VIDEO Growing In Grace

 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” — John 15:5

When you were a child, did you look forward to growing up? Perhaps your mother or father marked your physical growth on a wall, charting your progress toward adulthood.

Just as we anticipated physical growth when we were children, we need to pursue  spiritual growth daily. Repeatedly the Scriptures speak of spiritual growth. A psalmist declares that when we meditate on God’s Word, we become “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season” (Psalm 1:3). Jesus explains how we must be like branches grafted into the vine, growing to produce fruit. We are told to grow into the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ. God has most definitely designed us to grow spiritually.

How can we tell if we’re growing according to God’s plan? One of the signs will be the fruit of graciousness, becoming like the all-gracious God, having an unselfish love and concern for others’ needs. Another sign is joy. As we grow in grace, we’ll rejoice in everything life hands us, good or bad. Conversely, if we grumble and complain about everything, continually sad and dejected and depressed, we’re clearly not growing in grace. Those negative attitudes reflect our spiritual immaturity. Consider the great admonition of the Bible: “Rejoice in all things.” We can fulfill that command only when we’ve grown in grace.

How can we pursue spiritual growth? Think of Olympic weight lifters, who need just the right food and exercise to build strength. In a similar way, we as Christians grow by taking in the spiritual food of God’s Word, prayer, and our consistent devotional lives, then by exercising ourselves in the faithful performance of Christian duties such as works of mercy and evangelism. As we engage in these spiritual disciplines, we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Where are you along the “wall” of spiritual growth? I encourage you to chart your progress today. Then set your sights on a higher mark, and commit to at least one spiritual discipline that can get you there.

““All growth that is not towards God is growing to decay.””

George Macdonald

The Benefits of Abiding in Christ, Part 1 (John 15:4–11)

Hunt for Inner Healing

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted. Isaiah 61:1

Always a busy guy, Carson hunted, fished, rode dirt bikes, and skateboarded. He loved everything outdoors. But he was in a motorcycle accident and became paralyzed from the chest down. Soon depression sank in, and he didn’t see much of a future. Then one day some of his buddies got him to go hunting again. For a time he forgot about his injury as he enjoyed the beauty around him. This experience brought him inner healing and inspired a new purpose for his life—to provide the same experience for others like him through a nonprofit organization, Hunt 2 Heal. He says his accident was “a blessing in disguise. . . . Now I’m able to give back, which I’ve always wanted to do. I’m happy.” He’s excited about providing a place for those with severe mobility disabilities and their caregivers to find healing.

The prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of One who would bring healing for brokenness (Isaiah 61). He would “bind up the brokenhearted” and “comfort all who mourn” (vv. 1–2). After Jesus read this Scripture in His hometown synagogue, He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus came to save us and make us whole.

Are you in need of inner healing? Turn to Jesus and He’ll give you “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).

By:  Anne Cetas

Reflect & Pray

In what ways do you need Jesus’ healing? Who can you tell about Him and the salvation and wholeness He offers?

Thank You, Jesus, for the healing You’ve brought to me and many others. I look forward to complete healing in heaven one day.

For further study, read New Life: The Transforming Power of the Gospel.

Sunday Reflection: Called to Take Care

Are you reflecting God’s heart in the way you manage what He’s entrusted to your care?

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the scriptures referenced throughout.

Stewardship is more than just managing money—even in the ancient world, this word had to do with handling the affairs of an entire household. Look at the Old Testament story of Joseph, for example. (See Genesis 39:1-6Genesis 41:38-49.) He became the steward for Potiphar’s household, and his job was to responsibly manage everything the family owned.

The idea of stewardship goes back even further—in fact, all the way to the very beginning of Genesis. Upon fashioning humans to bear His divine image, God charged them to imitate Him; He called them to be productive and have dominion—that is, exercise humble authority—over the earth. As stewards of God’s creation, they were to reflect who He is. That involved doing the hard work to maintain, preserve, and beautify the earth.

Think about it

• What in your life has God invited you to cultivate and oversee? Is it an opportunity through your workplace or a volunteer activity? Is He asking you to learn how to become more involved in your community? Perhaps it’s as simple as keeping your home orderly and well maintained. 

When to Pray

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2)

There is no set time to pray, for it is always appropriate. Our text tells us to “continue” in prayer, and this is the same word as in Romans 12:12, which urges us to be “instant in” prayer. In fact, the admonition of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is to “pray without ceasing.”

Children should pray, as did little Samuel. When the Lord called him, he could answer: “Speak; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10). Young people should pray, as Timothy, who was exhorted by Paul to make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks…for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1). Adult men should pray, as did Paul himself, who could say to the Christians of Philippi that he was “always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy” (Philippians 1:4). Old men should pray, like Simeon, and old women, like Anna, who “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:25, 36-37). And even dying men should pray, as did Stephen who, as he was being stoned to death, was also “calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).

We can pray at dawn like David, who said: “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3). In a Philippian prison, “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God” (Acts 16:25). Daniel “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed” (Daniel 6:10). There is no time that is not a good time for prayer. One should pray in times of sorrow and also in times of joy, as did Hannah in both circumstances (1 Samuel 1:15; 2:1).

It is a most marvelous privilege that we have through Christ that we are able to speak to the infinite God in prayer and to know that He hears and cares. Therefore, pray! HMM

Christ’s Transfiguration

Christ’s transfiguration reveals four desires He has for you:

1. He wants to get alone with you:

Jesustook Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.

Modern life can be unkind to the soul with the pressure, the pace, the distractions… and the allure. Because Jesus understood the deadening impact of the world upon the inner life of His men, He deemed it necessary to draw them apart unto Himself.

If our extended times with God are sparse, could it be because we fear aloneness with Him may expose the barrenness of our soul?

2. He wants to reveal His glory to you:

As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightningPeter and his companionssaw His glory… “

In the process of molding the character of His men who would change the world, Jesus knew they must (in a measure) comprehend His holiness. Thus, the “Transfiguration”. And so it is to be with us: At the very core of our spiritual survival and development lies the necessity of grasping a view of His glory… His holiness.

3. He wants to create a hunger for Himself in you:

Peter said to Him, Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters— one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.‘”

For a brief and glorious moment, restless, blustering Peter caught sight of Jesus’ majesty that provoked in him a longing to remain in His presence. As His pilgrims, should not that kind of hunger be the norm for us?

4. He wants to speak to you:

A voice came from the cloud, saying, This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.

I wonder what truths the Spirit would whisper to our languid souls, were we to learn the art of listening over talking.

“Look unto me, and be ye saved.”

Numbers 21:4-8

Numbers 21:4

At mount Hor, Moses had seen his brother Aaron die, and now, all alone, he has to bear anew the contentions of the people; yet he was not alone, his God was with him. The people were getting weary of tent life, and of the inconveniences of perpetually moving, but they forgot their many mercies, and the great deliverances which the Lord had wrought for them. Fretting, groaning, and complaining are very easy, but they are ungrateful, unholy, and useless habits.

Numbers 21:5

What a weariness it is to read this repetition of the stale complaint! It is always the same old and cruel slander; but each time there is more sin in it, because it is committed against a longer experience of the divine faithfulness. How wretched a thing is discontent—it rails at the bread of heaven, and despises the clear crystal leaping from the rock.

Numbers 21:6

They acted like serpents in hissing at Moses, and now serpents are sent to punish them. God has many ways of chastising sinners. He who made Moses rod a serpent, can also use a serpent as his rod to smite Israel. He will sting those who sting his servants.

Numbers 21:7

Admirable meekness. He prays at once for the aggravating people who had been so basely libelling him. They had but to say “pray,” and Moses prayed. O! for the like holy readiness to return good for evil.

Numbers 21:8

It was “like curing like,” an uplifted serpent heals the mischief wrought by a serpent: by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead. The serpent on the pole was, as it were, executed by hanging on a tree, and so was the more lively type of the Crucified One, who was made a curse for us. A look was demanded of all who were bitten; there was one command for princes and paupers; they must all look, and look in one direction, for no other remedy was provided. It was the duty of Moses to lift up the serpent, but he could do no more, he had no mystic power in his own person to heal the wounded: even thus, ministers are to preach Christ Jesus to us, but they cannot save us, they are as weak as other men in such matters. Our Lord applied to himself the incident before us, we will read his words in—

John 3:14-17

John 3:14-17

We have but to look to Jesus, and whoever we may be, we shall find immediate deliverance from all our sins. One glance of faith brings a present salvation. This gospel is for all mankind, and no man of woman born need hesitate to trust his soul’s eternal interests in the hands of the Son of God. Whoever trusts him is and shall be saved.

So did the Hebrew prophet raise

The brazen serpent high;

The wounded felt immediate ease,

The camp forbore to die.

“Look upward in the dying hour,

And live,” the prophet cries:

But Christ performs a nobler cure

When faith lifts up her eyes.

Prayerful Thoughts of God Are Never a Burden

...The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

It is hardly possible to overstress the importance of unceasing inward prayer on the part of the one who would live the God-conscious life. Prayer at stated times is good and right; we will never outgrow our need of it while we remain on earth. But this kind of prayer must be supported and perfected by the habit of constant, unspoken prayer!

But someone may question whether in a world like this it is possible to think of God constantly. Would it not be too great a burden to try to keep God constantly in the focus of our minds while carrying on our normal activities in this noisy and highly complex civilization?

Malaval had the answer to this: “The wings of the dove do not weigh it down,” he said; “they carry and support it. And so the thought of God is never a burden; it is a gentle breeze which bears us up, a hand which supports us and raises us, a light which guides us, and a spirit which vivifies us though we do not feel its working.”

We all know how the presence of someone we deeply love lifts our spirits and suffuses us with a radiant sense of peace and well-being. So the one who loves God supremely is lifted into rapture by His conscious Presence!

“Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.”