Tag Archives: relationship

Night Light for Couples – Too Much Honesty

 

“Let your conversation be always full of grace.” Colossians 4:6

Most marriage counselors emphasize communication as a foundation for a healthy relationship: Nothing should be withheld from the marital partner. There is wisdom in that advice, provided it’s applied with common sense. It may be honest for a man to tell his wife that he hates her fat legs, her varicose veins, or the way she cooks. It’s honest for a woman to dump her anger on her husband and constantly berate him for his shortcomings and failures. But honesty that does not have the best interest of the other person at heart is really a cruel form of selfishness.

Some couples, in their determination to share every thought and opinion, systematically destroy the sweet spark of romance that once drew them together. They’ve lost any sense of mystique in the relationship.

So how does one express intimate feelings while avoiding too much honesty? Paul’s advice to all Christians works especially well for married partners: “Let your conversation be always full of grace.”

Just between us…

  • Am I sometimes so honest with you that my words are hurtful?
  • Do you think there should be exceptions to telling “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” in marriage?
  • We know that God honors truthfulness, so how do we apply this to marital communication?
  • In what areas could we use more honesty and in what areas, more grace?

Heavenly Father, we know that truthfulness is Your will for our lives—but please give us the wisdom to know when to speak the truth and when to keep it to ourselves. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson

Charles Stanley – Communion With God

 

Philippians 3:7-10

God created men and women to be in relationship with Him. The type of communion Adam and Eve first enjoyed with Him was meant for us as well. But when sin entered the world, everything changed. God’s intended intimate relationship with mankind was broken, and it has been passed down through the generations in that damaged condition.

But as we know, that’s not the end of the story. Jesus came to die in our place, bringing forgiveness for our sins and restoring our relationship with the Father. Through faith in Christ, we are adopted into God’s family and belong to Him forever—just as He originally planned. He has provided us with everything we need to experience intimacy with Him.

So what happens if, following salvation, new believers never go deeper? Some may drift away from their initial zeal for the Lord, failing to make Bible reading or church attendance a regular occurrence. Perhaps others try to focus on the Lord but allow earthly matters to distract them. Over time, some Christians settle for what’s comfortable and familiar. Sadly, they will miss out on the deep contentment God wanted to provide. Yet those who make Jesus the priority of their life will have a deepening relationship with Him, which transcends any earthly one.

Communion with God made King David “fully satisfied as with the richest of foods” (Ps. 63:5 NIV). And Paul viewed his own accomplishments as nothing in comparison with “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8). Draw near to God, and experience the blessings of knowing Him.

Bible in One Year: Isaiah 36-39

 

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Dynamism of Faith

 

What is the nature of faith? Is faith the sort of thing that is like an impenetrable fortress? Is it a sense of absolute certainty, as is found in mathematical formula, with consistent and guaranteed results? Or is the nature of faith like the feeling one gets when barely hanging on—fingers fatigued, sweaty, and slowly slipping off of whatever prop, cliff, or ledge that holds one from falling into the abyss of disbelief?

I wonder about the nature of faith as I encounter so many different perspectives and experiences. After profound loss, for example, many individuals suffer what is described as a ‘crisis of faith.’ All that seemed a sure foundation before the loss crumbles under the weight of crisis. For others, faith seems a swinging pendulum that vacillates between certainty and doubt. The poet Emily Dickinson wrote that “We both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an Hour.”(1) Still for others faith is a constant assurance, a sense of strength and repose regardless of the assaults to it.

Of course, to ask about the nature of faith is to inquire about the nature of trust and belief. As such, it is not simply a conversation among religious adherents, but a real question over which humans wrestle whether they acknowledge it explicitly or not. We make decisions each and every day about whether or not we will trust the bus driver and the bus to get us to work. We make decisions to trust other drivers on the highway that they will keep their vehicles under control and not careen into our lane of traffic. We make decisions to trust individuals—spouses, children, friends, employers. The exercise of trust is a basic requirement for relationships and for living in this world.

This is why it is so interesting to me that talk of ‘faith’ is often relegated to the margin that is religious discourse. To have ‘faith’ or ‘trust’ or ‘belief’ in scientific studies is simply assumed because science has become the standard by which truth is measured. And yet, even scientists exercise ‘faith’ in relationship to a tradition of knowledge. Assumptions, assured findings from the past, and the methods of science all become a part of the relationship between faith and knowledge. Sometimes, even this relationship comes under testing when what were once considered ‘true’ results are called into question by new assumptions and new data.(2) Relationships are dynamic; going through ebbs and flows, ups and downs, changes and stasis. As such, it seems a complete category mistake to speak of faith and certainty in the same sentence-even in the realm of science. As author Philip Yancey asserts about the necessary uncertainty of faith, “Doubt always coexists with faith, for in the presence of certainty who would need faith at all?”(3)

It is reasonable, then, to wonder aloud about the nature of faith. One ought to be wary of arriving at a simple definition. For C.S. Lewis, one of the great spokesmen on behalf of the Christianity, the nature of faith was complicated and something that was not easily understood. In his heart-wrenching memoir, A Grief Observed, Lewis writes: “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box.”(4) I believe Lewis articulates a profound dynamic of faith—one never really knows what it is until it is tested. Yet, once tested the true nature of one’s faith is revealed-even when it is revealed to be wanting. In these times, we can reflect honestly about that in which we’ve placed our trust and whether the subject or object of trust is warranted.

Yet, even here where one’s faith might be revealed for what it is and what it is not, there is room for growth and for hope. Philip Yancey reflects that,

“What gives me hope, though, is that Jesus worked with whatever grain of faith a person might muster. He did, after all honor the faith of everyone who asked, from the bold centurion to doubting Thomas to the distraught father who cried, ‘I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!’”(5)

The true nature of faith is inextricably bound to relationship. As such, it is subject to all of the intricacies and complexities of relationship. At times unshakable and strong, and at other times revealed to be flabby and weak, the nature of faith is dynamic. But entering into a relationship of trust with the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth assures me that despite the complexities, and despite my often small offering of faith, I am welcomed into a relationship anyway. And as my faith is tested, its true nature is progressively revealed.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) From a letter to Otis Lord, April 30, 1882; Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Letters of Emily Dickinson (Cambridge: Belknap, 1958), 728.

(2) As is seen in the recent studies that showed a new gauge for cholesterol was flawed. Cardiologists learned that a new online calculator meant to help them determine a patient’s suitability for cholesterol treatment was flawed, doubling the estimated risk of heart attack or stroke for the average patient. See Gina Kolata, “Flawed gauge for cholesterol risk poses new challenge,” NY Times, November 18, 2013.

(3) Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God: What Do We Expect to Find? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 41.

(4) C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: HarperCollins ebooks, 2009), loc 326-329.

(5) Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God: What Do We Expect to Find, 40.

Our Daily Bread – The Family Of Faith

 

 

 

Read: 1 Thessalonians 2:6-14
Bible in a Year: Joshua 10-12; Luke 1:39-56

 

You had become dear to us. —1 Thessalonians 2:8

During the 1980s, a singles’ class at our church became a close-knit family for many people who had lost a spouse through divorce or death. When someone needed to move, class members packed boxes, carried furniture, and provided food. Birthdays and holidays were no longer solitary events as faith and friendship merged into an ongoing relationship of encouragement. Many of those bonds forged during adversity three decades ago continue to flourish and sustain individuals and families today.

Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica paints a picture of life-giving relationships in God’s family. “We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” (1 Thess. 2:7). “For you remember, [brothers and sisters], our labor and toil . . . that we might not be a burden to any of you” (v.9). “We exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children” (v.11). Like mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, Paul and his associates shared the gospel and their lives with these fellow believers who “had become dear” to them (v.8).

In God’s family of faith, He provides mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers for us. The Lord gives His joy as we share our lives together in His grace and love. —David McCasland

Father, You’ve called us to serve one another. Give me a heart willing to accept the care of others. May I ask for help when I am in need and respond with a heart of grace to others when they ask me for help.

God loves you and me; let’s love one another.

INSIGHT: Paul often talks about the relationship that followers of Christ have with each other. This relationship is so close that he compares it to the parts of the body working together (1 Cor. 12). Jesus says that people will know we are His followers by the way we treat one another (John 13:35).

Charles Stanley – How do I accept Jesus as my Savior?

Do you want to know God?

Do you yearn to experience the Lord’s comforting presence, power, and wisdom? That’s good, because God loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you forever.

The problem is . . .

. . . one thing separates you from a relationship with God—sin. You and I sin whenever we fail to live by the Lord’s holy standard. In fact, Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Furthermore, Romans 6:23 explains that the penalty for sin is death—separation from God in hell forever. No matter how hard we try, we cannot save ourselves or get rid of our sins. We can’t earn our way to heaven by being good, going to church, or being baptized (Eph. 2:8-9).

Understanding how helpless we are because of our sins, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to save us.

Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless life, and then died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Rom. 5:8). Three days later, He rose from the dead—showing that He had triumphed over sin and death once and for all.

So how can you know God?

It all starts with accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ provides a relationship with the Father and eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection (Rom. 5:10).

Romans 10:9 promises, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you have not yet begun your personal relationship with God, understand that the One who created you loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. He wants you to experience the profound depth of His care.

Therefore, tell God that you are willing to trust Him for salvation. You can tell Him in your own words or use this simple prayer:

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you have just prayed this prayer, congratulations!

You have received Christ as your Savior and have made the best decision you will ever make—one that will change your life forever! Please let us know by emailing us at decision@intouch.org so we can rejoice with you.We know you will have questions about your new relationship with Jesus, and we want to help. Begin your new journey with God by clicking here to learn more about your new relationship with Him.

 

Related Resources

Related Video

How to accept Jesus as your Savior

How do you accept Jesus as your savior? Romans 10:9 promises, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you have not yet begun your personal relationship with God, understand that the One who created you and loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. (Watch How to accept Jesus as your Savior.)

Our Daily Bread — Does God Care?

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 30

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper! —Psalm 30:10

Minnie and George Lacy were faced with some questions: “Is Jesus enough? Is our relationship with Christ sufficient to sustain us? Will He be enough to help us want to go on living? Does He care?”

While serving as missionaries in 1904, the Lacys’ youngest daughter fell ill. Then in rapid succession, all five of their children died from scarlet fever, none living to see the new year. In letters to the mission board George Lacy wrote about their deep loneliness and grief: “Sometimes it seems more than we can bear.” But then he added, “The Lord is with us and is wonderfully helping us.” In this, their darkest time, they found that Jesus was near and He was enough.

Many of us will face moments when we will wonder if we can go on. If our health fails, if our job disappears, if we lose those closest to us, will we find our relationship with the Lord real enough to keep us pressing forward?

The psalmist reminds us of God’s presence and faithfulness (Ps. 30). When he was deeply depressed, he cried out, “Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper!” (v.10). God gave Him healing and comfort (vv.2-3).

As believers in Jesus, we will never lack what we need to persevere. The Lord will always be near. —Randy Kilgore

Though tempted and sadly discouraged,

My soul to this refuge will flee

And rest in the blessed assurance,

“My grace is sufficient for thee.” —Anon.

Faith in an all-sufficient Christ enables us to press on.

Bible in a year: Jeremiah 30-31; Philemon

Insight

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). David was no stranger to sadness and grief. In these two poignant lines of Scripture we see how anguish can disturb sleep and seem to last throughout the night. But there is always the assurance that each new day brings the hope of God’s providential deliverance and help. This realization can bring joy even to those who grieve.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The World Off Balance

Ravi Z

Once and a while a friendship is forged that seems to surprise everyone but the two who are in it. In a story that first circulated in 2006, Zookeepers at Tokyo’s Mutsugoro Okoku Zoo couldn’t agree more. Gohan and Aochan had been living side by side for months, at times even curling up next to one another as they sleep. Such behavior is, perhaps, natural among creatures sharing habitats—except that Gohan and Aochan should have naturally been predator and prey. Gohan was a three and a half inch dwarf hamster, and her companion, Aochan, a rat snake. The hamster, who was jokingly named “meal” in Japanese, was originally given to Aochan as dinner after the snake refused to eat frozen mice. But instead of dining, Aochan decided to make friends. Much to the zookeeper’s surprise, the two began sharing a cage. Gohan would even climb onto Aochan’s back to take a nap.

The thought of such a relationship is one that fascinates in its complexity (if not an accident waiting to happen). Though the friend who first sent me this story assured me that unusual bondings have occurred throughout the animal kingdom without bad endings, I still find myself leery of the snake’s intentions. Can a snake really surrender its natural instincts to hunt? What happens when Gohan gets in his way or makes him mad, or when the zookeeper is running late feeding the reptiles? Can the nature of a snake remain reversed because of a relationship?

In a significant prophecy of the coming Messiah (literally, anointed one) and his ensuing reign, Isaiah describes a scene full of similarly unusual relationships: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

On many levels it is a scene that is unimaginable. We would no sooner trust the cobra than we would trust the one who suggests we allow a child to play near it. Yet the vision speaks of a dramatic change in nature throughout God’s kingdom, where the aggressiveness and cruelty that are so much a part of our world will be forever changed. We will look at the relationship of Gohan and Aochan and not fear the hamster’s trust of the snake. With good reason, we ascribe such a reality as something God promises in the future, in heaven, when nature as we know it has passed away. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain; the wolf will live with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the goat, for the old order of things will have passed away. Many believe this is indeed an image of things to come. Could it not also be something more?

The Christian story says there is something about the coming of the Messiah that brings this scene to life even now. The Incarnation—the coming of Jesus into creation—turns things on earth upside-down. Like the brutal outlaw in one of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, the Misfit, recognizes, there is something about the Incarnation that has “thrown everything off balance.” The mere presence of the source of all matter in our very midst, the Incarnate Christ coming to us in flesh and blood introduces a possibility of grace that changes the nature of everything. “If He did what He said, then its nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him, and if He didn’t, then its nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him.”(2) Isaiah depicts a world where lions and vipers will not kill; young lambs will rest peacefully beside predators, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). It is unnatural for a wolf not to harm a defenseless lamb or a snake not to bite the hand that invades its nest. Is it any more natural that you or I should be able to defy our human nature? That we should claim the old has gone and left a new creation in its place? That we should find ourselves born a second time from above?

Yet to bow before the person of Christ—in life, in prayer, in relationship, in community—is to lay our lives at the feet of the one who is both Lamb and Lion in a way that overturns these very notions of nature. In his work Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton finds fault with the way this is often envisioned. “It is constantly assured,” he writes “…that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is—Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity?”(1) This, somehow, Christ achieves. His invitation is the fierce hope of transformation and the gentle assurance of new life—on earth and as it will one day be in heaven. He alone can reverse the nature of the snake; he is both Lamb and Lion.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 105.

(2) Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find, Complete Stories (Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library, 1980), 151.

Charles Stanley – The Key to the Christian Life

Charles Stanley

Life Principle 24

To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.

Galatians 2:20

Many Christians today seem content to live what they think is an adequate Christian life. They believe that if they go to church, read their Bibles occasionally, and say their prayers once in a while, they will be all right with God. Occasionally, they may be inspired to go above and beyond their normal routines and volunteer to serve others as ushers, members of a church committee, or even go on a short-term mission trip. Though they go through the motions of being a “good Christian,” they do not enjoy the power, peace, and joy that should come with the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10). Eventually, the counterfeit Christian life they are living becomes a burden and does not comfort them when the storms of adversity assail.

This was not what you were created for. God does not call you or any believer to a marginal Christian life characterized by chores and rituals. He desires to have a daily relationship with you where you experience His presence and trust Him for wisdom, courage, and strength in all situations. With every step you take, decision you make, conversation you have, and thought you entertain, the Lord wants to glorify Himself through you. He desires to shine in your life—with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control illuminating your unique talents, traits, and personality as you walk in obedience to Him.

In other words, to live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live in and through you. That is why Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

How do you allow Jesus to do so? In what way does He live in and through you? If these two questions seem difficult or confusing to you, you aren’t alone. Many people never realize how powerfully Christ could demonstrate His life through them. This is because many believe that the key to living the Christian life starts with pious acts, when it really begins with a deep, intimate relationship with Him.

Therefore, to answer the first question: How do you allow Jesus to do this?—you must realize the answer comes by working on your relationship with Christ. You do this through Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship with other believers. You not only learn about Him, but you must also listen to Him, because He will teach you how to love Him, live for Him, and walk in His ways.

The answer to the second question: In what way does He live in and through you?—is as unique as each believer who follows Him. This is because He has a special purpose for your life, and the most important thing you can ever do is simply obey Him—no matter what He tells you to do. God will allow situations and troubles in your life that only He can solve. This is so He can demonstrate His glory, power, love, and wisdom through you.

Is there anything distracting you from having an intimate relationship with the Lord? Have you failed to trust God’s sovereignty? Are you worried that you’re not doing enough to deserve a relationship with Him or that you could lose the eternal life He has given you? Then you need to return to the basic truth that your salvation is through faith in Christ and not by works. There is absolutely nothing you can do to earn it or be worthy of it. Therefore, there is nothing you can do or fail to do that would cause you to forfeit it either.

The issue is not your salvation but the impact of your life for Christ and the joy and fulfillment you receive from Him. God does not call you to an adequate life—He wants it to be extraordinary. However, for you to experience the life He planned for you, you must stop being distracted by peripheral issues and focus your attention completely on Him. Can you do it? Can you trust Jesus to live His life through you and take care of all that troubles you?

Of course you can! The God who redeems you can teach you how to live for Him. The Savior you trusted for your eternity is more than capable of taking care of all the matters that burden you daily and shining through you brightly so that others can know Him and be saved. Therefore, die to your notions of what the Christian life should be so you can experience true life in Him.

Adapted from The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, © 2009.

 Open to go to 30 Life Principles

 

John MacArthur – Guarding Your Mind and Emotions

John MacArthur

“Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14).

True righteousness begins with a right relationship with God.

A Roman soldier would often engage his enemy in hand- to-hand combat. At such times, the weapon of choice was the short sword, with which he sought to penetrate his opponent’s vital organs. For his own protection he wore a molded metal breastplate that extended from the base of his neck to the top of his thighs. It helped deflect any attacks aimed at his heart and abdomen.

The Roman breastplate has great symbolism in Paul’s analogy because to the Jewish people, the heart represented man’s mind and thinking processes; the intestinal area or bowels represented the seat of feelings and emotions. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (KJV). Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jesus added, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21).

During spiritual warfare, Satan’s primary attacks target your thinking and emotions. If he can condition you to think and feel contrary to God’s Word, he has won a significant victory. That’s why he attempts to fill your mind with lies, immorality, false doctrine, and half-truths. He tries to blur the line between righteousness and sin by surrounding you with evil influences that increase your tolerance for sin. He clothes offensive sin in the blinding garment of entertainment. He puts it to music and masks it in humor to confuse you and deaden your spiritual senses. Satan wants to corrupt your emotions and draw you into sinful desires.

Putting on the breastplate of righteousness begins with a right relationship with God, who is the source of true righteousness. From that relationship flows the commitment to cultivate righteousness in your own life by learning and applying His Word. Therein lies the protection you need to safeguard your mind and emotions from satanic deceptions.

Suggestions for Prayer; Focus on strengthening your relationship with God today. Commune with Him in prayer. Meditate on His Word. Seek His grace in responding thoughtfully and righteously to the temptations you face.

For Further Study; Read Proverbs 10, noting Solomon’s description of righteous people.

Charles Stanley – Biblical Fasting

Charles Stanley

Psalm 42:1-2

“Dear?” The only response this elicits is a distracted “Hmm,” accompanied by the rustle of a newspaper. “Could I talk to you?” Again a reply of “Hmmm,” followed by silence. Then footsteps are heard walking away. Have you ever experienced something similar?

We’ve all been guilty of inattention to those we love. So much clamors for our attention that we at times dodge effort instead of investing in a relationship. Unfortunately, we can do the same thing with God. But we don’t want that, do we?

Biblical fasting is one way to help us regain focus concerning our relationship with the Lord and what matters to Him. Fasting readies us to concentrate on our Father. It is an opportunity to set aside other things in order to seek His face and hear His voice. It is a time of preparation that leads us to fix our attention on God’s purposes and will for us.

Many of us have not tried fasting because it seems too foreign. We don’t know how to begin or when to find the time. But if we see it for what it is—a faith experience that sharpens our spiritual vision, intensifies our desire for God, and leads us to better understand His direction—then we will want to try it for ourselves.

Have you been crying out to the Father for more of Him? Do you need to know God’s will for a particular area of your life? Biblical fasting is a spiritual discipline that will bring you to the place where your hearing is sharper, your mind is clearer, and your eyes are more firmly fixed on the Lord and His plans. Why not discover this for yourself?

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Ambassadors of Reconciliation

Ravi Z

Recently on a drive through a small, suburban town, I saw the following message on a church sign: “Afraid of burning?  Apply Son-screen.” I’ve seen similar messages to this one; “How will you spend eternity: Smoking or Non-Smoking?” “Life is Hard. Afterlife is Harder!” “WARNING: Exposure to the Son may prevent burning!” While there may be a pithy cleverness to some of these church slogans, I am bothered by the use of fear as a primary motivator for entering into a relationship with God. Why would anyone “scare” people into relationship with God? Can a true relationship be formed on the basis of fear?

Of course, the narratives of the Bible are replete with admonitions to fear the Lord.  Even those unfamiliar with Christianity are likely to have some acquaintance with the familiar Proverb: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (1:7). But the fear of God is quite different from being afraid. Actually, the fear of the Lord is a component of faith; it arises from knowledge of God and from within the context of relationship with God. The fear of the Lord is reverence for God, and it reminds us of our place and our standing before that God. We are finite and fallen. God is infinite and holy. Fear is simply another name for the wonder, reverence, and praise we owe to God our Creator.

Now, perhaps these church billboards have a hint of this understanding in their message, but sadly, the result for those reading these kinds of messages is fear, or revulsion. If the only motivation to turn to God is to avoid punishment, how is that any kind of relationship?  Perhaps this message results when there is confusion between the justice of God and punishment. Often, we want to punish others, or we have misplaced the desire to see others punished for a sense of justice. In contrast, the desire for justice is the desire to see things put right, made right by God. As Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a prayer for God’s justice to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Rather than making people fell afraid and focusing on all that is fearfully wrong, there is also the exhortation to proclaim all that God has set right in Jesus Christ: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Interestingly enough, more than any other command in Scripture, we are commanded to ‘fear not,’ and ‘do not be afraid.’(1) In fact, there are 366 commands (one for every day of the year and for Leap Year) to not be afraid. In Jesus’s teaching and message, he reserved his warnings of judgment for those who considered themselves in the “right” with God—those who defined their righteousness by their own merits. Jesus never used fear as a motivation for following him. Rather, for those on the outside looking in, Jesus extended hospitality and welcome. Indeed, in his message announcing “the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” Jesus extends an invitation, not an ultimatum driven by fear. It is an invitation to enter into the kingdom by following him—his way, his life. Those who follow Jesus today can extend the same invitation to others who are seeking: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Perhaps understanding proper fear gives new insight to the words written in John’s first letter. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:16-19). Author Scott Bader-Saye comments that fear twists virtue into vice.(2) Fear motivated by a lack of love pursues punishment. When anyone is detached from love, fear-filled messages are sent. But when the proclamation centers on the God who ‘so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ fear is replaced by love; a love freely offered to others, by the God who has first loved us.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Lloyd Ogilvie cited in John Ortberg, If You Want To Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of The Boat (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 118.

(2) Scott Bader-Saye, Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007), 48-49.

Greg Laurie – What Friends Are For          

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Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. —2 Timothy 2:22

One morning after one of our services at Harvest Christian Fellowship, a young woman walked up and asked if I would pray for her about a relationship she was in.

“What kind of a relationship is it?” I asked.

“It’s a relationship with a guy.”

“Let me ask you a question. Is this guy that you are in a relationship with a Christian?”

“Well,” she said, “I . . . think he is. Actually, I’m not really sure if he is or not.”

I said, “You know what? I am not going to pray that God will heal your relationship. I am going to pray that God will give you the courage to terminate the relationship. That is what needs to happen. Here you are in church, and you are struggling and having a hard time with a guy who doesn’t walk with the Lord.”

As we talked further, it was apparent that this was exactly what was happening. The relationship was dragging her down spiritually.

Many times we will pray for the Lord to fix something, and He will say, “You are in a place you don’t belong. You are hanging out with people you don’t belong with. This is bringing about many of your problems.”

In 2 Timothy 2:22 we read, “Pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (NLT). Are you enjoying the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts? Or, are you hanging around with people who are dragging you down spiritually?

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from Every Day with Jesus by Greg Laurie, 2013

Charles Stanley – Refueling Your Soul: Time Alone With God

Charles Stanley

Have you lost your spiritual motivation and drive? Has ministering to the needs of others become a chore rather than the joy it once was? Do you feel bored at church? If so, you may need to renew your commitment to spend time alone with God.

Jesus knew that time alone with the Father was essential. As busy as our Savior was with His mission, He often withdrew to pray. In those private and intimate moments, Christ found strength for what He knew lay ahead.

Many believers call these one-on-one meetings with God “quiet times” or “devotions.” They are a basic ingredient in a maturing relationship with the Lord. Quiet times change our approach to God from intellectual, detached, and “religious” to relational. When we give Him an opportunity to do so, the Father will speak to us through His Word and times of prayer in a real, personal way.

One by-product of a healthy devotional life is a heightened sense of accountability to God. Spending time regularly with Him is strong motivation to keep sins confessed and bad habits in check. It is also a powerful incentive to resolve broken or damaged relationships. Holding a grudge against someone makes it impossible to have genuine intimacy with the Father.

When We Don’t Draw Near to God

As with any relationship, communication is the key to knowing the Lord better. Where there is no communication, there can be no relationship. Where there is no relationship, there can be no trust. And the less you trust someone, the harder it is to follow that person. So a Christian with no devotional life generally struggles to have faith and obey the Lord.

Christ came not only to reconcile all people to God (2 Cor. 5:18-20), but also to establish oneness between mankind and Himself. Without a devotional life, the relational side of the Christian faith fades away.

Practical Steps for Effective Quiet Times

Here are some things that make my devotional life richer:

1. Schedule time with God.

Like anything else you intend to do, devotional time usually won’t happen unless it is planned. How often have you said to a friend, “Hey, let’s get together,” but failed to follow through? If you are like me, those plans seldom materialize. When I’m serious about getting together with someone, I make an appointment.

Specifically, before you go to bed, try to decide on a time and place to be alone with the Father the next day. Personally, I find mornings to be the best time to meet with God. I enjoy getting up early and beginning my day listening to and talking with Him. There is something extraordinary about focusing on the Father first thing.

2. Choose a place.

If possible, conduct your quiet time in the same location every day. Eventually, this spot will take on special significance. Being there will affect your mood and your ability to concentrate. It will create an attitude of expectancy in your spirit.

Choose a place off the beaten path of your daily activities. It may be a spare bedroom, your living room, or even a closet. You need a place where the only thing you do there is meet with God.

I know a man whose special place is under the stairs in his house. A college student I know pulled his bed away from the wall and made that his spot. For me, it is a corner in my study at home. No matter where you live, you can find a spot to be alone with God.

3. Use a variety of methods.

People often tell me that their personal devotions have become dry, routine, or even boring. God is certainly not uninteresting. And chances are, you are not dull either. So if spending time with Him becomes monotonous, the culprit is probably your method. The cure is to modify your routine. For example, if you’ve been reading a devotional book, put it down, and instead, journal your thoughts and prayers. If you’ve been following a plan for reading through the entire Bible, take a break and read straight through one book of your choice. If you have been praying, supplement your prayers by memorizing Scripture. If your devotions have become in-depth Bible studies, find a devotional book to lighten things up for a while.

Remember, this is a relationship. Look for ways to keep it fresh, and your quiet times won’t grow stale.

Adapted from “Charles Stanley’s Handbook for Christian Living,” 1996

Charles Stanley – The Way to Handle Negative Relationships

Charles Stanley

1 Corinthians 15:33-34

In an ideal environment, all our relationships would draw us closer to the Lord. However, we live in a fallen world with sinful people, so that is not our reality. God wants us to influence those who aren’t walking obediently with Him, but unless we’re careful, we could easily end up following them. How are we to deal with relationships that drag us down instead of building us up?

Prayer. Your first step is to pray for the people who tend to pull you away from God. It’s not your job to change them, but you can ask the Lord to work in their lives. And don’t forget to ask Him to give you the wisdom and patience you need in your interactions with them.

Separation. You may have to break off a relationship if it’s hindering your Christian walk. However, this should be done only after much prayer and wise counsel. Remember, some relationships are meant to be permanent, so listen carefully to what God is telling you.

Perseverance. If the negative relationship never changes and the Lord is not calling you to break off association with that person, then He wants you to persevere in the situation. In that case, your goal is to walk faithfully with your heavenly Father despite any hindrances or opposition.

If you deal with negative relationships, you should also cultivate friendships with godly people who can help you grow in your faith. Spend time in God’s Word, filling your mind with truths that anchor your soul in stormy situations. Persevere in walking faithfully with Christ—you may even influence the other person.

Charles Stanley – How to Love Your Mother

Charles Stanley

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

As children, we showed Mom love with hugs, drawings, and cuddles. But now that we’re adults, some of us are uncertain how to demonstrate love to her. At times this is because the relationship is challenging: Meeting her needs as she ages can be emotionally draining and time-consuming. Or perhaps resentment over experiences of conflict, mistreatment, or rejection in childhood have created a barrier.

Yet despite past histories and present challenges, we cannot ignore the Bible’s command to honor our parents (Eph. 6:2). Let me suggest four ways to respect and love your mother regardless of what has happened in your relationship.

1. Love her patiently. There are no perfect mothers. We all make mistakes and carry emotional baggage that shapes our actions and responses. Just consider how patiently God deals with you, and do the same with your mom.

2. Treat her kindly. Rudeness only reveals our own imperfections and does nothing to benefit Mom or improve your relationship with her.

3. Act unselfishly. We are called to follow Christ’s example of selfless service instead of seeking convenience or our own comfort.

4. Remember that love requires forgiveness. Holding a grudge not only poisons us; it also prevents a good relationship from developing.

Now, all this sounds impossible, and it is—apart from Christ living His life through you. He knows exactly how to love your mom. And He will guide and empower you to respond as He would, if you will yield control of your life to Him.

Charles Stanley – The Rewards of Meditation

Charles Stanley

Psalm 51:1-14

Yesterday we looked at three blessings that are derived through spending time with the Lord and meditating upon His Word. Now, let’s look at two additional rewards.

First, meditation brings a genuine personal closeness with God. Think about a family member or one of your good friends. The warmth and depth you share with him or her did not simply appear out of nowhere. Rather, the relationship is the result of long-standing, close-knit interaction that has been built on a foundation of love and trust. And we must ask, How is it possible to get close to someone without spending precious time together? Likewise, we cannot grow close to the Lord unless we make it a point to spend time with Him.

Second, our meditation enables us to develop a pure heart. As we spend time in the Lord’s presence, He will bring to the surface those things in our heart that do not belong there. We see this clearly in the repentance of King David, as described in Psalm 51. This passage was written after David’s sorrowful realization of his sin with Bathsheba. Because of his close relationship with God, David could not hide from his own sin. In verse 3, he cries, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”

David’s painful self-awareness led him into reconciliation with God. In the same way, when we allow our relationship with the Lord to permeate the darkest places of our heart, we, too, can find the strength to accept our Father’s amazing love and forgiveness.

 

Joyce Meyer – The Foundation of Love

Joyce meyer

See what [an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! The reason that the world does not know (recognize, acknowledge) us is that it does not know (recognize, acknowledge) Him.—1 John 3:1

Many people fail at marriage because they don’t love themselves, and therefore they have nothing to give in the relationship. They spend most of their time trying to get from their spouses what only God can give them, which is a sense of their own worth and value. In my case, although I didn’t even know what love was, I married a boy of nineteen simply because I was afraid no one would ever want me. He had problems of his own and did not really know how to love me—so the pattern of pain in my life continued. I was repeatedly hurt in that relationship, which ended in divorce after five years.

Receiving the free gift of God’s unconditional love is the beginning of our healing, and the foundation for our new life in Christ. We cannot love ourselves unless we realize how much God loves us, and if we don’t love ourselves, we cannot love other people. We cannot maintain good, healthy relationships without this foundation of love in our lives.

Lord, I am amazed that You love me and desire me to be Your daughter. I receive Your love today and choose to love myself. Amen.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Positive Adjustments

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In their book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby and Claude King write, “God wants you to have no hindrances to a love relationship with Him in your life. Once God has spoken to you through His Word, how you respond is crucial. You must adjust your life to the truth.”

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

James 1:22

As you look ahead at 2014, is what you watch, read and speak a hindrance or an enhancement to your relationship with the Lord? It is important to read and know God’s Word, but it is much more important to take righteous action and do what it says. Jesus says to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)

Spend time reading the Bible each day and ask God what adjustments you need to make in your daily life. As you make these positive changes, ask others who love you to provide prayer and accountability. The rewards for you and others will be a blessing! Pray also that the nation’s leaders will seek God’s truth and righteousness this year and make godly changes in their lives.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 7:21-29

Charles Stanley – How We Can Relate to God

Charles Stanley

Matthew 13:18-23

Scripture teaches that when one is born from above by the Spirit, that person becomes a child in God’s family. Such wording expresses the nature of our relationship with God: He interacts with us as a father does, and we should respond like loving, obedient children. God took the first step in the relationship by opening His family to us. Man’s initial response involves saying yes to Jesus and trusting Him as personal Savior. But even after accepting that invitation, we’re still responsible to respond in a way that keeps our fellowship with Him strong.

Our part consists largely in noticing when the Father is speaking so we can learn to become good listeners and obedient followers. That is why we need to spend time in the Bible, where the Father speaks clearly. Many pretend to be interested in hearing from God and yet invent excuses for neglecting His Word. Some say, “I read Scripture but don’t understand it.” Do you think God would write us an important message in a way we wouldn’t be able to understand? If you keep reading the Bible, the Spirit of God, who inhabits the believer’s heart, will give you understanding.

Once we are born into God’s family, nothing—not even sin—can destroy our relationship with the Father. However, disobedience can interrupt our fellowship with Him by breaking communication, in which case restoring broken fellowship is essential to spiritual growth (1 John 1:9).

Do you belong to God’s family? If so, are you obeying your Father? Obedience is crucial to a deepening relationship with our loving Creator.

 

Charles Stanley – The God Who Relates to Us

Charles Stanley

John 15:14-17

As much as our heavenly Father cares about our salvation, He also places high priority on another aspect of our Christian life: He is interested in building a relationship with you and me—the kind that Jesus built with His disciples.

Can you imagine a higher compliment than for the God of the universe to say, “I want a personal, intimate relationship with you?” What this means is that our heavenly Father wants to make it possible for a mutual sharing of the highest order. He is interested in genuine conversation and listening. He longs to spend time with you. He seeks openness and transparency with no dark, hidden secrets between you and Him.

God created us in His image, which means that we can reason and experience emotion, free choice, and commitment. He wants to love us and have us love Him in return. He thinks of us not merely as servants, but as friends in whom He can confide. That is why Jesus said to His disciples, “All things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

It was a special privilege for the disciples to live, work, and interact with the incarnate Christ. But we are also privileged because this very day, two thousand years later, the Father desires to build as warm and intimate a relationship with us as His Son did with those first-century followers. Our God is not some distant, transcendent deity. He’s close. And He is ever calling us to greater intimacy with Him. Won’t you respond to Him today?