Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sharing the Good News

Acts 5:42

42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. NIV Bible Gateway.com

Acts 9:1-19

Saul’s Conversion

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. NIV Bible Gateway.com

   When you receive exciting news, what's the first thing you do? If you're like most people, you probably tell someone who will share your joy. The apostle Paul told others about salvation for a similar reason.
   God saved Paul on the road to Damascus, and the apostle dedicated the rest of his life to spreading the good news of the gospel. He gave his time, his energy, and ultimately, his life because he was committed to telling people about Jesus.
   Why would he do this? Paul felt a deep obligation. First, he was indebted to Jesus for salvation. But his motivation came from more than just his love for and devotion to the Lord. He also felt compelled to offer hope to a world that was in desperate need (1 Tim. 1:15-16).
   And the message he gave them was this: God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world in human form. Through His death on the cross, Jesus paid mankind's sin debt in full. All who receive Him as their personal Savior will be forgiven.
   Paul realized he needed to bring the gospel to the Greeks as well as to the non-Greeks. In other words, he had to tell everyone. Some would accept the truth, while others would reject it. The apostle himself could not save people—he wasn't responsible for their reaction. His task was simply to tell about Jesus.
   Do you feel the same indebtedness that Paul felt? Pray that God would give you courage and wisdom to share the gospel with others.
Stanley, Charles F. "Sharing the Good News." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living November 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 16.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Way to Hear God Better

Matthew 17:5

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”    NIV Bible Gateway.com     

Our ability to hear the Lord is directly related to our relationship with Him. For example, without hearing the call to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ, an unbeliever cannot become part of God's family Unless this vital step has been taken, nothing else God does or says to that person will make a difference.
   But what about believers? How does a Christian's closeness with God impact his or her listening? This is primarily an issue of identification. Once we receive Christ as Savior, then we certainly have salvation and are eternally secure in Him. But beyond that, God wants us to grow and mature in our faith.
   We grow in Christ by identifying ourselves more and more with Jesus. That continual process bings us closer to God. And so when we pray, we are not talking to some distant god out there somewhere. Instead, we are praying to a God who loves, sustains, and molds us into His own image.
   That changes how we approach Him, doesn't it? Instead of crawling face down before Him, mourning and wailing because of our sin and pleading for His mercies, we can come to Him boldly and joyfully assured that He loves us, forgives us, and rejoices in our prayers.
   When we have unimpeded fellowship with the Father, we definitely hear Him better. As we grow closer to Him, our spiritual hearing continues to improve. Through Jesus, we can have unimaginable clarity and intimacy in our two-way communication with almighty God. Let the Lord know that is your desire. 
Stanley, Charles F. "The Way to Hear God Better." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 15.
 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Our Generous Provider

Psalm 65

Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
    to you our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
    to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
    you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose
    and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
    of your holy temple.
You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
    God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
    having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy.
You care for the land and water it;
    you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
    you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,
    and your carts overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
    the hills are clothed with gladness.
13 The meadows are covered with flocks
    and the valleys are mantled with grain;
    they shout for joy and sing. NIV Bible Gateway.com

   Generosity is usually a term we apply to people, but have you every considered how generous the Lord is toward us? First of all, He created the earth and all its contains as a habitation for mankind. He made the sun to give light and cause vegetation to grow, and He sends rain to water the land and quench our thirst. The Lord has abundantly made provision for our physical needs.
   This alone should cause us to stand in awe of His love and care for us, but His generosity doesn't end with the physical necessities. He's also provided for all our spiritual needs through His Son. As a result of Jesus' death on the cross for our sins, we who believe in Him are reconciled to God and given a wealth of spiritual blessings. We have His Word to Guide us, His Spirit to empower and transform us into Christ's image, and His church to encourage and support us. Yet His generosity doesn't end there.
   The Lord has also promised us an imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance in heaven. (See 1 Pet. 1:4.) All that He has prepared for us is beyond our human understanding, bu Revelation 21 and 22 describe the new heaven and earth as a place of abundance and blessing, untainted by sin and death.
   In light of all that the Lord has so richly provided and promised, gratitude should be our first response. However, since we are His people, who are called to walk in His Spirit, we should also be characterized by generosity toward others. That means meeting not only physical needs but also spiritual ones by proclaiming the gospel and encouraging fellow believers. 
Stanley, Charles F. In"Our Generous Provider." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 33.

Monday, June 12, 2017

When Facing Life's Mountains

Zechariah 4:1-9

The Gold Lampstand and the Two Olive Trees

Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?”
I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”
He answered, “Do you not know what these are?”
“No, my lord,” I replied.
So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.
“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.   NIV Bible Gateway.com

     Wouldn't it be great if it were easy to do God's will? But sometimes it seems as if a mountain stands between us and what we've been called to do. When Zerubbabel felt this way, the Lord sent His prophet Zechariah with a message of encouragement.
   Zerubbabel was given the task of rebuilding the temple. When King Solomon built the first temple, the kingdom was at peace, the treasuries were overflowing, and the workforce was huge. But the situation was quite different when the Jews returned after 70 years of Babylonian captivity. They were few in number, their enemies kept attacking them, Jerusalem was in ruins, and resources were very limited. Zechariah's message to Zerubbabel (4:1-9) contained two principles that strengthened him and will also help us when we face insurmountable obstacles.
  • We are to face our God-given tasks in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in our own strength and energy (v. 6). The Lord's work can never be done with human strength. His indwelling Spirit must empower us with the wisdom and energy to accomplish His will in our lives.
  • When God calls us to a task, He assumes the responsibility for removing any hindrances (vv. 7-9). What seems to us like Mount Kilimanjaro is a mere anthill for the Lord. When we're tempted to give up, it's time to look up, see the obstacle through His eyes, and trust Him.
 Is the Lord asking you to do something that seems impossible? Dwelling on your own inadequacy leads to discouragement, but focusing on the Lord gives hope and the strength to persevere.
Stanley, Charles F. "When Facing Life's Mountains." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries, page 28.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Burden of Sin

Romans 5:12-21

Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.   NIV Bible Gateway.com

   The burdens we carry come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. Many are weighty, but there's one load that proves even heaver—and it can be traced back to the garden of Eden.
   Because Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6), all people have been born with sinful hearts. Holiness and sin cannot mix. Therefore, in our natural state, none of us are able to fellowship with God.
   What is worse, we continue to do wrong.The Bible says that every one of us has gone astray, like a sheep wandering from his shepherd (Isa. 53:6). So on our own, we have no access to God. And there is nothing that we—fallen humans—can do to rectify the situation. That's why I see this as the heaviest burden of all.
  But our Creator loved us so much that He sent His own Son to live a perfect life on earth. Jesus deserved fellowship with God, yet He took our sin and its punishment by dying on the cross in our place. And then He conquered death by rising to life again.
   His atonement for our wrongs is a gift that is available to anyone who believes. The Savior longs for us to accept that He willingly paid the price to redeem us. He desires to relieve the burden of sin from our heart. Only then will we experience true life and freedom.
   Have you received God's free gift of salvation? Jesus loves you so much that He gave His life to have a relationship with you. If you believe in Him and accept His death as your undeserved atonement for sin, He will forgive you for all unrighteousness and welcome you onto the path of true life.
Stanley, Charles F. "The Burden of Sin." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 30. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

You Can Trust God

Romans 4:16-21

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  NIV Bible Gateway.com

   As we all know too well, life oftentimes confronts us with unexpected or painful circumstances. Sometimes these situations leave us feeling fearful, discouraged, and frustrated. Consequently, we may question whether the heavenly Father truly is reliable.
   During such troubling moments, we can rest on his essential truth: The Lord is perfect in His love. Consider verse 5 from 1 John 1: "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." In other words, everything our heavenly Father does is righteous. And if He is a God of love, then it is impossible for Him to mistreat any of His children. We can be assured that whatever He places or permits in our lives is good and that His motives are pure.
   Jesus demonstrated this deep care for us when He offered His blood on the cross—there exists no greater display of love than giving one's life for someone else (John 15:13). Our sin debt could be paid only with a flawless sacrifice (Deut. 17:1). Christ, the perfect lamb, was willing to die in our place so that we could have an eternal relationship with the Father. If God gave us His Son—the most precious and amazing gift He could possibly give—to take care of our greatest need, then we can trust Him to provide for all areas of our life.
   When difficulty arises, remember how much God loves you. He proved this by willingly giving His Son to take the penalty for your sin. Even when circumstances are painful, you can be confident that you are held in the capable and caring hands of your heavenly Father, because of His love for you. 
Stanley, Charles F. "You Can Trust God." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 28. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Your Perspective in Prayer

Psalm 95:6-8

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah [quarreling],
    as you did that day at Massah [testing] in the wilderness,    NIV    Bible Gateway.com        
 
 Why is it that two believers can pray about an issue and come away with completely different responses and attitudes? This has to do with their perspective.
   We each come to God with our own life experiences and expectations. If we want to hear His voice clearly, we must first address those things that affect how well we listen.
   OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. The Father speaks differently to the unsaved than He does to the Christians. And while neither God not the fundamentals of faith ever change, He does tailor His message to individual believers on the basis of their spiritual maturity and unique situations. So two people may hear dissimilar things because they are at different points on the journey.
   OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WHO GOD IS. How we view the Lord changes the way we hear Him. For example, if you see God as a loving Father, you will hear His encouraging voice and accept His loving discipline. But if you see Him as harsh and demanding, then you may feel as though you can never live up to His expectations.
   OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD GOD. If we come to the Lord with a proud nature, we will naturally not be inclined to hear his voice. However, if we come with a submissive nature, we will hear - and joyfully receive - His Word.
   God is still speaking in the world today. Stop and think about what there is in your own life that could get in the way of His message. What affects your ability or willingness to listen? Lay it out before the Lord today, and ask Him to break through the barriers.
Stanley, Charles F. "Your Perspective in Prayer." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living September 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 14.