Thursday, November 9, 2017

Living in Grace

2 Corinthians 5:17

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
NIV Bible Gateway.com    

    Before the apostle Paul's conversion, if someone had suggested that he would impact the world for Jesus, he'd probably have laughed. In fact, his original goal was to rid the world of Christians (Acts 22:19-20).
   God's grace can impact anyone; no sin is beyond the reach of His forgiveness. This amazing gift of redemption changes lives. Contrary to what many think, being a Christian does not mean adding good deeds to one's life. Instead, by God's grace, believers receive forgiveness and a completely new nature. Our inward transformation results in obvious outward changes.
   The butterfly's metamorphosis can serve s an illustration to help us understand this. Once it's in a chrysalis, a caterpillar doesn't merely act or appear different from the outside; it truly has changed inwardly as well.
   Transformation for believers occurs in many areas. For example, our attitudes change—salvation by God's grace results in humility and gratitude. Out of thankfulness for this undeserved free gift, compassion for the lost flows, along with a desire to share the gospel with them. Experiencing Christ's forgiveness also results in a longing to serve Him. This does not need to be in a formal church setting; we serve Him by loving others, helping those in need, and telling them about salvation.

   While there are still natural consequences for our sin, God offers us forgiveness and redemption through Jesus. He made a way to restore our broken relationship with Him. What's more, our Father transforms our lives so we will become more like His Son and reflect His heart to others.
Stanley, Charles F. "Living in Grace." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living November 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page25.

Monday, November 6, 2017

How Grace Changes Everything

1 Timothy 1:12-17

The Lord’s Grace to Paul

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.   NIV  Bible Gateway.com        

   Our life is hopeless without God. Because every person is born with a bent away from God, we continue to choose wrong paths throughout our days on earth. These unrighteous choices are known as sin, the penalty for which is death and eternal separation from God. No one is exempt from this biblical truth—and none of us can do anything to change the situation.
   Enter God's grace, His unmerited favor toward us. We can do nothing to earn it. He blesses us according to His goodness, apart from anything we've done.
  Consider the apostle Paul, whose original intention was to persecute anyone claiming to follow Jesus. He played a significant role in the unspeakable violence aimed at Christians and, in his own words, was the "chief" of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Nothing he did deserved God's love.
   Divine grace led the Almighty to reach down and forgive this hateful zealot and blasphemer of Jesus' name. God lovingly transformed him into a man who dedicated himself to sharing the gospel message. Paul's life beautifully illustrates grace.
   We are unable to do enough good deeds to earn our way to heaven. Salvation is possible only because by grace, Christ died on the cross. The one who took the punishment for our sin deserves all credit for our redemption.
   Jesus' death covered the sins of the entire world. There is no transgression too great for Him to forgive. We can add nothing to His act of atonement; all we can do is receive this free gift. If we trust in Christ as Savior, God will save us, making us His children forever.
Stanley, Charles F. "How Grace Changes Everything." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living November 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 24.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Believer's Valley Experiences

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.   NIV  Bible Gateway.com

   Valley experiences are those where the heartache is so deep or the hardship so difficult that we find it almost impossible to stand. Like a six-foot wave crashing on the shore, such events can threaten to overwhelm us.
   Realistically, situations of this kind will at times be of our own making. When we disobey God, we can wander into a painful place, made worse by the knowledge that our fellowship with him has grown cold (1John 1:6). In other instances, the actions of others cause us to suffer - perhaps through unexpected job termination, marital infidelity, or betrayal by a friend. Then there are occasions when our heavenly Father Himself leads us into the valley. Although He could guide us around the hardship and suffering, He chooses not to. He has a purpose in mind, which would not be fulfilled if we took the easy way. Whatever the source, valley experiences are inevitable.
   Psalm 23 uses four words to describe this valley time: shadow, death, fear, and evil. These terms evoke images of oppressive circumstances, grievous affliction, deep discomfort, and great adversity. There is no way to hurry through an ordeal marked by emotional or physical distress. Both the trial's depth and length are determined by the Lord's will, but He walks with us and protects us through it.
   God promises that He will use every valley - even those of our own making - to benefit us. (See Rom. 8:28) Our part is to walk steadily, with eyes firmly fixed on Him, spirits attuned to His presence, and minds trusting in His promises. 
Stanley, Charles F. "The Believer's Valley Experiences." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 25. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Living Above Circumstances

Philippians 1:12-18

Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,  NIV Bible Gateway.com        
   
   While under house arrest, Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians. The apostle could receive visitors but couldn't travel. Despite living in a home, Paul was more than likely chained to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day. Moreover, because he knew that a trial was years away, these were his living conditions for the foreseeable future—perhaps for the rest of his life. 
   Under such circumstances, Paul might have thought to ask the Lord to release him. After all, God had called him to preach, to disciple believers, and to reach the Gentiles. But he was stuck in Rome, unable to plant new churches or visit those whom he was nurturing by letter. Besides being unjust, the imprisonment, was keeping him from important work. Surely, if anyone had a right to gripe, it was Paul, who had endured persecution, shipwreck, and beatings for the gospel. Yet he never once complained. His letter to the church at Philippi is filled with rejoicing, as focusing on God let him live above his circumstances (Phil. 4:8).
    The more we talk and complain about a situation, the worse it looks, until the problem looms larger in our mind than our faith does. Conversely, carrying challenges straight to God keeps matters in perspective. The Lord is bigger than any hardship. On His strength, we rise above the difficulty.
   Problems can look so big and unwieldy that they distort our perspective. God invites us to live above our circumstances by fastening our eyes on Him. The trials of this life shrink when compared to our loving, powerful Lord, who exercises His might in defense of His people. 
Stanley, Charles F. "Living Above Circumstances." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living November 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 23.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How God Reveals Himself

" had to coe

Romans 1:18-21

God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.   NIV Bible Gateway.com      

Look at the delicate veins of an oak leaf, and you experience the beauty of God. Observe the storm-whipped surf beating against a beach, and you witness His power. The Lord's sense of order is revealed in the march of the seasons and the precise tilt and turning of the earth. People need to look no farther than nature to understand that God is real.
   Romans tells us that the revelation of the Lord in nature is sufficient to render inexcusable those who would deny His existence (Romans 1:20). There's no reasonable explanation for the creation of the material universe other than an omnipotent God putting it all together. The matter and fuel for a "big bang" had to come from Someone.
   But nature can't give us a full revelation - creation does not show the Lord's holiness or eternity. That is why He gave us His Word. The Bible reveals God's character, records His laws, and explains His expectations for the faithful. In its pages, we can learn about our Father and the kind of life He wants us to lead. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
   Scripture teaches about the living Word - Jesus Christ - who is the full revelation of God. The heavenly Father wanted to ensure that humanity could know Him intimately, so to make Himself known, He sent His Son clothed in flesh. Jesus said, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." (John 14:7). Spend time in Bible study and prayer to know your Father better.
Stanley, Charles F. "How God Reveals Himself." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 23.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Why Our Needs Remain Unmet

James 1:5-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. 
NIV Bible Gateway.com

   If our loving, omnipotent Father really does desire to meet His children's needs, then why do some go unmet? Let's look at a few key reasons why we may lack essentials.
  WE DON'T ASK. If this seems elementary, it is. And yet it's astonishing how many people fail to bring their concerns to God. Some say, "Oh, He has too much to do to worry about my little problems." Nonsense! Our Father is a very personal God, who cares deeply about everything that affects His children. In fact, Matthew 10:30 says He even knows the number of hairs on our head. So of course we should share with Him the details of our life. 
   WE ASK BUT DOUBT THAT GOD CAN OR WILL DO IT. It's a tragic mischaracterization to go before the omnipotent, sovereign God of the universe and essentially say, "You aren't big enough to handle my needs." James 1:8 describes such a person as "double-minded" and "unstable." When you approach God, do so knowing that He can meet your needs.
   WE ASK GOD TO ADDRESS THE SYMPTOM, NOT THE REAL NEED. At times we pray and pray about something—a particular emotional pain, perhaps—without seeing any change.The reason may be that we are focusing on the symptom rather than the actual need. As you continue talking to the Lord about the situation, you may discover the root need is something you have not even considered.
   The heavenly Father wants to meet all of your needs. If you cannot see Him acting on your behalf, be sure to take a critical look at yourself from His perspective. Then ask yourself, Is it possible that I could be standing in the way of God's intervention? 
Stanley, Charles F. "Why Our Needs Remain Unmet." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living November 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 21.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

God Knows Your Needs

Matthew 6:7-8

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  NIV Bible Gateway.com       

    I [Dr. Stanley] remember once watching a mother and marveling at her mastery in handling several energetic young children. It was an amazing sight. It the midst of a whirlwind of activity, this seasoned pro intuitively met the needs of her kids. A meal was served, spills were averted, noses were wiped, shoelaces were tied, hugs were distributed—all at the same time! Clearly, such a parent knows the needs of her family, even when the children cannot express them.
   Sometimes it is difficult for us to think of ourselves as children. When we see little ones running around, always needing something from us, we cannot imagine that we often look and act the same way, only in grown-up bodies. Fortunately, we also have a Parent who already knows our needs.And yet we frequently act as though we must explain every detail of our problems to the Lord so He can get a more accurate view of how to provide for us.
   Isn't it strange? If you asked most Christians whether they thought God was all-knowing, they would respond, "Of course!" However, if you could listen in when they pray, you would probably often discover long, complicated explanations of why they need His help.
   God does want you to talk with Him about what is on your heart. But at the same time, remember that "your Father knows what you need before you ask Him" (Matt. 6:8). Therefore, do not spend all of your prayer time repeating yourself or explaining everything in unnecessary detail to God. For a change, simply ask Hi to speak to your listening heart. Remember, He's already got the answer. Give Him the opportunity to share it with you.
Stanley, Charles F. "God Knows Your Needs." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living November 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 19.