Charles Stanley – Don’t Be Afraid

Charles Stanley

Matthew 14:22-34

We can expect that at some point in life, we will hit turbulence. Perhaps we’ve already experienced some and can tell there is more to come. Our situation may be so serious that we wonder, How am I going to make it through this?

Consider the time when the disciples found themselves in rough water on the Sea of Galilee. Scripture tells us that waves were battering their boat and the wind was against them. In the midst of the squall, the disciples thought they saw a ghost approaching. These grown men, some of whom were seasoned fisherman, cried out in fear. Their apprehension didn’t subside until they became aware that it was Jesus walking toward them.

What happened when they recognized that it was the Lord? They received . . .

  • Comfort in their crisis. Tension subsided as they thought, Ah, Jesus is here. We aren’t helpless and alone anymore.
  • Courage to face their trial. Peter found the boldness to obey Jesus and step out of the boat.
  • Confidence for their future. They realized that Jesus’ presence could not be driven away by the severe winds.

What waves and winds are battering you? Are you afraid? Ask the Lord to reveal His presence in your situation and then to fill your senses with that awareness. Close your eyes and picture Him at your side, holding you tightly. Let your ears hear Him whisper reassurance and love. Fill your mind with the knowledge of His promises, and draw upon the strength, comfort, and courage He offers.

Our Daily Bread — Struggling With Addiction

Our Daily Bread

Hebrews 4:14-16

God is faithful. —1 Corinthians 10:13

Eric was struggling with an addiction, and he knew it. His friends and family members encouraged him to stop. He agreed that it would be best for his health and relationships, but he felt helpless. When others told him how they had quit their bad habits, he replied, “I’m happy for you, but I can’t seem to stop! I wish I had never been tempted in the first place. I want God to take the desire away right now.”

Immediate deliverance may happen for some, but most face a daily battle. While we don’t always understand why the temptation doesn’t go away, we can turn to God on whatever path we find ourselves. And perhaps that is the most important part of our struggle. We learn to exchange our futile efforts to change for complete dependence on God.

Jesus was tempted also, just as we are, so He understands what we’re feeling (Mark 1:13). He sympathizes with our struggles (Heb. 4:15), and we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v.16). He also uses others, including trained professionals, to lean on along the way.

Whatever battles we may be facing today, we know this—God loves us much more than we can imagine, and He is faithful to come to our assistance. —Anne Cetas

For Further Thought

Read Matthew 4:1-11 about how Jesus handled

temptations. Also read 1 Corinthians 10:11-13

to learn how He can help us when we are tempted.

We are not tempted because we are evil; we are tempted because we are human.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 40-41; 2 Peter 3

Insight

The high priest in ancient Israel was the representative of the people before God. The writer of Hebrews draws a distinction between the high priests of Israel and Jesus, our Great High Priest, who came and experienced life on the earth. We can approach Him with confidence, knowing that He truly understands what we face, for He faced it as well.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Being Home

Ravi Z

In the process of moving and reorganizing some bookshelves in the middle of October, I recovered something long out of place. A small Nativity scene carved out of olive wood had been inadvertently left behind from the previous year’s Christmas. Holding it in my hand, I cowered at the thought of digging through boxes in the garage long buried by post-Christmas storage. At this point, it seemed better to be two months early in setting it up than ten months late in packing it away. I decided to keep the carving out.

Strangely enough, my decision then coincided with a friend’s mentioning of a good Christmas quote. Advent was suddenly all around me. In a Christmas sermon given December 2, 1928, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One himself comes down to us, God in the child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes. Christians rejoice!” To be early with my Nativity scene suddenly seemed a wise, but convicting thought. I had kept it around for the sake of convenience, what about the sake of remembering? If Advent reminds us that we are waiting in December, what reminds us that we are waiting in October or February?

The story of the Nativity, though beautiful and familiar, and admittedly far-reaching, is as easily put out of our minds as Christmas decorations are put in boxes. On certain sides of the calendar, a carved Nativity scene looks amiss. Sitting on my mantle in the fall or the spring, it seems somehow away from home, far from lights and greenery, longing for Christmas fanfare. But looking at it with thoughts of Advent near, I am struck by the irony that longing is often precisely my sentiment amidst the burgeoning lights, greens, and fanfare of Christmas.

Bonhoeffer continues, “When once again Christmas comes and we hear the familiar carols and sing the Christmas hymns, something happens to us… The hardest heart is softened. We recall our own childhood. We feel again how we then felt, especially if we were separated from a mother. A kind of homesickness comes over us for past times, distant places, and yes, a blessed longing for a world without violence or hardness of heart. But there is something more—a longing for the safe lodging of the everlasting Father.”(1)

Unlike any other month, December weighs on our souls the gift and the difficulty of waiting. In the cold and in the hymns, I remember that I am troubled in soul and looking for something greater; I remember that I am poor and imperfect and waiting for the God who comes down to us, and I hear again the gentle knock at the door. Like the Nativity scene on my mantle in June or October, I embody a strange hope. I see a home with tears and sorrow, but I also see in this home the signs of a day when tears will be wiped dry. Advent is about waiting for the one who embraced sorrow and body to show us the fullness of being home. It is not December that reminds us we are longing for God to come nearer, but the Nativity of God, the Incarnation of Christ. For each day is touched by the promise that in this very place Jesus has already done so, and that he will again come breaking through, into our world, into our longing, into our sin and deaths.

Every day, despite its location on the calendar, a still, small voice answers our cry persuasively here and now, “Behold. I stand at the door and knock.”

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

(1) Edwin Robertson, Ed., Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005).

Alistair Begg – Complain Less, Give Thanks More

Alistair Begg

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!  Psalm 107:8

If we complained less and were more thankful, we would be happier, and God would be more glorified. Every day thank God for ordinary mercies—we refer to them as ordinary, and yet they are so priceless that without them we are ready to perish. Let us thank God for our eyes with which we see the sun, for the health and strength to walk around, for the bread we eat, for the clothes we wear. Let us thank Him that we are not among the hopeless or confined among the guilty; let us thank Him for liberty, for friends, for family associations and comforts. Let us praise Him, in fact, for everything that we receive from His generous hand, for although we deserve little, He provides an abundance.

The sweetest and the loudest note in our thankful songs should be of redeeming love. God’s redeeming acts toward His chosen are forever the favorite themes of their praise. If we know what redemption means, let us not withhold our hymns of thanksgiving. We have been redeemed from the power of our corruptions, lifted from the depth of sin in which we were naturally plunged. We have been led to the cross of Christ—our shackles of guilt have been removed. We are no longer slaves, but children of the living God, and can anticipate the time when we will be presented before the throne without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

Even now by faith we wrap ourselves in the fair linen that is to be our everlasting array and rehearse our unceasing thankfulness to the Lord our Redeemer. Child of God, can you remain silent? Stir yourselves with thoughts of your inheritance, and lead your captivity captive, crying with David, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”1 Let this new month begin with new songs.

1) Psalm 103:1

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The family reading plan for December 1, 2014 * Micah 6 * Luke 15

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

Charles Spurgeon – Free-will—a slave

CharlesSpurgeon

“And ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” John 5:40

Suggested Further Reading: John 6:60-65

It is certain that men will not come unto Christ, that they might have life. We might prove this from many texts of Scripture, but we will take one parable. You remember the parable where a certain king had a feast for his son, and invited a great number to come; the oxen and fatlings were killed, and he sent his messengers inviting many to the supper. Did they go to the feast? No; but they all, with one accord, began to make excuse. One said he had married a wife, and therefore he could not come, whereas he might have brought her with him. Another had bought a yoke of oxen, and went to prove them; but the feast was in the night-time and he could not prove his oxen in the dark. Another had bought a piece of land, and wanted to see it; but I should not think he went to see it with a lantern. So they all made excuses and would not come. Well the king was determined to have the feast; so he said, “Go into the highways and hedges,” and invite them—stop! Not invite—“compel them to come in;” for even the ragged fellows in the hedges would never have come unless they were compelled. Take another parable; a certain man had a vineyard; at the appointed season he sent one of his servants for his rent. What did they do to him? They beat that servant. He sent another; and they stoned him. He sent another and they killed him. And, at last, he said “I will send them my son, they will reverence him.” But what did they do? They said, “This is the heir, let us kill him, and cast him out of the vineyard.” So they did. It is the same with all men by nature. The Son of God came, yet men rejected him.

For meditation: When you thank God for your salvation, do you give him all the credit for your conversion as well (John 15:16)?

Sermon no. 52

1 December (Preached 2 December 1855)

John MacArthur – The Preeminence of Christ

John MacArthur

“God . . . has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1-3).

Christ is superior to everyone and everything.

The book of Hebrews was addressed to an audience composed of Jewish Christians, Jewish non-Christians who were intellectually convinced about Jesus but hadn’t yet committed themselves to Him, and Jewish non-Christians who didn’t believe the gospel at all.

The author’s goal was to demonstrate Christ’s superiority over everyone and everything that had preceded Him, whether Old Testament persons, institutions, rituals, or sacrifices. He specifically contrasted Christ with angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron and his priesthood, the Old Covenant, and the sacrificial system.

The Jewish believers needed this focus on Christ’s superiority because most of them were suffering some form of persecution because of their Christian testimony. Some were in danger of confusing the gospel with Jewish ceremonies and legalism, and drifting back into their former practices.

Those who were intellectually convinced but spiritually uncommitted needed to be warned not to stop at that point, but to go all the way to saving faith. They were in danger of committing the greatest sin any person can commit: rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Those who didn’t believe in Christ as all needed to see that Jesus was in fact who He claimed to be. To such people the author explains the unique priesthood of Christ, and the urgency of turning to Him in faith.

Within your circle of friends and associates, you probably have Christians who are weak of faith and need your encouragement and instruction. Be available to minister to them whenever possible.

Undoubtedly you also know people who are intellectually convinced that Jesus is who He claimed to be, but aren’t willing to embrace Him as their Lord. Don’t be shy about urging them to move on to salvation.

To those who reject Christ outright, boldly proclaim the gospel and trust the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts.

Suggestion for Prayer; Praise Christ for His preeminence and surpassing grace.

For Further Study; Read Hebrews 1-2. To whom does the writer compare Christ? Be specific.

Joyce Meyer – What Causes Content?

Joyce meyer

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. —Romans 15:13

In my search for content I have discovered four things we must eliminate from our lives in order to be content.

The number one problem that leads to feelings of discontent is greed. Have you ever known someone who just could not be content no matter how much they had? I was once like this myself. Of course, I didn’t think of it at the time as being greedy; I just always wanted more than I had. We must learn to enjoy where we are in each area of life, while we are on the way to where we are going. This means we can find our satisfaction in Him while we are on our way to the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams.

I also believe fear causes many of us to be unhappy and discontent. We are afraid we will not get what we desire, and this causes us to be impatient. Over time, I have learned that I could do the things God wanted me to do, and I could trust in and wait on His perfect timing to bring to me those things that He knew were best for me.

Once we learn to trust God and step out even though we’re afraid, God will provide the courage and boldness we need to overcome our fear. Lack of trust in God is another cause of discontent, but simply trusting in God brings us into a place of rest, joy, and peace.

Looking for contentment in all the wrong places is my fourth reason for discontent. Don’t make the mistake of looking for contentment in things. If you do, the result will be that you will never find it. You will never be truly satisfied.

The answer to our frustration comes when we receive revelation that our satisfaction must be in Jesus and in His will and timing for our lives. When we are in a hurry to find contentment, it doesn’t make God hurry. He has a plan, and only trusting Him will allow us to enjoy it.

Trust in Him Are you content? Trust God and find satisfaction in Him, and you will be content and have peace.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Strength and Peace

dr_bright

“He will give His people strength. He will bless them with peace” (Psalm 29:11).

Scott, a professing atheist with the morals of an alley cat, insisted that he had peace in his heart. Though rare, it is possible for people to harden their hearts so much that God ceases to draw them to Himself, and they experience a counterfeit peace.

The psalmist, of course, is talking about a different kind of peace. Ocean voyagers in the storm are at peace because they know the ship is sound and the pilot is skillful. In the same way, we as believers are at peace because we serve God who gives His people strength and blesses them with peace.

“His people,” of course, refers to those who have placed their trust and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior. None other may claim such a wonderful promise.

Significantly, “strength” comes before “peace.” This is God’s strength: “Who would certainly fail without it. Then this very same strength results in peace, God’s peace “that passes all understanding.”

God’s strength enables us to contend with the powers of darkness, within the world and within our own natural depravity.

Peace, the great blessing of the gospel is two-fold:

Peace with God through Christ, and

Peace of mind.

Strength and peace to live the abundant, supernatural life is available to all His people. You may claim your share today by faith.

Bible Reading: Psalm 71:9-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:> Those two great blessings, strength and peace, will be mine today in direct proportion to my faith and trust in Him, who is my peace.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Prepare and Press On

ppt_seal01

In the weeks since America’s midterm elections, men and women who’ve won hard-fought campaigns are preparing to take their oath of office. What thoughts must go through their minds as they transition from political pugilist to lawmaker?

Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 1:5

One might well imagine the realigning thoughts of God’s man Joshua as he shifted from aide to commander, from assistant to leader of the people of Israel. Just as today’s politicians can rely on the experiences of others who have gone before them, Joshua had God’s promise of His presence, just as He’d been there for Moses.

In the same way that Joshua told the people to prepare, the Lord has given guidance to you for today and tomorrow, and the promise of His eternal presence. His instruction to Joshua to follow His teachings is the same directive He gives you. Finally, just as Joshua needed courage to enter a land he didn’t know, it may take courage for you to trust for the success of these new lawmakers as they enter Congress’ oft-divided hall. As you pray this month, repeatedly ask God to help each new senator and representative as they press on.

Recommended Reading: Joshua 1:1-11

Greg Laurie – Temporary Unknowns   

greglaurie

We see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. —1 Corinthians 13:12

The Bible tells us that one day, in heaven, we will know as we are known (see 1 Corinthians 13:12).

For the time being, I don’t have a complete knowledge of life beyond this life. The fact of the matter is, there’s so much about the person of God, His ways, and His dwelling place that I don’t know. But one day in a new body, I will see Him face-to-face, and all of my questions will be answered.

The apostle Paul had a remarkable experience in which he died and then was revived (see Acts 14:19-20). This wasn’t a near-death experience; Paul literally died. But he didn’t write a book about it or go on the talk show circuit. He basically said, “I was caught up into the third heaven and heard things that I can’t even describe to you, but it was paradise” (see 2 Corinthians 12:2). That’s all he would say.

It does appear, however, that we will recognize one another in heaven. After all, when Moses and Elijah met with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples recognized them immediately. So you might ask, “How will I know you if I’m looking for you?” Well, look for the guy with the full head of brand-new hair. That will be me.

Yes, someday very soon we will be with the Lord. And though we don’t know a great deal about heaven now, we can be sure its reality will exceed our wildest dreams. We will see the Lord, and we will see one another. And all of the mysteries will be solved.

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from Every Day with Jesus by Greg Laurie, 2013

Max Lucado – On Your Knees

Max Lucado

A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps. You can enter the main edifice and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave, where a star embedded in the floor recognizes the birth of the King. There is one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t enter standing up., at the birth of Jesus. . .while the theologians were sleeping and the elite were dreaming and the successful were snoring…the meek were kneeling. They were kneeling before the One only the meek will see. They were kneeling in front of Jesus!

The same is true of the Christ. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness the Savior, you have to get on your knees! So, at the birth of Jesus. . .while the theologians were sleeping and the elite were dreaming and the successful were snoring…the meek were kneeling. They were kneeling before the One only the meek will see. They were kneeling in front of Jesus!

In this day of Advent, this is Max Lucado.

From In the Manger