Charles Stanley – The Lord of Our Lives

 

Luke 6:46-49

The term Lord should not be used casually. When that word appears in relation to Jesus Christ, it refers to the God who is sovereign over life and all creation. In the Greek, this title for Jesus is kurios—one who rules the lives of others for their good.

I remember lying in a hospital bed years ago and coming to the realization that I was there because Jesus wasn’t the Lord of my life. If anyone happened to be observing my life back then, it probably appeared that I was serving Him with every ounce of my being. I was overloaded with projects and plans for good kingdom work. But that was actually the problem. When God told me to stop, slow down, or do something different than I had planned, I kept right on going. Flat on my back in the hospital, I finally remained still long enough for the Lord to remind me that only He could direct my path (Jer. 10:23).

We use the term Lord in conversation and in our prayers but then contradict its meaning by defying His will and His work in our lives. Our resistance is oftentimes subtle. For example, a believer might qualify his obedience by saying, “I’ll follow the Lord if . . .” or “I want to do what is right, but . . .”

Jesus’ question to His followers in Luke 6:46 must have stung their spirits: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” When we entreat the Lord, we must be prepared to obey Him without resistance or pretense. He is the One who rules over us for our good.

Our Daily Bread — Wonders Of The Heart

 

Job 38:1-11

By You I have been upheld from birth. —Psalm 71:6

Our heart beats about 100,000 times every day, pumping blood to every cell in our bodies. This adds up to about 35 million beats a year and 2.5 billion beats in an average lifetime. Medical science tells us that every contraction is similar to the effort it would take for us to hold a tennis ball in our palm and give it a good hard squeeze.

Yet as amazing as our heart is, it is only one example of a natural world that is designed to tell us something about our Creator. This is the idea behind the story of a man named Job.

Broken by a series of mounting troubles, Job felt abandoned. When God finally spoke, He didn’t tell Job why he was suffering. Nor did the Creator tell him that someday He would suffer for Job. Instead, He drew Job’s attention to a series of natural wonders that are always whispering to us—and sometimes shouting—about a wisdom and power far greater than our own (Job 38:1-11).

So what can we learn from the complexity of this hardworking muscle, the heart? The message may be similar to the sound of waves coming to shore and stars quietly shining in the night sky. The power and wisdom of our Creator give us reason to trust Him. —Mart DeHaan

Lord, we are Yours, You are our God;

We have been made so wondrously;

This human frame in every part

Your wisdom, power, and love we see. —Anon.

When we reflect on the power of God’s creation, we see the power of His care for us.

Bible in a year: Hosea 1-4; Revelation 1

Insight

The experiences of Job are among the most heartrending found anywhere in the Scriptures. The loss of his children, wealth, and health drove him to question the purposes of God and wonder why He was silent. Then, in Job 38, God finally responded. And when He did, He didn’t offer Job answers—He offered Himself. The reminders of God’s greatness and power are not to be seen as cold or heartless, but as legitimate cause to put our trust in Him, even when we suffer and don’t know why.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Bit of Sentimentality?

 

It is a strange story. There were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel appeared to them, telling them not to be afraid. A baby had been born, and they could find him wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. To a peasant mother outside of Bethlehem, the Son of God was born.

If we take a step back from the familiar hum of Advent to consider the story Christians are really waiting for, we are thrown off my usual Christmas kilter. This is not really the innocuous historical narrative we imagine. This is not a tame story. The bright lights and colors of our Christmas pageants can easily paint over the stark scenery of a story that startles all of history. Who understands this God who comes as a child, who steps into our world through a dirty stable and the unlikely arms of an unwed mother?

Yet even long before these strange additions to the story of God among his people, the prophets were asking similar questions: “Who has understood the mind of the LORD?”(1) This God who moves among people, touching all of life and history is certainly not the quiet and tame being we often imagine. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s stories are not the kind of stories we would write if the telling were up to us. God’s thoughts are the kind of thoughts that expose deception and shine in darkness, that shatter hearts and rewrite stories.

It is the same with the child born in a stable two thousand years ago. The infant the world remembers lying peacefully in a manger with cattle lowing nearby did not take long to fulfill the words spoken to his young parents: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”(2) Definitely not the sort of thing a stranger typically says to a young mother holding a baby. Is this the child we are anticipating this Advent?

British author Dorothy Sayers once lamented the manner in which Jesus is often remembered: he is the quiet sage full of wisdom, the safe and peaceful one of history. He is, for all practical purposes, somewhat dull, someone we might be interested in at a later time. Yet Sayers writes:

“The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”(3)

The Christian season of Advent is a time of anticipation not for the harmless baby surrounded by lights and presents, but for the dynamic savior who is born into our midst in a way that must forever change us. “Do you want to be delivered?” asked Dietrich Bonhoeffer in an Advent sermon more than 70 years ago. “That is the only really important and decisive question which Advent poses for us. Does there burn within us some lingering longing to know what deliverance really means? If not, what would Advent then mean to us? A bit of sentimentality. A little lifting of the spirit within us? A little kinder mood? But if there is something in this word Advent which we have not yet known, that strangely warms our heart; if we suspect that it could, once more, once more, mean a turning point in our life, a turning to God, to Christ—why then are we not simply obedient, listening and hearing in our ears the clear call: Your deliverance draws nigh!”(2)

In this season of Advent we hear a strange and drastic story. The church anticipates nothing less than the Lion of Judah wrapped in swaddling cloths; the coming of a human rescuer unhindered. Mystery itself, mercifully, draws nigh.

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

(1) Isaiah 40:13.

(2) Luke 2:34-35.

(3) Dorothy Sayers, The Whimsical Christian, “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged,” (New York: Collier Books, 1978), 14.

(4) Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons, Edwin Robertson Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 93.

Alistair Begg – A Taste of Heaven

 

The Lord opened her heart.  Acts 16:14

In Lydia’s conversion there are many points of interest. It was brought about by providential circumstances. She was a seller of purple goods, from the city of Thyratira, but at just the right time for hearing Paul we find her at Philippi; providence, which is the servant of grace, led her to the right spot. Again, grace was preparing her soul for the blessing—grace preparing for grace. She did not know the Savior, but as a Jewess she knew many truths that were excellent stepping-stones to a knowledge of Jesus. Her conversion took place in the use of the means. On the Sabbath she went to a place of prayer, and there prayer was answered. Never neglect the means of grace.

God may bless us when we are not in His house, but we have more reason to expect that He will when we are in fellowship with His people. Observe the words, “The Lord opened her heart.” She did not open her own heart. Her prayers did not do it; Paul did not do it. The Lord Himself must open the heart to receive the things that make for our peace. He alone can put the key into the door and open it and gain entry for Himself. He is the heart’s Master just as He is the heart’s Maker.

The first outward evidence of the opened heart was obedience. As soon as Lydia had believed in Jesus, she was baptized. It is a sweet sign of a humble and broken heart when the child of God is willing to obey a command that is not essential to his salvation, that is not forced upon him by a selfish fear of condemnation, but is a simple act of obedience and of communion with his Master.

The next evidence was love, displaying itself in acts of grateful kindness to the apostles. Love for the saints has always been a mark of the true convert. Those who do nothing for Christ or His church provide no evidence of an “opened” heart. Lord, grant to us the blessing of opened hearts always!

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The family reading plan for December 10, 2014 * Zephaniah 2 * Luke 24

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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 wailing of Risca

 

“Suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.” Jeremiah 4:20

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 12:35-48

Live while you live; while it is called today, work, for the night cometh wherein no man can work. And let us learn never to do anything which we would not wish to be found doing if we were to die. We are sometimes asked by young people whether they may go to the theatre, whether they may dance, or whether they may do this or that. You may do anything which you would not be ashamed to be doing when Christ shall come. You may do anything which you would not blush to be found doing if the hand of death should smite you; but if you would dread to die in any spot, go not there; if you would not wish to enter the presence of your God with such-and-such a word upon your lip, utter not that word; or if there would be a thought that would be uncongenial to the judgment-day, seek not to think that thought. So act that you may feel you can take your shroud with you wherever you go. Happy is he that dies in his pulpit. Blessed is the man that dies in his daily business, for he is found with his loins girt about him serving his Master; but, unhappy must he be to whom death comes as an intruder, and finds him engaged in that which he will blush to have ever touched, when God shall appear in judgment. Power supreme; thou everlasting king; permit not death to intrude upon an ill-spent hour, but find me rapt in meditation high; singing my great Creator; proclaiming the love of Jesus, or lifting up my heart in prayer for myself and my fellow-sinners.

For meditation: Life contains a final moment when it will be impossible to explain away or cover up something inappropriate.

note: This sermon was occasioned by a mine explosion, in which some two hundred or so miners were killed, at Risca, near Newport in South Wales. Spurgeon had often gone to the Vale of Risca to rest and preach.

Sermon no. 349

10 December (Preached 9 December 1860)

John MacArthur – The Sacrifice and Exaltation of Christ

 

“When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice for all the sins of mankind, then sat down with the Father once He had accomplished it.

The Bible makes it perfectly clear that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus Christ went to the cross, died the death we deserved, and consequently freed us from the penalty of sin by our faith in Him.

The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that Christ “does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:27). In the Old Testament, the priests had to make continual sacrifices, but Jesus made only one. And not only was He the priest, but also the sacrifice! He made a tremendously potent sacrifice, for He forever purged our sins—something the Old Testament sacrifices could never do.

When His sacrifice was complete, “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3, emphasis added). That is significant because the Old Testament priests never sat down—there were no seats in the sanctuary because they offered sacrifices day in and day out. But Jesus offered one sacrifice, finished it, and then went to the Father and sat down. What the Old Testament sacrifices couldn’t accomplish Christ’s did for all time.

As a result, God exalted Him to His right hand, the seat of honor and rule and rest. But perhaps most important, it is the place where Christ intercedes to the Father on our behalf (Rom 8:34).

Don’t ever forget what Jesus accomplished for us—and what He still does for us: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Suggestions for Prayer; Thank Jesus for His sacrifice on your behalf. Also thank Him for the salvation He has given you and the access you now have to God.

For Further Study; Read Hebrews 9:1—10:18 to gain a deeper understanding of Christ’s ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament priestly system. In what specific ways did He fulfill it?

Joyce Meyer – The Key to Your Future Is Hope

 

The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. —Lamentations 3:25

Do you realize how important hope is to your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health? People without hope in their lives are destined to be miserable and depressed, feeling as if they are locked in the prison of their past. To get out of that prison and be free to move ahead into a more promising future, they need a key—and that key is hope.

Many years ago, I had an extremely negative attitude about my life because of the devastating abuse that had taken place in my past.The result was that I expected people to hurt me . . . and so they did. I expected people to be dishonest . . . and so they were.

I was afraid to believe anything good might happen in my life. I had given up hope. I actually thought I was protecting myself from being hurt by not expecting anything good to happen.

When I really began to study the Bible and trust God to restore me, I realized my negative attitudes had to go. I needed to let go of my past and move into the future with hope, faith, and trust in God. I had to get rid of the heaviness of despair and discouragement.

And I did. Once I dug into the truth of what the Bible says about me and about my attitudes toward life, I began to turn my negative thoughts and words into positive ones!

We can practice being positive in every situation that arises. Even if what is taking place in our lives at the moment seems negative, expect God to bring good out of it, just as He has promised in His Word. You must understand that before your life can change, your attitude must change.

No matter how hopeless your situation seems to be or how long it has been that way, I know that you can change—because I did. It took time and a strong commitment to maintaining a healthy, positive attitude, but it was worth it. And it will be worth it to you, too.

Trust in Him Are you waiting hopefully and expectantly for all God has in store for your life? Whatever happens, trust in the Lord. He wants to be good to you!

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Same Father

 

“We who have been made holy by Jesus, now have the same Father He has. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers” (Hebrews 2:11).

Though you and I have been made holy by Jesus, we need to ask ourselves a question: Have we really been set apart, consecrated, devoted to God experientially?

A practical definition of the word consecration would carry the idea that you and I are willing to do anything the Lord asks us to do. Is that really the case? Are we listening closely enough to His still small voice even to know what He really wants us to do?

Once a popular TV commercial asked, “How do spell relief?” We might ask ourselves, “How do you spell commitment?” Too many of us, I’m afraid, spell it C-O-N-V-E- N-I-E-N-C-E. If it is convenient for us to share the good news of the gospel, we will do it; if it is convenient for us to go to Sunday school, church or prayer meeting, we will do it.

True commitment is a rare commodity these days – even among Bible-believing, evangelical Christians. Otherwise our churches would be full; our witnessing would be a normal daily routine; our lives would be more Christlike.

We have already been made holy, but we need to reckon on that fact – and through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, live like holy people. Meditate on this fact: We have the same Father as Jesus, and Jesus calls us His brothers. What a great honor and privilege is ours!

Bible Reading: Hebrews 10:5-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will count on the holiness of Christ within me to make me all that He wants and intends me to be, As a member of God’s supernatural family I shall claim God’s power to live supernaturally.

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – God’s Purpose

 

Kara Tippetts is a 38-year-old married mother of four who understands the fear and pain of stage four cancer diagnosis. Yet Kara’s approach to her illness has been to rest in the grace of God and to find power in living faithfully moment by moment, squeezing the goodness out of each day.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.

Romans 8:28

“We thought my pastor-husband and I would help the broken,” Kara says. “But Jesus planned for us to be the broken. We opened our hands to strength and grasped the weakness handed to us. From the despair, beauty was born. We were invited to dine at the table of those who came with us and salt our every meal with our own tears.”

The sufferings endured by followers of Christ are neither in vain nor outside of God’s sovereign control. In fact, those who “are called according to his purpose” learn to accept, not resent, pain and persecution because God is with them.

Thank the Lord for the Christian leaders in this nation who are shining examples of God’s faithfulness despite difficult circumstances. Pray that many people would come to embrace Jesus Christ as a result.

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:26-39

Greg Laurie – Heart Trouble

 

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. —John 14:1

Have you ever felt troubled in your heart—agitated, stressed out, or uncertain about tomorrow? Or to put it another way, have you ever driven on a freeway in Southern California?

There is a lot to be afraid of these days, isn’t there? Maybe something has happened to you recently that has turned your world upside down. Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering whether God really is aware of the problems you’re facing right now.

That is exactly how the disciples of Jesus felt. They were downhearted and discouraged. When they were all gathered in the Upper Room for the Passover feast, Jesus told them that one of them was going to betray Him. Then He identified Judas Iscariot as the betrayer. Not only that, but Jesus also said that Simon Peter would deny Him—not once, not twice, but three times. Peter! Could it really be? The whole world turned upside down for these men. And then, worst of all, Jesus began talking about leaving them, about being crucified. Can you blame them for wondering, What in the world is going on here?

Maybe you feel that way. Maybe there is uncertainty in your future. As you survey your fears and concerns today, take a few minutes to consider what Jesus said to His disciples and to us in that tense Upper Room: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). This verse could also be translated, “Let not your heart be agitated or disturbed or thrown into confusion.”

In other words, “Don’t let these things throw you! Put your full trust and faith in Me!” It was good advice for some deeply troubled believers two thousand years ago, and I can tell you right now with complete confidence that it’s the best counsel anyone will give you all day today.

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

Max Lucado – God Dances Amidst the Common · December 10

 

There’s one word that describes the night Jesus came—ordinary. It was an ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And were it not for a God who loves to hook an “extra” on the front of the ordinary, the night would have gone unnoticed. But God dances amidst the common. And that night, He did a waltz! The night was ordinary no more.

The announcement went first to the shepherds. They didn’t ask God if He was sure He knew what He was doing. Theologians would have consulted their commentaries.  The elite would have looked to see if anyone was watching. The successful would have first looked to their calendars. The angels went to the shepherds. Men who didn’t know enough to tell God that messiahs aren’t found sleeping in a feed trough. God comes to the common—because His most powerful tools are the simplest!

From In the Manger