Charles Stanley – The Light of Truth

 

Psalm 119:97-106

A thinking person doesn’t drift through life, making decisions according to what looks or feels best. Acting on the basis of feelings will place a person at the mercy of Satan, who uses “spin,” deception, and half-truths to trap victims in the bondage of sin. But wise men and women—those who seek truth to guide them through life—can avoid the snare of poor choices and negative consequences.

The only perfectly dependable source of truth is Scripture. Living by biblical principles protects believers from the Enemy’s deceptions. He may try to deceive with outright contradictions to the truth, but those are easy to detect. The greater danger is the lie that contains an element of fact, which makes it both persuasive and difficult to refute.

Since such half-truths flow freely today, it’s vital that Christians be able to discern between truth and Satan’s twisted version of reality. If we make a decision based on an error in our thinking, we are likely to step out of the Lord’s will and into pain or embarrassment. But God has made provision for our weaknesses. He’s given us His Word and His Spirit so we can fill our minds with truth and live out His principles through divine power.

Living without biblical truth is like walking in the woods at night. The darkness is so complete that we repeatedly trip. But when we use the Scriptures as a guide—“a lamp for [our] feet”—we can see deception lying across our path like a fallen log (Ps. 119:105 NIV). We can also see our way around it so that our testimony is not harmed by stumbling.

Our Daily Bread — Standing On The Edge

 

Joshua 3:9-17

[The Israelites] set out . . . to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before [them]. —Joshua 3:14

My little girl stood apprehensively at the pool’s edge. As a nonswimmer, she was just learning to become comfortable in the water. Her instructor waited in the pool with outstretched arms. As my daughter hesitated, I saw the questions in her eyes: Will you catch me? What will happen if my head goes under?

The Israelites may have wondered what would happen when they crossed the Jordan River. Could they trust God to make dry ground appear in the riverbed? Was God guiding their new leader, Joshua, as He had led Moses? Would God help His people defeat the threatening Canaanites who lived just across the river?

To learn the answers to these questions, the Israelites had to engage in a test of faith—they had to act. So they “set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before [them]” (v.14). Exercising their faith allowed them to see that God was with them. He was still directing Joshua, and He would help them settle in Canaan (vv.7,10,17).

If you are facing a test of faith, you too can move forward based on God’s character and His unfailing promises. Relying on Him will help you move from where you are to where He wants you to be. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Lord, we’re prone to quickly forget Your goodness

and care for us. May we trust You today and

into the new year—whatever uncertainties we

face. You are the God who can be trusted.

Fear fades when we trust our Father.

Bible in a year: Malachi 1-4; Revelation 22

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Theatrical Encore

 

I have never been so tired as I was when I stepped on that plane, nor so happy for so many empty seats. I was dreaming of a two-hour nap before I even found my place. Of course, as is usually the case in situations like these, when one is intent on being anti-social and insistent on having earned the right to be so, I found myself not only with a companion, but with an animated, loquacious, first-time traveler. The young woman beside me had been a child as she watched the events of September 11th unfold and had determined then never to travel by airplane; that is, until today, when events reared a need to break her own rule. She was terrified and excited and inquisitive all at once. She also noticed things I’m fairly certain I have never noticed in all my years of travel, commenting with elation, curiosity, fear, or confusion on every single one of them. By the time we landed, I not only had a new friend, I was wide awake to the disheartening reality of all I fail to see around me.

It would seem that repetition has a way of lulling us to sleep, monotony a way of robbing us of sight, or else leaving us in the stupor of disinterest. Real life examples are readily available. How many news stories do we need to hear about violence or suffering, racial oppression or injustice, before they become a despairing background noise or we fail to hear them at all? For that matter, how many stories about something small but positive do we really take in before we respond in boredom? As a colleague pointed out recently, virtuous characters are rarely the most interesting. How many times do we need to sit on an airplane or see the bird outside our window before the marvel of flight itself simply goes without notice? Like most adults, we learn to tolerate the repetitious by learning to operate on auto-pilot.

And yet, I am certain, even among the most skilled of auto-pilots, there was a time when we found ourselves, like every child, delighting in the monotonous, longing for another minute with grandpa, another page of the story, another trip down the slide. The incongruity is unmistakable. How can our failure to see be blamed on monotony, unconscious living attributed to the repetitive, when at one point monotony and repetition were not only tolerated but, on the contrary, invigorating? Blindness can easily be blamed on the world around us—and there is certainly reason to consider the daily effects of all that bombards our senses—but perhaps this is all too easy an answer. Perhaps the scales on our eyes and the dullness of our senses are multiplied not by the many repetitions in life, but by our failure to really take in the many repetitions around us.

Jesus spoke of the kingdom as belonging to the likes of little children, and many have speculated the child’s ability to see the world with wonder as one of the reasons for it. G.K. Chesterton saw the child’s ability to revel in the monotonous as another. The children’s cry for more, reasoned Chesterton, is a quality of the very God who created them. “It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that God has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”(1)

For the child on the slide or the toddler with a story, “Do it again!” is far from a cry of boredom or routine. It is a cry for more of life itself. This is likewise the joy of the ancient psalmist, the cry of the Hebrew prophets, and the call of the vicariously human Jesus Christ: “Consider the lilies, how they grow…if God so clothes the grass of the field…how much more will he clothe you?” (Luke 12:27-28). Jesus asks the world to consider the kingdom around us like little children, and thus, something more like God—finding a presence in faithful recurrences, grace in repetition, an appetite for an incredible world in the ordinary and extraordinary one around us. Here, even those within the most taxing of life’s repetitions—the daily care of an aging parent, the constant burden on the shoulders of those who fight against injustice, the labor of hope in a difficult place—can find solace. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope,” said Jeremiah in the midst of deep lament. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning… The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24, emphasis mine).

Morning by morning, the daily liturgy of new mercies comes with unapologetic repetition to all who will see it, the gift of a God who revels in the creation of yet another daisy, the encore of another sunset, the discovery of even one lost soul, and the gift of a New Year.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 65-66.

Alistair Begg – Let the Thirsty Come

 

The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.  Jeremiah 8:20

Not saved! Dear reader, is this your sorry condition? Warned of the judgment to come, invited to escape for your life, and yet at this moment not saved!

You know the way of salvation, you read it in the Bible, you hear it from the pulpit, it is explained to you by friends, and still you neglect it, and therefore you are not saved. You will be without excuse when the Lord shall execute judgment. The Holy Spirit has blessed the Word that has been preached in your hearing, and times of refreshing have come from the divine presence, and yet you are still without Christ. All these hopeful seasons have come and gone—your summer and your harvest have past—and still you are not saved. Years have followed one another into eternity, and your last year will soon be here: Youth has gone, manhood is going, and still you are not saved.

Let me ask you—will you ever be saved? Is there any likelihood of it? Already the most favorable seasons have left you unsaved. Will other occasions alter your condition? Every means has failed with you—the best of means, used perseveringly and with the utmost affection. What more can be done for you? Affliction and prosperity have equally failed to impress you; tears and prayers and sermons have been wasted on your barren heart. Are not the probabilities dead against your ever being saved? Is it not more than likely that you will stay as you are till death forever bars the door of hope? Do you recoil from this idea? Yet it is a most reasonable one: He who is not washed in so many waters will in all probability go filthy to his end. The convenient time never has come—why should it ever come? It is logical to fear that it will never arrive and that like Felix you will find no convenient occasion until you are in hell. Think carefully about hell and of the dreadful probability that you will soon be there!

Reader, suppose you should die unsaved—no words can picture your doom. Write out your dreadful predicament in tears and blood; talk of it with groans and gnashing of teeth: You will be punished with everlasting destruction and banished from the glory of the Lord and from the glory of His power. Allow my words to startle you into serious thought. Be wise, be wise in time, and before another year begins believe in Jesus, who is able to save you completely.

Consecrate these last hours to lonely thought, and if you are brought to deep repentance, it will be well; and if it leads to a humble faith in Jesus, it will be best of all. See to it that this year does not pass away with you still unforgiven. Do not let the new year’s midnight bells sound upon a joyless spirit! Now, now, NOW believe and live.

ESCAPE FOR THY LIFE;

LOOK NOT BEHIND THEE,

NEITHER STAY THOU

IN THE PLAIN;

ESCAPE TO THE MOUNTAIN,

LEST THOU BE CONSUMED.

The family reading plan for December 31, 2014 * Malachi 4 * John 21

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Watch-night Service

 

“Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord.” Lamentations 2:19

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 90:1-12 (an exposition of which was given earlier in the service)

Dear friends, may grace be given unto you, that ye may be able to pour out your hearts this night! Remember, my hearers, it may seem a light thing for us to assemble tonight at such an hour, but listen for one moment to the ticking of that clock!…… It is the beating of the pulse of eternity. You hear the ticking of that clock!—It is the footstep of death pursuing you. Each time the clock ticks, death’s footsteps are falling on the ground close behind you. You will soon enter another year. This year will have gone in a few seconds. 1855 is almost gone; where will the next year be spent, my friends? One has been spent on earth; where will you spend the next? “In heaven!” says one, “I trust.” Another murmurs, “Perhaps I shall spend mine in hell!” Ah! Solemn is the thought, but before that clock strikes twelve, some here may be in hell; and, blessed be the name of God, some of us may be in heaven! But oh do you know how to estimate your time, my hearers? Do you know how to measure your days? Oh! I have not words to speak tonight. Do you know that every hour you are nearing the tomb? That every hour you are nearing judgment? That the archangel is flapping his wings every second of your life, and, trumpet at his mouth, is approaching you? That you do not live stationary lives, but always going on, on, on, towards the grave? Do you know where the stream of life is hastening some of you? To the rapids—to the rapids of woe and destruction! What shall the end of those be who obey not the gospel of God? You will not have so many years to live as you had last year!

For meditation: The march of time is a terrible enemy to all who persist in unbelief, but the Christian sees things differently—”now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11-12).

Spurgeon must have the last word: “Now, my friends, in the highest and best sense, I wish you all a happy New Year.”

Sermon no. 59

31 December (1855)

John MacArthur – Our Sympathetic High Priest

 

“Assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:16-18).

Jesus came to sympathize with us, so He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest.

In his letters to Timothy, Paul counseled and encouraged his young associate about many things—his health, his critics, his moral and spiritual warfare. His counsel is well summed up in these words: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David” (2 Tim. 2:8).

Like Timothy, we need to be reminded of Christ’s humanity, especially when life becomes particularly tough. Then we can pray, “Lord, You know what You endured while You were here. I’m going through it now.” We can be sure He knows and will encourage us.

Jesus came not only to save us but also to sympathize with us. He experienced what we experience so He could be a “merciful and faithful high priest.” After all, “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Jesus felt everything we will ever feel—and more. Most of us will never know the full degree of any given temptation because we usually succumb long before we reach it. But since Jesus never sinned, He took the full measure of every temptation.

Ours is not a cosmic God, powerful and holy, but indifferent. He knows when we hurt, where we are weak, and how we are tempted. Jesus is not just our Savior, but our loving Lord who sympathizes with us. Rejoice in the greatness of His love for us.

Suggestion for Prayer; Ask God to remind you of your need of Him at all times, not just when times are tough.

For Future Study; Memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13 for quick recall whenever you are faced with any trial.

Joyce Meyer – Trust God

 

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. —Proverbs 3:5

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but the things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all of the words of this law.—Deuteronomy 29:29

I have heard many people say that reading the Bible is confusing. They say, “I have tried to read the Bible, but I don’t understand what God is saying, and I end up feeling frustrated and confused.”

In seeking God’s guidance regarding this situation, I sensed Him saying, “People keep trying to figure out everything. Tell them to stop trying to reason and explain everything.” As the above verses point out, we cannot always rely on our understanding. There are some things that we are not meant to know or understand.

Moses understood this concept, and he explained to the children of Israel that there are “secret things” known only to God. He pointed out that when God revealed His will—making things clear—those were the words they should obey.

It really is that simple. Like the psalmist, we can say, Give me understanding, that I may keep Your law; yes, I will observe it with my whole heart (Psalm 119:34). We must ask God to show us what to do, and then we must not question it when He reveals it to us.

Too often people try to reason things out, but that can be dangerous. When we stand trying to figure out why God says or does something, our first mistake is thinking we’re smart enough to understand the mind of God.

Reasoning can also move us in a particular direction that, although it may seem logical, may not be the will of God. A biblical account found in 1 Samuel is a good illustration of this point.

Saul, the first king of Israel, made a decision to offer sacrifices. As a part of the tribe of Benjamin, it was unlawful for him—even as the king—to offer sacrifices. The king and his army waited several days for Samuel, the high priest, to arrive. But eventually Saul grew impatient (or perhaps fearful) and offered sacrifices just before the holy man arrived. When Samuel rebuked Saul for doing such a thing, the king had what he believed to be a reasonable explanation: l thought, “The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord. So I forced myself to offer a burnt offering “(1 Samuel13:12).

Samuel rebuked the king, told him he had acted foolishly, and said the Lord was going to strip him of the kingdom. That was Saul’s mistake. He reasoned that it would be wise to sacrifice, and he didn’t wait to hear from God.

The human mind likes logic, order, and reason. We like to deal with issues we can wrap our understanding around and come up with solutions that make sense to us. We have a tendency to think small because we are limited creatures, and we don’t have the perspective to understand from God’s point of view. We tend to put things in tiny, neat compartments in our minds, telling ourselves this must be right because it fits nicely there.

By contrast, we read the words of the apostle Paul: I am speaking the truth in Christ. I am not lying; my conscience [enlightened and prompted] by the Holy Spirit bearing witness with me (Romans 9:1). He was making the point that he was doing the right thing—not because he had figured it out or analyzed the situation, but because his actions bore witness in his spirit.

That’s the attitude you need in your life. You need to depend on God to show you things in such a way that you know—with an inner certainty—that what has been revealed to your mind is correct. You must not allow yourself to reason with your mind, searching for logical solutions. Instead, you must say, “My trust is in the Lord, and whatever He tells me to do, I will obey.”

Dear God, thank You for loving me more than I can even comprehend. In the name of Jesus Christ, I ask You to help me love and honor You so much that when You speak, I will have only one thought in my mind, and that is to obey. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A Solid Foundation

 

“All who listen to My instructions and follow them are wise, like a man who builds his house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents, and the floods rise and the storm winds beat against his house, it won’t collapse, for it is built on rock. But those who hear My instructions and ignore them are foolish, like a man who builds his house on sand. For when the rains and floods come, and storm winds beat against his house, it will fall with a mighty crash” (Matthew 7:24-27).

What a wonderful promise for supernatural living to know that no matter what happens – the greatest tragedies, adversities or losses – your house will stand. You will not only survive, but mature, grow and become more like Jesus.

As you listen to and follow His instructions, you will observe that He has been speaking to the multitudes in what is frequently referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Review chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew. List all the things that He commands us to do, and then by faith claim those instructions in your life. For there is nothing that God ever commands that He will not enable us to do if we seek His help.

Remember, too, His promise recorded in Matthew 22:37-40, that all of the commandments in the sermon on the Mount are fulfilled when we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and when we love our neighbor as ourselves. So the instructions that He is giving are not difficult, for He who gives the command will enable us to build on a sure foundation of solid rock.

Note, however, the admonishment for those who ignore His instructions. For those foolish people who build their houses on sand, collapse of those houses is the certain consequence. One need only look around to see evidence of the fulfillment of God’s warning in the lives of numerous loved ones, neighbors and friends. God loves us, and He wants to bless us, but He cannot if we ignore Him.

Are you following the instructions of the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, I encourage you to begin today, with the assurance that He will bless you, your family and all who are dear to you.

Bible Reading: 1 John 2:3-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will meditate upon our Lord’s instructions as contained in the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. I will meditate upon 1 Corinthians 13 and other commandments of our Lord on love. Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I will obey His instructions for supernatural living.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Reflect and Resolve

 

It’s that time of year when you are reminded of things great and small that happened in 2014 – and it has been some year: entertainers awarded, sports stars diminished, same-sex marriages legalized, violence in Ukraine and the Middle East, the rise of Isis…and even a young woman from “Duck Dynasty” sharing what Jesus means to her on Dancing With The Stars. Children were born, grandparents died, families fell and relationships were healed. Was God in all of it? Oh, yes!

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16:3

Now you look forward with a combination of glee and trepidation to 2015. Maybe you’ve written resolutions. For this year, as you set forth your plans, follow the admonition of Scripture and commit those ideas and goals to the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” These are promises to grasp in the New Year.

While you plan for yourself and your family, resolve as well to intercede daily and more passionately than ever before for those in authority in America. You know they need it!

Recommended Reading: Proverbs 16:1-7

Greg Laurie – Why a Jealous God?

 

“For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” —Exodus 20:5

We usually view jealousy as something negative, and certainly it can be. We might think of a jealous person as controlling, demanding, and even prone to fly into a rage without the slightest reason.

But in Exodus 20 God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (verses 4-5, emphasis added).

God is a loving Father. He loves us and wants an exclusive relationship with us. Is that unreasonable?

If you have children, then I think you are probably a jealous parent. You want the best for your child. You probably think your child is the best at whatever it is that he or she does, whether it’s athletics or music or something else. In the same way, God loves you, and He wants the best for you. So He is jealous in a sense.

I would also think that if you are married, you are probably a jealous husband or wife. How would you feel, wives, if your husband said, “My date is here. I’m going out with her now. Can she borrow that outfit that looks really good on you?” No self-respecting wife would put up with something like that. Nor should she.

God is a jealous God and wants an exclusive relationship with us. He is saying, “You belong to Me, and I have committed myself to you. So that is the way it needs to be.” That is the concept being communicated when God described himself as a “jealous” God.

Max Lucado – A Hope-Filled Heart

 

You and I live in a trashy world. Unwanted garbage comes our way on a regular basis. Haven’t you been handed a trash sack of mishaps and heartaches? Sure you have. May I ask, what are you going to do with it? You could hide it. Pretend it isn’t there. But sooner or later it will start to stink. So what will you do?

If you follow the example of Christ, you’ll learn to see tough times differently. God wants you to have a hope-filled heart. . .just like Jesus. Wouldn’t you want that? Jesus saw his Father’s presence in the problem. Sure, Max, but Jesus was God. I can’t see the way he saw. Not yet, maybe. But don’t underestimate God’s power. He can change the way you look at life.

From The Lucado Inspirational Reader

Charles Stanley – How to Build Truth Into Our Life

 

James 1:23-25

As a teenager and a new believer, I would pull out my mother’s worn Bible when I needed God’s opinion on a matter. In the back, there were words written in bold type with verses beneath (I didn’t know then that this was known as a concordance). I’d look up a subject, write down the Scripture references, and then read them to get my answers. This simple activity was how I began to build truth into my life.

Believers who have decided to make God’s truth the foundation of their life need a place to start building. First, identify a point of need—some area that requires attention, like financial stewardship. Then search the Bible’s concordance for verses related to that topic. The passages on the subject will form a blueprint of what a believer’s life should look like.

The Holy Spirit provides the construction material. Using His guidance, strength, and wisdom, install new truths in your life by practicing what you read. Let’s again look at examples from the topic of stewardship: Matthew 6:24 teaches that we can’t serve both God and money, so attitudes must change. And since a borrower is the lender’s servant (Prov. 22:7), spending on credit should be carefully evaluated. That’s how new ways of thinking will replace faulty ideas.

It is a good idea to note—literally—the results of our obedience to God’s instructions. Journaling about His provision and the growth of our faith will inspire us to continue adding to our foundation of truth. That means choosing new areas to remodel according to God’s blueprint.

Our Daily Bread — He Leads Me

 

Psalm 23

He leads me beside the still waters. —Psalm 23:2

In Istanbul, Turkey, in 2005, one sheep jumped off a cliff and then nearly 1,500 others followed! In the end, about one-third of them died. Not knowing which way to go, sheep mindlessly follow other members of the flock.

No better word picture than sheep can be found to illustrate our need for a trustworthy leader. We are all, Isaiah wrote, like sheep (Isa. 53:6). We tend to go our own way, yet we desperately need the sure direction of a shepherd.

Psalm 23 describes the trustworthiness of our Good Shepherd. He cares for us (v.1); He provides for our physical needs (v.2); He shows us how to live holy lives (v.3); He restores us, comforts us, heals us, and bountifully blesses us (vv.3-5); and He will not abandon us (v.6).

What a comfort to know that God gently but firmly leads us! He does so through the urging of the Holy Spirit, the reading of His Word, and through prayer. God is the reliable leader we need.

In acknowledgment of our dependence on the Lord, we can say with the psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” —Dave Egner

Like sheep that sometimes wander from the flock

In tangled paths of life to lose their way,

I need my Shepherd’s hand and watchful eye

To keep me always, lest I go astray. —Sanders

The Lamb who died to save us is the Shepherd who lives to guide us.

Bible in a year: Zechariah 13-14; Revelation 21

Insight

Today’s familiar and beloved psalm has brought comfort and hope to many. And well it should. This psalm celebrates all that the Good Shepherd does for His sheep. The greatest benefit comes in the last verse: We will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v.6). God does so much to provide for and care for His sheep. However, there is an implicit idea in this text that should not be overlooked: Sheep follow their shepherd. The blessings and comfort of this psalm do not come to sheep that do not follow the Shepherd. As Jesus reminds us, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Season for New Sight

 

Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) popularized the concept of “a paradigm shift” in the realm of scientific thought. While many of us may not be familiar with Kuhn or his book, we have likely experienced the duck/rabbit optical illusion used by Kuhn to demonstrate the way in which a paradigm shift could cause one to see the same information in an entirely different way. Kuhn described a paradigm shift as that which opens up new approaches to understanding that would never have been considered valid before.

The word “epiphany” offers another way to speak about paradigm shifts. To have an epiphany is to have the proverbial light bulb go off in one’s head, as a new idea changes the way in which one sees or understands information. The lights are “switched on” when understanding comes. The English word epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation or appearance.” An epiphany is that “a-ha” moment that comes as a result of new vision—of blindness being turned to sight. It is, to borrow from Kuhn’s description, an experience of a paradigmatic shift in view. An epiphany thus reorients, reorders, or transforms our view from one way of looking at the world to another.

In the Christian tradition, the season of Epiphany is a season for new sight, new vision, and paradigm shifts. The season commemorates the arrival of the foreign magi at the birthplace of Jesus. Magi (not three kings of the orient as sung in the famous hymn) were a caste of wise men specializing in astrology, medicine, and natural science.(1) As the gospel of Matthew records it, these wise men “saw his star in the east” and recognized that this young child was worthy of worship as King (Matthew 2:2).

During Epiphany, Christians are asked to pay special attention to the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus for the ways in which he is revealed to be the Messiah. All who seek the truth are asked to re-consider Jesus during this season, to have eyes opened and paradigms shifted. The author of the letter to the Hebrews invites all who would look at Jesus to see in him the very epiphany of God. “[I]n these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-3). Everyone who looks at his life has the opportunity to experience epiphany, and to have vision altered as time is spent looking at his life and listening to Jesus through his teachings.

But paradigm shifts are never easy. The biblical image invoked again and again for this process is that of moving from blindness to sight. One very ironic example is recorded for in the Gospel of John. It is the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. Using the ordinary elements of clay and his own saliva, Jesus applies the necessary ingredients to literal eyes in order to create the opportunity for spiritual sight. After the man washes the healing balm off of his eyes in the pool of Siloam, his healer is nowhere to be found. The religious leaders are incensed that healing has occurred in such an ordinary way by an ordinary man.

“How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?”

The once blind man answered, “Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

Thinking they see the situation quite clearly, the religious leaders put the formerly blind man out of the temple, cutting him off from their community, and taking away the opportunity to make sacrifice to God. Hearing this, Jesus comes to confront these leaders who claim superior knowledge and insight. “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind… If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”(2)

John’s Gospel and the Season of Epiphany present a challenging opportunity for a paradigm shift. The Christian story proposes that it is in the humble acknowledgement of blindness that we come to see anything with clarity or insight. Ironically epiphany does not come in assuming that we know all the answers or in clever arguments or assumptions. Jesus turns all of these paradigms upside down in this story. Today, might the realization of our blindness be the paradigm shift that opens our eyes.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Reference note from the New American Standard Bible.

(2) cf. John 9:39-41.

Alistair Begg – Professor or Possessor of Faith

 

Do you not know that the end will be bitter?   2 Samuel 2:26

Reader, if you are merely a professor and not a possessor of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the following lines are a true sketch of your end.

You are a respectable attender at a place of worship; you go because others go, not because your heart is right with God. This is your beginning. I will suppose that for the next twenty or thirty years you will be spared to continue in this way, professing religion by an outward attendance upon the means of grace, but having no heart in the matter. Tread softly, for I must show you the deathbed of someone just like you. Let us gaze upon him gently. A clammy sweat is on his brow, and he wakes up crying, “O God, it is hard to die. Did you send for my pastor?” “Yes, he is coming.” The pastor comes. “Sir, I fear that I am dying!” “Have you any hope?” “I cannot say that I have. I fear to stand before my God. Oh, pray for me.” The prayer is offered for him with sincere earnestness, and the way of salvation is for the ten-thousandth time put before him, but before he has grasped the rope, I see him sink.

I may put my finger upon those cold eyelids, for they will never see anything here again. But where is the man, and where are the man’s true eyes? It is written, “In Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes.”1 Why did he not lift up his eyes before? Because he was so accustomed to hearing the Gospel that his soul slept under it. If you should lift up your eyes in hell, how bitter will be your wailings. Let the Savior’s own words reveal the woe: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.”2 There is a frightful meaning in those words. May you never have to spell it out by the red light of God’s wrath!

1) Luke 16:23   2) Luke 16:24

The family reading plan for December 30, 2014 * Malachi 3 * John 20

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Canaan on earth

 

“For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year, even unto the end of the year.” Deuteronomy 11:10-12

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 139:1-12

We have come now, beloved, to the end of another year—to the threshold of another period of time, and have marched another year’s journey through the wilderness. Come, now! In reading this verse over, can you say Amen to it? “The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon you, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” Some of you say, “I have had deep troubles this year.” “I have lost a friend,” says one. “Ah!” says another, “I have been impoverished this year.” “I have been slandered”, cries another. “I have been exceedingly vexed and grieved”, says another. “I have been persecuted,” says another. Well, beloved, take the year altogether—the ups and the downs, the troubles and the joys, the hills and the valleys altogether, and what have you to say about it? You may say, “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” Do not pick out one day in the year, and say it was a bad day, but take all the year round, let it revolve in all its grandeur. Judge between things that differ; and then what will you say? “Ah! Bless the Lord! He hath done all things well; my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” And you know why all things have been well. It is because the eyes of the Lord have been upon you all the year.

For meditation: Are you glad that God sees you through and through every moment of your life? This should bring terror to the unbeliever (Hebrews 4:13) but great comfort to God’s people in the hour of distress (Genesis 16:13; Exodus 2:25).

Sermon no. 58

30 December (1855)

John MacArthur – Satan’s Conqueror

 

“Since . . . the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:14-15).

Christ came to break the power of Satan which He did by conquering death.

To be free to live with God and share in all His blessings, someone had to shatter Satan’s death grip on us. Sin is what gives Satan his powerful hold on us, but the power itself is death.

Satan knew that God required death for us because of sin. He knew that all died in Adam—that death became a certain fact of life. And he knew that men, if they remained as they were, would die and go out of God’s presence into hell forever. So he wants to hang onto men until they die because once they are dead, the opportunity for salvation is gone forever.

To wrest the power of death from Satan’s hand, God sent Christ into the world. If you have a greater weapon than your enemy, then his weapon is useless. You can’t fight a machine gun with a bow and arrow. Satan’s weapon is death, but eternal life is God’s weapon, and with it Jesus destroyed death.

How was He able to do it? He rose again, proving He had conquered death. That’s why He said, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). His resurrection provides the believer with eternal life.

Nothing terrifies people more than the fear of death. But when we receive Christ, death in reality holds no more fear for us since it simply releases us into the presence of our Lord. We can say with Paul, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Rejoice that you have placed your hand into the hand of the conqueror of death, who will lead you through death and out the other side.

Suggestion for Prayer; Ask God to give you a greater realization that He has conquered death to help you live life more fully to His glory.

For Further Study; Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. How are we to live our lives based on what we know about death?

Joyce Meyer – He Is Strong

 

We are weak, but you are [so very] strong! —1 Corinthians 4:10

We need help—and a lot of it. Jeremiah 10:23 says, …the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man [even in a strong man or in a man at his best] to direct his [own] steps. It really is impossible for man to properly run his own life. Admitting that fact is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of spiritual maturity. You are weak unless you find your strength in God, and the sooner you face that fact, the better.

Many people have position, wealth, and power, but they may not have what really matters—good relationships, right standing with God, peace, joy, contentment, satisfaction, good health, and the ability to enjoy life. Not everything that appears well is well! You may be trying hard to make things work out right and always failing. Your problem is not that you are a failure. Your problem is simply that you have not gone to the right source for help.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God Is a Loving God

 

“If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread, will he be given a stone instead? If he asks for fish, will he be given a poisonous snake? Of course not! And if you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask Him for them?” (Matthew 7:9).

Roger interrupted our Bible study on this passage of Scripture to say, “I guess I have trouble believing God is a good God because my earthly father was a tyrant. He hated me, and I hated him. I do not recall a single experience in my life where he encouraged me. I want to believe that God is good, but I have difficulty. Please help me.”

Unfortunately, there are multitudes of men and women who are relatively new Christians and who have come from similar backgrounds where there was no love, no compassion, no concern, and their view of God is therefore distorted. They somehow equate the loving, forgiving God with their own tyrannical fathers. When such is the case, only the Holy Spirit can heal these deep wounds and remove these scars. So, I assigned Roger a special project. I asked him to make a list of all the attributes and qualities of God recorded from Genesis to Revelation. The project lasted several months, but in the process a transformation took place in Roger’s life.

The day came when he exclaimed with great joy, “The Holy Spirit has illumined my mind and taught me that God is truly a loving God, worthy of my trust. Now I can believe Him for anything. I know that even if my father on earth was the best father ever, God’s love, compassion and care for me transcends anything that he could do for me. Therefore, I can ask Him for good gifts, knowing that He will hear and answer me. I want to live only for His glory for the rest of my life.”

Are you having difficulty trusting God because of an unfortunate early relationship with your father or mother? If so, I encourage you to do what Roger did. Saturate your mind with the attributes of God – His love, sovereignty, wisdom, grace, compassion, power and holiness. As you do, the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to cleanse your mind of all the memories that weigh you down, and you will be able to say with Roger, “I can trust God for anything, because I know He is a loving God who cares for me.”

Bible Reading: 1 John 3:1-3

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will continue to meditate upon the attributes of God, knowing that the more I trust Him, the more sure I can be of His faithfulness to enable me to live a supernatural life for His glory.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Closing the Sale

 

If you’ve ever visited an automobile dealership, you’ve probably experienced the excessively zealous car salesperson. Often these professionals are helpful to the point of being overbearing and, at times, can seem almost desperate to sell you a vehicle…right now. At any cost, they will endeavor to keep you on the premises until a decision is made.

And whether they hear or refuse to hear…they will know that a prophet has been among them.

Ezekiel 2:5

There’s a reason for that. At most dealerships, the sales associates work strictly on commission. They don’t get paid for explaining a car’s features or offering test drives. They get paid only if they close the sale. If you leave in the same car you came in, they lose.

Closing the sale is a tenant of capitalism, but not of Christianity. It’s God’s will that you be Christ-like and that you speak the truth in love, but “closing the sale” is up to the Holy Spirit. Scripture plainly states that some will hear and some will refuse to hear. As you intercede for America today, remember that God is working behind the scenes in ways you may not realize. In eternity, you will see that your faithfulness won victories that you couldn’t even have imagined!

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 11:29-40