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.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Truth About Salvation

Acts 16:31

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 
NIV Bible Gateway.com

 Do you ever wonder if faith in Jesus is really the only way to be saved? Satan is a crafty liar who will twist God's Word to cause confusion. In order to steer people away from following Christ, he tries to create the impression that eventually everyone will make it to heaven. But that is not what Scripture teaches.
   The truth is, we can choose to reject the salvation that Jesus Christ freely offers. John's gospel tells us, "God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God " (John 3:17-18).
   The Word of God clearly states that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved (John 3:16). The Bible also stresses that we make this choice during our earthly life - there will be no further opportunities once we die. So if you would like to be sure of your salvation, you can do so by inviting Jesus to be your personal Savior. God, who wants you to spend eternity with Him, offers compelling reasons to make this all-important decision: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life" (John 3:36).
   There are no more chances to place faith in the Savior after death. The free gift of salvation is available only in this life - and only through Jesus (John 14:6). Him now, and you will never have to wonder what awaits you in eternity.
Stanley, Charles F. "The Truth About Salvation." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 22.


   

Monday, August 7, 2017

Meditation: A Key to Hearing God

Psalm 19:7-14

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  NIV Bible Gateway.com   

   Meditation means different things to different people. For some, it is a time of introspection and self-empowerment. To Christians, however, mediation has an altogether different meaning. And despite the various ways the word is used, it is something we believers must take seriously in our walk of faith.
   Simply put, meditation is the practice of thinking about God in all of His fullness, an asking questions such as:
  • Who is God?
  • How does He work in my life?
  • What does Scripture say about Him?
  • How has He shown faithfulness to me?
  • How has He made Himself known?
    When we meditate on the Word of God, His Spirit directs our thinking as we seek earnestly to know Him better. Often, the discipline will include wrestling with spiritual principles, which the Lord used to build a firm foundation in our life. It may even involve a time of repentance, as he reveals truth and moves us to yearn for a Christ-centered mindset. Or, meditation could lead to healing if God shows us areas of our heart that need His touch. When we take time to set our mind on Him, the Lord will direct our thoughts.
   This week, reserve a half-hour to sit quietly or take a walk. Dedicate that time to focusing your attention on God and letting Him speak to you. You will find this pause in your routine rewarding and exciting as you give yourself over to His presence. 
Stanley, Charles F. "Meditation: A Key to Hearing God." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living November 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 18. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The God of All Comfort

John 8:1-11

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”   
NIV Bible Gateway.com   

An affliction is a crushing pressure that threatens us with destruction. Our health, peace of mind, or relationships could be in danger from the hardship. We know that God will comfort us when we are sick, but will He be there if we bring the affliction upon ourselves by sinning?
   Many believers ask this question, but too often they assume the answer is no. However, the Lord does not condemn us for sin - He has forgotten it. (See Heb. 8:32.) What remains are the consequences of our wrong actions. If we turn to God, He will soothe our soul and guide us safely through the painful fallout. Under His influence, self-inflicted pain is bearable and serves to make faith sronger.
   Remember the woman dragged before Jesus by the Pharisees. She had been caught in adultery, which was a clear violation of the Law. The religious leaders were prepared to stone the transgressor to death, but Jesus spoke to her with compassion. Although He in no way condoned her sin, He did recognize that she was already facing consequences for her unwise choices. He forgave her, saying, "Go. From now on sin no more" (John 8:11).
    Nothing we do can separate us from the love of God. One way He expresses that love is through the promise of comfort when we hurt, even when the pain is self-inflicted. We can allow shame to chase us away from the Father's loving arms, convinced He would not give encouragement to one who disobeyed. Or we can believe Scripture, which says He is "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1:3).
Stanley, Charles F. "The God of All Comfort."  In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 16.