: the “culture wars” are coming home. States and local communities are taking ownership of morality issues on unprecedented levels and in unprecedented ways.

Let’s consider some examples.

What California’s law does to parents

Last Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 107, which David French explains this way: “A child can cross state lines to obtain ‘gender-affirming health care or gender-affirming mental health care’ and obtain immediate protection from efforts from parents to bring their child home.” In short, if your child goes to California for sex-change surgery, there is nothing you can do to stop them once they get to the state. The order even blocks parents from receiving information about their child’s treatment.

This is just one of the ways many in our secularized culture are seeking to dismantle the family and overturn traditional morality.

A Wisconsin school board is going forward with sex ed curriculum that teaches lessons on gender identity to elementary school students. A New Jersey law forces schools to teach LGBTQ history. The New Jersey Department of Education has imposed sex education standards requiring school districts to teach middle school students about sexual activities I will not describe here.

One author even has a book titled Abolish the Family.

This trend is extending into Christian denominations as well. The United Methodist Church and many of its local congregations are more affirming of LGBTQ ideology than ever, though many local congregations remain committed to biblical orthodoxy. The same is true for the Presbyterian Church USA, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and numerous other mainline denominations. Even some Baptist churches are embracing LGBTQ ideology over biblical sexuality.

If you stand for biblical morality, expect to face the opprobrium of society as a result. As one example, the Supreme Court’s approval has sunk to historic lows after its abortion ruling.

How should followers of Jesus respond most redemptively?

“The Next Pandemic: Anxiety Over Life Itself”

Secular people are unlikely to be persuaded by biblical arguments. I assume that a Muslim could not persuade you to adopt Islam based on verses from the Qur’an.

So, following Paul’s example in employing Greek logic and quoting Greek philosophers to persuade Greek philosophers (Acts 17:22–31), we need to understand those we seek to persuade. Let’s begin with the reasoning used by secularists who oppose biblical morality.

For advocates of California’s new law protecting children who seek “gender-affirming” therapies from intervention by their parents, any parents who oppose such therapies are abusing their children. Abortion proponents believe the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe victimized women by denying them “reproductive freedom.”

More Americans than ever before believe that people who oppose same-sex marriage are just as discriminatory as people who oppose interracial marriage. It is conventional wisdom today that LGBTQ rights are just as valid and vital as any other minority rights.

Now, let’s use secular evidence to show our secular friends that secular morality is not working. For example:

  • One consequence of the “sexual freedom” movement is a horrific upsurge in sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis.
  • In response to federal recommendations that all adult Americans ages nineteen to sixty-four be screened for anxiety, the Wall Street Journal headlines “The Next Pandemic: Anxiety Over Life Itself.”
  • A 2021 poll found that just 49 percent of Americans were more optimistic than pessimistic about the state of the world, a low point since the survey began in 2009.

How the world will know you follow Jesus

I plan to discuss several biblical responses in tomorrow’s Daily Article. For today, let’s close with this fact: to persuade people that they need what we have, they must want what we have.

Advertisers work hard to convince people who don’t need a new car that we want a new car. Otherwise, we’ll be content with what we drive. The same is true of our souls. If people see Christ in us, the “God-shaped emptiness” in their souls will be drawn to our Lord.

So, how can we live in such a way that others see Christ in us?

John, Jesus’ beloved disciple and best friend, counseled us: “Whoever says he abides in [Christ] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). This is both biblical and logical. If I abide in Christ (John 15:5) and his Spirit thus controls my life (Ephesians 5:18), the Spirit of God will make me more like the Son of God (Romans 8:29).

Therefore, I can determine the degree to which I follow Jesus by the degree to which I imitate Jesus. So can the world.

Are you confident that the people who meet you today will see Christ in you?

If not, why not?

Denison Forum

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

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