Charles Stanley – A Fresh Encounter With God

Charles Stanley

Isaiah 6:1-9

We live in busy times. For many Christians, sadly, church is an item on their checklist, and they think attending a service fulfills their “spiritual duty.” As a result, God seems distant, so they feel unexcited about His work in their lives and lack compassion for the unsaved. Such believers find it easy to start acting in a worldly manner.

But the heavenly Father desires an intimate relationship with His children. As in Bible times, He still has personal encounters with His people—sometimes to comfort or encourage, at other times to guide or convict of sin.

In today’s passage, the prophet Isaiah wrote of such a meeting with the Lord. His reaction to the holiness of God’s presence was a profound recognition of his own sin: “I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips . . . ; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (v. 5).

As the prophet experienced, when God reveals His presence to us, we are likely to be overwhelmed with awe and a sense of our unworthiness. Then, as we humbly respond in repentance or obedience, we, too, will know that our sins have been forgiven (v. 7).

We cannot manipulate or create divine encounters, but we make them possible by being available to God. Are you spending time with the Lord, praying and reading His Word? Or has life become too busy and your spiritual walk too mechanical?

Ask God for a personal encounter with Him. Spend time praising the Lord, confessing sin, and surrendering all areas of your life to Him. Then expectantly watch for Him.

Our Daily Bread — Called By Name

Our Daily Bread

Luke 19:1-10

[Jesus] looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” —Luke 19:5

At the beginning of the academic year, a school principal in our city pledged to learn the names of all 600 students in her school. Anyone who doubted her ability or resolve could look at her track record. During the previous year she had learned the names of 700 students, and prior to that, 400 children in a different school. Think of what it must have meant to these students to be recognized and greeted by name.

The story of Zacchaeus and Jesus (Luke 19:1-10) contains a surprising element of personal recognition. As Jesus passed through the city of Jericho, a wealthy tax collector named Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to see Him. “When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house’” (v.5). Instead of ignoring Zacchaeus or saying “Hey, you in the tree,” Jesus called him by name. From that moment on, his life began to change.

When it seems that no one knows you or cares who you are, remember Jesus. He knows us by name and longs for us to know Him in a personal way. Our Father in heaven sees us through His eyes of love and cares about every detail of our lives. —David McCasland

Father, thank You that my value in Your eyes is not

determined by what I do but simply by the fact that You

created me. Help me to recognize that same value in

others as I represent You to the world.

Jesus knows you by name and longs for you to know Him.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 47-48; 1 John 3

Insight

First-century tax collectors were hated by the people of Israel because they were seen as collaborators with the occupying Romans. Tax collectors often became wealthy at the expense of their own people. As a result, they were considered defiled and impure. This is ironic, for the tax collector mentioned here is named Zacchaeus, which means “pure.”

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Where God Is

Ravi Z

In a certain town there lived a cobbler, Martin Avdeitch by name. He lived in a small basement room whose one window looked out onto the street, and all he could see were the feet of people passing by. But since there was hardly a pair of boots that had not been in his hands at one time for repair, Martin recognized each person by his shoes. Day after day, he would work in his shop, watching boots pass by. One day he found himself consumed with the hope of a dream that he would find the Lord’s feet outside his window. Instead, he found a lingering pair of worn boots belonging to an old soldier. Though at first disappointed, Martin realized the old man might be hungry and invited him inside to a warm fire and some tea. He had other visitors that evening, and though sadly none were Christ, he let them in also. Sitting down at the end of day, Martin heard a voice whisper his name as he read the words: “I was hungry and you gave me meat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in. Inasmuch as you did for the least of these, you did unto me.”(1)

Every Christmas, our family reads the story of Martin the Cobbler as an aid to our celebration. Tolstoy’s words offer something of a creative attempt to capture the wonder of a God who comes near and helps us picture the gift of Christ among us in accessible terms. Notably, the story was originally titled, Where God Is, Love Is.

The Christian story that informs the Christian calendar gives its followers time and opportunity to remember the coming of Christ in a specific context—in Bethlehem, in the Nativity, in the first Christmas. But it also presents repeated opportunities and reminders to prepare for the coming of Christ again and again. Like Martin eagerly waiting at the window, the Christian worldview is one that asks of every day of every year: How will Christ come near today? Will I wait for him? Am I ready for him? Am I even expecting to find him? We are reminded to keep watch, to be prepared, and to continually ready our hearts and minds for the one who is already near. At the same time, the Christian story would also have us to remember how unexpectedly Christ at times appears—as a baby in Bethlehem, a man on a cross, as a woman in need.

In the book of Titus, we read that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people.” How and where will grace show up this week? In order to stay alert to the rich possibilities, perhaps we need to keep before us the radical thought of all that God has offered: a Christ child who comes down to us, a redeemer willing to die for us, a God willing to redefine what is near—all so that we might be where God is. Christianity is not an escape system for us to avoid reality, to live above it, or to be able to redefine it. Christianity is a way that leads the world to grasp what reality is and, by God’s grace and help, to navigate through it to our eternal home in God’s presence.

The story God has given indeed feeds the hungry, takes in the stranger, and orients the resident alien who is ever-looking homeward. The focus of Christ’s coming is the message of Immanuel—God is with us. The focus of Christ’s earthly ministry is the declaration of the cross—God is for us. And the focus of Christ’s resurrection is the promise of a future and his imminent return—God will bring us safely home. Until then, God is among us, even when it seems most unlikely.

Stuart McAllister is regional director of the Americas at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Story told in Leo Tolstoy’s, Walk in the Light While There Is Light and Twenty-three Tales (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003).

 

Alistair Begg – Groaning for Redemption

Alistair Begg

We ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.   Romans 8:23

This groaning is common among God’s people: To a greater or lesser extent we all feel it. It is not the groan of murmuring or complaint: It is a note of desire rather than of distress. Having received a deposit, we desire the rest of our portion; we are sighing that our entire manhood, in its trinity of spirit, soul, and body, may be set free from the last trace of the Fall; we long to discard the rags of corruption, weakness, and dishonor and to be clothed with incorruption, immortality, glory—the spiritual body that the Lord Jesus will bestow upon His people.

We long for the manifestation of our adoption as the children of God. “We . . . groan,” but it is “inwardly.” It is not the hypocrite’s groan, by which he would make men believe that he is a saint because he is wretched. Our sighs are sacred things, too holy and too personal for us to broadcast. We keep our longings for our Lord to ourselves. Then the apostle says we “wait,” by which we learn that we are not to be petulant, like Jonah or Elijah when they said, “Let me die”; nor are we to whimper and sigh for the end of life because we are tired of work or wish to escape from our present sufferings till the will of the Lord is done. We are to groan for glorification, but we are to wait patiently for it, knowing that what the Lord appoints is best.

Waiting implies being ready. We are to stand at the door expecting the Beloved to open it and take us away to Himself. This groaning is a test. You can learn a lot about a man by what he groans after. Some men groan after wealth—they worship money; some groan continually under the troubles of life—they are merely impatient. But the man who sighs after God, who is uneasy until he is made like Christ—that is the blessed man. May God help us to groan for the coming of the Lord and the resurrection that He will bring to us.

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The family reading plan for December 4, 2014 * Nahum 2 * Luke 18

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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 – Dilemma and deliverance

CharlesSpurgeon

“Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” Psalm 9:10

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 23

If we could but once believe the doctrine that the child of God might fall from grace and perish everlastingly, we might, indeed, shut up our Bible in despair. To what purpose would my preaching be—the preaching of a rickety gospel like that? To what purpose your faith—a faith in a God that cannot and would not carry on to the end? To what use the blood of Christ, if it were shed in vain, and did not bring the blood-bought ones securely home? To what purpose the Spirit, if he were not omnipotent enough to overcome our wandering, to arrest our sins and make us perfect, and present us faultless before the throne of God at last? That doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints is, I believe, as thoroughly bound up with the standing or falling of the gospel, as is the article of justification by faith. Give that up and I see no gospel left; I see no beauty in religion that is worthy of my acceptance, or that deserves my admiration. An unchanging God, an everlasting covenant, a sure mercy, these are the things that my soul delights in, and I know your hearts love to feed upon them. But take these away, and what have we? We have a foundation of wood, hay, straw, and stubble. We have nothing solid. We have a fort of earthworks, a mud hovel through which the thief may break and steal away our treasures. No, this foundation stands sure —“The Lord knoweth them that are his;” and he will certainly bring them all to his right hand at last in glory everlasting.

For meditation: If the truly converted man can be lost, Jesus must have meant “lend” when he said “give”, “temporary” when he said “eternal” and “perhaps” when he said “never” (John 10:28). Uncertainty is the hallmark of man-made religion.

Sermon no. 287

4 December (1859)

John MacArthur –Progressive Revelation

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).

The Old Testament is but a sample of what is revealed in the New Testament.

When Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets [the Old Testament]; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17), He was affirming that Scripture progressed from promise to fulfillment, from partial to complete. We call that progressive revelation.

For example, the Old Testament anticipated Christ’s coming; the New Testament records His coming. The Old Testament writers didn’t understand everything they wrote because it didn’t always apply to their day. That’s why Peter said, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

Progressive revelation doesn’t at all imply that the Old Testament is inaccurate. The distinction isn’t in the rightness or wrongness of the revelation, but in its completeness. Just as a child progresses from letters to words to sentences, so God’s revelation progressed from types, ceremonies, and prophecies to final completion in Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

Thought incomplete by New Testament standards, the Old Testament is nonetheless fully inspired by God. That’s affirmed often in the New Testament. Peter tells us that no human writer of the Old Testament wrote of his own will, but only as he was directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). Paul added that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).

The Old Testament isn’t all of God’s truth, but all of it is true. And as you progress from the Old to the New, you see God’s character and redemptive plan unfolding in greater detail.

Suggestion for Prayer; Praise God for the fullness of revelation you enjoy in Scripture.

For Further Study; Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Joyce Meyer – All Things Work for Good

Joyce meyer

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.—Romans 8:28

After John 3:16, Romans 8:28 is probably the most quoted Bible verse among Christians. Paul’s words bring comfort and peace to many of us in our difficulties and hardships. They give us hope that no matter what hurts and disappointments come in our lives, everything will eventually work out for our good.

The two verses preceding Romans 8:28 talk about prayer. They say that when we don’t know how to pray as we ought to, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid and prays through us. It is through these Holy Spirit-filled prayers that all things work together for good, no matter what they are. Not all things that happen to us are good in and of themselves, but God is good and He can cause them to work toward our good if we trust Him.

Continuing to trust God is the key to victory in painful and seemingly unjust situations. Faith and prayer move the hand of God. If we continue believing, He promises to continue moving in our behalf to work everything out for good. God makes this promise to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We must love God with all of our hearts, and we must want His will. We must be willing to submit to His plan at all times.

The plan that God has for us eventually changes us into His image. We are destined to be molded into His image. That may sound spiritual, but in reality, it usually hurts. I often think of clay being pressed into a mold, and wonder how the clay would feel if it had feelings. Being changed into an entirely different shape would probably be painful. If we take a lump of clay and press it into a mold, there is always too much clay to fit, and some pieces must be discarded. I found that there was more of me than would fit into the mold of Jesus Christ, so many of my thoughts, words, and actions had to be discarded.

We must go through things that are difficult and learn how to respond to them the way Jesus would. We must not give way to the fearful thoughts and feelings that attack us. We must learn to remain steadfast, knowing that no matter how things appear now, God will work them out for our good, ¬and in the process, He will use them to make us better people.

God’s purpose in everything that happens is to make us more like Jesus Christ. Jesus was the totally obedient one. Although He was a Son, He learned [active, special] obedience through what He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

We also learn through what we suffer. We learn from God’s Word and life’s experiences. Because of our sinful nature, we tend to fight God at every point, but this only makes the process longer and more painful. Learn to surrender quickly, and save yourself a lot of agony. I’ve learned that God gets His way in the end, so why prolong the process?

Where the mind goes the man follows. Keep your mind going in the right direction, and your life will catch up with it. A person who has their faith firmly planted in God cannot be defeated. The Bible says that Joseph’s brothers hated him, but God was with him. God gave him favor and promoted him, so we see that his faith in God lifted him above his circumstances.

Some terrible things happened to Joseph. His brothers sold him to slave traders and told his father a wild animal had killed him. He was betrayed by those whom he served and tried to help, but God was watching him all the time. God had a good plan for Joseph, and it came to pass. He ultimately said that although the things that happened to him were originally meant for harm, God intended it for good.

This same thing is true for all of us. Satan cannot defeat us if we keep believing that God is working for our good, and that we are being continually transformed into His image.

All wise and loving God, make me more like Jesus. I don’t like to suffer, and I hate to fail, but through Jesus Christ, I ask You to teach me and enable me to understand that, because of You, everything truly works together for my good. Amen.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Watch Your Intentions

 

ppt_seal01Phrases such as, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” gives “good intentions” a bad connotation. “At least they had good intentions” usually isn’t a compliment. But good deeds begin primarily with a heart and mind set on doing God’s will. Despite the evil crime Joseph’s brothers committed by selling Joseph into slavery, the Lord intended it for Israel’s deliverance.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.

Genesis 50:20

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Intend to do good this holiday season by planning acts of kindness; carry through with your intentions. How can you use your talents, abilities and possessions to help someone? Holidays are often stressful. An extra dose of patience and kindness might be all a person needs to get them through the day.

Pray to the Lord that, like He did with Joseph and Israel, He will turn the bad things in your life and in this nation for the good. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

Recommended Reading: Luke 6:37-49

Greg Laurie – The Role of Faith

greglaurie

He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. —Mark 6:5–6

There is no question that faith is a key element in effective prayer. On one occasion, Jesus could not do many miracles in a certain place because of the unbelief of the people there. That place was Nazareth, which happened to be His hometown. He had done miracles in other places, but not in Nazareth. And it was because of their unbelief.

Our faith does play a part in the work of God. Sadly, there has been a distortion of this truth by false teachers who say that we make things happen, that faith is a type of force we just need to use. In an effort to counter this extreme teaching, we may swing too far the other way and end up with no faith at all.

There is a place for having faith and believing the promises in God’s Word. When people ask me to pray for them to be healed, I do. But I always add, “Lord, if You have another purpose that we don’t know about, then not our will, but Yours, be done.” I think we need as much faith as we can muster when we come before God with our requests. But I appreciate the honesty of the man who said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). I believe God will honor that.

When you pray, “Lord, this seems to be Your will from my understanding of Scripture. . . I believe, Lord, but help my unbelief. . . and if You have another plan, then just overrule it,” that is a proper way to bring something before the throne of God.

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

Max Lucado – God Came Near

Max Lucado

It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment. God became a man! Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb. Jesus came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were un-manicured, calloused, and dirty. For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. Weak and weary; and afraid of failure. His feelings got hurt.

To think of Jesus in such a light seems almost irreverent. There’s something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant and predictable. But don’t do it! For heaven’s sake, don’t! Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out!

From In the Manger