Charles Stanley – An Anchor in the Tempest

Charles Stanley

Hebrews 13:5-9

W hat do you do when the storms of life come? To whom do you turn? Where do you seek comfort and security during tumultuous times?

We all realize that storms will come and go unexpectedly throughout life. Yet even when struggles throw us off balance, the Word of God assures us that we can maintain a steady footing, regardless of the circumstances. How do we do that?

There is an amazing truth in the Bible that, once you take hold of it, will keep you steady during even the most trying of situations. That anchor for the storms of life is simply this: Jesus Christ never changes.

You might wonder, What is meant by “anchor”? Think about it this way: Every single thing in your life—career, relationships, finances—is in a constant state of flux. In fact, you yourself are growing, learning, and developing every day. There is nothing anyone can do to stop this continual change. So, if we try to hold tight to things like resources, friends, abilities, or prestige during times of hardship, we can’t keep from being pulled one way or another. Why? Because we have affixed ourselves to something that is itself moving. We have chosen a foundation that isn’t stable.

However, when we fix our hopes in Christ, we can be sure that the anchor will hold. He isn’t moving, changing, or leaving. Regardless of all the things in life that can morph and shift, He is the same as He always has been. Jesus is the only sure footing in an unstable world. And He can keep you steady, too.

Our Daily Bread — Whose Side Are You On?

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 73

It is good for me to draw near to God. —Psalm 73:28

In the heat of the American Civil War, one of President Lincoln’s advisors said he was grateful that God was on the side of the Union. Lincoln replied, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

What a great challenge for us who assume that God is there to support our plans, our perspectives, our decisions, and our desires. However, Lincoln’s reply reminds us that even our best plans may not be near to what God desires.

Clearly the psalmist wants to be on God’s side when he pleads, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; . . . and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). When we follow the psalmist’s example to “draw near to God” (73:28), we can be certain that we are on His side, as His Spirit helps us measure every thought and action by His ways that are always right.

So, let’s ask ourselves: Are we on the Lord’s side? Being on His side means that we will reflect His love to the world around us in the way we interact with others. We will forgive, treat others justly, and seek peace. God’s ways are always best. —Joe Stowell

Father, teach us to search Your ways so that we may

know how to be on Your side of the critical issues in life.

Thank You that when we draw near to You, You draw

near to us with gifts of wisdom and discernment.

When you draw near to God, you are sure to be on His side.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 45-46; 1 John 2

Insight

Embittered by the prosperity of the wicked and his own suffering, Asaph complained of life’s unfairness. When reminded of God’s presence, providence, and provision in his life (Ps. 73:23-26) and the punishment awaiting the wicked (vv.18-19,27), Asaph reaffirmed his trust in God and drew near to Him (v.28).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –    The Season of Enough

Ravi Z

Black Friday is the name Americans have given the day after Thanksgiving, though the concept has caught on in Canada and Europe. It is called “black” because store-keepers know it as the time of year when sales move further into the black and farther into profit margins. “Cyber Monday” is a clever addition to the frenzied consumer holiday, luring black Friday shoppers and their less adventurous counterparts to continue their purchasing online. Whether in-store or online, steep sales and loud advertisements evoke both buyer and seller competition and make for frenzied scenes. Those who watch as bystanders still sense the fervor that begins on Black Friday and continues in a hectic race until Christmas. When everyone around you seems to be running, standing still is easier said than done.

Each year the commencement of the Christmas shopping season overshadows the commencement of a far quieter season. The season of Advent signals the coming of Christmas for Christians, though not in the way that Black Friday signals the coming of the same. “Advent is about the spirituality of emptiness,” writes Joan Chittister, “of enough-ness, of stripped-down fullness of soul.” It is a far cry from the hustle of the holidays that is a race for storing things up. Speed-hoarding through the days of Christmas preparation, Christmas itself even becomes somewhat anticlimactic. “Long before December 25th everyone is worn out,” said C.S. Lewis more than 50 years ago, “—physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making… They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.”(1) Quite the opposite, Advent is a season meant to slow us down, to open windows of awareness and health, to trigger consciousness. It is about finding the kind of quiet mystery and the sort of expectant emptiness that can offer a place for the fullness of God as an infant among us.

Of course, for even the quietest of hearts, this God who becomes human, the incarnate Christ, is still a disruptive mystery. But mystery, like beauty and truth, is well worth stillness, wonder, and contemplation. And this mystery—the gift of a God who steps into the world he created—is rich enough to make the most distracted souls stop and wait. As H.G. Wells said of Jesus, “He was like some terrible moral huntsman digging mankind out of the snug burrows in which they had lived hitherto.”(2) “Let anyone with ears listen!” said Jesus repeatedly throughout his life on earth. “But to what will I compare this generation?” he added. “It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’”(3) You and I can open our minds to hear the great and unsearchable things we do not know, things like the Incarnation that we may never fully understand but are always compelled to encounter further. Or we can look for all of Christmas to correspond with societal whims and unconscious distractions, cultural debates about what we call or don’t call the season, arguments about public billboards and private mangers.

Christ will come regardless! The hope of Advent is that it is always possible to make room for him. Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman who composed a remarkable series of journals in the darkest years of Nazi occupation before she died in Auschwitz, wrote, “[S]ometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”(4) Advent can be this simple; the invitation of Christ this simple. Let anyone with ears open them. Contemplating Christmas need not mean Christmas wars or lists and budgets, endless labor, fretful commotion, canned happiness.

Advent, after all, is about the riches of being empty-handed and crying “Enough.” Enough stuff. Enough chaos. Enough injustice and hatred. Enough death and despair. That is a disruptively countercultural posture: empty-handed, so that we can fully hold the mystery before us and nothing less; empty-handed, like the God who came down from heaven without riches or power, but meek and small—full, expectant, and enough.

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

(1) C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 305.

(2) Herbert George Wells, The Outline of History: being a plain history of life and mankind (New york: MacMillan, 1921), 505.

(3) Matthew 11:15-17.

(4) Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries 1941-1943 (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1983), 93.

Alistair Begg – For Them, In Them, By Them

Alistair Begg

Behold, all is vanity.   Psalms 24:8

God is glorious in the eyes of His people, since He has worked such wonders for them, in them, and by them. For them, the Lord Jesus upon Calvary defeated every foe, breaking all the weapons of the enemy in pieces by His finished work of satisfactory obedience; by His triumphant resurrection and ascension He completely overturned the hopes of hell, leading captivity captive, making a show of our enemies openly, triumphing over them by His cross. Every arrow of guilt that Satan might have shot at us is broken, for who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Vain are the sharp swords of infernal malice and the perpetual battles of the serpent’s seed, for among God’s people the lame take the prey, and the feeblest warriors are crowned.

Believers will also worship the Lord Jesus for His conquests in them, since the arrows of their natural hatred are snapped, and the weapons of their rebellion are broken. What victories grace has won in our evil hearts! How glorious is Jesus when the will is subdued and sin dethroned! As for our remaining corruptions, they will sustain an equally sure defeat, and every temptation and doubt and fear will be completely destroyed. In the sanctuary of our peaceful hearts, the name of Jesus is great beyond compare: He has won our love, and He shall wear it. In equal measure we may look for victories by us.

We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. We will cast down the powers of darkness that are in the world by our faith and zeal and holiness; we will win sinners to Jesus; we will overturn false systems; we will convert nations. For God is with us, and none shall stand against us. This evening let the Christian warrior sing the war song and prepare for tomorrow’s fight. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

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The family reading plan for December 3, 2014 * Micah 1 * Luke 17

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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 – Consolation in Christ

CharlesSpurgeon

“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies.” Philippians 2:1

Suggested Further Reading: John 16:7-15

The Holy Spirit, during the present dispensation, is revealed to us as the Comforter. It is the Spirit’s business to console and cheer the hearts of God’s people. He does convince of sin; he does illuminate and instruct; but still the main part of his business lies in making glad the hearts of the renewed, in confirming the weak, and lifting up all those that be bowed down. Whatever the Holy Spirit may not be, he is evermore the Comforter to the church; and this age is peculiarly the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in which Christ cheers us not by his personal presence, as he shall do by-and-by, but by the indwelling and constant abiding of the Holy Spirit the Comforter. Now, mark you, as the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, Christ is the comfort. The Holy Spirit consoles, but Christ is the consolation. If I may use the figure, the Holy Spirit is the Physician, but Christ is the medicine. He heals the wound, but it is by applying the holy ointment of Christ’s name and grace. He takes not of his own things, but of the things of Christ. We are not consoled today by new revelations, but by the old revelation explained, enforced, and lit up with new splendour by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit the Comforter. If we give to the Holy Spirit the Greek name of Paraclete, as we sometimes do, then our heart confers on our blessed Lord Jesus the title of the Paraclesis. If the one be the Comforter, the other is the comfort.

For meditation: Many of the errors taught about God the Holy Spirit would come to nothing if God’s people understood the Scriptural teaching on the relationships between the three persons of the Trinity. May the Holy Spirit help us to grow in the knowledge of the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3).

Sermon no. 348

3 December (Preached 2 December 1860)

John MacArthur –Penetrating the Box

John MacArthur

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

Man can’t discover God on his own; God must reveal Himself to man.

Since the beginning of time, man has deceived himself by thinking he can discover God through various religions. But in reality, man lives in a box enclosed within the walls of time and space. God is outside the box, and man senses He’s there but can’t get to Him. Each new religion is but another futile attempt to penetrate the walls of the box and catch a glimpse of God.

Man’s only hope is for God to enter the box, which Hebrews 1:1-2 declares He did: first by letter (the Old Testament), then in person (in Jesus Christ). Regarding God’s Word David said, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). Jeremiah added, “The Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth'” (Jer. 1:9). Of Christ, the apostle John said, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:14, 18).

The irony of people thinking they can discover God on their own is that apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading, no one really wants to find Him. They merely want to add a cosmic good luck charm to their lives or satiate their guilty consciences. Paul said, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Rom. 3:10-11, emphasis added).

God could have left us in our sin and ignorance, but He penetrated the box and revealed everything we need to know for redemption and fellowship with Him. What a privilege we have to study His Word and live by its principles! Be diligent to do so each day.

Suggestion for Prayer; Praise God for granting you the ability to appreciate His Word.

For Further Study; Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, noting how natural (unregenerate) people respond to divine revelation.

Joyce Meyer – An Inheritance of Peace

Joyce meyer

Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.—John 14:27

The word bequeath in this verse is a term used in the execution of wills. In preparation for death, people usually bequeath their possessions, especially those things of value, as a blessing to those they love who are left behind.

Jesus knew He was about to pass from this world and He wanted to leave us something. He could have left any number of good things, like His power and His name, and He did. But He also left us His peace.

You don’t leave junk for people you love—you leave them the best you have. Jesus had a special kind of peace that surpassed anything mankind had ever known. He knew it was one of the most precious things He could give. Ask for and receive your inheritance tonight!

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Recipe for Growth

dr_bright

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2, KJV).

Sam was very impatient with himself. Though he was a new Christian, he could not understand why he was not as spiritual as some of the other students who had walked with the Lord for several years.

I explained to him the Christian life, like physical life, involves a process of growth. A person begins as a baby and goes through various stages of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood to reach Christian maturity. Very few, if any, Christians, I explained to him, become spiritually mature overnight.

Lane Adams, a beloved colleague, gifted teacher, preacher and author, said, “I shrink inside when I think of the times I have mounted the pulpit, recited the conversion experience of the apostle Paul, and then indicated that he went out and turned the world upside down for Jesus Christ immediately.”

He continued, “This simply was not the case. There is a difference of opinion among scholars concerning New Testament dating, but it seems rather plain that many years went by before the Holy Spirit laid the dramatic burden on Paul as a missionary of the cross.”

If you strongly desire to serve the Lord in some particular way, such as teaching, ask the Holy Spirit in faith to empower you to become an effective teacher. Now, it may be that the Holy Spirit will see fit to make you a great teacher overnight, but this is most unlikely. So if it does not happen, do not be discouraged. Have faith!

Continue to ask and believe that the Holy Spirit will make you an effective teacher of the Word of God and be willing to work hardand long to develop your natural ability. The Bible reminds us that “faith without works is useless.”

If we are unique members of the Body of Christ, and we are, if we possess special tasks to accomplish, and we do, then the Holy Spirit will empower us to carry out those tasks. God does indeed have a plan for each of our lives. And He gives us the direction and power of His Holy Spirit to accomplish that plan as we continue to trust and obey Him.

Bible Reading: 2 Peter 3:14-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Recognizing that I am in the process of maturing spiritually, I shall seek to accelerate my spiritual growth by hiding the Word of God in my heart, spending time in prayer, walking in the Spirit and sharing my faith in Christ with others as a way of life.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Act Two

ppt_seal01

The characters – a young, pregnant Jewish girl and her new husband. The setting – a dingy stable. The scene – the smell of animals permeates the air as the Savior of the world is born and placed in a manger. When the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah, no one expected His arrival to be like this. God often uses the unlikely to fulfill His purposes.

But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

Exodus 9:16

In today’s passage, God used Pharaoh for His plan. When Moses asked for the release of his people, “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” (Exodus 9:12) In doing so, the Lord was able to display His power. Since God is “the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8) you can be certain He still uses the unlikely to accomplish His will.

As the curtain falls on 2014, you may be wondering what the new year holds for America. Remember, the Lord is in control and can use even the most implausible circumstances to reveal His glory. Ask God to help you recognize His hand in the future, and pray for your nation and its leaders to turn back to Him.

Recommended Reading: Exodus 12:21-32

Greg Laurie – The Problem with Self-Esteem   

greglaurie

The second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. —Mark 12:30–31

When Scripture says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” it is not saying, “First learn to love yourself, and then love your neighbor.” Rather, it is saying, “It is obvious you already love yourself. Love your neighbor in the same way.” It is this love of self, this obsession with self, that gets us into trouble. We don’t need a better self-image. We don’t need greater self-esteem. And we certainly don’t need more self-love.

But here is what we do need. Jesus said “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Notice that He did not say, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him esteem himself ” or “let him love himself.” Rather, Jesus said, “Let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” In the original language, the word deny means “to repudiate, to disdain, to disown, to forfeit, to totally disregard.” That is not an easy thing to do.

So in reality, the basic problem in our lives is not our spouse. It is not our boss. It is not our neighbors. It is not our upbringing. It is not low self-esteem. And it is not a poor self-image. It is the overt love of ourselves. Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18-19).

So here is what it comes down to: the ultimate choice in life is between pleasing ourselves and pleasing God.

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

Max Lucado – Just Call Him Jesus

Max Lucado

God’s plan for humanity…it was crafted in the halls of heaven and carried out on the plains of earth. Only holiness could have imagined it. Only divinity could have enacted it. Only righteousness could have endured it.

When God chose to reveal himself, he did so through a human body. The hand that touched the leper had dirt under its nails. The feet upon which the women wept were calloused and dusty. And his tears—oh, don’t miss His tears. They came from a heart as broken as yours or mine has ever been.

So people came to him! Not one person was reluctant to approach him for fear of being rejected. Remember that the next time you find yourself amazed at your own failures! Or the next time you hear a lifeless liturgy. Remember. It’s man who creates the distance. It’s Jesus who builds the bridge!

From In the Manger