Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Tough Command - give thanks

16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

New American Standard Bible (NASB)https://www.biblegateway.com

    Many divine commands seem perfectly reasonable. With the Ten Commandments, for example, we easily understand why God forbids adultery, idols, and murder. But elsewhere He gives instructions that ostensibly make little sense. Let's look at why He calls us to the seemingly impossible task of giving thanks in everything.

  The Scriptures clearly teach that giving thanks is meant to be a way of life, not just a seasonal event (Psalms 92:1-2, Philippians 4:6-7). The problem is that we often do not feel appreciative, particularly when facing painful circumstances or faith tests. In fact, expressing gratitude for bad news seems irrational. What seems logical to the human mind, however, cannot compete with God's greater knowledge of what is best for His children. As a result, we live a successful Christian life only by choosing to thank Him for everything He sends or allows across our path.

   The Lord knows that gratitude powerfully impacts the believer. Trials can leave us feeling isolated, but thanking God for His ongoing care or provision reminds us of His constant presence. Equipped with the knowledge that He is in full control, we can submit our will to His. Though our circumstances may remain the same, our attitude is divinely transformed through trust.

   The Lord has a purpose for every circumstance He allows in our life, and thankfulness motivates us to seek His purpose. In God's perfect time, the divine plan is revealed, and then we can tell Him with sincere hearts, "Lord, thank You!"

 Stanley, Charles F. "A Tough Command," In Touch: Daily Readings for Devoted Living. 22 November 2017. Atlanta, Georgia. page 28.

 

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.

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.

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.
   

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dressed for Battle

Ephesians 6:10-18

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  NIV  Bible Gateway.com

    When you wake up in the morning and get ready for the day, you're probably not thinking about stepping onto a battlefield. But the enemy is all around us, constantly assaulting our heart and mind with temptations, adversities, emotional attacks, and more. And some days, it feels as though we are standing on the front lines of combat with no protection whatsoever.
   Therein likes our misunderstanding. You see, we do have protection. The Lord made provision for our nakedness in battle. He hasn't sent us to war unprotected. Instead, He's given us a suit of armor that the enemy can't penetrate—the armor of God.
   In today's passage, the apostle Paul tells us step by step how to prepare for our daily warfare, and yet most Christians don't pay much attention to the instruction. We may say, "Well, that's a nice metaphor, but we shouldn't take it literally. After all, the armor isn't real." Yes, it is. It is as real as the clothes on your back.
   I challenge you to intentionally put on your spiritual armor every day for the next seven days. Put on one piece at a time—the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the sandals of peace, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. Just try it as you meditate daily on Ephesians 6:10-18, and watch what God will do.
Stanley, Charles F. "Dressed for Battle." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 22.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Understanding Your Call

Mark 8:34-35

The Way of the Cross

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  
NIV Bible Gateway.com

  I [Dr. Stanley] like to use the word believer when talking about God's children, as it specifically refers to those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior. That is a much smaller population than those who label themselves "Christian." But did you know that even fewer people could rightly be called "followers"? These are the people who passionately pursue the Lord's will in all things.
   Are you a believer or follower? Trusting in Jesus Christ is fundamental, but doing so is the first step, not the culmination, of a person's faith. Our primary purpose is to take a life-long journey following in the Lord's foot-steps, honoring Him with our actions and speech, and always increasing in biblical wisdom.
   A follower's life is summed up in the phrase complete obedience. In fact, Jesus defined true Christians as those who prove their love for Him by keeping His word (John 14:23). When it comes to obeying God, there are really only two responses—"I will " or "I won't." It's tempting to say, "I will, but..." as some of Jesus' would-be disciples did, but that's a roundabout way of saying no. Followers remain faithful to the Lord's plan whether doing so is easy or hard. Not only that, but they proclaim Him in both blessing and calamity, and go even when they don't like where He leads.
   Followers pursue the Lord because they know that the reward is a deeper, more passionate relationship with Him. They are not just waiting to spend eternity with God in heaven. They realize that eternity begins now, as they accompany Him on the righteous path He has set before them. 
Stanley, Charles F."Understanding Your Call." In Touch: Daily Readings For Devoted Living October 2016. Atlanta: In Touch Ministries. page 19.