In Touch Ministries
July 17, 2012
The Consequences of Drifting
Read | Hebrews 3:12-13
Spiritual drifting--the gradual wandering away from God and His will--takes place when a believer ceases to steer toward the Lord. Like an empty boat set loose upon the waters, he or she makes a slow and lazy glide away from good practices like disciplined obedience, regular Bible study, prayer, and assembling with fellow Christians. And there are consequences for casting yourself on uncharted and dangerous waters.
A life adrift is outside of God's will and therefore in sin. The Holy Spirit pricks a believer's conscience to send a message when he is off course, but the drifter is prone to ignore such warnings. If a Christian continually excuses his wandering ways and denies sin, then his conscience gradually numbs. A person who becomes desensitized to wrongdoing has paved the way for more sinful behavior with less guilt. Can you imagine a more dangerous situation?
As the drifting believer's conscience becomes anesthetized, his spiritual ears are also deadened--truth cannot gain entrance because he has invited wrong attitudes and philosophies into his thinking process. What's more, his heart hardens to the things of God. Shrinking away from testimonies about divine power, grace, and mercy, he avoids situations that might reawaken the conscience and stir his spirit to repentance.
People drift from God in search of more--more freedom, choices, and pleasure. But since the consequences are a hard heart, a numb conscience, and dead ears, what they end up with is less. The drifting believer sacrifices the victorious life in Christ for an existence devoid of permanent satisfaction.
July 18, 2012
Getting Back on Course
Read | 2 Peter 3:17-18
No matter how far away from God you have drifted, you're always welcome back. That's the lesson from Jesus' parable about the prodigal son--the foolish boy who followed a pleasure-filled path to ruin before returning to his father and finding redemption (Luke 15:11-32). Perhaps ruin has not yet come to you, but you know that your heart has grown cool to the things of God. Whatever your drifting story, make this the day that you point yourself back to the Lord.
As with any sin, the first motion toward getting back on course is to acknowledge that you have slipped away from the Lord. Then you confess and repent, which is like turning your boat in the opposite direction and paddling toward God with all your strength. If you're wondering exactly how to do that, I suggest a strategy I use every morning. Before I step out of bed, I give myself to God by acknowledging, I surrender my entire life to You for this day. When something comes up that runs counter to His plan and I consider pursuing it, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I am not my own. Only God's way will do for me.
Every day we choose whether to row or drift. As for me, I choose to vigorously pursue God.
Peter gives a warning to be on guard against attitudes and ideologies that would carry you away from truth (2 Peter 3:17). Instead, choose to paddle your lifeboat toward the Lord by meditating on Scripture, praying, and living obediently. Practicing the spiritual disciplines keeps a heart warm toward God.
In Touch Ministries
July 13, 2012
Protection from Pride
Read | 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
One of God's reasons for sending adversity into our lives is to conquer pride. Paul experienced this kind of divine intervention through the presence of what he called "a thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor. 12:7). The Lord used pain in Paul's life to guard his effectiveness as a servant of Christ.
We don't usually realize what's at stake when we allow pride to take root in our lives. It affects how God interacts with us because He "is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). If a Christian lets pride take root and grow, the Lord will set him on a shelf. Then the believer will never realize the potential of all that God wanted to do in and through him. In essence, he will miss his calling and become useless in the kingdom. Even if the world still sees him as a success, in the Lord's eyes, his ministry is worthless because it's self-motivated and self-empowered.
Can you see how much was at stake for Paul--and for believers throughout history? The apostle was God's chosen instrument to establish churches and write letters that would become a major portion of our New Testament. When he understood the reason for his "thorn," Paul reacted with complete trust and gratitude for the Lord's wise and loving protection.
Perhaps you can see why adversity was essential for Paul--but it's also vital for you. Each of us has been given areas of influence and opportunities to serve, but pride hinders the fulfillment of the Lord's goals for our lives. If trouble comes, humble yourself immediately so God can use you greatly.
In Touch Ministries
July 6, 2012
Satisfaction for the Thirsty Soul
Read | 1 Peter 2:1-2
Think about a time when you experienced unbearable thirst. You probably would have traded anything for a drink. When you finally got your wish, there was nothing that could have tasted better than that cold, refreshing glass of water.
Compare this physical need to spiritual thirst. Jesus referred to Himself as "living water" because He knew our deep need for fulfillment. And only He can truly satisfy.
Isn't it interesting, then, that we live in a society where most people feel dissatisfied? In Christ, we have everything necessary to be complete, content, and fulfilled. Yet our world deceptively tells us to seek after wealth, glory, and other empty dreams. These seem to gratify for a short time, if at all. Yet we often do not recognize our actual needs. The Enemy continues to deceive by telling us that his poor substitutes will satisfy the hunger inside us.
Our Father, on the other hand, is all we need. Let's look at three passages from Scripture. Jesus called Himself "the bread of life" and "living water"--the sustenance our souls require to survive and thrive (John 6:34-35; 7:38). His Word is alive, able to teach, convict, and redirect us toward a godly path (Heb. 4:12). God's truth, which is called spiritual milk, provides the nourishment our souls need (1 Peter 2:2).
All of us have an emptiness within--a longing for something more. What are you attempting to use to satisfy it? Our hearts are like a jigsaw puzzle. No matter how hard you try to force a wrong piece, it will never fit correctly. Turn to Jesus, and His living water will satisfy your soul.
In Touch Ministries
May 30, 2012
A Godly Response to Criticism
Read | Proverbs 15:31-33
No one likes criticism, but encountering some is inevitable, so we need to learn how to respond in a godly way. Although you might be tempted to become defensive or angry, remain calm and listen. The words may hurt, but great benefits come to those who carefully consider what is said.
If we refuse to accept reproof, we'll limit our potential for Christlike character development and spiritual growth. Some of life's best lessons come through difficult experiences. If God allowed the situation, you can be sure that He wants to use it in transforming you into His Son's image. Whether the criticism is valid or not, whether it's delivered with kindness or harshness, your goal should always be to respond in a way that glorifies the Lord. Remember that you are responsible only for how you handle yourself, not for how the other person is acting.
When a criticism comes your way, be quiet and listen until the other person has finished. Make direct eye contact to show attentiveness and respect. When your critic finishes, thank him for bringing his concerns to your attention, and tell him that you will consider what he's said. Ask the Lord if the accusation is valid. Let Him search your heart and either affirm your innocence or convict you.
Every rebuke is an opportunity from God. It's a chance to let your Christian character shine by showing love to your critic. If he is angrily attacking you, your respect and kindness become a powerful testimony. Criticism is also an occasion to humble yourself and accept the Lord's correction.
In Touch Ministries
May 25, 2012
Exposing False Teachers
Read | 2 Peter 2:1-3
Recognizing a danger for the believers of his day, Peter penned this warning: "There will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies" (2 Pet. 2:1). His words are as true today as they were in the first century.
Spotting false teachers can be difficult, and many people are swayed by their lies. Matthew called them ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15). How, then, can we detect deceptive teaching?
First, become familiar with biblical truth, and be vigilant. On the surface, false teaching may seem to align with Scripture, but underneath lies a faulty agenda.
Second, listen for any denial of truth, such as someone who claims to believe in God but argues that the creation story is myth. It is dangerous to pick and choose which parts of the Bible can be taken literally.
Third, notice teachings that promote sensuality. False teachers interpret the Bible in a permissive way: they often make allowances for immorality, misrepresent grace, and justify sin as gratifying "natural desires." Why do they guide others this way? Some may not realize their mistake. Others are driven by power and greed: if a leader can stir a crowd emotionally, the offering plate will likely be full and the church will probably grow--both for the wrong reasons.
Don't be led astray by false doctrine. The wise will guard themselves by feasting daily on God's Word. Then they can compare teachings to Scripture and scrutinize them for the three signs of falsehood listed above. The truth is able to set us free, but lies entangle and lead to much bondage.
In Touch Ministries
May 23, 2012
Recognize Your Vulnerability
Read | 1 Corinthians 10:12-13
Some Christians see a fellow believer fall into sin but fail to acknowledge that they, too, could stumble. That's dangerous. Satan has them right where he wants them: deceived by a false sense of confidence. Three enemies are constantly at work trying to bring us down: the Devil, his world system, and our own treacherous flesh.
Even though believers have a righteous standing before God, we must each, like Paul, acknowledge an internal problem: "sin which dwells in me" (Rom. 7:20). Satan takes full advantage of this weakness, luring us with fleshly and worldly temptations. He stokes our pride so we'll be blinded to our own vulnerability to stumbling.
Christians need to be continually on guard. Since ignorance--of the nature of sin, the strategies of the Enemy, and our own areas of weakness--sets us up for failure, we cannot afford to be careless in our thinking. Anytime you find yourself excusing, redefining, or rationalizing sin, you've lost your sensitivity to the Lord. God's Word must always fill our minds and direct our steps.
If you've drifted from the Lord, turn back to Him by acknowledging your sin and accepting full responsibility for it. Repentance simply means changing your mind and going in a different direction--toward God instead of away from Him.
The next step is harder. Respond with gratitude for the Lord's chastisement. Every time believers fall into sin, God lovingly works to bring them back into a fellowship with Him. His discipline may be painful, but it's always good because it brings us to our senses and reconnects us with our Father.
In Touch MinistriesMay 21, 2012Practical Ways to Bear BurdensRead | 1 Thessalonians 5:14
There are hurting people everywhere, but at times we just don't know what to say or do to ease their pain. Here are six practical ways to bear someone else's burden.
- Be there. At times the best "method" of helping is simply to be present. During our darkest hours, we don't need someone who tries in vain to fix everything; we just need a friend.
- Listen. Don't attempt to give answers or tell people what to do next. Injured souls frequently want simply a listening ear so they can express what's on their mind.
- Share. Never parade yourself as someone who has all the answers. Instead, allow your own pain and failures to help others.
- Pray. There is power in speaking people's names before the Lord. When they hear someone talk to Jesus on their behalf, healing often starts taking place.
- Give. Sometimes helping others involves more than a handshake or warm hug. Maybe they need something financial or material. One of the best measures of sincerity is how much we're willing to give to others.
- Substitute.You may know an individual who bears the burden of caring for someone else. If you step in and take his or her place for a while, you are emulating your Savior--He, too, was a substitute.
Because we were unable to do it ourselves, Jesus bore all of our sin and sorrow, even unto death. As a result, we can live happily and eternally in communion with our Father. If Christ did that for us, how can we ever say, "I'm too busy to bear someone else's burden"?
In Touch MinistriesMay 17, 2012A Call to Godly LivingRead | Romans 12:1
The apostle Paul lived in an age when sensuality, the pursuit of pleasure, and rebellion against the Lord were prevalent. In response, he wrote letters urging Christians not to follow in the ways of the world. Like those early believers, we are to pursue godliness by...
- Presenting our bodies to God. Our total being--mind, will, emotions, personality, and physical body--are to be turned over to our heavenly Father (James 4:7a). Submitting ourselves to the Lord requires a definite decision to give Him control and a daily commitment to remain under His authority. By surrendering to Him, we will position ourselves for godly living.
- Becoming living sacrifices. The Christian life is built around the concept of sacrifice. Jesus left the perfection of heaven to dwell among a sinful people so He might reconcile us to God. He offered up His life to make payment for our sins (1 John 3:16) and brought us into His family. As believers, we are to follow His example. Paul called it a living sacrifice, because it is ongoing--one that is repeated daily.
Life is full of options. Many decisions involve a choice between following God's way or our own. Maturing Christians will increasingly sacrifice their own desires and embrace His will.
A life of godliness is characterized by a heart and mind bent toward the things of God. Although we will live imperfectly, our focus is to be on obeying His will and pleasing Him. Let's commit to becoming more like Jesus, the One who willingly gave Himself to God as a sacrifice for us.
In Touch MinistriesMay 16, 2012A Faith Worth Passing DownRead | 2 Timothy 1:3-5
The most precious thing we can pass down to children is our faith--the confident conviction that God is who He says and will do all He has promised. Timothy's strong relationship with Christ didn't materialize out of thin air; it grew as a result of his mother and grandmother's example.
Here are ways we, too, can hand down a rich legacy to the next generation:
- Teach practical biblical principles. Kids need to know God's views on material wealth (Ps. 24:1), meeting needs (Phil. 4:19), and direction in life (Prov. 3:5-6).
- Model character through lifestyle. How we live--whether with transparency, peace, and perseverance, or with fear, anxiety, and self-reliance--loudly communicates what we believe about God.
- Serve God by serving others. Actions show that our faith is real (James 2:26). If we want kids not to develop a self-centered perspective, servanthood is key.
- Intercede for them. Children won't forget hearing us pray regularly for them.
- Communicate love. Young people need to know we love them the way God loves us--unconditionally rather than based on what they do or don't do. Spoken words of love breathe life into their hearts. And as we affirm them for trusting God, they see that we value their spiritual growth.
As parents, we must be intentional about leading and inspiring our sons and daughters to follow Christ. But even those without children of their own can leave a legacy. The example to follow is Paul: though neither married nor a natural parent, he was a spiritual father to many (1 Cor. 4:14-16).
In Touch Ministries
May 15, 2012
The Family Influence: Good or Bad
Read | Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." What a great responsibility this places on parents. Records of royal lineage (1 Kings 15-16) illustrate that one's level of submission to God is often mirrored in the offspring's life.
Now, it's true that children eventually grow and make their own decisions. There are godly parents who are heartbroken by their kids' poor choices. Similarly, some from backgrounds full of sinful bondage become righteous people of integrity.
As mothers and fathers, we are given a momentous task: to model and teach how to live according to God's Word. Thankfully, we don't have to rely on ourselves for wisdom. Good parenting involves prayerful self-evaluation, godly counsel, and thoughtful course corrections.
Start by considering how you'd answer the following questions if your children were to walk in your way:What place will Jesus, the Word of God, and the church have in their lives? Will they seek God's direction as the ultimate guide for decisions? Will they develop strong godly relationships? Will they know how to handle money wisely? Will they do their best in their vocation? As you seek answers, ask God to reveal truth, since self-examination can be difficult.
In prayerfully considering your impact as a parent, expect to see positives and negatives. The goal isn't self-condemnation, so keep in mind 1) there's no perfect parent and 2) it's never too late. Even if the kids are grown, you can ask forgiveness, share what you've learned, and model a godly life starting now.