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Humility in the Life of a Believer
5 months ago

Friday, February 28, 2014

Philippians 2:1-11

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Jesus lived His earthly days with a humble spirit, and He taught that we should demonstrate humility as well. In God’s eyes, those who become like little children are honored  Matt. 18:4;  the one who wants to be first must take last place  Mark 9:35;  and servanthood is a mark of prominence  Matt. 23:11.  With His teachings, our Savior turned the world’s definition of greatness upside down. In heaven, meekness is an attribute of honor.

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Humility doesn’t automatically come to individuals who have few material belongings or to those who give their possessions away. The rich can be unassuming people, just as the poor can be proud. Success does not have to lead to pride, nor does defeat automatically mean humbleness. What determines humility is attitude. Jesus promises that those who humble themselves will be exalted by their heavenly Father. However, He warns that those who put themselves first will find that God opposes them  James 4:6.

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As we recognize that we can do nothing of value apart from the Lord, we will have started on the road to meekness. When we lay down all our plans and instead accept God’s, we will be leaving our pride behind. If we are misunderstood or treated unfairly but stay where we are until the Lord tells us to speak or move, then we will have begun to live the humble life that pleases our Savior.

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Jesus offers to be our Master Teacher so we might learn the godly lessons of humility. Will you let Him serve you in this way?

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

The Pattern of Humility
5 months ago

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Philippians 2:1-11

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Humility is characterized by an attitude that does not seek to exalt or assert oneself. In our world, this quality is certainly not found in everybody. But in God’s kingdom, it is an essential attribute for Christ-followers to have.

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Jesus’ life was the definition of “humble.” To become a man, He gave up the glory, majesty, and power that were His in heaven. The Lord voluntarily emptied Himself—just as a glass of water is poured out—and for the purpose of serving us, surrendered all that He shared with His Father.

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Not only that, but as a man, Jesus took on the role of a lowly servant. He lovingly submitted Himself to His Father’s plan and relinquished even earthly rights to rescue us from sin. He endured criticism, ridicule, unbelief, and, finally, crucifixion in order to help us. His humility knew no limit. He humbled Himself before the Father to become the Lamb of God, and He did so in full view of mankind, even when He was labeled a criminal and unjustly convicted. His life demonstrates the importance of being humble and gives us a clear pattern to follow.

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The disciples missed the point until later on, since they didn’t expect a Messiah in the form of a servant. The leaders felt threatened because Jesus’ call to follow His lifestyle would not give them the importance they desired. The crowds were bewildered because they didn’t understand the danger of pride. But the Father saw Jesus’ meekness and was pleased.

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What attitude does God see when He looks at you and me?

Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

The Foundation of Wisdom
5 months ago

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Proverbs 9:7-12

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Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The connection between these two concepts may initially be difficult to grasp: How can fearing God make us wise?

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First, we need to understand what it means to fear the Lord. This term is used to describe an awesome reverence for God that moves us to acknowledge Him as the sovereign Ruler of heaven and earth, submit to His will, and walk in obedience. The result of such a response will be the acquisition of wisdom.

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For those of us who commit to living for the Father’s purposes rather than our own, a greater understanding of the Lord starts to develop. The Holy Spirit will enable us to see circumstances and people from His divine perspective. This kind of wisdom reaches beyond human perception and gives us discernment to make decisions that fit into the Lord’s plans for our lives. Knowing that He always works for our best interest, we are empowered to walk confidently through both good times and bad.

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But there are those who reject God’s instructions—they dishonor Him by refusing to acknowledge His right to rule their lives. It’s foolish to rebel against His authority and think you can win. Fearing God is the only way to know real wisdom.

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What is your attitude toward the Lord? If you truly reverence Him, you will listen for His directions and heed His warnings. A desire to honor and please Him will motivate you to turn from evil and seek to live in obedience. And the result will be wisdom beyond human understanding.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

A Life of Peace
5 months ago

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Isaiah 26:2-4

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Your home offers protection from the elements. So when a storm rolls in, you seek shelter within the safety of those four walls. The same principle applies to life’s storms. If we’ve built a solid house on a foundation of faith, then we’ve got a haven to run to when dark clouds gather and anxiety threatens to overwhelm us.

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Let’s suppose a problem is worrying you, and your stomach is in knots. Friends and family try to be understanding, but they’re growing weary of you taking your heartache out on them. You are so focused on the issue that it feels as if your shoulders are bearing a heavy weight. Now listen to the liberating alternative God offers: “Cast your burden upon [Me] and [I] will sustain you”  Ps. 55:22.  He doesn’t erase the ills that invade this life. Instead, He shields us from the weight of worry by taking situations into His own hands.

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However, the call to a free and peaceful life goes unheeded unless a person has confidence in the Lord. Trust is built through relationship—praying during daily trials and triumphs, seeking biblical guidance for decisions, and testing God’s Word to see that it is true and practical. That’s how a house of faith is constructed brick by brick on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.

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A believer who trusts in the Lord receives the peace that Isaiah 26:3promises. But unshakeable peace isn’t instantaneous; it is cultivated through a consistent relationship with God. A lifestyle of dependence upon Him is the key to weathering storms with supernatural calm.

Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

Unshakeable Peace
5 months ago

Monday, February 24, 2014

Philippians 4:6-7

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Anxiety is the enemy of a peaceful life. People go to great lengths to get rid of stress: travel ads promise vacations will sweep you away from it; gyms offer to help you “sweat it out”; and popular magazines suggest ways to lessen it by adjusting schedules or habits. The problem is that no one can adequately shift circumstances to achieve total freedom from heartache, burdens, or trouble.

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However, we can have unshakeable peace during anxious times. Jesus said to seek peace in Him because He has overcome this world  John 16:33.  The key is to shift our focus from the scary problem onto God, who lovingly provides whatever we need from His limitless resources and power  Ps. 50:10; Rom. 8:11.

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Serenity can’t be manufactured—it’s a gift from our heavenly Father. His Spirit produces a sense of calm in believers who seek the Lord’s protection against anxiety  Gal. 5:22.  The Greek word translated asguard in today’s passage literally means “to garrison about.” God wraps hearts and minds in peace, effectively safeguarding both against all-consuming worry or fear. Notice that He doesn’t make problems go away—we may still be under pressure or prone to weep, but we are cushioned against anxiety and encircled by peace as well.

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Today’s verses tell us to pray rather than give in to anxiety. These words are Paul’s orders for doing battle against the stresses and troubles of this world. Prayer keeps your mind and heart garrisoned with peace. Keep trusting in God so that your defenses are strong and anxiety cannot slip in.

Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

5 months ago

THE GIFT WITHOUT THE GIVER
by: Dr. Ed Young

And this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us.
–II CORINTHIANS 8:5
Paul held up the Christians at Macedonia as an example to his Corinthian friends. The Macedonians (who had little) had given liberally to the Jerusalem church…and the Corinthians (who had much more) had promised aid, but done nothing. But Paul’s most convicting description of these generous believers was not about money, but about heart. “They first gave themselves,” he said. God is not honored when we “tip” Him with our money but withhold from Him ourselves.
The gift without the giver is bare. Those Macedonian givers climbed into the offering plate with their gift. They didn’t just nod at God with a few coins…they put their very lives at His disposal. What a radical act of faith! Jesus illustrated this best when He instructed His disciples to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…and to God the things that are God’s.” Well, what is God’s? We are! Jesus picked up a coin to drive home His point, saying, “Whose picture is on this coin?” They answered the obvious: "Caesar’s." What has God’s picture on it? You and I do.
We are made in the image of God, and His picture is etched on your life and mine in an indelible way. When we give ourselves along with our gifts, our offering is sacrificial, spontaneous and spiritual. And we can be sure that God is honored by it.

Prayer-Based Planning
5 months ago

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Luke 14:28-30

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In today’s passage, Jesus’ example of building a tower shows the importance of planning and using resources wisely. Otherwise, money may run out too soon.

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Any financial plan should be covered with prayer. First, ask God for the wisdom to understand His teachings about money and how they apply to your situation. Next, pray for clarity about all details—including both the amount that is earned and what is spent.

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One final step is to seek the Lord’s guidance in determining whether spending habits are in line with His priorities. In evaluating this, it is helpful to divide expenses into categories, including:

1. Giving to the local church, missionaries, and other organizations
2. Basic needs—food, clothes, and housing 
3. Insurance, retirement plan, savings
4. Debt, such as excessive mortgages, loans, and credit cards
5. Personal spending on entertainment and extras—cell phones, Internet, cable TV, eating out, vacations, etc.

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Some of us will discover that our finances are not in sync with scriptural principles, and that may be discouraging. If this is true of you, turn to the Lord, confess what has happened, and pray for the strength to handle your God-given resources His way.

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Financial discipline is a learned skill. It requires a commitment to live according to Scripture, persistent effort to change bad habits, concentration to develop new ones, and faith that we can learn to live according to God’s priorities. We are blessed when we practice prayer-based planning.

Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

The Influence of Our Convictions
5 months ago

Friday, February 21, 2014

Daniel 1:1-21

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Although our circles of influence vary in size, we all have the power to impact others—either for good or bad. Whether at home, in the church, or in the world, our lives are on display. Oftentimes we aren’t even aware of who is impacted by our words, attitudes, and actions.

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Daniel didn’t set out with the purpose of making an impression on others, but something about him affected everyone who came in contact with him—from lowly servants to kings of empires. What made this young man stand out was his commitment to his convictions. He believed in the absolute truth of the Scriptures. When he was taken to Babylon, he “made up his mind” not to defile himself with the king’s food (v. 8); he knew that eating meat offered to idols was forbidden by the Mosaic law.

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Daniel’s convictions—not his environment—determined his behavior. Our world offers a multitude of ways to compromise on what we know is right, but if we’ll make up our minds ahead of time, we’ll be able to stand firm in our obedience to God. Although a world that does not believe may mock our values and lifestyle, their respect for us actually lessens when we waffle and give in to temptations. What’s worse, our witness for Christ is damaged.

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Conviction about God’s truth is like an anchor. When the winds of opinion blow and the waves of temptation pound us, we can know with certainty the right way to respond. Don’t vacillate in your obedience to the Lord. Your unwavering stand for what’s right can powerfully influence others.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

A Faith-Filled Outlook
5 months ago

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Genesis 39:21-40:8

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If anyone had reason to be discouraged, Joseph did. His mother died when he was a boy. His brothers hated him, sold him into slavery, and convinced his father that he was dead. Joseph worked hard in Potiphar’s household but ended up in prison because of false allegations. Yet he was not an angry person.

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The Hebrew slave maintained his faith- filled outlook because he consistently relied upon God, who was always with him. Even in prison, Joseph was given responsibility over others (vv. 21-22). Like that righteous young man, we might also be “held captive”—by unemployment, ill health, or a difficult relationship. In those hard places, we can nevertheless experience our Father’s presence and thrive: His Holy Spirit will produce godly fruit in us when we depend upon Him (Gal. 5:22-23).

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Whatever his circumstances were, Joseph refused to focus on himself. When two royal servants were jailed, he had compassion for them and gave them aid. In times of both blessing and crisis, we are to help others in any way we can (2 Cor. 1:3-4). And notice, too, how Joseph didn’t shrink back from speaking boldly about God to these men and to Pharaoh. He told the Egyptian leader that the answer he sought regarding his dreams would come from the Lord (Gen. 41:16).

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Whether enslaved, imprisoned, or serving as Pharaoh’s second-in-command, Joseph flourished. He endured much hardship but saw that the Lord had used it for good (Gen. 50:19-20). Because the Holy Spirit’s presence is within us, we—like Joseph—can have a faith-filled perspective that glorifies God.

Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

Why Listening Is Critical
5 months ago

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nehemiah 8:9-12

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Sometimes we take certain blessings for granted. Stop and think what it would be like if we couldn’t attend the church of our choice or read a Bible in our language. 

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During the 70-year Babylonian captivity, the temple and its sacrificial system weren’t available to the Israelites. And those born in that land didn’t understand the language of Scripture. So when the opportunity arose to hear God’s Word in Jerusalem, they were ready to listen.

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Ezra read to them about the Lord’s promises to Abraham and his descendants, the covenants God made with the nation of Israel, and His requirements of faith and obedience. As the people listened with repentant hearts, they felt conviction and wept over their sins. But they also experienced joy because they were once again following the Lord’s commands. The people trusted not only the words of Scripture but also the men who explained its meaning.

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The Bible is our source of truth about God’s righteous character, mankind’s sinful nature, and the plan of salvation. In its pages, we discover that man has a sin problem but no way to solve it on his own. We also learn that God’s just nature requires a penalty for transgression. Scripture goes on to reveal how divine justice was carried out against Jesus for our sin—that He died in our place, and through faith in Him, we receive forgiveness and the gift of eternal life. What an amazing provision from the God of love.

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Good listening is essential, because faith comes from hearing God’s message (Rom. 10:17), and spiritual growth also depends on heeding what He tells us. 

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

5 months ago

http://www.lwf.org/site/R?i=koqQEWaQ1vvyq6-PnhkUDg
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Be Still and Know that He Is God

BIBLE MEDITATION:
"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
I read in the newspaper about a fighter plane that fired off a weapon and was moving so fast that it overtook the bullet and shot itself down. Literally! There are a lot of folks I know doing the same thing. They are shooting themselves down.

They don't take time to slow down and to be still and know that God is God. They don't take time to experience His serenity and inner quietness. Isaiah 30:15 says, "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength."

How much time do we take to be quiet before the Lord? If you don't have time to do this, you are too busy! You are going to miss life looking for it.

ACTION POINT:
I have a question for you. Are you spending time alone with the Lord every day? If not, let this be your wake-up call.

God Wants His Children to Listen
5 months ago

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nehemiah 8:1-8

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The principles in Scripture teach us the way to live holy lives. But in order to receive God’s instructions, we must learn how to hear Him speak through His Word.

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In the days of Nehemiah, the Israelites who helped to rebuild Jerusalem were good listeners. After working together to restore the city wall, they asked Ezra the scribe to read to them from the scrolls containing God’s laws.

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The reading lasted for hours, during which time the people stood and listened intently as the scribe read. They were focused on comprehending what had been recorded in the law of Moses.

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The scrolls were written in Hebrew. But most of the Israelites standing in the square had spent their lives in Babylonian captivity, and Aramaic was the language they spoke. Yet they had come together, intent on learning about God’s character and determined to follow His plan. For this reason, the Levites translated “to give the sense so that [the people] understood the reading” (v. 8).

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As Ezra praised the Lord, the peoples’ hearts were stirred, and they worshipped. Thanksgiving and humility prepared them to receive from God. They bowed in gratitude for the privilege of hearing the Scriptures.

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We need to understand what pleases the Lord so we can obey His plan. That means we must be good listeners who develop greater humility, attentiveness, gratitude, and zeal for Him. As we learn, we should be prepared not only to share the Word with others but also to explain it so they, too, can know God and obey.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

The Question of Inerrancy
5 months ago

Monday, February 17, 2014

Psalm 19:7-8

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Pointing out supposed inconsistencies has long been a popular pastime of Bible critics. Tragically, some people in influential positions hold the opinion that portions of Scripture are just plain words.

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Of course, such critics can’t agree on what is inaccurate. Some would erase an occasional phrase, while others would toss entire books. Christians, however, needn’t fret about the Bible’s reliability—the God who inspired all of Scripture is also the Sovereign of the universe, who has no trouble preserving His Word and keeping it pure. We can depend on His assurance that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

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Reading the Bible as a complete document reveals that each part is consistent with every other. God allowed for writers’ differences in viewpoint and background, which at times can give the appearance of discrepancy. But further study always reveals how the various parts fit together. Consider the gospels’ four angles on one story. Writing to Jewish people, Matthew emphasizes history and the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. Meanwhile, John tells a love story about a Savior willing to die for the world. While both authors traveled in Jesus’ company, their perspectives differed. Yet in the fundamentals, they and the other two writers are consistent.

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It is essential for believers to trust in the inerrancy of the Bible. A flawed book could only be the product of man’s hand, but Scripture is the authoritative Word of God. His Spirit did the talking, no matter whose hand penned the message.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

5 months ago

Enduring Love
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

The church in Corinth had lost its first love for Jesus Christ. They had maintained their spiritual activities but did them without love.

Many people in today’s church face the same problem. They have become so consumed by committees, rules, programs, and personal agendas that they have forgotten about love. So many Christians today have lost their vision and mission because they do not serve in love.

For this reason, Jesus rebuked the church in Ephesus: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4).

What does agape love look like? Paul tells us: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

Paul’s description paints a picture of the love of Jesus Christ. He is the one against whom we are to measure ourselves. We are to love others as Christ loves us. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Has your love been met by rejection? By betrayal? Has your love been met by cold indifference or by anger? Has your love been met with hatred? Has your love been met with selfishness, jealousy, and resentment? Keep loving as Christ loves, for only His love endures forever.

Prayer: God, help me to love others the way You do. Help me to never stop loving. Amen.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).

The Bible: God’s Love Letter
5 months ago

Saturday, February 15, 2014

John 17:17

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God wants a relationship with each of us, which requires that we know Him. In the Scriptures, we find the records of His spoken words, His interventions in history, and His coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. From this Book, we derive our knowledge of the Father.

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How amazing to consider that the full work was compiled from the pens of 40 different men writing in 3 languages on 3 continents over the course of 1,500 years! Gather a group of historians from just one generation, and you will have neither the consistency nor the unified philosophy and mission found in Scripture.

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Each book of the Bible reflects its human author’s personality and background. Moses was the political leader of the Israelites in the desert; Daniel rose to the rank of prime minister while a captive in Babylon; and Paul, the well-educated former Pharisee, dictated letters from prison. Yet every word is true to God’s central theme: His love redeems those who call on His name.

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In 2 Peter 1:21, we learn why the Scriptures are cohesive: God Himself spoke through each human writer. In some cases, the Holy Spirit brought to mind essential details (John 14:26), such as the material passed down orally for the Old Testament or the gospels. Then, to enable the writing of prophecies, psalms, and letters, God’s Spirit revealed important truths (16:15).

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The heavenly Father loves you and wants you to spend eternity with Him. For this reason, He used men from all walks of life to record His gospel message. Read His invitation for yourself.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

Love Beyond Compare
5 months ago

Friday, February 14, 2014

1 John 4:16-21

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God’s love is an everlasting gift. We can do nothing either to deserve it or to cut it off. The Father’s love simply is; no amount of good or bad work causes it to change. What’s more, we must realize that when we try to pay someone back for a gift freely given, we frustrate the giver and reveal our own lack of self-worth.

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As long as we feel we must deserve the Father’s love, we cannot fully experience it. Believers can be so busy trying to do something lovable that they fail to think about being still and simply allowing God’s nature to settle their mind and heart. And what is His nature? God is not simply loving; the Scriptures tell us that He is love  1 John 4:16.

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In addition, God’s love is sacrificial—the kind that puts aside one’s own desires in order to meet the needs of the beloved. In our case, the need is salvation. We are sinners, incapable on our own of relating to a holy God. Divine justice required payment for our sin debt. And yet, to express His love while staying true to His justice, God determined that a substitute would pay the penalty in our place. And so He sent His Son to die on the cross; there, Jesus was allowed to endure the agony of separation from His Father. As a result, everyone who trusts in the Savior’s sacrifice never has to experience His pain.

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God has loved you since before you were born—so much so that 2,000 years ago, He sent His Son Jesus to die in your place. Stop trying to earn the gift that is already yours. Instead, follow this command: “Cease striving and know that I am God”  Ps. 46:10.

Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

5 months ago

The Greatest Reward

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward."
Genesis 15:1

Recommended Reading
Numbers 18:20
There is a trend in grammar schools and youth sports programs to award "participation" trophies, medals, certificates, or prizes to everyone -- winners and losers alike. If you compete, you get a prize; no one goes away a loser.


There will be rewards in heaven as well, based on our faithfulness to Christ and His glory during our life on earth (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). But even if a Christian received no rewards for faithfulness at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), there is one reward that every believer will receive: Christ Himself. Paul said that his greatest earthly ambition was to "gain Christ and be found in Him" (Philippians 3:8-9). He, and every true believer, will certainly gain Christ as his or her ultimate reward for following Him. Even though Abraham was a very wealthy man, God told him, "I am your ... exceedingly great reward" (Genesis 15:1).

Regardless of what other stature we may attain on earth or in heaven, gaining Christ will be our "exceedingly great reward." All other rewards pale in comparison.

Greg Laura

Created to Love Others
5 months ago

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mark 12:28-34

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Loving our neighbor is a biblical mandate and the foundation for the Golden Rule, but the phrase is not complete without the last two words: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”  (Mark 12:31, emphasis added). If we are to be vessels used for pouring out the Father’s love on others, we must always be unselfish in our concern for them.

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Regardless of how we act or feel, our Father loves us perfectly. The proof is in  John 3:16, which says God loved mankind so much that He gave His Son to die for their sins. And He did this while all human beings were still His enemies (Rom. 5:8-10)! No one is worthy of the sacrifice Christ made, and yet the Father’s perspective is that we are worth it. If He considers each of us that valuable, then we ought to look at others the same way.

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Experiencing God’s love should inspire us to love our neighbors—this includes everyone in our sphere of influence, although some are easier to love than others. Throughout the gospels, Jesus repeated the command to His disciples, probably because He knew how often His followers, both then and now, would run into people who are difficult to love. But we are most like God when we ask, How can I serve this person? What is in his or her best interest?

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Though we’ll encounter people who seem unlovable, the commandment stands: We are to love them as ourselves. This is a powerful evangelism tool. Few can resist the attraction of a loving friend acting on behalf of the perfectly loving Friend. Who among your neighbors needs to feel loved today?

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

5 months ago

Joy Through Hardship
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Paul was no stranger to experiencing hardships. He endured harsh criticism, prison, and near-death situations. He was not always happy, but he had found the secret to maintaining his joy. He remained focused on Christ instead of his circumstances.

Rather than resenting his obstacles, Paul was able to say, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that . . . Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that . . . what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:18-19).

Joy does not mean that we will not experience pain or sadness or frustration when everything seems to go wrong. But unlike happiness, we can find joy in the midst of our suffering.

When Christ is at the center of our lives, when His glory is our goal, when we refuse to be intimidated by life’s obstacles, and when we live totally for Christ in obedience, we will find a joy that will carry us through the darkest of valleys.

Prayer: God help me to stay focused on You instead of my circumstances. Help me to remember that, like the apostle Paul, I can have joy, even in hardship. Amen.

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

The Power of Love
5 months ago

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Luke 15:11-24

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At times, those of us reading Scripture in English are shortchanged by the language’s limitations. For instance, English has just one word for love, but Paul’s original letters, written in Greek, use two words. Believers are promised that God’s love will reside in them (Eph. 3:19). But we often think that refers to phileo love—brotherly concern and affection for others. Yet the truth is, the Holy Spirit shows agape love in us—a commitment to another person’s security, satisfaction, and development.

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We, too, have the capacity to show the same sacrificial love Jesus demonstrated at Calvary. He subtly described the power of this love in His parable of the prodigal son. The father must have recognized that greed and wanderlust were gnawing at the young man and that denying his request for an early inheritance would lead to bitterness. So, despite personal and financial sacrifice, he gave the son his share of the estate. Then, the father waited while the prodigal learned his lesson.

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No doubt that was a trying time. A good dad wants to protect his children from making mistakes. But a wise man also knows that people often must discover hard truths for themselves. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to get out of their way.

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The prodigal son returned home dirty, contrite, and seeking a place in the servants’ quarters. What he received instead was the full force of his father’s love and instant restoration to his place as the master’s son. That is agape, and it is the kind of love that wins hearts and minds for the Lord.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

When We Are Abused
5 months ago

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Luke 6:26-28

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Knowing basic suggestions for handling abuse is wise. The problem is so widespread that even if you are not personally affected, someone closer than you realize probably is. Had I received this counsel early enough, perhaps I could have responded better to my stepfather’s abuse.

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Seek God’s guidance. There is no standard answer for how to handle abusive situations, because they are all different. They range from irritating classroom bullying to life-threatening domestic violence, and are motivated by different reasons and emotions. Solutions also vary; severe conditions may warrant leaving the situation. Don’t simply do what others say they would do. Instead, ask, “Lord, what would You have me do?” Always check with God’s Word. He will never encourage doing anything that violates Scripture.

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Pray for the abuser. As difficult as it seems, we are called to pray, even for our enemies. Ask that God’s love will make a difference in your oppressor’s life—that he or she will see the evil of the abuse and be set free from such harmful behavior. Pray that the Lord gives you understanding about the abuser’s motivation, which can be helpful as you deal with the situation.

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This advice isn’t easy to follow; praying for the abuser goes against both our human nature and the popular message of our culture. However, there are former victims of abuse who testify that the Lord didn’t “waste” their suffering—and that some positive outcomes resulted from their experience  Rom. 8:28.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

5 months ago

Happiness vs. Joy
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

On the surface, happiness and joy are similar; they are both uplifting and blissful experiences. Yet it is important to distinguish the difference as we learn to follow Christ.

Happiness is a self-focused emotion tied directly to getting what we want. Joy is a spiritual result of our focus on God. It is tied to our salvation and our walk with Christ.

Happiness is temporary at best; it is subjective to our circumstances and moods. Joy is eternally-based and can be ours even in our deepest valleys. Happiness quickly leaves us when we fail to attain our goals or we become bored with our prizes. Joy is from God and therefore can never be stolen from us.

Joy is given through the Holy Spirit the moment we accept Christ as our Savior. As Christians, our joy can never be completely destroyed, although there are many pitfalls which can significantly diminish it. Joy is a permanent gift from God, but it also a gift for which we must take responsibility for nurturing and protecting on a daily basis.

We can always find joy in our salvation, because our salvation is assured. Paul told the Philippians, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:4-6).

The God who gave us salvation never begins anything that He will not complete. When He saved us, He saved us completely, eternally and forever. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

Many things can be taken away from us, but the most precious thing cannot—Christ Himself. The more we shift our gaze from the temporal to the eternal, the more indestructible our joy will be.

Prayer: Father, thank You that joy is not temporary, but rather a permanent gift from You. Thank You for sending Your Son so that I can experience eternal satisfaction in You. Help me to trust in You rather than my circumstances. Amen.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Running the Race of Life
5 months ago

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hebrews 12:1-3

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The Christian life is often described as a race-—one designed by God. In it, we are called to fulfill His purposes for us. That is, we are to be conformed to Christ’s likeness and bring God glory.

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To run the race, we need to know the route. The Bible serves as our map, compass, and guidebook. It is an infallible manual for godly living, which is needed in our culture of contradictory voices, all claiming to be the truth.

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To complete the race, we need inspiration and correction.Scripture provides both through the true accounts of biblical personalities. Some of us are like King Saul, who answered God’s call and began the race in strong fashion (1 Sam. 10:9-11); correction is likely if we lose our focus on God’s agenda and become immersed in worldly ways. Others of us are like the apostle Paul, who lived an ungodly life for years before salvation. His life inspires us to persevere and to embrace the Lord’s plan with growing passion.

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During a race, we will encounter obstacles against which we must persevere. Some of these hindrances might include: criticism from believers and/or unbelievers; opposition to our stand for Jesus; and periods of loneliness and uncertainty when the way isn’t clear. The Holy Spirit strengthens us as we study God’s unchanging character and timeless promises.

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Are you running the race well? How are you responding to pressures along the way? Remember that Christ, who is our very life, always runs with us. And be encouraged through the Scriptures.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

5 months ago

The Temptation for Power
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Satan does not easily give up. After tempting Jesus twice in the wilderness, he tried a third time. This time Satan tried the temptation for power.

Satan took the Son of God to a very high mountain, showing him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” Satan said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” But Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matthew 4:8-10).

Satan knew that Jesus was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—but this was before Christ’s death and resurrection. So Satan came to Jesus and said, “Wouldn’t you like to have it now? Wouldn’t you like to circumvent the Cross? Why wait for what is rightfully yours?” Here the devil’s deception is clear. He offers Jesus the very thing that God the Father has offered Jesus for His obedience. But Satan offers it for disobedience. This, too, is how the devil tempts Christians every day.

In the Christian walk, there will be times when we have to wait, endure suffering, or make sacrifices for the Lord. Our temptation is to take the shortcut or make things happen in our own strength. Instead, we must daily submit to Christ, choosing to live by His power and His desires instead of our own.

Prayer: Father help me to always remember that I have all that I need in You. Thank You that Your power is at work within me. Amen.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Surviving Our Present Culture
5 months ago

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hebrews 5:12-14

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If we desire to survive our present culture, then the inspired, infallible Word of God must have a central place in our daily life. Through the Bible, God speaks to us about His truths and the world’s lies.

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To know if we have fallen victim to falsehood, we need to take an honest look at whether we are committed Christ-followers or worldly believers. Worldly Christians may have strong convictions about following the Lord but often find themselves compromising those principles. A weak understanding of God’s character and instructions will result in self-focused lives and susceptibility to the culture’s influences (Eph. 4:14). Worldliness is revealed in long-term inconsistency with regard to the Christian walk and in a focus on things that give pleasure or comfort. Minimal involvement in the local church also prevents growth in spiritual maturity.

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Do you recognize yourself in any part of this description? If so, be encouraged. Scripture stands as a beacon to guide us safely through cultural perils so we can become committed Christ-followers. The Bible and the Holy Spirit’s work will increasingly cause our lives to reflect God’s standard. Applying Scripture to our attitudes and actions will result in a growing passion for the Lord and greater obedience to Him. Then, as trust and dependence on Jesus Christ continue to increase, our whole life will take on a new perspective because we have aligned ourselves with His Word. What place does Scripture have in your decision making?

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

5 months ago

The Temptation for Popularity
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Today we continue looking at the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness following his forty days of fasting. The second temptation was the temptation for popularity.

The devil then took Christ to the holy city and had him stand on the temple’s highest point. Satan said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered Him: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:5-7).

In this second temptation, we see Satan attempting to get Jesus to exchange the approval of the Father for the approval of people. Every single day, we too are tempted to do what will make us popular with people. We are tempted to compromise our convictions and to sell our souls for popularity, but God will honor those who resist this temptation in His name and in His power. God will honor those who stand firm, depending on Him and His power alone. As we seek the approval of God and not the approval of men, we will be the recipients of God’s victory and God’s blessings.

When we see Christ face-to-face, it will not matter what we achieved or who we impressed. Whose approval is most important to you? As you draw near to God today, ask for the attitude of Christ, who did not come to make a name for Himself, but came to do the will of His Father.

Prayer: Father, help me to look for Your approval, not the approval of men. Help me to never compromise my convictions out of a desire to be accepted by those around me. Amen.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Our Time
5 months ago

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ephesians 5:15-17

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The way you use your time reveals your values, priorities, and beliefs about what is true and worthwhile. As a good steward of this fleeting gift, you can make the most of your time by . . .

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• Receiving Christ as your personal Savior. Any portion of life spent outside of God’s will is wasted time. The only way you will ever reach your true potential and experience genuine peace and prosperity is by personally knowing the One who created you.

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• Praying. The greatest timesaver is prayer. As you seek God’s mind con-cerning your schedule or decisions, prayer acts like a compass in your life. With respect to time and energy, no one has ever been more efficient than Jesus Christ. He consistently recognized that the most valuable way He could use His time was to find a solitary place and commune with the Father.

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• Discovering God’s plan for your life and walking daily in His will. A believer who knowingly disobeys the Lord will be miserable and ineffective. There is no way to maximize your effectiveness if you are struggling against God or have become so hardened to His voice that you no longer hear Him.

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• Writing a mission statement for your life. As the Creator, God knows the plans He has for you. So ask about His desires, and then take the time to summarize how you intend to use the remainder of your earthly days. If you stick to the plan God has helped you set, you will find that your time will be invested rather than simply “spent.”

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

Transforming How We Think
5 months ago

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Colossians 3:1-2

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Yesterday we saw that Romans 12 urged us not to think like the world but to be transformed by renewing our minds. That may sound like a daunting task, but it is possible through Christ  Phil. 4:13.  Here are some pointers for transforming the way you think:

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• Acknowledge you have the capacity to think rightly  1 Cor. 2:16.  If you’ve trusted Christ as your Savior, God’s Spirit lives inside you. Because He is holy and pure, His presence enables you to think holy, pure thoughts. And within you is the very same power that raised Christ from the dead  Eph. 1:19-20.

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• Seek spiritual things  Col. 3:1-2.  When a muscle is worked, it grows stronger. Similarly, reading the Scriptures provides sustenance to your mind, but if you then exercise it through study and meditation, your thinking will become more Christlike.

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• Sift thoughts through the Word and will of God (2 Cor. 10:5). Too often, even Christians act impetuously without regard for God’s instruction or purposes. Avidly reading and obeying His Word and trusting the Holy Spirit’s guidance will help you avoid much heartache.

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• Choose to refuse certain thoughts  Ps. 101:2-3.  Harmful thoughts are among those things referred to as Satan’s “flaming arrows”  Eph. 6:16.  We may not be responsible for such thoughts popping into our heads, but we are accountable for our response to them. If you find yourself pausing on or entertaining unhealthy ideas, ask God to redirect your thinking. Then thank Him because Jesus Christ purchased your forgiveness at Calvary.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

5 months ago

A PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, today I declare that I trust You. I trust Your faithfulness. I trust Your goodness. I know that You are working things out in my favor and in Your timing. I declare that through faith and patience, I will inherit every promise You have for me in Jesus’ name! Amen.
— Joel & Victoria Osteen

Our Thoughts
5 months ago

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Romans 12:1-2

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The mind is the control tower of life. Your thoughts greatly influence not only your successes, failures, and choices but also your relationship with the Lord and others. Godliness comes from thinking the way God does.

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Yet there are several problems that can negatively impact your thought life. One of the most persistent is the influence of your past. When you were saved, God gave you a new spirit and a new life. However, in letting you start over, He did not blot the past from your mind. The Father wants you to be able to draw from your good and bad experiences when ministering to others. He also wants you to appreciate His grace and knows it is important for you to remember what He rescued you from.

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Another problem is unsuitable input. Though we may think we are immune to the effect of harmful influences, what we allow into our minds does greatly impact our thinking. Unrighteous input creates an acceptance of and desire for worldly things. It can also lead to internal conflict: our godly thoughts are at odds with our ungodly appetites, which creates feelings of tension and guilt. As we begin to edit God from various parts of our lives, we allow Satan to gain a toehold.

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That’s why God tells us, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things”  Phil. 4:8. He knows that properly programming our mind can protect us from the Devil’s traps.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

The Holy Spirit, Our Teacher
6 months ago

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

John 16:12-15

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God sends His indwelling presence—the Holy Spirit—to personally instruct believers in His ways. This is a wonderful gift from the Father to every person who chooses to be His follower. And the Spirit of God is certainly well qualified to be our divine teacher: as a member of the Trinity, He is omniscient, just like the other two Persons of the Godhead. Because He knows all truth, He is clearly capable and trustworthy to provide guidance concerning divine matters (John 16:13).

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So how can we benefit from the Holy Spirit’s teaching? First, we must trust in Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior. The Spirit is freely given to every believer, but He isn’t present in the lives of those who have not yielded to Christ. For this reason, faith in Jesus is the essential first step.

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Second, we must believe that the Bible is the Word of God. In it, the Lord shows us His ways, with the intent of drawing us ever closer to Himself. Scripture is God’s revelation to man, and though all 66 books were conveyed through human authors, every verse is fully divine.

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Third, instead of relying on our own intellectual ability, we must depend on the Holy Spirit to teach us. Even the most admired human thinkers cannot begin to grasp the mind of the Lord. To the world, the gospel is foolishness, but in fact, it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18-25).

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The wonders of the Lord are freely available to all who call upon His name. In the power of the Holy Spirit, ask God to bless your studies of His holy Word.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

Divine Guidance
6 months ago

Monday, February 3, 2014

John 14:26

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God knew that we could never grasp the whole of His greatness with our finite human minds. It is for this reason that He provided us with a divine Teacher—the Holy Spirit.

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The purpose of Bible study is not mere information, but transformation. If what we read doesn’t change our lives, then we are not experiencing the full power of the gospel. Therefore, the Holy Spirit has an important goal in teaching us the Word of God: to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). He does this in three areas:

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1. Evangelism. Before we came to faith in Jesus Christ, it was the Spirit of God who worked to make us aware of our need for a Savior. This was the first step of our move toward Christlikeness, or conformity to the image of God’s Son.

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2. Discipleship. Once we have placed faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit begins the process of discipleship, which refers to steady spiritual growth and increasing knowledge of Scripture.

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3. Missions. God wants His followers to go forth into the world and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Believers have the privilege of representing His grace to all people.

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Transformation is a key to our becoming like the Lord Jesus Christ. Though we will never attain perfection in this life, the journey towards Christlikeness is important—it’s the way we develop into mature, active believers in Him.

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The Holy Spirit is our guide. Thank God today for His goodness in providing a perfect Teacher to lead you on this exciting journey of faith.

Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

6 months ago

http://www.lwf.org/site/R?i=Cu9RoMOBUbuwLnQlV3VzKg
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Perfectionism Is a Thief

BIBLE MEDITATION:
"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Did you know that your performance doesn't make you any more or less acceptable in God's eyes?

If you think that God is going to accept you on the basis of your quiet time, your Bible study, or your service, you will fall into a trap of never knowing if you've done enough. You'll never truly feel accepted.

Perfectionism is a thief. It promises rewards, but it steals both joy and satisfaction. Why? Because perfection is an unattainable goal! If you are a perfectionist, you've set an impossible goal for yourself, and therefore you will constantly be faced with frustration and failure.

Two things about you are true, without your "performance"--
You are forgiven in Christ.
You are righteous in Christ.

ACTION POINT:
Are you a perfectionist? Ask the Holy Spirit to free you from the fear of failure. Now make a conscious decision that you can be less than perfect and still be loved by God.

6 months ago

God crowns faithfulness

(J.R. Miller, "The Shining Light")

"She has done what she could!" Mark 14:8

"It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." 1 Corinthians 4:2

It is not great things that God requires of us--unless our mission is to do great things. He only asks that we be faithful in the duties that come to our hand in our commonplace days. That means:
1. that we do all our work as well as we can;
2. that we serve well in all of our varied relationships of life;
3. that we stand heroically in our lot, resisting temptation and continuing true and loyal to God;
4. that we fulfill our mission in all ways according to the grace given unto us, using every gift and talent for the glory of God and the good of others.

The world crowns success.
God crowns faithfulness.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" Matthew 25:23

When Things Seem Impossible
6 months ago

Saturday, February 1, 2014

John 6:1-14

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Even Christ’s disciples struggled with doubt and fear in times of trouble or uncertainty. Though they walked closely with the Savior, they were still prone to casting their focus in the wrong direction.

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Just before He was about to perform the miracle of feeding the 5,000, Jesus tested Philip by asking him where to buy bread for the crowd. The disciple’s response revealed that he was thinking of solving the dilemma through man’s ideas and worldly means. At the same time, Andrew was busy surveying the multitude to determine how he would approach the situation. Upon finding a young boy with five loaves and two fish, he demonstrated his own limited mindset by asking, “What are these for so many people?” John 6:9.

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As was true for all of His miracles, Jesus performed this amazing feat of compassion and provision to prove who He was and always would be. And the same Christ who fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish will act on our behalf when situations seem impossible.

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In difficult times, when it seems all hope is lost, try not to assess your circumstances from a worldly perspective. Don’t ask, “What am I going to do?” Rather, in a spirit of faith, simply say, “Lord, what are You going to do?” Remember, He tells us to cast all of our cares upon Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).

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Avoid attempting to engineer your circumstances. The virtues of patience, faith, and waiting upon the Lord will help you to know God’s grace and to experience His love and miraculous touch in your life.

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Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only

DAILY DEVOTIONS ~ FEBRUARY
6 months ago
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