Charles Stanley – The Right to Enter Paradise

 

Revelation 21:22-22:7

Death is inevitable. The thief on the cross knew when his would occur, but most of us can’t predict our own. Following his death, the crucified criminal went to live in paradise with Jesus. Some of us will also live eternally in God’s presence, but others will experience everlasting torment, forever separated from Him.

If we trust Jesus as Savior, our penalty for sin is paid, we are adopted into God’s family, and heaven is our eternal home. But if we reject Jesus, we remain alienated from the Lord and under condemnation for our sin, destined to face eternal judgment. God will not listen to any excuses, as there is no acceptable defense for unbelief (Acts 4:12).

Become part of God’s family today by acknowledging your sinfulness and expressing your faith in words similar to these: “God, I have sinned against You—I’ve followed my own way and refused to give You the right to rule in my life (Rom. 3:10-12, 23). I recognize that I am separated from You and cannot rescue myself. I believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son. I accept that His death on the cross paid my sin debt in full, and I ask You to forgive me of my sins (1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 John 1:9). By faith, I receive Jesus as my personal Savior from this moment on.” If you just spoke to God this way, then, like the thief on the cross, you have received salvation, a gift of God’s grace.

The heavenly Father welcomes every person who comes to Him through His Son, regardless of background, age, or current situation. Through Jesus, the right to enter paradise is yours!

Our Daily Bread — Our Life Is A Primer

 

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

You shall teach them diligently to your children . . . when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. —Deuteronomy 6:7

The New England Primer was published in the late 1600s. Throughout the colonies that would later become the United States, the book became a widely used resource.

This early American textbook was based largely on the Bible, and it used pictures and rhymes based on Scripture to help children learn to read. It also included prayers like this one: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

In Colonial America, this became a way that one generation was able to pass along their faith to the next generation. It fit well with what God wanted of His people, the ancient Israelites, as recorded in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach [God’s commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them . . . when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

As we talk about who God is, what He has done for us, and how He desires our love and obedience, our lives can become primers to the next generation. We can be teaching tools that God will use to help people in their walk with Him. —Dennis Fisher

Lord, we love You. We want to learn to love

You with all our heart, soul, and strength.

Use our lives and our words to point others to You,

who first loved us.

When we teach others, we’re not just spending time, we’re investing it.

Bible in a year: Daniel 11-12; Jude

Insight

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, known as the Shema (from the Hebrew for “hear,” v.4), is the basic Jewish confession of faith. Every devout Jew was to recite the Shema twice daily as a reminder of the first and second commandments (Ex. 20:2-5). After giving the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:6-22), Moses gave God’s people the one heart principle that undergirds the entire law: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (6:5). God demands exclusive, wholehearted, and undivided allegiance and devotion. Jesus said that this is “the first and greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:36-38).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  A Face for the Faceless

 

It all began with the arrival of a letter. A hand-written note, it was a novel surprise in these days of online texts and emails. The note came from a friend I hadn’t spoken to in many years. We had been college roommates, but our lives had gone in very different directions that took us far apart. Yet, despite many years of relative silence, she wrote to me to ask if something she had done had caused me offense or if she had hurt my feelings. As soon as I read her reason for writing to me, I was right back to those days when we were in college together.

Shame followed me around like my shadow in my early college years. Plagued by insecurity, I compared myself to others and always fell short. By contrast, my friend seemed positively carefree and confident. And while she never deliberately tried to upset me, there were the inevitable squabbles that contributed to hurt feelings because my hidden insecurities were brought right out into the open. I felt that I was not thriving at college, but clearly, she was. So she caused me no offense, but her very presence heightened my sense of shame. I was ashamed of everything I was not in comparison to her.

To suffer shame, psychologists tell us, is to feel that the true self—with all its defects—is exposed, naked and vulnerable before the watchful or superior gaze of others.(1) Shame is the feeling that arises from the core of one’s being. It is the thought that you are not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, or talented enough. It is that horrible thought that you are not enough.

In most Western nations, where the focus is primarily on the individual—and on the internal world of the individual—shame is often completely self-focused. And to experience shame is to experience an internal sense of worthlessness without necessary reference to, or repercussion on, family, community, or society. More often than not, shame points its judgmental finger at one’s core identity and compels those on the other end of its boney prodding to hide who they truly are even from those who love them.

But in many other parts of the world, shame goes far beyond individual experience. The experience of shame includes dishonor to one’s family and one’s community. Shame, therefore, is not just an individual burden to bear, but a collective burden of responsibility for others. Honor killings are stark and sober examples of the consequences of bringing shame on the collective family or social unit; the victim is killed by members of the family or social group because the perpetrators’ believe that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community.

The ancient world of the Roman Empire was an environment of honor and shame. For hundreds of years, Greek language and culture had dominated the area, bringing a common language as well as significant foundational cultural schemas. Hierarchy was one such foundational schema in the ancient world. It framed and structured both society and the universe so that clear lines of status and power were drawn. Within this system, one’s status was measured by adherence to one’s role in society. Violation of that cultural role brought collective shame on the group.(2)

Within the Roman Empire, the Jewish world of the first century was strongly guided by an honor and shame code, as well. As a result, issues of honor and shame are recognizable throughout ancient writings, and in fact permeate the writings of the New Testament. Without the strict observance of religious and social norms the consequences were the same: separation from the community, including the worshipping community, which meant separation from God.

The story of the man born blind in John’s gospel is a fitting example of a more collective honor and shame culture: “Who sinned,” the disciples asked Jesus, “This man or his parents that he was born blind?” Here, the belief that someone else’s sins could be borne by another is striking. After Jesus healed this man’s blindness, the religious leaders question the blind man’s parents. His parents didn’t want to speak on his behalf “for fear of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus as Messiah, he was to be put out of the synagogue.”(3) To be put out of the synagogue was to be excommunicated from God, family, and society—and to bear the burden of collective shame and dishonor. The son was already in a dishonorable state because of his blindness. One false move by the parents and they would suffer the same fate.

Having been raised and shaped by this culture, anyone curious about Jesus should be amazed by his challenge to these ideas of honor and shame, just as he challenged many other religious and cultural assumptions of his day. Jesus brought honor to those deemed dishonorable. He extended hospitality to tax collectors and sinners by dining with them. He welcomed ‘sinners’ to touch him, even allowing them to caress his feet with tears and hair, and he brought healing and restoration to those who had been ‘put out’ of their social groups as a result of their physical deformities and limitations. As author David Bentley Hart states it, Jesus restored honor by giving a face to the faceless: “[E]ven Christianity’s most implacable modern critics should be willing to acknowledge that in these texts and others like them, we see something beginning to emerge from darkness into full visibility, arguably for the first time in our history; the human person as such, invested with an intrinsic and inviolable dignity, and possessed of an infinite value.”(4)

Shame, individual or collective, is something Jesus sought to erase. In its place, he offered restoration and healing even for those who were the most tragic and had reason to be most ashamed. To bring to light the beauty of the face for those who feel faceless, Jesus offers the same honor-filled invitation today.

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

(1) Edward Teyber and Faith McClure, Interpersonal Process in Therapy: An Integrative Model, Sixth edition (Belmont, CA, Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning, 2011)137.

(2) Katrina Poetker, “Letters from the Ancient World,” Sojourners, March/April.

(3) See John 9:20-23.

(4) David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 166, emphasis mine.

Alistair Begg – Why Do My Prayers Go Unanswered?

Alistair Begg

My people will abide in a peaceful habitation.  Isaiah 32:18

Peace and rest do not belong to the unregenerate; they are the peculiar possession of the Lord’s people, and of them only. The God of Peace gives perfect peace to those whose hearts are fixed upon Him. Before the Fall, God gave man the Garden of Eden as his quiet resting-place; sadly, how quickly sin spoiled the fair abode of innocence. In the day of universal wrath when the Flood swept away a guilty race, the chosen family was quietly secured in the resting-place of the ark, which floated them from the old condemned world into the new earth of the rainbow and the covenant, symbolizing Jesus, the ark of our salvation. Israel rested safely beneath the blood-sprinkled dwellings of Egypt when the destroying angel smote the firstborn; and in the wilderness the shadow of the pillar of cloud and the flowing rock gave the weary pilgrims sweet repose.

Today we rest in the promises of our faithful God, knowing that His words are full of truth and power; we rest in the doctrines of His Word, which are consolation itself; we rest in the covenant of His grace, which is a haven of delight. We are more highly favored than David in the cave or Jonah beneath his plant, for no one can invade or destroy our shelter. The person of Jesus is the quiet resting-place of His people, and when we draw near to Him in the breaking of the bread, the hearing of the Word, the searching of the Scriptures, prayer, or praise, we find that any form of approach to Him brings peace to our spirits.

I hear the words of love, I gaze upon the blood,

I see the mighty sacrifice, and I have peace with God.

‘Tis everlasting peace, sure as Jehovah’s name,

‘Tis stable as His steadfast throne, forevermore the same:

The clouds may go and come, and storms may sweep my sky,

This blood-sealed friendship changes not, the cross is ever nigh.

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The family reading plan for December 9, 2014 * Zephaniah 1 * Luke 23

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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 Exodus

 

“And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:41

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-11

It is our firm conviction and increasing belief, that the historical books of Scripture were intended to teach us spiritual things by types and figures. We believe that every portion of Scripture history is not only a faithful transcript of what did actually happen, but also a shadow of what happens spiritually in the dealings of God with his people, or in the dispensations of his grace towards the world at large. We do not look upon the historical books of Scripture as being mere rolls of history, such as profane authors might have written, but we regard them as being most true and infallible records of the past, and also most bright and glorious foreshadowings of the future, or else most wondrous metaphors and marvellous illustrations of things which are verily received among us, and most truly felt in the Christian heart. We may be wrong—we believe we are not; at any rate, the very error has given us instruction, and our mistake has afforded us comfort. We look upon the book of Exodus as being a book of types of the deliverances which God will give to his elect people; not only as a history of what he has done, in bringing them out of Egypt by smiting the first-born, leading them through the Red Sea, and guiding them through the wilderness, but also as a picture of his faithful dealings with all his people, whom by the blood of Christ he separates from the Egyptians, and by his strong and mighty hand takes out of the house of their bondage and out of the land of their slavery.

For meditation: Are you getting as much out of the Old Testament as you should? It is full of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27)! While it may be wrong and confusing to see types in every verse or action, if you major on the types which are identified and applied in the New Testament you cannot go far wrong.

Sermon no. 55

9 December (1855)

John MacArthur – The Sustaining Power of Christ

 

“[Christ] upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).

Christ, by His almighty power, holds together all creation.

We base our entire lives on the constancy of physical laws. When something like an earthquake disrupts the normal condition or operation of things even a little, the consequences are often disastrous. Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus Christ relinquished His sustaining power over the laws of the universe for it is He in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17)? We would go out of existence, our atoms scattering throughout the galaxy.

If He suspended the laws of gravity only for a brief moment, we would lose all points of reference. If any of the physical laws varied slightly, we could not exist. Our food could turn to poison; we ourselves could drift out into space or get flooded by the ocean tides. Countless other horrible things could happen.

But the universe remains in balance because Jesus Christ sustains and monitors all its movements and interworkings. He is the principle of cohesion. He is not the deist’s “watchmaker” creator, who made the world, set it in motion, and has not bothered with it since. The reason the universe is a cosmos instead of chaos—an ordered and reliable system instead of an erratic and unpredictable muddle—is the upholding power of Jesus Christ.

The entire universe hangs on the arm of Jesus. His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing the universe. And He upholds it all by the word of His power. The key to the Genesis creation is in two words: “God said.” God spoke and it happened.

When I contemplate Christ’s power to uphold the universe, I’m drawn to the wonderful promise of Philippians 1:6: “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” When Christ begins a work in your heart, He doesn’t end there. He continually sustains it until the day He will take you into God’s very presence. A life, just as a universe, that is not sustained by Christ is chaos.

Suggestions for Prayer; Ask God to remind you of Christ’s sustaining power when you endure your next trial.

For Further Study; Read Job 38-39 for a greater appreciation of what Christ does to uphold the universe.

 

 

Joyce Meyer – Believe in Prayer

Joyce meyer

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. —Philippians 4:6 NLT

How many problems have you solved by worrying? How much time have you spent worrying about things that didn’t end up happening? Has anything ever gotten better as a result of your worrying about it? Of course not!

The instant you begin to worry or feel anxious, give your concern to God in prayer. Release the weight of it and totally trust Him to either show you what to do or take care of it Himself.

Prayer is the blueprint for a successful life. During His time on Earth, Jesus prayed. He entrusted everything to God—even His reputation and life. We can do the same. Don’t complicate your communication with God. Believe in Him and ask Him for what you need through simple, confident prayers.

Power Thought: Worry accomplishes nothing. I trust in the Lord.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Another Comforter

 

“If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:15,16, KJV).

Some time ago, a young businessman came to see me. He was very eager to be a man of God. He wanted to know the fullness of the Holy Spirit in his life, but he said that every time he got on his knees to pray, all he could see was the merchandise he had stolen from his employer.

“God doesn’t hear my prayers,” he lamented. “I feel miserable and don’t know what to do.”

I suggested he confess his sin to his employer and make restitution.

“I don’t have the money to pay for the merchandise I have stolen,” he said. “What should I do? I’m afraid to tell my employer what I have done. I’m sure he will fire me, and he could send me to jail.”

“The Holy Spirit is convicting you,” I told him. “You can never experience the fullness of God’s Spirit and you’ll never be a man of God or have your prayers answered until you deal with this sin. You must trust the Lord to help you make restitution.”

So the next day he went to his employer, confessed he had stolen the merchandise and offered to make restitution. The employer received him warmly and understanding. He suggested that my friend pay a certain amount each month out of his salary until the debt was paid, which he was more than happy to do. He came immediately to tell me what had happened.

“Now God is hearing my prayers,” he said. “Now I know I am filled with the Holy Spirit. My heart is filled with joy and praise to God.”

Bible Reading: John 14:22-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will remain sensitive and alert for any unconfessed sin that might grieve or quench the indwelling Holy Spirit and hinder His working in and through me, robbing me of the supernatural life which God has commanded and enabled me to live, if only I will trust and obey Him.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Death Defying Determination

ppt_seal01

Ezekiel J. Emanuel created much discussion and controversy recently when he authored an article entitled “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” The now-57-year-old oncologist makes the argument that creativity shrinks, health erodes and usefulness to society diminishes with old age, and therefore he sees no point in hanging around for octogenarianism. Dr. Emanuel makes his declarations with great logic and determination, but only time will tell if he retains his viewpoint when he reaches the appointed age.

He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age.

Ruth 4:15

There’s nothing in Scripture to support the notion that you should be put out to pasture at any age. You can be sure that God will call you home when your purpose is fulfilled, but in the meantime, He has work for you. Creaky knees, a weak heart, or any other ailments of old age may mean you can’t move with the swiftness of a college athlete anymore, but so what? “Do what you can,” as President Theodore Roosevelt said, “with what you have, where you are.”

And as you pray today for America, consider how you can be a “restorer” and “nourisher” by looking for opportunities to help a senior saint fulfill his or her purpose.

Recommended Reading: Exodus 7:1-7

Greg Laurie – Shallow Roots     

 

He who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. —Matthew 13:20–21

Jesus spoke of people who hear the Word of God, but it never quite takes root. These people appear to be converted and even motivated. They seem to be living on an emotional high and even try to bring others to Christ. Yet they are a picture of soil embedded with rocks. The good seed of God’s Word breaks ground and shoots up, but no fruit ever appears. No real change ever results. Theirs was not a true encounter with God.

Why did they fall away? It’s possible they built their faith on the wrong foundation. Maybe they responded to the gospel because a friend of theirs did. But conversion is not a group effort; you have to make your own commitment to Jesus. Another possibility may be that unbelief set in, causing them to begin doubting God at their first emotional low. Or, they gave up at the first sign of persecution for the gospel’s sake.

If you are a true follower of Jesus, there will be hardships, times of trial, and seasons when you don’t feel as though God is near you. And there will be times when people give you a hard time for no other reason than the fact that you say you are a Christian. So don’t build your life on a friend’s example or approval. Don’t even build it on a church. Build it on Christ.

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

Max Lucado – Searching the Night for a Light

 

On the night when Jesus was born, I wonder if Joseph prayed, “Father, this all seems so bizarre. The angel you sent? Any chance you could send another?” You’ve stood where Joseph stood. Each of us knows what it’s like to search the night for a light. Not outside a stable, but perhaps outside an emergency room or on the manicured grass of a cemetery. We’ve asked our questions. We have wondered why God does what he does.

If you’re asking what Joseph asked, let me urge you to do what Joseph did. Obey. He didn’t let his confusion disrupt his obedience. What about you? You have a choice: to obey or disobey. Because Joseph obeyed, God used him to change the world. Can He do the same with you? Will you be that kind of person? Will you serve. . .even when you don’t understand?

From In the Manger