Thursday, March 16, 2017

How God Works

Genesis 45:3-8

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.   NIV  Bible Gateway.com

   God has been at work since verse one of the Bible, and He is still orchestrating events involving nations, families, and individuals. While He uniquely tailors His plan for individual lives, our Father wants all people to come to saving faith. And He works to conform every Christian to His Son's image.
   Transforming believers into reflections of Jesus is a long process of small changes, which means God's work may at times seem slow to us. The Lord assured Abraham he'd be the father of nations, but he had to wait decades for the promised son (Gen. 15:1-5). Even though God was at work the entire time, Abraham must have wondered if the pledge had been forgotten. God's patient timing lets Him coordinate every detail perfectly.
   Believers like to share stories about the Lord's dramatic intervention in their lives. Knowing that He provides, rescues, or heals is exciting and reassuring. But He also works in ways that may seem inconsequential. For example, upon arriving in Egypt, Joseph was just a menial servant in Potiphar's household—yet this was his first step toward becoming the country's second-in-command (Gen. 39:1-4; 41:41). God has a purpose for everything that comes into our life—including friendships, jobs, situations, and conversations. Nothing is trivial.
    If you want to experience God in action, you don't have to wait for Him to do something big in your life. Be attentive, because every day is an opportunity to see Him at work. Get into His Word so you can understand how He has acted in the lives of others. Then watch for His involvement in your own.
Stanley, Charles F. "How God Works." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 35.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Making Him Known

Acts 17:16-33

In Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. NIV Bible Gateway.com

   There are three questions everyone needs to know how to answer correctly: Who is the one true God? What is He like? And is it possible to have a personal relationship with Him? Throughout the history of mankind, countless people from every nation have grappled with these questions. 
   When  the apostle Paul was in Athens, he provided answers for the people there by preaching about Jesus. Today Christians continue to share about Jesus because it is God's will that every single person have the correct answer to those three questions (1 Tim. 2:3-4). There is great need. Think about how many people are involved in the myriad religions all over the world. Most live in fear, uncertainty, and darkness.
Imagine that we are walking into church one Sunday morning and sitting in front of a giant statue made of bronze or gold. We might sing a few songs in honor of it, listen to a sermon, then take up an offering and lay it at the foot of the statue. After some additional music, church is over and we return to our houses. What would we carry home with us? What assurance could we claim? There would be no joy, peace, or assurance in this life or for the life to come because we bowed down to something that is lifeless and unable to hear us.
   As believers, we know the one true God. There is a world full of people who long to know Jesus but they have never heard about Him. Do not be content just to live your Christian life. Find a way to share your peace and joy with someone else.
Stanley, Charles F. "Making Him Known." In Touch: Daily Reading For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 14.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Powerful Practice of Fasting

Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah’s Prayer

The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:
In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:
Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.   NIV Bible Gateway.com

Nehemiah's brother arrived from Judah with some bad news: The Israelites living in Jerusalem were in great trouble. After hearing about their plight, Nehemiah fasted and prayed to the Lord for several days. During this time, he discovered God wanted him to ask the king of Persia for help.
   Fasting is a spiritual discipline that helps us center our attention on the Lord and discover His will so we may act according to it. People fast in different ways: Some abstain from food while others refrain from various activities. The period of time can vary as well. But the focus in each case is to be the same - to seek God and know His will.
   When we deny ourselves in this way, several things happen. First, the Holy Spirit will enable us to set aside earthly matters. Relationships, work, and pleasure will take a lesser place in our mind as we concentrate on God and His purposes. Second, our attention will shift from ourselves to the Lord. Thinking will become clearer, and our ability to understand His plans will sharpen because we are not distracted by other things. Third, the Lord is probably going to do some spiritual housecleaning in our life. His Spirit will convict us of sinful atitudes or behaviors. Then, upon confession of our sin, we'll be forgiven and cleansed (1 John 1:9).
   When unexpected news greets us, we - like Nehemiah - may find our emotions in turmoil. He wisely sought God through fasting and prayer. This powerful practice can also help us to hear clearly from our heavenly Father, who knows the best way through every situation. 
Stanley, Charles F. "The Powerful Practice of Fasting." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 10.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

God Meets Our Needs

Philippians 4:19

19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  
NIV Bible Gateway.com

    Our heavenly Father has promised to provide everything we need. Let's consider some of the good gifts that are ours in Christ Jesus.
   One universal human need is love. Through faith in Jesus, we've been adopted as the heavenly Father's beloved children. But before this could take place, God's justice had to be satisfied. You see, we were all born with a sinful nature that is bent away from the Lord. Because of the Father's great love, He sent Jesus to take our place and experience judgment for our sin. Out of deep compassion for us, Jesus willingly suffered and died so we might become part of God's family and experience His rich affection for us (John 3:16). Through our relationship with Him, this need for love is fully met.
   In fact, by means of salvation, our Father also provided for two other basic needs - companionship and security. When we accept God's offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, fulfilling Jesus' promise never to leave us (Heb. 13:5). This new relationship is permanent. What Jesus accomplished on the cross was fully accepted by God as payment for our sin debt. Furthermore, Christ Himself  promised that no one can ever snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28). Therefore, we can rest in the knowledge that we are God's children forever. That is true security.
   Our deep need for love, security, and companionship is satisfied in an intimate relationship with the Lord. Have you trusted Christ so you could be permanently adopted into God's family? 
Stanley, Charles F. "God Meets Our Needs." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 32.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What Is the Christian Life?

Titus 3:4-7

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  NIV  Bible Gateway.com

   The Christian life is just that - a life, not simply a set of rules. Sadly, a lot of churches preach Christianity as a list of dos and don'ts. Then faith looks like a formula: Jesus' saving grace plus doing good things minus doing bad things equal righteousness. Most of us have enough problems without worrying about whether we're following the extra-biblical rules of a church.
   A man-made formula for righteousness runs counter to scriptural teaching. Not only did Jesus condemn the Parisees' heavy-handed religion, but He Himself offered liberty through grace ( Matt. 23:1-4; John 8:36). Neither keeping God's law by self-effort nor adhering to extra rules makes a person free. Legalistic believers are in bondage and growing ever weaker.
   When a person accepts the saving grace of Jesus Christ, he or she receives a new life. (See Rom. 6:4.) This is not an uptight lifestyle of doing good works. A believer is a changed person - the same body but a transformed mind and heart. Christ lives through you. His Holy Spirit flows into your spirit just as sap runs in a grapevine. It's like getting a spiritual blood transfusion! Strength pumps into places where weakness once prevailed. Why rely upon your frail self when the courage and power to follow God's will are available through Christ?
   ... Depend upon Him to change you from the inside out, and trust that He will. Jesus is your life. He will never get tired of transforming you.
Stanley, Charles F. "What Is the Christian Life?" In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 31.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Unconditional Love of God

1 John 4:7-10

God’s Love and Ours

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  NIV Bible Gateway.com

   One of the biggest struggles many people face is a feeling that the Lord couldn't possibly love them. Yet, today's reading clearly tells us He does. Far from just saying so with words, God has also given us ample proof. Creation itself is an expression of the awesome way he cares for us. He designed this earth as the perfect habitation for humanity and provides us with the necessities of life. But the highest expression of His love is manifested in His provision for our eternal needs. He sent His Son to redeem us from sin so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God - and then live with Him in heaven forever.
   Why, then, with all this evidence, do so many of us still doubt His love? Perhaps the reason is that we are looking at it form our own limited perspective: Since human beings cannot love others unconditionally, we doubt that the Lord can. After all, worldly logic considers it reasonable to be loving towards people who measure up to our standards but to hold ourselves aloof from those who don't.
   Or maybe we just feel unworthy of His love. Well, I have news for you: No one is worthy. God's love is based not on whether we are deserving but on His character - we need to understand that love isn't simply something God does; it's who He is (1 John 4:8).
   Divine love is a demonstration of God's commitment to our greatest good. It's like the ocean's tide. You can stand on the shore and say, "I don't believe in waves," but that doesn't stop them from coming. Likewise, nothing you do or feel will stop the Father's love from washing over you.
Stanley, Charles F. "The Unconditional Love of God." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 6.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Christ: The Key to Contentment


Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.    NIV   Bible Gateway.com

   While in prison, Paul penned precious words about the sufficiency of Christ. We tend to attach the idea of contentment to beach vacation spots and mountain retreats, but the apostle wrote that we are not to be anxious anywhere or at any time because we have the Lord's peace.
   Contentment is the believer's birthright. Peace is part of the spiritual fruit that's ours when we trust in the Savior ( Gal. 5:22); it is an inward serenity that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). Jesus lived through conflict with a sense of inner quiet, and because of His indwelling Spirit, that remarkable calm belongs to God's children, too. That is important because there are times when we come across a problem that has no earthly solution. In situations like those, we learn that self-sufficiency is a lie. We cannot cope alone, but Christ is all we need.
   Here is the flip side of the coin: "'There is no peace for the wicked,' says the Lord" (Isa. 48:22). Modern culture slaps the word wicked onto only the vilest actions and people, but God's definition is much broader. The wicked are those who willfully reject His right to forgive their sins and take Lordship over their life. If you are not a believer, you cannot experience true and lasting contentment.
   When we are born again (John 3:3-8), we become children of the living God and rightful heirs to every good thing He has to offer. This includes the deep inner peace and joy that can withstand any trial. What can man do to the one who belongs to the Lord (Heb. 13:6)? 
Stanley, Charles F, "Christ: The Key to Contentment," In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 27.