Charles Stanley – How We Can Relate to God

Charles Stanley

Matthew 13:18-23

Scripture teaches that when one is born from above by the Spirit, that person becomes a child in God’s family. Such wording expresses the nature of our relationship with God: He interacts with us as a father does, and we should respond like loving, obedient children. God took the first step in the relationship by opening His family to us. Man’s initial response involves saying yes to Jesus and trusting Him as personal Savior. But even after accepting that invitation, we’re still responsible to respond in a way that keeps our fellowship with Him strong.

Our part consists largely in noticing when the Father is speaking so we can learn to become good listeners and obedient followers. That is why we need to spend time in the Bible, where the Father speaks clearly. Many pretend to be interested in hearing from God and yet invent excuses for neglecting His Word. Some say, “I read Scripture but don’t understand it.” Do you think God would write us an important message in a way we wouldn’t be able to understand? If you keep reading the Bible, the Spirit of God, who inhabits the believer’s heart, will give you understanding.

Once we are born into God’s family, nothing—not even sin—can destroy our relationship with the Father. However, disobedience can interrupt our fellowship with Him by breaking communication, in which case restoring broken fellowship is essential to spiritual growth (1 John 1:9).

Do you belong to God’s family? If so, are you obeying your Father? Obedience is crucial to a deepening relationship with our loving Creator.

 

Our Daily Bread — The Son Is Given

Our Daily Bread

Luke 1:26-33

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. —Isaiah 9:6

One of my favorite portions of Handel’s Messiah is the joyous movement “For unto us a Child is born,” from the first part of the oratorio. I especially love how the chorus rises to the phrase, “Unto us a Son is given.” Those words, of course, are taken from Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Handel’s majestic music soars with adoration for the Son who came to us in human flesh that first Christmas.

The New Testament clarifies even further who this Son is. In Luke 1, the angelic messenger appeared to Mary and identified the Christ-child in four ways. He would be the son of Mary, making Him fully human (1:31). He would be the Son of the Highest, which made Him fully divine (1:32). He would also be the Son of David, giving Him royal lineage (1:32). And He would bear the title of Son of God (1:35), giving Him equality with the Father in all things. All of the roles the Messiah was called to fill are made possible in these distinct expressions of His Sonship.

As we worship Him this Christmas, may our celebrations be filled with joy and wonder at the fullness of what it means. Our heavenly Father has given us His perfect, sufficient Son. O come, let us adore Him! —Bill Crowder

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning,

Jesus, to Thee be all glory given;

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. —Wade

God’s love became incarnate at Bethlehem.

Bible in a year: Jonah 1-4; Revelation 10

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Shining Stars

Ravi Z

I recall with clarity a night when my wife and I were on vacation in California. We had spent the day hiking in the mountains and in the afternoon had descended to explore the mysterious and ancient landscape of Mono Lake, one of the oldest lakes in North America. Pinned to the information board by the parking lot was a sign advertising a talk by a park ranger that very evening: “Stars over Mono Lake.” And so it was. That evening we found ourselves lying on the ancient sands, looking up at a night sky in which a million points of light glowed with an intensity I’d never seen before. The air was cold and clear, the hauntingly beautiful desert silence broken only by the occasional howl of a lonely coyote, cry of an insomniac gull, or call for help of a distant and woefully lost tourist.

But it was the sky that really struck me. I’d never seen it so beautiful before. In the city where we live, light pollution drowns out the splendor of the stars. Lights do punctuate the Toronto night, but they tend to be of the red-amber-green-red variety. What I was seeing, lying on those freezing sands at Mono Lake, was the spectacular sight of the night sky in all its glory. It was, for me, God’s handiwork writ large as a myriad of stars lay twinkling above me. I was awestruck and listened with fascination at the park ranger’s talk on the stars above, in particular the various constellations that slowly wheeled in front of us: the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, Orion, Aquarius.

And as I looked up, I was reminded of a biblical passage about stars, one that is meant to be descriptive of Christians. The apostle Paul is speaking to the Philippian believers about the kind of community their association with Jesus compels them to be: “Therefore, my dear friends… do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”(1)

When I heard that passage again a few months later, my mind was immediately cast back to that night at Mono Lake and to the journey of the constellations and patterns that generations of people have seen before me. Understanding these constellations brought the night sky alive and told stories whose characters are bedecked in the very stars. And this got me thinking about the metaphor Paul uses. What does it mean to shine like stars in the Christian story? What does it mean for a person to burn brightly against the inky blackness of night? And particularly, as Christians around the world remember the account of the magi—the astrologers who followed a star that eventually stopped over the place where the young Jesus lay—is the same story being told in expectancy, hope, and light today?

Well, there are, of course, many different types of stars, but the hope I take from that starry evening centers around a few vivid memories. To begin with, constellations are made up of stars which, on their own, would be but one small, glowing dot in the darkness, but together form a bigger picture; together, they tell a more powerful story. Nobody has heard of the star “Merak,” for instance, but everyone has heard of the constellation it is a part of: the “Big Dipper” or the “Plough,” one of the most famous formations in the sky. Together, stars in constellations tell a story greater than their individual parts, and how true this is of people as well. It’s best not to judge a religion by the testimony of one bold but fleeting light. Rather, the constellation of millions through the centuries, the example of believers young and old, across tribes and nations, the witness of those who first beheld the events of Jesus of Nazareth—these are the stars that light the universe with something to ponder.

Moreover, constellations don’t stand still. They move. In particular, they rotate, slowly wheeling around a singular fixed point in the night sky—the “North” or “Pole” Star. Significantly, Christians together tell the story of hope in darkness when their axis is God alone—not an issue or a common interest—but the person of Christ who was born, died, and raised. The expectant Christian story continues to be told, as it was to the magi long ago, when the Christ child is the fixed point, our north star, our pole star, when it is he who determines how we move and turn.

 

Many years ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands.”(2)

 

To sailors and navigators, before the invention of GPS, the North Star was crucial; by orientating oneself to it, you could find your way home through the wildest seas. Likewise, it is Christ’s story that makes the collective light of Christianity shine brightly amidst the darkness. It is Jesus himself, around which everything turns, who is heaven’s bright sun, whose radiance glows brighter than the brightest star, so much so that the new heavens and the new earth need neither sun nor moon. The splendor of this sight is worth beholding indeed.

Andy Bannister is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Toronto, Canada.

(1) Philippians 2:12-16.

(2) Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 137.

 

Alistair Begg – A Holy Calm

Alistair Begg

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

Proverbs 16:33

If the decision about the lot is the Lord’s, whose is the arrangement of our whole life? If the simple casting of a lot is guided by Him, how much more the events of our entire life-especially when we are told by our blessed Savior, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”1 It would bring a holy calm over your mind, dear friend, if you were to constantly remember this. It would relieve your mind from anxiety and enable you to walk in patience, quietness, and cheerfulness as a Christian should. When a man is anxious he cannot pray with faith; when he is troubled about the world, he cannot serve his Master, for his thoughts are serving himself.

f you would “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,”2 all things would then be added to you. You are meddling with Christ’s business and neglecting your own when you fret about your lot and circumstances. You have been trying to do the providing and forgetting to do the obeying. Be wise and pay attention to the obeying, and let Christ manage the providing. Come and survey your Father’s storehouse, and ask whether He will allow you to starve while

He has so great an abundance in store. Look at His heart of mercy; see if that can ever prove unkind! Look at His unsearchable wisdom; see if that will ever be at fault. Above all, look to Jesus Christ your Intercessor, and ask yourself, while He pleads, can your Father deal ungraciously with you? If He remembers even sparrows, will He forget one of the least of His poor children? “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”3

My soul, rest happy in your low estate,

Nor hope nor wish to be esteem’d or great;

To take the impress of the Will Divine,

Be that your glory, and those riches thine.

1 Matthew 10:30-31 2 Matthew 6:33 3 Psalm 55:22

 

Charles Spurgeon – Love

CharlesSpurgeon

“We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Suggested Further Reading: 1 John 3:14-18

We have known many Christians who have forgotten much of their love to Christ when they have risen in the world. “Ah!” said a woman, who desired to do much for Christ in poverty, and who had had a great sum left her, “I cannot do as much as I used to do.” “But how is that?” said one. Said she, “When I had a meagre purse I had an overflowing heart, and now I have an overflowing purse I have only a meagre heart.” It is a sad temptation for some men to get rich. They were content to go to the meeting-house and mix with the ignoble congregation, while they had but little; they have grown rich, there is a Turkey carpet in the drawing-room, they have arrangements now too splendid to permit them to invite the poor of the flock, as once they did, and Christ Jesus is not so fashionable as to allow them to introduce any religious topic when they meet with their new friends. Besides this, they say they are now obliged to pay this visit and that visit, and they must spend so much time upon attire, and in maintaining their station and respectability, they cannot find time to pray as they did. The house of God has to be neglected for the party, and Christ has less of their heart than ever he had. “Is this thy kindness to thy friend?” And hast thou risen so high that thou art ashamed of Christ? And art thou grown so rich, that Christ in his poverty is despised? Alas! Poor wealth! Alas! Base wealth! Alas! Vile wealth! It would be well for thee if it should be all swept away, if a descent to poverty should be a restoration to the ardency of thine affection.

For meditation: If success in the world goes to our hearts it can do others much good (1 Timothy 6:17-19); if it goes to our heads it can do us much harm (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Sermon no. 229

19 December (1858)

John MacArthur – A Warning to the Intellectually Convinced

John MacArthur

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard” (Heb. 2:3).

I will never forget a lady who came to my office, confessing that she was a prostitute and was desperate for help. I presented the claims of Christ to her and asked if she wanted to confess Christ as Lord of her life. She said yes and prayed, seemingly inviting Christ into her life.

Then I suggested that we burn her book of contacts. She looked at me incredulously and said, “What do you mean?” “If you want to live for Jesus Christ,” I explained, “and you’ve truly accepted His forgiveness and embraced Him as Lord, then you need to prove it.” “But that book is worth a lot of money,” she said. “I don’t want to burn it.” After putting it back in her purse, she looked me right in the eye and said, “I guess I don’t really want Jesus, do I?”

When it came to counting the cost, she wasn’t ready. I don’t know whatever became of her, but my heart aches for her and others like her.

I’m sure you know people like her–they know and believe that Christ is the Savior, they know they need Him, but they are unwilling to make a commitment to Him. Perhaps they even go to church and hear the Word of God. They are like the proverbial man who says he believes a boat will keep him afloat, but never sets foot in one.

Those people are the most tragic of all. They need to be warned–to be given a powerful shove toward Christ. May the Lord use you as His instrument for that purpose in the lives of many who are on the edge of a decision for Christ.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Ask God to soften the hearts of people you know who understand the facts of the gospel, but haven’t yet made a commitment to it.

For Further Study:

Read Matthew 19:16-22. What kinds of questions should you ask of someone who appears eager to become a Christian?

Joyce Meyer – Hold Your Peace

Joyce meyer

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.—Exodus 14:14

A few weeks ago, I preached on patience and being thankful no matter what your circumstances. I had done three major conferences in six weeks in addition to fulfilling several other commitments, and that Saturday morning session was the last of that string of commitments. I was really looking forward to getting home early that day, eating a good meal, having Dave take me shopping for a while, taking a hot bath at home, eating ice cream, and watching a good movie. You can see I was prepared to reward myself for my hard work. I had a good plan for myself!

We got on the plane to return home, and the flight was scheduled to be only thirty-five minutes. I was so thrilled . . . and then something went wrong. The airplane door wouldn’t shut properly, so we sat for almost an hour and a half while airline maintenance worked on the door. There was talk of not being able to fly out that day and perhaps renting cars and driving home.

I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to be patient. Just keeping my mouth shut was a huge accomplishment. I had preached on patience, and now I was being tested.

I realize we may not always feel patient, but we can still discipline ourselves to react patiently. I can’t do anything about how I feel sometimes, but I can control how I behave, and so can you. I can assure you that I did not feel patient sitting on that runway, but I kept praying silently, Oh, God, please help me stay calm so I am not a poor witness after what I just finished preaching.

God helped me; and while things don’t always turn out the way I want them to in those situations, in that case we ended up getting home in plenty of time for me to still do all the things I had planned.

I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to be patient. Just keeping my mouth shut was a huge accomplishment. I had preached on patience, and now I was being tested.

Trust in Him When you find yourself in difficult or inconvenient situations, make an effort to hold your peace and trust God to help you act with godly character.

 

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God’s Gift of Himself

dr_bright

“Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17,18, KJV).

Near the Church of St. Mark’s in Venice are three 17th century churches often admired for their highly ornate sculpture. On closer inspection, Ruskin points out, they are found to be “entirely destitute of every religious symbol, sculpture or inscription.”

They are really monuments to the glory of three Venetian families who provided the funds for their construction. “Impious buildings, manifestations of insolent atheism,” they were called by John Ruskin, English writer, art critic and sociologist.

Many Christians are like these buildings. Their association with God is more of a facade, formal and ritualistic. They do not know God as a caring Father with whom they experience a delightful, loving relationship.

As we meet God’s conditions, he becomes our Father, and we become His sons and daughters. His gift of Himself is illustrated in the life of a successful young attorney.

“The greatest gift I ever received,” he said, “was a Christmas gift from my dad. Inside a small box was a note saying, ‘Son, I will give you an hour every day after dinner – 365 days. It’s all yours. We’ll talk about what you want to talk about, we’ll go where you want to go, we’ll play what you want to play. It will be your hour.

“He not only kept his promise, but every year he renewed it – and it was the greatest gift I ever had in my life. I had so much of his time.”

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:11-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will count myself richly blessed for having so much of my Father’s time and will seek diligently to be worthy of His love and availability to me.

 

 

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M.- Priceless Gift

ppt_seal01

Imagine if you tried to calculate the cost of all the elaborate gifts named in the classic Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Turtledoves, golden rings, lords-a-leaping…it would probably total thousands of dollars!

Mary…who was with child.

Luke 2:5

God’s gift to you, however, came in simple and rustic wrappings. He was not born surrounded by gold. Instead, the Almighty Creator of the Universe chose to come to Earth as a baby born of humble parents in a nondescript village. Jesus Christ took His first breath in a place where animals were kept, clothed with rags and laid in a feeding trough. There’s nothing elaborate about that.

Yet God went to utmost measures to demonstrate His unconditional love. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus was born so He could suffer and die on a cross for your sins. Take a moment each day to thank Him for the gift of salvation. Pray also that Americans and the nation’s leaders will understand that this season is not about expensive gifts wrapped with paper and ribbon. It’s about the priceless gift of a Savior.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

 

Greg Laurie – Not an Optional Belief

greglaurie

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” —Luke 1:35

I have heard people say that it isn’t important to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus as long as you believe in His death and resurrection. But I beg to differ. If you doubt the Virgin Birth, then you doubt the Word of God. If you doubt the Virgin Birth, then you are actually saying that Mary was an immoral woman who conceived Jesus out of wedlock.

If you doubt the Virgin Birth, then you doubt the character of Jesus. If Jesus had not been born of a Virgin, then He would have been a mere man with no ability to atone for our sins. If there was no Virgin Birth, then there was no sinless Christ. If there was no sinless Christ, then there was no atonement. If there was no atonement, then there is no forgiveness. If there is no forgiveness, then there is no hope of heaven. If you take away the Virgin Birth, you lose everything.

So don’t tell me the Virgin Birth is an optional belief. It is essential that we believe the Word of God when it says that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was supernaturally conceived in Mary’s womb. The Lord Jesus was born of a Virgin, He lived, and He voluntarily went to a cross and died for the sins of the world. Then He rose again.

When Mary and Joseph dedicated Jesus in the temple, Simeon said, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against” (Luke 2:34). We either believe in Jesus, or we reject Him.

Gabriel’s announcement to Mary introduced the pivotal point in redemptive history. How people respond to the Child whom Gabriel spoke of will determine their eternal destinies.

 

Max Lucado – The Grace-given, Give Grace

Max Lucado

The grace-given—give grace!  Is grace happening to you?  Is there anyone in your life you refuse to forgive?  If so, do you appreciate God’s forgiveness toward you?  Do you resent God’s kindness to others?  Do you grumble at God’s uneven compensation?  How long has it been since your generosity stunned someone?

Since someone objected, “No, really, this is too generous?”  If it’s been awhile reconsider God’s extravagant grace.  Psalm 103:2-3 says, “Forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity.”

Let grace unscrooge your heart.  Like Peter encourages us in 2 Peter 3:18, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

When grace happens, generosity happens.  Unsquashable, eye-popping, big-heartedness happens!  You simply can’t contain it all.  Let it bubble over.  Let it spill out.  Let it pour forth.

From GRACE