Saturday, July 28, 2012

Daily Devotion: Are you a threat to Satan?

Read | 1 John 4:4-6
Scripture records two occasions when Satan asked God for permission to test a believer. The Devil attempted to break the faith first of Job (1:6-12) and then of Peter (Luke 22:31-34). Jesus warned that Satan wanted to "sift" the disciple like wheat--shaking his faith in the way a farmer separates wheat kernels from debris.

 The Enemy hoped that Peter would fall away like chaff. But both attacks ultimately failed, and the men came through with faith restored and strengthened by the Lord. However, at the time of trial, each found himself attacked in the most vulnerable area of his heart.
Is your life making an impact worth talking about? Are you serving God in such a way as to make Satan feel threatened? If not, you don't need a major attack for your faith to suffer greatly. Instead of being alert and recognizing the battle at stake, you will be lulled into uselessness like a frog in water heating gradually to a boil.
But when you grow spiritually--rejecting lies and taking hold of the wholeness that is yours in Christ--you threaten the work of the Evil One. The Lord calls on you to extend His love to specific people because you have just the right knowledge, story, or temperament to reach them. And when you do, you reclaim stolen territory for His kingdom.
You may think you're not important, but the Lord knows your true value. As His beloved child and friend, you have an important part in His plan for eternity. Satan fears you when you recognize this truth. Fight back and rely on God's Spirit--greater is He who is within you!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Daily Devotion: God uses the Wicked

Read | Genesis 37-39
When we don't understand what God is doing or why, His ways can seem perplexing. The times when ungodly people seem to triumph over the righteous make us scratch our heads and wonder why the Lord doesn't intervene. But the truth is, He oftenuses the wicked to accomplish His purpose.
Joseph faced one hard-hearted individual after another during his years in exile. His brothers shipped him off to Egypt. His boss's wife accused him of an unspeakable crime. And even those he helped, like Pharaoh's cupbearer, forgot about him (Gen. 40:23). The actions (or seeming inactions) of God make little sense at this point.
But once the story of Joseph's life was written in full, it was clear that everyone who harmed or neglected the young man contributed to God's plan. The Lord used numerous people across several years to bring a humbled young Hebrew unexpectedly to power at the right moment to spare his family--who were the Messiah's ancestors--from the effects of famine.
In our circumstances, we can see God's actions only from the limited vantage point of our humanness. We experience the events He has allowed or caused but can't discern what He is thinking. Often the Lord's goals and purposes are hidden from us until His plans come to fruition.
God is sovereign over all the earth. We may wonder at the strange or even terrifying turns our lives take, but we can be certain that He is in control and at work. The wicked may triumph for a season, but the final, eternal victory belongs to Christ and His righteous followers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Daily Devotion: Devoted to God

Read | Psalm 62:1-2
Having been saved by faith in Christ, we express our love and gratitude through devotion to Him. Regular Bible study and prayer will be an integral part of our daily lives. In addition, our commitment to the Lord will be revealed through a passion to obey, a spirit of humility, and a servant's heart.
  1. Obedience. David sought to obey God all his life. As a shepherd boy, he faithfully tended the animals in his father's fields. While king, he set aside his desire to build the temple and let Solomon lead the effort, as God had commanded. Although David lived imperfectly, his desire was to do what the Lord asked. We see from Jesus' words in John 14:15 that obedience should be our high priority as well: He said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
  2. Humility. After David killed Goliath, the crowds shouted praise about the young man. However, he did not become prideful. Instead, he remained in King Saul's service and waited for God to make him the ruler of Israel. Even as king, he remained humble. He knew that what had been accomplished was because of the Lord's actions and not his own (2 Sam. 7:18).
  3. Service. Whether David was a lowly shepherd or a mighty king, his goal was to obey God and serve Him.
This man after God's own heart was devoted to his Lord. He sought to know Him and longed to carry out His will. David's actions reflected His humble attitude of servanthood and his longing to please his heavenly Father. Take steps each day to be sure your life expresses commitment to Jesus.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Basis for Discernment

Hebrews 4: 12-13
Since spiritual discernment is the ability to see life from God's perspective, it requires that we know how He thinks and acts. 
The Bible is His unchanging, infallible revelation of Himself. However, the Lord doesn't simply give us a list of facts about His character and ways. All throughout the pages of Scripture, He illustrates who He is and how He operates.
Although the Bible is ancient, it's not a dead book. It's alive and as fresh as if He were speaking directly to you. The stories may have taken place centuries ago, but the principles and applications are current and relevant. 
It's our instruction book about how to live. Guidance for decisions and discernment about situations are found from Genesis to Revelation.
God's Word is active and piercing. The words don't simply sit on the page. They penetrate our hearts and judge our thoughts and motives. 
This convicting quality is why some people don't like to read the Bible. But self-discernment is essential if we don't want to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. 
Some Christians live on a surface level, never understanding why they react to situations the way they do. But if we'll approach the Word of God with an open spirit, it will bring to light our hidden motives and reveal unrecognized sins.
Spiritual discernment involves seeing not just our circumstances but also ourselves from God's perspective. Have you learned to embrace the piercing sword of Scripture, or have you avoided doing so because it makes you uncomfortable? Remember, God's Word cuts only so that it can heal.

Monday, July 23, 2012

NCAA lays down punishment hammer toward Penn State

Penn State University learned its fate Monday morning as NCAA president Mark Emmert revealed the penalties it will imposed on the school in a live press conference.

Penn State received a four-year football postseason ban, a $60 million fine and loss of scholarships. Additional penalties include vacation of wins from 1998-2011 and five years probation. The bowl ban is the longest in college football history since Indiana in 1960.

Current Penn State football players will be able to transfer, become immediately eligible at the transfer school of choice and don't have to play as long as they are academically eligible.

The loss of wins will be noted on the late Joe Paterno's record and will immediately make the late Grambling coach Eddie Robinson the winningest coach in Division I history and former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden the winningest coach in FBS history with 377 wins.

NCAA says that Penn State perpetuated a "football first" culture that must change. On Sunday, construction crews removed the statue of Joe Paterno from outside Beaver Stadium after days of protest.

Penn State has signed an agreement with the NCAA to accept these penalties.

Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 charges in the sex abuse case last month and faces a minimum sentence of 60 years in prison.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Finding the Right Church- Dr. Charles Stanley

It is important for all believers to be joined to a local church body. But how should you select a church? Let’s examine the essential qualities of a Bible-believing fellowship. 

If you do not currently belong to a congregation, use these guidelines as a resource while you search for one. If you are already an active church member, this list can help you evaluate where you attend.

Since all Christians do not agree on the same interpretation of Scripture, the first thing we must investigate is the church’s doctrine or fundamental beliefs.
  1. Does the church believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God? Do the leaders trust that Scripture is without error, and all of it is useful and necessary in our daily lives (2 Tim. 3:16)? Many professing Christians try to excuse certain miraculous or supernatural passages of the Bible, such as the creation account in Genesis or the final judgment in Revelation. If a church tries to make Scripture more comfortable or understandable by sacrificing a doctrinal truth, then it fails to maintain the integrity of the Word. The Bible is the perfect revelation of God to His people. 
  2. Does the church believe Jesus is not simply the Son of God but actually God Himself (John 1:1-2, 14)? The deity of Christ is absolutely a fundamental belief of any biblical church. Had Jesus been an ordinary man, He would have been a sinner like the rest of humanity. The penalty for our wrongdoing needed to be paid by someone who’d never sinned. If Christ disobeyed God, then you and I are left to face the full wrath of the Father (Heb. 9:27). 
  3. Does the church believe Jesus was born of a virgin? If we have faith in God’s Word, then we must trust that it speaks the truth regarding Jesus’ miraculous birth, as recorded in the Gospels (Matt. 1:23-25).
  4. Does the church believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ? When Jesus left the tomb, He left itphysically. He was not simply a spirit floating around; He was a person—alive and in the flesh (John 20:24-29).
  5. Does the church believe Jesus is going to return? Scripture is clear that Christ will come back to the earth. He will call His followers home and bring judgment on the ungodly (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
  6. Does the church believe there will be a future judgment? When Christ returns, He will return as a righteous Judge. At that time, He will separate His people from those who do not know Him. Some churches are not comfortable with this portrayal of the Lord, but it is thoroughly biblical (Matt. 25:31-46).
  7. Does the church believe there is a literal heaven and hell? This goes along with the truth of the coming judgment. After all, if the “sheep” and “goats” are separated (Matt. 25:31-46), then each group must have a place to go. 
  8. Does the church believe Jesus went to the cross and died a sacrificial atoning death? This is the most important point of all. The cornerstone of our faith is that Jesus Christ bore the punishment we deserved—we gained the freedom of God’s forgiveness through the Savior’s death and resurrection. This was the price that was necessary to forgive, redeem, reconcile, justify, and conform us to the image of God’s Son. It was also proof that God truly loves us unconditionally, perfectly, and not on the basis of anything we have done (John 3:16; Rom. 5:5-7).
If the church you attend does not accept these things as true, I suggest you leave that fellowship. Why? Because what you believe determines where you will spend eternity and how you will live here on earth. If you think there is no hell, heaven, or judgment, you will most likely live a morally offensive lifestyle. It is impossible to live a godly life unless core doctrines are firmly set in your walk of faith.
Once you get past the doctrine test, you need to ask two more questions of the church. First, is it building your faith? In other words, are you being strengthened in your relationship with God and enabled to understand Scripture? If your answer is “no,” it may be an indication you are not in the right place.
Second, does the church have a ministry to the world? A true Christ-centered fellowship will not be satisfied trying to keep the power of the gospel locked within its four walls, available only to its own members. Rather, a solid biblical church expresses a deep desire to reach the world for Christ, taking the truth to those who have never heard it.
When you follow these three tests—doctrine, faith-building, and missions—they will guide you to a biblical church. If you are already part of a body of believers, then these guidelines will help solidify your understanding of what the church believes. It is a delight to be part of a local group of people who are doctrinally grounded in the Word of God, who love to be edified through Scripture, and who are concerned about a world that does not know their God.
My friend, the Lord is intimately concerned about your church affiliation, and He desires to meet with you in new and exciting ways every time you come to Him in worship. Therefore, don’t settle for simply becoming a church member; instead, recognize your proper place within the growing, vibrant, active body of Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Daily Devotion: Finding Clear Guidance

Sleep can elude us when we are trying to make critical decisions. Our minds race over details; we make our lists, evaluate options, and pray, "God, what should I do?" Often we become frustrated because we're not sure how to get the answer from the Lord.
The key is found in our relationship with Him. The closer we are to God, the easier communication between us will be. Closeness to God means:
  • Learning what God likes and dislikes. Certain opportunities can be quickly eliminated because they are contrary to God's character.

  • Knowing God's Word. When we are familiar with the Word of God, the Holy Spirit can remind us of passages relevant to our situation.

  • Confessing our sins. Confession helps our minds be cleansed from the effects of ungodly thinking, which interferes with receiving the Lord’s direction.

  • Laying down our desires and taking up His. As we draw closer to Him, we'll experience the blessings of submission and be willing to do it again.

  • Waiting on God. We will allow sufficient time to hear from the Father.

  • Standing firm against pressure—external and internal. Receiving clear direction from God will be our priority.

  • Praying persistently. We'll continue to ask the Father for guidance, and we will not give up. The Lord desires our very best. Draw closer to Him, and experience the joy of receiving clear direction.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How Can I Become a More Obedient Child of God?

By Dr. Charles Stanley

Obedience is a major characteristic of a person who is mighty in spirit and honors the Lord. Generally speaking, obedience characterized the faith of Abraham from his first encounter with God until his death.
We grow in obedience by having faith in the sovereignty of God. If we fail to believe in the Father’s sovereignty, we will find it difficult to obey Him. Abraham based his relationship with God on his confidence that the Lord would always do as He had promised (Rom. 4:20, 21). Faith comes by hearing the Word of God and responding in confident trust (Rom. 10:17). We will learn to trust Him as we study and meditate on His Word.
We grow in obedience by waiting for God’s timing. The Father is very time conscious—not in terms of minutes and seconds, but in regard to our acting in obedience according to His schedule. Throughout Scripture we find Him moving in “the fullness of the time” (Gal. 4:4). He is neither early nor late. He is always right on time. 
We continue to grow in obedience by refusing to subject God’s plan to “common sense” or the reasoning of the world. Some things the Lord requires may look ridiculous from a human perspective. He told Abraham that he would have a son through whom He would bless the entire world. Yet the Lord allowed Abraham’s obedience to be severely tested—first by requiring him to wait nearly a quarter of a century before providing the promised provision, and later by requiring him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. God knew the motive of Abraham’s heart. It was one of obedience. When it came time to complete the sacrifice, the Lord was the one who provided a ram to be used in Isaac’s place.
We grow in obedience by promptly responding in obedience. If you long to obey God, you will not hesitate when He tells you to do something. Many times we fail to obey the Father because we fear the consequences. Yet He never requires us to do anything outside His will for our lives. Our only responsibility is to obey; His responsibility is to take care of the consequences of our obedience. 
Our sensitivity to God’s will increases as we obey Him. Along the way, He provides glimpses of the blessings waiting for us. God always blesses obedience. You can trust Him, obey Him, and be blessed. Or you can disobey Him and spend the rest of your life wondering what He would have done had you obeyed Him. Once you glimpse the blessings of obedience, however, the consequences no longer matter.