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11 months ago

The Power of His Name

By: Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Historically, men and women of faith have been invited to open public gatherings with a word of prayer. Today, it is not uncommon for Christians who are invited to pray to be instructed, “Please do not mention the name of Jesus in your prayer.” You can pray to the goddess of the earth, you can pray to Allah, you can even pray to yourself, but to pray in Jesus’ name is forbidden because mentioning His name is seen as divisive and intolerant.


Jesus’ name is powerful and it demands submission. When people hear His name, they are put on the defensive—some are threatened by it, some are intimidated by it, and some are incensed by it. However, believers must not shrink back in fear when using the name of Jesus.

The power of His name is not meant to intimidate, but to save. In Romans 1:16, Paul boldly says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” This verse is key to the entire epistle of Romans.

The word the Apostle Paul uses here for power is the word dynamikos, from which we get the words dynamic and dynamite. It is an explosive power. Dynamic power is the power of the Gospel. That’s the kind of power we have. It is the power of God unto salvation—and for that we should not be ashamed.

Prayer: God, thank You for the power of the name of Jesus Christ and for the salvation found in that name alone. Amen.

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21).

11 months ago

June 28, 2014

Costly Obedience

By: Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

The Bible tells us about numerous people of faith who experienced persecution because they stood for God’s Truth: “Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated” (Hebrews 11:36-37).

It would have been easy for these people to conform to the world’s pressures in order to escape persecution, but they remained obedient to God. Their obedience was costly, but they found strength in their faith and in God’s promises. We can find inspiration in their examples when we are confronted with the choice between obedience to God and conformity to the world.

We may not face the same extreme obstacles that the people of the Bible experienced, or the violent persecution that people in many countries are enduring today. But we do feel deep rejection when a friend stops inviting us to social events because our behavior and demeanor set us apart. We do feel the pressure of a suffering career when we refuse to follow unethical business practices. We do feel harassed and humiliated when a co-worker makes us the subject of jokes and snide comments. We do feel tension when a neighbor criticizes Christianity or uses God’s name as a profanity—but we must not let these challenges keep us from standing firm in Christ. In these moments, we can look to the Holy Spirit, who will show us how to respond.

Prayer: Father, I pray that you would comfort and encourage those who are enduring intense persecution for Your name. Just as You are strengthening them, I pray that you would strengthen me when I am struggling with feelings of rejection and pressure from unbelievers in my life. Help me in those moments to remember all of those who have gone before me and have stood strong in the face of persecution. Amen.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Worldly Separation
11 months ago

Friday, June 27, 2014 C. H. Spurgeon

"Only ye shall not go very far away."—Exodus 8:28.

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THIS is a crafty word from the lip of the arch-tyrant Pharaoh. If the poor bondaged Israelites must needs go out of Egypt, then he bargains with them that it shall not be very far away; not too far for them to escape the terror of his arms, and the observation of his spies.

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After the same fashion, the world loves not the non-conformity of nonconformity, or the dissidence of dissent, it would have us be more charitable and not carry matters with too severe a hand. Death to the world, and burial with Christ, are experiences which carnal minds treat with ridicule, and hence the ordinance which sets them forth is almost universally neglected, and even contemned.

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Worldly wisdom recommends the path of compromise, and talks of "moderation." According to this carnal policy, purity is admitted to be very desirable, but we are warned against being too precise; truth is of course to be followed, but error is not to be severely denounced.  "Yes," says the world, "be spiritually minded by all means, but do not deny yourself a little gay society, an occasional ball, and a Christmas visit to a theatre. What's the good of crying down a thing when it is so fashionable, and everybody does it?"

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Multitudes of professors yield to this cunning advice, to their own eternal ruin. If we would follow the Lord wholly, we must go right away into the wilderness of separation, and leave the Egypt of the carnal world behind us. We must leave its maxims, its pleasures, and its religion too, and go far away to the place where the Lord calls His sanctified ones. When the town is on fire, our house cannot be too far from the flames. When the plague is abroad, a man cannot be too far from its haunts. The further from a viper the better, and the further from worldly conformity the better. To all true believers let the trumpet-call be sounded, "Come ye out from among them, be ye separate."

When Burdens Weigh Us Down
11 months ago

Thursday, June 26, 2014        Psalm 37:5-7

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When we are overburdened, the world seems a colder place. The sun may be shining, but our heads are bowed low, so we don’t notice. The birds sing, but our ears are filled with the cries of our hearts—exclamations of pain, sorrow and weariness. We put distance between us and others as our problems absorb our time and attention. Perhaps we are weighed down by unmet expectations, sudden trauma or death, or simply too much responsibility. Another possibility is that sin is causing our heaviness of heart. Whatever the cause, however, the result is the same: We are burdened by a crushing weight.

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Into our bleakness comes the voice of almighty God inviting us to draw near and find rest in Him. “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls . . .”’ (Jer. 6:16NIV).

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Won’t you look up to your heavenly Father right now? Jesus offers living water; take time to drink until your soul is strengthened enough for you to ask the way. With the Spirit’s help, take one step, then another down that ancient path of obedience, and He will give you the promised peace.

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Jeremiah 6:16 ends with God pointing out the Israelites’ response: “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.”’ It is only when we trust in the Father’s plan that we will find relief from our burdens. Let us stand, look, ask, and walk so that we might find the rest which the Lord has promised for our souls.

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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.

11 months ago

Romans 8:30

...and these whom He predestined, He also called

Only God can draw a person to faith in Christ!


God designed people for relationship with Him. Without a healthy, living spiritual relationship with God, the rest of our lives do not function like they should. Our relationships don’t work well; we are unable to overcome persistent sin; we have no purpose greater than ourselves, nothing to live for beyond our own existence and pleasure.

Without a living relationship with God, the Bible describes us as spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). Because of this, unless God reaches into a person’s life and regenerates their spiritual ability to know Him, that person will never recognize God’s invitation nor respond to Him in faith. God has to “call” a person; God has to “draw” them to Himself (John 6:44).

So, when God puts it on your heart to share Christ with someone you know, and they have not shown any interest in the things of God yet, be sure that you set aside time to pray for God’s work in their heart. Pray that God will “call” them to Himself, that He will enable them to recognize His invitation in their hearts and respond to Him.

That is what the Apostle Paul did. Romans 10:1 says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” God wants you to do the same. He is calling you to help draw them to Himself.

from John North and Ambassadors For Christ
http://www.afci.com.au/

Acquiring Spiritual Discernment
11 months ago

Wednesday, June 25, 2014        Psalm 119:97-99

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Spiritual discernment is the ability to see from the Lord’s viewpoint. God’s Holy Spirit works in our lives so that we are able to see beneath the surface of things. This is necessary if we are to know the difference between . . .

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• What is error and what is truth.

• What is good and what is best.

• What is God's will and what is man's.

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Because our heavenly Father wants us to know these distinctions, He provided the Holy Spirit to instruct and guide us. God’s Spirit discerns perfectly because He knows everything that the Father and Son know (John 16:13).

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We often struggle in our spiritual walk. For example, in our prayer life, we are unsure what to pray; in our decision-making, we wonder whether a particular choice is God’s will; and in our relationships, we question how to be an effective witness for Christ.

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But as we mature in the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord, we will be able to pray confidently to perceive God’s will and to share our faith. It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to help us. He will guide us into all truth. Our part is to cooperate with the Spirit and learn from Him (John 14:25-27; 16:5-15); to study the Word of God (Heb. 4:12-13); and to put into practice what is revealed to us.

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Just as it takes time and perseverance to develop strong physical muscles, acquiring discernment requires persistence and patient submission to the teaching of the Spirit. But this is our Father’s desire for us. Why would we want anything less?

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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 Passion to Obey Him
1 year ago

Tuesday, June 24, 2014        Luke 11:37-52

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The school of obedience has many courses and many exams. As we progress through its lessons, we often move from fearful or feigned obedience to more heartfelt compliance.

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God’s people heard the Word thundered at Sinai’s “classroom,” but the way they obeyed was stained with constant rebellion. Centuries later, however, a new course was offered. When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, the people began to catch on—they saw it was possible to become obedient from the depths of their hearts (John 1:14; Rom. 6:17).

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Jesus had a great deal to say on this subject, and His words were powerful because they came from a fully obedient, sinless life. His testimony was that He had come down from heaven to do the will of the Father (John 6:38). Knowing full well the beauty of the surrendered life, Jesus admonishes us to become like Him: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matt. 7:21).

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The Lord also had harsh words for those teachers of the Law who refused to obey its commands. He accused them of weighing men down with heavy burdens and not helping to carry the load. In other words, they taught what should be done but were unwilling to do it themselves. Jesus went on to identify obedience as “the key to knowledge” (Luke 11:52).

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When we obey, doors of understanding will open in front of us, and we will be able to see as never before.

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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.

Learning to Obey Him
1 year ago

Monday, June 23, 2014        Romans 8:2-4

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When did you last hear a sermon on obedience? The topic doesn't typically draw large crowds, as it sounds too much like following orders or submitting to laws and commandments. After all, didn't Jesus come to set us free from all that? No, not really. As today’s passage tells us, He came to set us free from the law of sin and death “so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.” In other words, He set us free from disobedience. Christian liberty frees us to obey our Father’s commandments.

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In Still Higher for His Highest, Oswald Chambers expresses it this way: “True liberty is the ability earned by practice to do the right thing.” Doing the right thing is obedience. Hebrews 5:8 says that “although [Jesus] was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” We have to enroll in the same school of thought and practice.

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At first the lessons seem simple; we just do what our teachers tell us. But then we learn to discern the Shepherd’s voice for ourselves. He tells us that we must live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Under His guidance, we study the Bible and find to our amazement that some passages we had swept under a doctrinal rug are being applied to us by the Holy Spirit. We are often confused, thinking certain passages applied only to Israel, the church, or the end times. We squirm and wiggle, but with patient persistence, the good Spirit bears down until we finally obey God’s voice. The Lord is patient---slowly but surely teaching us how to be obedient to His voice.

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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.

1 year ago

God's Safety Net


All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
—Romans 3:23

Visitors to San Francisco can't help but be amazed at that architectural wonder called the Golden Gate Bridge. During its initial phases of construction, a number of workers lost their grip and fell to their deaths in the San Francisco Bay. Needless to say, this slowed down the construction process quite dramatically. The builders were trying to think of a way to remedy this, so they did something that had never been done before. A giant net was installed under the construction area. The workers knew that if they did fall, the net would catch them. It wouldn't be a pleasant experience, but they would live to tell about it. The result was they could work without the fear of dying. They were able to move quickly and finish the project.

Did you know that God has put a safety net under you? By that I mean, when you slip, when you fall, when you make a mistake, it doesn't mean that your name has been blotted out of the Book of Life and that you are now persona non grata with God. Because He came into your heart, forgave you, and committed Himself to you, He now protects you, sealed you, and justified you as a result of that commitment.

The fact is that we as Christians will sin and fall short. The Scriptures, as well as our own experiences in life, tell us this is true. According to 1 John 1:8, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." This is not an excuse for ungodly living. Nor is it a license for sin. It is a simple acknowledgement of reality.


Today's devotional is an excerpt from Every Day with Jesus by Greg Laurie, 2013

1 year ago

Life is Hard

"We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them."          

1 Thessalonians 3:2-3

 

Sometimes life seems to be one long, unending string of trials. What words of encouragement does the apostle have for us? "You know quite well that we were destined for them." But he doesn't stop on that morbid note. He adds: Be strengthened. Be encouraged in your faith. And don't let trials unsettle you.

 

We are destined for trials. In other words, life is supposed to be difficult. Yet it's amazing how many people believe that life should be easy. They bemoan the enormity of their problems, feeling as though their difficulties are a unique kind of affliction that should not be. They feel that affliction has somehow been especially visited upon them, or else upon their families and not upon others.

 

Life is a series of problems to be solved. Yes, solving problems is a painful process, but it is this whole process that gives our life meaning. Benjamin Franklin said, "Those things that hurt, instruct." And the psalmist said long before him, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees" (Psalm 119:71).

 

So be strengthened and encouraged in your faith. Don't be unsettled by your trials. You know quite well you are destined for them. And for good reason.

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Trials are not for our pleasure; they are for our profit. Once you accept this truth, you transcend it. Once you truly know that life is difficult, then life is difficult no longer.

-Joni Eareckson Tada

Where the Battle Is Won
1 year ago

Saturday, June 21, 2014        Matthew 26:36-46

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If you want to experience victory in the conflicts and tough decisions facing you, consider what Jesus did. Before He got to the cross, the Lord fought a crucial, pivotal battle in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He wrestled with what lay ahead.

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For our Savior, the weight of sin He would bear was overwhelming. He was about to experience complete spiritual separation from the Father. He went out to a peaceful and quiet place of prayer, where He got alone before the Father and cried out to Him. When Jesus left that garden, He walked out a winner. He would still drink the cup of suffering and separation, but He knew that in the end, He would triumph over it (Heb. 12:2).

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Jesus’ example reveals that the key to winning life’s battles is to come before the Father—alone with Him and fully surrendered to His will. Godly counsel is important, but you cannot depend exclusively on others to tell you what to do. If you don’t spend time alone with the Lord, wrestling things out until you know what He is saying, you’ll never be sure you’re doing the right thing.

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By making it a habit to spend time alone in God’s presence, you’ll be able to discern His perfect will as you come to major decisions with significant or even lifelong consequences. When you fully surrender to Him, you place the consequences of your choices into His most capable hands. After all, where could your decisions—and your future—be safer than in the control of our all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God?

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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.

1 year ago

She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. —Luke 10:39

According to a study measuring the pace of life of cities in 32 countries, people in the biggest hurry live here in Singapore. We walk 60 feet in 10:55 seconds, compared to 12:00 seconds for New Yorkers and 31:60 seconds for those living in the African city of Blantyre, Malawi.

But regardless of where you live, the study shows that walking speeds have increased by an average of 10 percent in the past 20 years. And if walking speed is any indicator for the pace of life, we are certainly much busier than before.

Are you caught up in the frenzy of a busy life? Pause and consider Jesus’ words to Martha: “You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Notice Jesus’ gentle words. He didn’t rebuke Martha for wanting to be a good host but rather reminded her about her priorities. Martha had allowed the necessary to get out of proportion. And, in the process, she was so busy doing good that she didn’t take time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

In our drive to be productive for the Lord, let’s remember the one thing worth being concerned about—enjoying time with our Savior. —Poh Fang Chia

Jesus longs for our fellowship even more than we long for His.

-Our Daily Bread

1 year ago

1 year ago

Satan’s Divide-and-Conquer Tactic

By: Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Our enemy is a clever and expert con artist. We must watch vigilantly for Satan’s efforts through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, and not simply rely on our own common sense.

Jesus describes Satan as “not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). If we stay on guard for only the obvious attacks, Satan will sneak in the back door with subtle lies. He can lure us into unethical business decisions, vices, or unhealthy relationships—one small step at a time.

Satan thrives on conflict—articularly among Christians. As part of his divide-and-conquer tactic, he will develop small seeds of dissention capable of destroying our relationships, our families, and our churches. Be on guard against the “socially acceptable” sins that can lead to disaster: a critical spirit, an unforgiving heart, a love for gossip, escalating ambition, or even spiritual pride.

As we study the evil attributes of our enemy, our attention is drawn to God’s divine qualities. Where Satan is full of envy, greed, and hatred—God is holy, just, and righteous. Praise God today for His perfect and loving nature.

Prayer: God, I recognize that there have been times when I have fallen for Satan’s lies. Forgive me for those times and help me to always be on guard. God, I thank You that I can trust You and that You are perfect and loving. Amen.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Experiencing Loneliness
1 year ago

Wednesday, June 18, 2014        Hebrews 13:5

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All of us feel alone from time to time. Poor health, a jam-packed work schedule, or trying circumstances can make it hard to stay connected. Moving to a new location, job, or school can also bring a sense of isolation. Once this season passes or we adjust to the new place, the feeling goes away.

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But loneliness is different from aloneness—it involves a sense of separation from people and can intensify over time. In this state, we find it harder to reach out and easier not to be around others. When our mind starts telling us no one’s interested in what we have to say or do, we build a wall around our heart and allow access to very few. The more we withdraw, the worse we feel. Peace of mind eludes us, and loneliness weighs us down.

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God never intended for us to live disconnected from one another. From the beginning, He purposed that we should enjoy an intimate relationship with Him and each other. First He established a personal relationship with Adam and then provided him with Eve. Our Creator knew it was not good for us to live in isolation (Gen. 2:18).

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Note the order: Intimacy with God precedes intimacy with anyone else. In the absence of a personal relationship with Him, one is never truly at peace. The only way to be connected to the Father is by trusting Jesus as Savior (John 14:6). Whoever places faith in Him receives a new nature, becomes a member of God’s family, and experiences His peace (1:12; 14:27). If you've never accepted Christ’s invitation, you can pray right now to become God’s child.

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

1 year ago

The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. —Numbers 6:25

A recent study that I read concluded that smiling can be good for your health. Research shows that smiling slows down the heart and reduces stress.

But smiling isn’t just good for you; a genuine smile blesses those on the receiving end as well. Without saying a word, it can tell others that you like them and that you are pleased with them. A smile can hug someone with love without giving them even the slightest touch.

Life does not always give us a reason to smile. But when we see a heartfelt smile on a child’s face or through aged wrinkles, our hearts are encouraged.

Smiles are also a hint of the image of God in us. In the ancient blessing recorded in the book of Numbers we get an indication that God “smiles”: “The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:25-26). Those words are a Hebrew idiom for the favor of God on a person’s life, asking God to smile on His children.

So today, remember that you are loved by God, and that He is pleased to be gracious to you and to shine His face upon you. —Joe Stowell

 

Your smile could be a message of cheer from God to a needy soul.

-Our Daily Bread

1 year ago
"The One (God) Who sent Me is with Me. I always do what pleases Him. So He has not left Me alone." — John 8:29 (ERV)
Key Thought:

 We usually use it to exaggerate and emphasize something or we use it as a put down. But for Jesus, "always" fits. He does what is pleasing to God no matter the public response or the price there is to pay. He is obedient, submissive, and sacrificial in doing God's will. And Jesus is our model, our goal, and the perfect one toward whom the Spirit leads us. 

-WJD

1 year ago

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble. —James1:27

After a group of high schoolers visited an orphanage during a ministry trip, one student was visibly upset. When asked why, he said it reminded him of his own situation 10 years earlier.

This young man had been living in an orphanage in another country. He said he recalled people coming to visit him and his friends—just as these students were doing—and then going away. Occasionally someone would come back and adopt a child. But each time he was left behind he would wonder, What’s wrong with me?

When the teenagers would visit an orphanage—and then leave—those old feelings came back to him. So the others in the group prayed for him—and thanked God that one day a woman (his new mother) showed up and chose him as her very own son. It was a celebration of an act of love that gave one boy hope.

Across the world are children who need to know of God’s love for them (Matt. 18:4-5; Mark 10:13-16; James 1:27). Clearly, we can’t all adopt or visit these children—and indeed we are not expected to. But we can all do something: Support. Encourage. Teach. Pray. When we love the world’s children, we honor our Father who adopted us into His family (Gal. 4:4-7). —-Dave Branon

Father, You made each child in Your
image. Help us to convey Your love
to them with our hands, our help,
and our hearts.

The more Christ’s love grows in us, the more His love flows from us.

-Our Daily Bread

1 year ago

A Jonah-Sized Challenge
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
After Jonah allowed God to use him, we see the greatest miracle in the book of Jonah: the salvation of the Ninevites. These cruel pagan people experienced one of the greatest revivals in biblical history.
“The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.... When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:5-6, 10).
You may doubt your abilities or eloquence in sharing about Christ. You may feel hesitant about discussing faith with someone who is offensive or unlovable. But when you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, amazing things can happen. When we present the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ and live our lives as authentic Christians, we can have more impact than we can imagine.
Is God calling you to a Jonah-sized task today? He may not be calling you to preach to an entire town, but perhaps you are facing your own hostile Ninevite. Instead of running from what God is entrusting to you, seek His strength today to face the work He has called you to do.
Prayer: Father, teach me to trust in You and Your strength for the work You call me to do. I pray that Your Spirit would fill me with courage to boldly proclaim Your truth to those around me. Amen.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

1 year ago

Grace: God's Initiative

"'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"           Luke 14:22-24

 

First, the master offered free food and drinks to his invited guests, but everyone RSVP'd with regrets and excuses. That made the master angry and so he decided to throw his party for the poor, the handicapped, and anyone who could be found feeding off the trash cans in the streets and alleys. After the servant had gathered as many social outcasts into the banquet as he could, he told his master, "What you ordered has been done, but there is still more room."

 

Notice what the master does next. He orders his servant to go out to the roads and country lanes (a good distance beyond the streets and alleys) to find more outcasts and make them come in. The master's motive? He simply must have a full house and will not settle for anything less.

 

In this parable, the master's grace is not lavished on the deserving but on the undeserving. The unacceptable. Those who shouldn't be invited. And God bestows His grace on the same--not the proud but the humble (Capon).

 

God's grace is not a response to what men do. God's grace is a divine initiative which is totally unconnected to a person's merit. And not only is the grace of God an initiative but a radical one that most would consider outlandish if not mad. But isn't it just like God to flaunt his foolishness as wiser than men's wisdom and his weakness, stronger than human strength?

-Joni Eareckson Tada

Do Fathers Really Matter?
1 year ago

Saturday, June 14, 2014         Ephesians 5:22-6:4

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A great deception is spreading in our culture. It’s the idea that fathers are irrelevant. This attitude is promoted on television, in movies, and throughout the media. Men are generally portrayed as shallow, self-absorbed, and ignorant. Because of her husband’s inadequacy, the mom is pictured as the one who comes to the rescue and wisely solves the family’s problems. Furthermore, the prevalence of divorce and the absence of men in the home have led many people in our society to consider fathers unnecessary.

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But let us consider what the Lord says about men. After all, He created the family and established the roles for each member. First, God has designated that the husband is to be the head of the wife (Eph. 5:23). Next, He prescribed that children are to honor and obey their parents (6:1-2). This has nothing to do with value; He’s simply describing areas of responsibility. All people are valuable—and that includes fathers.

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According to God’s Word, fathers are to be honored. Now, I know some of you did not experience the blessing of being raised in a home led by a godly man; however, this command isn't dependent upon the circumstances or the person. We are to honor our fathers because of the position given to them by God. Although our dads may have failed in many ways, we are still to treat them with respect.

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Instead of taking your father for granted or finding fault, stop and recall the reasons you can be thankful for him. Father’s Day is a good opportunity to express your gratitude to him in word and deed.

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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 Power of Loving Unconditionally
1 year ago

Friday, June 13, 2014        Colossians 3:21

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By expressing unconditional love, parents are empowered to raise their children to be confident adults. When we accept each child’s unique nature, we lay a foundation for good self-esteem. Often, we unintentionally inflict damage on a young one’s ego by confusing actions with personhood—a child might hear criticism as “I’m bad” rather than “my behavior was wrong.” Children need parental guidance and discipline, but these must be wrapped in actions and language that convey love.

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The alternative—correction aimed at making a child into the adult Mom or Dad desires (instead of the one God intends)&mdashromotes a rebellious spirit. Think of the popular child-rearing axiom “Pick your battles” in these terms: “Pick the battles that affect the child’s soul.” Passing fads and weird clothing or hair choices are not worthy battles, whereas issues related to honesty, integrity, and obedience call for a parent’s guidance.

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The result of unconditional love and its by-products—self-esteem and obedience—is that children build good relationships. They will be prepared to accept others with the same attitude their parents showed them. This is important because a wounded child will one day struggle to express wholehearted love to a marriage partner or to receive it in return.

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Conveying acceptance to a child doesn't cost money, but it does take time. Parents love their kids through actions and attitudes—namely, taking an interest in a child’s activities, listening intently, and offering encouragement and praise. Do your kids know you love them?

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

1 year ago

Pleasure

"You have made known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.           Psalm 16:11

 

Pleasurable things give delight and satisfaction to the soul. Pleasure is found lying under an oak tree on a windy day, with the cool grass beneath and the rustle of leaves above. Pleasure is discovered by a cheery fire, curled up on a couch with your favorite afghan and herbal tea. Pleasure is captured in the soft smile and gentle eyes of the one you love.

 

Our souls are restless, raging and thirsting for fulfillment, for delight, for... pleasure. Someone has said, "The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love." Who we are in our innermost being is revealed by those things we passionately desire. If we desire dull, sensual things our souls reflect dullness; if our desires rise to find fulfillment in the exalted, then our souls are made noble and pure.

 

Because God has created your need for pleasure, it stands to reason that He must be the consummation of that need. He directs our pleasure-seeking souls when He commands,

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart."  God is not only the one who gives pleasure, but is Himself all pleasure. 

 

Eternal pleasures are found at God's right hand. Stop there. You don't have to look any further. God places passions within you so that you'll keep searching until you find utter delight in Him.

-Joni Eareckson Tada

1 year ago
"Confirmed" — 
"God knows people's hearts, and He confirmed that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us." — Acts 15:8 NLT
Key Thought

These words come from Peter's defense of taking the good news of Jesus to Gentiles — Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:1-48). From the moment that the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and the other believers in his household, Peter and his companions were convicted that God had shown he approved of their conversion (Acts 10:44-48; Acts 11:15-18). The Holy Spirit is God's way of showing that we are part of his family (Rom.8:9). The unity, the bond, the family tie that we share is precious and to be rigorously protected (Eph.4:3). The Spirit is our assurance that we belong to God and are family with each other!

-Spiritfire

The Negative Power of Rejection
1 year ago

Wednesday, June 11, 2014        Ephesians 4:29-32

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As a pastor, I've had many wounded children in my office. They might be adults, but the little boy or girl inside of them is still grieving over a parent’s lack of acceptance.

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Parents have significant power to negatively shape a child’s life by making him or her feel rejected. Without the steady foundation of unconditional parental love, such kids become adults whose entire life experience is shaped by their earliest feelings. These walking wounded cannot trust in others’ care for them—they are waiting for the rejection that they believe is inevitable. Friendly advice is often heard as criticism, and even a forgotten birthday may be seen as a sign of dislike.

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Many mothers and fathers are probably thinking, I love my kids; I accept them! Rejection, however, can be subtle. For example, parents may think they’re providing guidance by suggesting more conventional music selections, hair styles, or fashion choices. But this type of criticism is often received as an attack on the child’s personhood—an indication that he or she isn't measuring up. The same sort of thing can happen at a Little League game. If Dad says, “You would have hit that pitch if you had watched the ball as I taught you,” his son’s delicate ego hears, “If you performed better, I’d be happy with you now instead of irritated.”

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Unwise criticism can be interpreted as rejection, leaving a child feeling unloved or unworthy of love. On the other hand, discipline and instruction, which are necessary for children’s maturity, confront their actions and attitudes while communicating a parent’s acceptance.

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

1 year ago

The Path of Wisdom
by:Rick Joyner

Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge properly. In Proverbs 24:3-4 we are told, "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." It is true that sermons filled with knowledge will tend to draw people. The gift of a word of knowledge will also draw crowds. This is good, but our purpose in the Lord is not just to draw crowds, but also to see people built together into the house of the Lord. To do this we need wisdom. The gift of a word of wisdom may not be as spectacular as the gift of a word of knowledge, but it is every bit as essential for the work of God to be accomplished.

The following are just a few of the Scriptures that exhort us about the value and advantages of wisdom.

For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things can not compare with her (Proverbs 8:11).

How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver (Proverbs 16:16).

Wisdom strengthens a wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city (Ecclesiastes 7:19).

Wisdom is better than strength (Ecclesiastes 9:16).

Wisdom is better than weapons of war (Ecclesiastes 9:18).

How do we get wisdom? We just need to ask as we are told in James 1:5, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." It is wisdom to understand that we need wisdom. This is a fundamental humility, which is a prerequisite for wisdom, as we read in Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom."

A basic characteristic of humility is teachableness. A tragic pride has gripped our souls when others cannot teach us. The depth of our humility might be demonstrated by how open we are to be taught by those who might be considered inferior. Was this not the great test, and the reason why the Lord, who was Wisdom Himself, came as a humble carpenter? Is this not why He called the " uneducated and untrained"(see Acts 4:13) to be His apostles? It seems that He so structured His ministry and His church to filter out the proud and attract only the humble. We can see that this is basic to the Lord's nature in both James 4:6 and I Peter 5:5 which states that "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Knowledge fills our lives, but wisdom builds them. Therefore, in the building of our lives, families, churches, and ministries, the seeking of wisdom must be a priority. To do this we must seek humility. It is therefore wisdom to associate with the lowly, and learn to patiently listen to those whom we may be prone to think are inferior. The Lord Jesus Himself rejoiced, saying, "I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the (worldly) wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes" (Matthew 11:25). He also said that we would have to become like little children to enter the kingdom. One of the basic characteristics of children is that they are teachable. Humility is the way that the kingdom will come to our lives.

1 year ago

True Service

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."           Colossians 3:23-24

 

Sometimes I hear people say that a single man has "given his elderly parent the best years of his life." Or I hear about a mother who has sacrificed all to "devote her years to care for her handicapped child." Occasionally it is a missionary who has "given up her life for the mission field."

 

And sometimes I hear that this single man, mother, or missionary has nearly worn out himself or herself, collapsing in bone-weary exhaustion. No wonder these people sound tired. Whom do they think they're serving? Jesus must not only energize our service, He must be the focus of our service. As Colossians chapter 3 advises, "Whatever you do, work at it with all you heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

 

Yes service to God means sacrifice and devotion. But we don't give up our lives to serve others--we give up our lives to serve the Lord. It is almost incidental that we are serving a husband or wife, an elderly parent, a handicapped child, or a tribe on a mission field.

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When our focus in Christian service is squarely on the Lord Jesus, our work may be tiring, but it doesn't have to be tiresome. We may get weary, but our work does not have to be wearisome if our energy comes directly from the Lord Jesus. How can service to the Lord be a tedious, boring effort?

-Joni Eareckson Tada

Dealing With Distractions
1 year ago

Monday, June 9, 2014        Nehemiah 1:1-2:20

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When Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king, his heart was deeply troubled by news of the Israelites’ plight and the condition of their city. With the king’s permission, he set out to rebuild Jerusalem. He encountered obstacles but refused to be distracted from the task. His example shows the importance of 

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• Being in the center of God’s will. When Nehemiah cried out to God about his brothers back home and the city’s state of disrepair, the Lord showed him exactly what to do. God also caused the king to be favorably disposed toward the request and to provide all that was needed. Knowing we are where God wants us to be will give us confidence to handle trials without being sidetracked.

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• Remembering what the goal is. Nehemiah knew that the Lord’s priority for him was to rebuild the city. God has planned things for us to do, too, and His work is always of great value. We are not to underestimate our part in it, no matter how small it seems to us.

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• Accomplishing each task. Following every crisis, Nehemiah returned to the task at hand. By remembering the Lord’s goal, we will stay in our God-appointed place, carry out each step, and remain on course.

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• Identifying our distractions. Those who seek to interrupt our work, divert our attention, or attack us personally are not from God. With the Father’s help, Nehemiah recognized whom to heed and whom to ignore.

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For the most part, distractions originate outside of ourselves. Who or what usually distracts you?

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

When the Trumpet Blows
1 year ago

Saturday, June 7, 2014        1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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When it comes to learning about the end times and the return of Christ, many believers feel confused by the elaborate symbolism the Bible uses to describe these events. Clearly there are certain mysteries regarding the end of life as we know it, and God has chosen to present some of these topics in unique and interesting terms.

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One revelation, however, is quite clear: We can be certain of the sights, sounds, and feelings surrounding the moment when Jesus returns, as today’s passage makes clear.

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We will hear the magnificent voice of the Lord as He descends from heaven. The voice of the archangel and the sound of a trumpet of God will also be audible (v. 16).

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We will see Jesus Christ with the archangel, and the deceased saints who had trusted in the Lord will be raised to meet them in the air (vv. 16-17).

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We will feel our bodies instantly transformed as we are “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (v. 17).

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With these miraculous happenings mapped out for us in God’s Word, there is no reason to feel fearful about the return of our Savior. It will be a time of worship and rejoicing. No matter what happens in the world around us from now until then, we know that we can place our confidence in Jesus Christ. Just as He promised, He will return—accompanied by the archangel and announced by a trumpet—to take His children home for eternity.

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

1 year ago

Transforming Power
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

When we fully understand the transforming power of God’s Truth, we begin to realize how far the world is from God. Paul warns that “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).

While we worship a loving God, our God is also just and righteous and will not allow the sinfulness of humanity to go unnoticed. We cannot satisfy God’s need for righteousness, yet, as Scripture tells us, “this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). In God’s mercy, even the most undeserving sinner can find forgiveness and salvation through Christ.

The Gospel is a powerful message. But as long as Christians give in to the shame of the Gospel, as long as we cower in fear instead of speaking boldly, as long as we live like those in darkness, we will never make an impact for God.

Have you been hiding God’s Truth? Confess to God how you have acted in shame of the Gospel. Confess to Him the times you’ve kept quiet, the times you chose not to witness, the times you compromised your beliefs in order to fit in.

Prayer: God, I pray today that the transforming power of the Gospel message would manifest itself in my life so that I may be a light in the darkness. Amen.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Jesus, the Perfect God-Man
1 year ago

Thursday, June 5, 2014        John 20:30-31

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People’s attitudes toward Jesus Christ tend to fall into three categories. First, there are some who don’t believe He is God. They reject, diminish, or ignore His character and lifesaving work, claiming He was simply a good person. Second, there are some who intellectually acknowledge Jesus is God’s Son but have no personal relationship with Him. Third, true followers believe Christ is Savior (Rom. 10:9). Through genuine faith, believers are made part of His family.

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Ephesians 2:1-2 says that before salvation, we all are spiritually dead and living according to our sin nature. Those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus remain in that state. But when a person places faith in Him, spiritual birth takes place; he or she is made alive in Christ and becomes a new creation who is no longer to live according to the flesh (John 3:3; Eph. 2:5; 4:24).

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Our position in the Lord affects everything about us—attitudes, emotions, conversation, and conduct. The ungodliness of our culture no longer fits who we are. As believers, we are to grow in Christlikeness, embracing ideas, thought patterns, and activities that please God, while rejecting all others.

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Jesus is the perfect God-man, who willingly took our sins upon Himself and experienced divine wrath in our place. God accepted His death as full payment for our sins, and He raised Jesus from the dead to a position of divine glory (Eph. 1:20). His Spirit now lives within us. So understand who Jesus Christ is, and let that knowledge strengthen your commitment to be like Him.

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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.

How to Deal With Burnout
1 year ago

Tuesday, June 3, 2014        Psalm 62:1-2

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As the world continues to stress over the importance of achieving more, doing more, and being more, we may find ourselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of activity. Our days regularly fly by in a giant blur of meals, appointments, and mundane tasks.

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On their own, these responsibilities often seem small. However, when they are all strung together day after day, they can create stress and lead to serious burnout. Then we must take two steps of action.

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First, it is imperative that we find the time to be still before the Lord and to rest in Him. In Mark 6:31, Jesus told His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” Resting in God renews our souls and quiets our racing minds, enabling us to partake of His strength.

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Second, we should frequently ask ourselves, Are the activities in my life all necessary and chosen by the Lord? In His Word, God gives us this instruction: “Cease striving and know that I am God”  Ps. 46:10.  Essentially, our Father wants us to slow down and realize that our lives are in His hands. With this assurance, we can replace striving with resting and trusting. No matter what we do in life, it should be done to the glory of God.

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Make time today for a quiet moment to sit before the Lord. Allow Him to provide the strength and rest you need. While doing this, ask Him to reveal to you any areas of your life in which you are “striving” needlessly. He longs to provide peace and rest for His children.

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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 Feel Burned Out
1 year ago

Monday, June 2, 2014        Isaiah 40:27-31

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Almost all of us can recall times when our bodies and minds have felt tired from manual labor and mental strain. If these conditions become constant or extreme, it is very easy for us to become burned out.

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Fortunately, we have been provided with specific encouragement for such times of exhaustion. Today’s Scripture reading reveals three reassuring truths about God and His faithfulness in our times of weakness.

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First, we learn that the Lord “does not become weary or tired” (v. 28). Therefore, we can call upon a God who won’t ever run out of power. His strength has never decreased and will not decrease in the future. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).

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Second, we find that “He gives strength to the weary” and power to those who are not mighty (Isa. 40:29). Our loving heavenly Father does not frown upon us when we are weak. Instead, He embraces us and lifts us up when we are unable to help ourselves.

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Finally, we are given an incredible promise. Verse 31 reads, “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

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The next time you feel too tired or frustrated to go on, remember this: Our God is not exhaustible. Instead, He is faithful to provide a supply of endless divine strength to those who are willing to wait for His perfect timing. In all things, He gives exactly what we need for the moment at hand.

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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.

1 year ago

Forgetting those things which are behind . . . I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 3:13-14

Two of Australia’s indigenous creatures, kangaroos and emus, have something in common—they seldom move backward. Kangaroos, because of the shape of their body and the length of their strong tail, can bounce along with forward movement, but they cannot shift easily into reverse. Emus can run fast on their strong legs, but the joints in their knees seem to make backward movement difficult. Both animals appear on Australia’s coat of arms as a symbol that the nation is to be ever moving forward and making progress.

The apostle Paul called for a similar approach to the life of faith in his letter to the Philippians: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:13-14).

While it is wise to learn from the past, we shouldn’t live in the past. We cannot redo or undo the past, but by God’s grace we can press forward and serve God faithfully today and in the future. The life of faith is a journey forward as we become like Christ. —Bill Crowder

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.” —Oatman

I will go anywhere&mdashrovided it is forward.

-Our Daily Bread

DAILY DEVOTIONS ~ JUNE
1 year ago

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