Charles Stanley – Facing Death

 

Luke 23:32-43

The thief on the cross—condemned by both God and man—was just hours away from death. But before he took his last breath, something absolutely glorious occurred. The criminal, in the very process of dying, was rescued by Jesus right in front of the mocking crowd. The thief’s name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and all of heaven rejoiced. Jesus promised him a place in paradise in the presence of God.

On those three crosses at Calvary, one robber died in his sin; another man—the Son of Man—died to pay the penalty for sin; and the third, a thief like the first, was redeemed from sin. His sin debt was paid in full, and he became part of God’s family. What evidence do we have that his deathbed conversion was real?

  • Change in behavior. Initially, both thieves hurled insults and blasphemies against Jesus (Matt. 27:44). In a total turnaround, the second robber later chastised the first man for his words (Luke 23:40).
  • Admission of guilt. The robber publicly acknowledged that he was being justly punished for his wicked deeds (v. 41).
  • Expression of faith in the Lord. The man called Jesus by name, acknowledged that He was a king with a kingdom, believed there was life after death, and asked the Savior to rescue him (v. 42).
  • Jesus’ promise to the thief. The Lord told him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43).

Every one of us is just a heartbeat away from dying. Let this sobering thought propel you to examine your life. Are you part of God’s family? Are you living to please Him?

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Breaking In

 

“As for me,” said American writer E.B. White, “I en¬joy liv¬ing among ped¬es¬tri¬ans who have an in¬stinct¬ive and ha¬bitu¬al real¬iz¬a¬tion that there is more to a jour¬ney than the mere fact of ar¬rival.”(1)

Under typical circumstances, the beloved author of Charlotte’s Web would not have presented me with much pause here. The pause of agreement, yes, for this is normally the kind of thought with which I resonate, even though the word ‘journey’ may be overused and prone to sentimentalisms. I think it’s true that we lamentably fail to see the great gift of the collective whole, perhaps particularly in the segments of life where we are comfortable with our divided realms—where the end triumphs over the means, destination over the journey, and heaven is divided from earth, the spiritual from the physical, the present from the eternal. White’s words fit aptly upon any soapbox addressing the paradox of a king who is both present and coming—a mystery Jesus championed again and again, in his storytelling, his living, and his dying. In the kingdom he espoused, the journey is not simply a matter of arriving one distant day at the gates of pearl, but rather in finding the pearl of great price in our midst even now and seizing it with all that is in us. Under typical circumstances, I would have enlisted E.B. White’s voice in one of my favorite sermons.

But I read this quote as I watched the live coverage of 33 Chilean miners emerging from a two-month journey of being trapped beneath the earth. For them, the journey was indeed astounding, but the arrival was everything.

Over seventy years ago from a pulpit in London during the season of Advent, Dietrich Bonhoeffer described the image of a man trapped after a mining disaster: Deep in the earth, dark as night, the man is cut off and alone. The supply of oxygen is frighteningly limited. Food, water, and options are scarce; silence and fear are not. He knows his situation, and he can do nothing but wait. “He knows that up there, the people are moving about, the women and children are crying—but the way to them is blocked. There is no hope.”(2) But what if just then, in the distance, the sounds of tapping are heard—the sound of knocking, the sound of friends, the sound of evidence that your cries have been heard, that your lament had not been silenced? This, said Bonhoeffer in December of 1933, is the hope of the Christian Advent: the coming of one who knows, the drawing near of a human rescuer to humankind, the arrival of Christ for those laboring to breathe. Like the Chilean miners, elated at the arrival of Manuel Gonzalez, the rescuer sent 2,040 feet underground to coordinate the procedure, Christ’s arrival into this dark world matters most profoundly.

Even so, his arrival is not the end of our waiting. It is not the end of our journey.

Advent teaches us how to wait wherever it finds us. “Can and should there be anything else more important for us than the hammers and blows of Jesus Christ coming into our lives?”(3) In our waiting, we are given assent to cry out as the first believers did, Come, Lord Jesus! This is the ancient cry of palpable hope—Maranatha!—Lord, come quickly!—which is at times as much a cry of lament and dire need as it is a cry of hope. Advent teaches us to wait and watch, and to live expectantly regardless, though we sit in the dark, though we find ourselves scared or exhausted and struggling for air. “When these things begin to take place,” instructs Christ, “stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

The angel’s repeated instruction to “Fear not” beckons the sound of hope drawing near, the sounds of God’s human arrival in dark and unexpected places. There are also the sounds of saints who have gone before and proclaim their rescuer even in death. There are sounds of the heartrending promise: “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19).

The world is still dark. But in it every day a quiet voice breaks in, “I stand at the door and knock.” Christ has come. Christ is here. Christ will come again.

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

(1) “Trapped Aussie Miners Freed After 2 Weeks,” MSNBC, May 9, 2006.

(2) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christmas Sermons (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 89.

(3) Ibid., 96.

 

Alistair Begg – They Will Walk in White

 

In your goodness, O God, you have provided for the needy.   Psalm 68:10

All God’s gifts are prepared gifts laid away to meet wants He has foreseen. He anticipates our needs; and out of the fullness that He has treasured up in Christ Jesus, He provides from His goodness for the poor. You may trust Him for all the necessities you may face, for He has infallibly foreknown every one of them. He can say of us in all conditions, “I knew that you would be this and that.”

A man takes a journey across the desert, and when he has completed a day and pitched his tent, he discovers that he wants many comforts and necessities that he has not brought in his baggage. “Ah!” he says. “I did not foresee this. If I had this journey to do again, I would bring these things with me—they are necessary to my comfort.” But God is already aware of all the requirements of His poor, wandering children, and when those needs occur, supplies are ready. It is goodness that He has prepared for the poor in heart, goodness and goodness only. “My grace is sufficient for you.”1 “As your days, so shall your strength be.”2

Reader, is your heart heavy this evening? God knew it would be; the comfort that your heart requires is treasured in the sweet assurance of this text. You are poor and needy, but He has thought upon you and has the exact blessing that you require in store for you.

Plead the promise; believe it and obtain its fulfillment. Do you feel that you never were so consciously sinful as you are now? Behold, the crimson fountain is open still, with all its former efficacy, to wash your sin away. You will never come into such a position that Christ cannot help you. You will never arrive at a place in your spiritual affairs in which Jesus Christ will not be equal to the emergency, for your history has all been foreknown and provided for in Jesus.

1) 2 Corinthians 12:9    2) Deuteronomy 33:25

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The family reading plan for December 8, 2014 * Habakkuk 3 * Luke 22

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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 – The feast of the Lord

 

“The governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” John 2:9-10

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 73

If the Christian has the best wine to come, why should he envy the unbeliever? David did; he was discontented when he saw the prosperity of the wicked, and you and I are often tempted to do it; but you know what we ought to say when we see the wicked prosper, when we see them happy and full of delights of sinful pleasure. We ought to say, “My good wine is to come; I can bear that you should have your turn; my turn will come afterwards; I can be put off with these things, and lie with Lazarus at the gate, while the dogs lick my sores; my turn is to come, when the angels shall carry me into Abraham’s bosom, and your turn is to come too, when in hell you lift up your eyes, being in torments.” Christian, what more shall I say to you?—though there be a thousand lessons to learn from this, the best wine is kept to the last. Take heed to yourself, that you also keep your good wine until the last. The further you go on the road, seek to bring to your Saviour the more acceptable sacrifice. You had little faith years ago: man! Bring out the good wine now! Seek to have more faith. Your Master is better to you every day and you shall see him to be the best of all Masters and friends. Seek to be better to your Master every day; be more generous to his cause, more active to labour for him, more kind to his people, more diligent in prayer; and take heed that as you grow in years you grow in grace, so that when you come at last to the river Jordan, and the Master shall give you the best wine, you may also give to him the best wine.

For meditation: In which direction is your Christian life going at the moment—forwards (Philippians 3:13), backwards (Galatians 5:7) or nowhere (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)?

Sermon no. 226

8 December (Preached 28 November 1858)

John MacArthur – Christ’s Radiance and Representation

 

“He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3).

Jesus is both God manifest and God in substance.

Just as the rays of the sun give light, warmth, life, and growth to the earth, so Jesus Christ is the glorious light of God shining into the hearts of men and women. As “the radiance of God’s glory,” Jesus expresses God to us. No one can see God in HIs full glory; no one ever will. The radiance of that glory that reaches us from God appears in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Just as the sun was never without and can never be separated from its brightness, so God was never without and cannot be separated from the glory of Christ. Never was God without Him or He without God, and never in any way can He be separated from God. Yet the brightness of the sun is not the sun, and neither is Jesus exactly the same as God in that sense. He is fully and absolutely God, yet as a distinct Person within the triune Godhead.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). As the radiance of God’s glory, Christ can transmit that light into your life and mine so that we can radiate the glory of God to a dark world.

In using the term “exact representation” to describe Christ’s relationship to God’s nature, the writer employs terminology usually associated with an impression reproduced on a seal by a die or stamp. Jesus Christ is the reproduction of God—the perfect, personal imprint of God in time and space.

How wonderful to realize that Jesus Christ, who is both the full expression of God and exact reproduction of God’s nature in human history, can come into our lives and give us light to see and to know God! His light is the source of our spiritual life. And His light gives us purpose, meaning, happiness, peace, joy, fellowship, everything—for all eternity.

Suggestion for Prayer; Thank God that He determined to become a man so we could know what He is like.

For Further Study; Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 and note who allows people to see or not see spiritually.

Joyce Meyer – Thoughts Minister Death or Life

 

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace —Romans 8:6 NKJV

Our thoughts are very powerful and they make a huge difference in the quality of our life. Because this is true, we should “think about what we are thinking about,” and make sure we are helping ourselves and others, not bringing harm.

Today’s scripture tells us that the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life. Negative, ugly thoughts minister death to us and also to others, whereas positive, loving thoughts minister life.

Here is an example of how much our thoughts affect the people around us. I was shopping with my younger daughter one day when she was a teenager. On that particular day, her hair was very messy and her face was broken out. She had on too much makeup, and it did not look good.

Every time I looked at her I thought, You really don’t look very good today. After some time went by, I noticed she was looking depressed, and I asked her what was wrong.

“I feel really ugly today,” she replied.

When she said that, God whispered in my heart, See what your thoughts have done to her?

I was immediately convicted that my thoughts were very displeas¬ing to the Lord, and they brought pain to my daughter when what she needed was acceptance and encouragement.

Often, we think things about people that we would never say to them, but even our thoughts can affect others. Remember that God knows all our thoughts, so let’s think on things that will please Him.

Love Others Today: “Lord, help me to minister life to others and to myself with my thoughts.”

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Will Preserve Me

 

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18, KJV).

Do you and I have that same kind of confidence in God?

Note that the apostle Paul did not mention the word deathhere, for earlier verses in this chapter reveal that he expected to die – and he was ready. But he was assured that God would keep Paul from apostasy, and from displaying an improper spirit at the time of his death.

In the same way, we can ask the Lord today, in faith believing, for that inner peace we need to face up to all that He allows to happen in our lives. His perfect peace is sufficient for every testing and trial and trouble and temptation.

By keeping us from every evil work, He likewise enables us to reach His heavenly kingdom.

An appropriate time for praise to God is when a person knows he is about to be brought to heaven, and Paul introduces such a doxology here: “to whom be glory for ever and ever.”

The truth is clear: we are protected on every side, and even at death we can sing the doxology, for we are about to meet the altogether lovely One in His heavenly home. To remain in constant fellowship with our heavenly Father will maintain a spirit of joy, love and peace in our lives that nothing can shake.

Bible Reading: Psalm 3:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Like the apostle Paul, I will confidently expect God to protect me from every evil work and enable me to live the supernatural life for His glory.

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Accepting the Job

 

Have you ever hired someone for a job? If so, what qualities did you look for in a candidate? Entrepreneur Magazine recently shared 30 secrets for hiring the right person. The list included belief in the mission, being passionate about the purpose, having integrity and a humble attitude, and caring about helping others.

Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.

Luke 1:38

Did you know God has a job for you – and He’s looking for these same qualities? God uses people to accomplish His will on Earth (Philippians 2:13). In today’s scripture, the Lord chose Mary for a very specific part of His plan: to be the mother of Jesus. Mary responded to the angel Gabriel’s news by believing what he said, passionately singing praises to God and humbly accepting the role God asked her to fill.

Is the Lord calling you to a specific purpose to accomplish His will? If so, how are you responding? Pray today for God to clearly make His will known to you and to empower you to respond as Mary did. Pray also for the country’s leaders to seek God’s will and purposes the nation.

Recommended Reading: II Peter 1:3-11

Greg Laurie – To See Jesus  

 

There were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” —John 12:20–21

I remember visiting a mental hospital years ago with a fellow pastor. We were visiting the patients and sharing the gospel. Back then, I wore very long hair and had a full beard. My pastor friend began talking with one patient and said, “Have you ever personally met Jesus Christ?”

“No,” the man replied, “But I’ve always wanted to.” Then he turned to me, shook my hand, and said, “Jesus, it’s good to meet you! I’ve heard so much about you.”

“I’m not Jesus!” I told him. “My name is Greg.”

Imagine what it would be like to actually reach out and shake hands with the real Jesus, to actually touch Him. The opening verses of today’s devotion tell us about some individuals from Greece who wanted an opportunity to do just that.

Instead of simply granting them an audience, however, Jesus used their request to illustrate a point: “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (verse 23-24).

Jesus was essentially saying, “Do you really want to see Me? Do you want to see God? You will see Me through My death. Soon, I will die on a cross for you and pay the price for your sins. Through My death, you can have life. You can see God, and you can know God.”

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

Max Lucado – Out on a Limb

 

After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:18 NKJV). Joseph was perched firmly on his branch in the tree. Predictable and solid, Joseph had no intention of leaving it. That is, until he was told to go out on a limb.

“Conceived by the Holy Spirit? Come on! Who will believe me?”

Pride told him not to do it. But God told him to do it. I have a feeling you can relate to Joseph. One foot in your will and one foot in His. His will or yours? Disrupting, isn’t it? You can bet it won’t be easy. Limb-climbing has never been. Ask Joseph…or better yet, ask Jesus! He knows better than anyone the cost of hanging on a tree!

From In the Manger