Charles Stanley – A Constant Friend

 

Proverbs 6:6

Isn’t it funny what God can use to teach us the most fundamental things? The book of Proverbs tells us that if we want to be wise, we should look at a tiny ant! If we can learn wisdom from the way ants operate, where else might we find some key lessons?

Let me share an example from my own life. For years and years, I had a dog—a German schnauzer whose name was Rommel. Every afternoon as I pulled my car into the driveway, there came Rommel to greet me. Many times, he would seem to stand at attention at the top of the drive, as if he were saying, “Welcome home, sir. Everything is under control here!”

Now, sometimes I had to correct Rommel for something he had done or for the occasional accident around the house. However, no matter what I did—whether it was disciplining my dog or not giving him enough attention from time to time—he never seemed to love me any less. Rommel was always happy to see me, and he always wanted to be with me.

One day while I was playing with my pet, the Lord impressed a truth upon my heart. I looked at that dog and said, “Rommel, no matter what I do, you always love me. I’d like to be that kind of friend.”

This realization taught me something about Jesus. He never changes and His love never waivers, no matter what I do or how I treat Him. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And His love is always constant. If a dog can exemplify this simple truth, we should aim for nothing less.

Our Daily Bread — Snake In A Box

 

Isaiah 11:1-9

The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD. —Isaiah 11:9

At a nature center, I watched my friend’s rosy-cheeked toddler pat the side of a large glass box. Inside the box, a bull snake named Billy slithered slowly, eyeing the little girl. Billy’s body was as thick as my forearm and he sported brown and yellow markings. Although I knew Billy could not escape from his container, seeing a menacing-looking creature so close to a small child made me shudder.

The Bible speaks of a time in the future when fierce animals will fail to threaten each other or human beings. “The wolf . . . shall dwell with the lamb” and “the nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole” (Isa. 11:6,8). All the inhabitants of the world will experience total harmony and peace.

The Lord will establish this safe environment when He restores the world with His wisdom, might, and knowledge. At that time, He will judge the world with righteousness and justice (11:4). And everyone will acknowledge His greatness: “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD” (11:9).

We live in a broken world. Unfairness and discord, fear and pain are a very real part of our daily lives. But one day God will change everything, and “the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:2). Then Jesus will rule the world in righteousness. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on

When we shall be forever with the Lord.

When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,

Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. —von Schlegel

Leave final justice in the hands of a just God.

Bible in a year: Hosea 5-8; Revelation 2

Insight

The future and everlasting kingdom of God will be one of peace and harmony. Many of the prophets looked forward to this day with great anticipation. In today’s passage, Isaiah describes this kingdom by picturing animals that would normally prey on each other at peace together. This will be a time of peace because the Messiah will rule (v.9).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God at Terminal Five

 

I wrote one of the last sections of the book Why Suffering? on a plane flight from London to New York.(1) As I came through security at Heathrow Airport, I had about an hour until my departure, and I had it in mind to find a quiet spot and make a start on the writing I had planned.

As I began to walk toward the departure gates, a small sign for the “Multi-Faith Prayer Room” caught my eye, and instantaneously—though I have never before had an urge to visit an airport prayer room—I felt this conviction that there was someone in that room whom I was supposed to talk with. It was as if someone had just told me, “There is someone waiting to speak with you there,” even though I had not audibly heard those words.

d an about-face and walked a good distance away from my departure gate to the arrivals terminal where the prayer room was located. When I walked in, there was one man in the room, sitting in a corner on the floor. He appeared to be about my age. When he saw me looking around the prayer room, he asked, “Are you religious?” We began speaking about what it means to be religious, and he soon shared with me that he was going through the worst suffering of his life.

Mohammed fought back tears as he shared about what no one would ever want to go through. He expressed that he never talks about such things with anyone, but that he just needed to get it out. He told me that he used to pray five times a day, but that now the suffering is too much; he opens his mouth to pray and nothing comes out. Finally, Mohammed challenged me, “If God exists, why is there so much suffering? And where is he amidst it all?”

Now I understood why we were supposed to meet. I told Mohammed that the one person of whom he finally asked “Why suffering?” was currently writing a book by that very title, and in fact was walking in the opposite direction toward the departure gates when God turned him around and led him to this specific room to share that God does care and that he is present.

Sometimes God is most present when our suffering can make God seem most absent. Sometimes when we are in the fog and are unable to see much on our own, we need people by our side to show us where they see God in our lives. Sometimes we mistake God’s respectfulness for absence. Understandably there are times when we want God to be more obvious. But God desires to reveal himself clearly to those who desire him, without revealing himself forcibly to those who do not. God wants us to follow him not because he is overpowering, but because we trust him.

Mohammed was in a place where he couldn’t see God. But God was with him. Mohammed was in a place of tough questions. God crossed his path with someone who could appreciate those questions. Mohammed was in a place where he couldn’t pray. God provided someone to pray with him.

As we parted, Mohammed and I shared an extended hug that spoke deep understanding, deep appreciation, and deep friendship. We had spoken and prayed together at length about what it is to believe in, and to love, and to live with Jesus—the God who knows suffering himself, and who is never absent in our suffering. “He is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27), even if sometimes we need others to step with us in the direction that leads to relationship with him.

Vince Vitale is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.

(1) For more, see Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, co-authored with Ravi Zacharias. Vince Vitale wrote his PhD on the problem of suffering. He now teaches at Wycliffe Hall of Oxford University and is Senior Tutor at The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Alistair Begg – Servants of the Lord

 

You are serving the Lord Christ.  Colossians 3:24

To what special group was this word spoken? To kings who proudly boast a divine right? No! Too often they serve themselves or Satan and forget God who patiently permits them to wear their majestic crowns for a little while. Is the apostle speaking to those so-called “right reverend fathers in God,” the bishops or “the venerable archdeacons”? No; in fact, Paul knew nothing of these man-made titles. This word was not spoken even to pastors and teachers or to the wealthy and highly regarded among believers, but to servants and to slaves.

Among the toiling multitudes—the journeymen, the day laborers, the domestic servants, the drudges of the kitchen—the apostle found, as we still find, some of the Lord’s chosen, and he says to them, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” This saying grants significance to the weary routine of earthly employments and sheds a halo around the most humble occupations.

To wash feet may be servile, but to wash His feet is royal work. To untie sandals is poor employment, but to unloose the Master’s shoe is a princely privilege. The shop, the barn, the kitchen, and the workbench become temples when men and women do all to the glory of God! Then divine service does not take place for a few hours and in a few places, but all life becomes holiness to the Lord, and every place and thing as consecrated as the tabernacle and its contents.

Teach me, my God and King, in all things Thee to see;

And what I do in anything to do it as to Thee.

All may of Thee partake, nothing can be so mean,

Which with this tincture, for Thy sake, will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause makes drudgery divine;

Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws, makes that and the action fine.

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The family reading plan for December 11, 2014 * Zephaniah 3 * John 1

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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 Minister’s farewell

 

“Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Acts 20:26-27

Suggested Further Reading: Titus 2:7-15

I have seen the young believer, just saved from sin, happy in his early Christian career, and walking humbly with his God. But evil has crept in, disguised in the mantle of truth. The finger of partial blindness was laid upon his eyes, and only one doctrine could be seen. Sovereignty was seen, but not responsibility. The minister once beloved was hated; he who had been honest to preach God’s word, was accounted as the offscouring of all things. And what became the effect? The very reverse of good and gracious. Bigotry replaced love; bitterness lived where once there had been a loveliness of character. I could point you to innumerable instances where harping upon any one particular doctrine, has driven men to excess of bigotry and bitterness. And when a man has once come there, he is ready enough for sin of any kind to which the devil may please to tempt him. There is a necessity that the whole gospel should be preached, or else the spirits, even of Christians, will become marred and maimed. I have known men diligent for Christ, labouring to win souls with both hands; and suddenly they have espoused one particular doctrine and not the whole truth and they have subsided into lethargy. On the other hand where men have only taken the practical side of truth, and left out the doctrinal, too many professors have run over into legality; have talked as if they were to be saved by works, and have almost forgotten that grace by which they were called. They are like the Galatians, they have been bewitched by what they have heard. The believer in Christ, if he is to be kept pure, simple, holy, charitable, Christ-like, is only to be kept so by a preaching of the whole truth as it is in Jesus.

For meditation: Doctrine should lead to practice; practice should spring from doctrine (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 4:1). Do you seek to hear and apply the whole counsel of God in your life (James 1:22)?

note: This was Spurgeon’s farewell sermon at the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall.

Sermon no. 289

11 December (1859)

John MacArthur – Christ Is Superior to Angels

 

“Having become . . . much better than the angels” (Heb. 1:4).

Through a deft use of the Old Testament, the writer proves that Christ is the mediator of a greater covenant.

Man is a wonderful and amazing creation—higher than plants, animals, and any other material creation in this world. But there are created beings even higher than man—angels.

Hebrews 2:9 shows this to be the case because when Jesus became a man, He was “made for a little while lower than the angels.” After the fall of the rebellious angels under Lucifer, the angels in heaven were no longer subject to sin. These angels are holy, powerful, and wise. They are special beings created by God before He created man.

The Jewish people understood the exalted position of angels because they knew that the Old Covenant was brought to men and maintained by angelic mediation. Galatians 3:19 says, “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made.”

Because of this high regard for angels by his readers, the writer of Hebrews was faced with a problem. If he was to show that Christ was the mediator of a better covenant, he would have to prove that Christ is better than angels. To do so, he used seven Old Testament passages to verify his claim.

If he had tried to prove from Christian writings that Christ is a better mediator, his unbelieving Jewish readers would have said, “We don’t accept these writings as being from God.” So in effect he wisely replies, “Open up your own Scriptures and I’ll prove my claim from them.” It results in a powerful and irresistible argument.

For the next several days, we’ll see in what ways Christ is superior to angels and how He could mediate a better covenant for us.

Suggestion for Prayer; Because much of our understanding of the New Testament is based on the writings of the Old Testament, thank God for how He has brought His complete Word to us intact throughout the centuries.

For Further Study; Read Galatians 3:8, Romans 9:15, and Matthew 4:4.

  • What Old Testament verses to those passages quote?
  • What truth does each of them verify?

Joyce Meyer – Start Something

 

[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good. Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another. Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord. —Romans 12:9–11

If all of us started having a godly attitude, it would catch hold and spread like a virus. Wouldn’t it be great if we could spread a good virus?

Imagine the whispers: “Have you heard? There’s something wonderful going around. Have you caught it? It is running rampant all over the place. Everywhere you look, people have a new attitude!”

Let’s start something today! Let’s decide to think like Christ. Let’s decide to love everyone we meet today, and pass the word so that everybody catches on to it.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Teach You Much

 

“But when the Father sends the Comforter instead of Me – and by the Comforter I mean the Holy Spirit – He will teach you much, as well as remind you of everything I myself have told you” (John 14:26).

Some years ago, at one of our week-long Lay Institutes for Evangelism, attended by more than 4,000 trainees, I gave a message on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Afterward, a missionary who had just retired after 20 years of service in Africa came to see me. He was very excited as he came to share how, during that meeting, he had finally found what he had sought throughout his entire Christian life.

“Today, as you spoke,” he said, “I was filled with the Spirit. For 20 years I have tried to serve God on the mission field, but I have served Him in the energy of the flesh and have had very little results. Now, though I have retired and returned to America, I want to go back to Africa.

“This time, I want to concentrate on working just with missionaries, because I know from experience that many of them are still searching for what I have sought all these years. The most important message I can take to them is how they can be filled with the Holy Spirit by faith.

“I want to teach them what you taught me so that they, in turn, will be able to teach the Africans how they too can be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. J. Edwin Orr, a leading authority on spiritual revival, describes the Holy Spirit as “the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Christ. He is the Lord of the harvest, supreme in revival, evangelism and missionary endeavor.”

“Without His consent, plans are bound to fail. It behooves us as Christians to fit our tactical operations into the plan of His strategy, which is the reviving of the church and the evangelization of the world.”

Bible Reading: John 14:13-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will look to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit for the spiritual lessons I need to learn today and claim His power to serve the Lord Jesus Christ supernaturally.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P.- Love Preoccupation

 

Peter had a vision that seemed contrary to God’s Word itself. When a spread of potential detestable foods was set before him and he heard a voice, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat,” Peter’s revulsion was so stark he argued with God. “By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” The Lord replied, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 11:7-9) Peter was soon to find out that this wasn’t all about food, but people.

He exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.

Acts 11:23

God made it clear in the following days that His salvation was not only intended for the Jewish people, but for everyone. God’s purpose is to love people and unite with them so that, as Jesus prayed, “the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26)

This holiday season, express your thanks for God’s loving gift of salvation in Christ. Remember that love is greater than food, gifts and all those details that can preoccupy you this time of the year. Pray, too, for the nation’s citizens and leaders to develop hearts that love God and love others.

Recommended Reading: John 17:20-26

Greg Laurie – A Vision of Heaven  

 

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. —Revelation 21:4

Have you ever tried to explain something to someone and couldn’t quite find the words? Have you ever tried to describe something complex to a child? For God to describe heaven to us in a way we could understand would be like trying to describe the beauty of Hawaii to a three-month-old child. We’re not able to comprehend, in our finite human understanding, all the infinite glories of heaven.

In fact, the apostle Paul, who had the unique experience of dying and actually going to heaven, said that he heard things so astounding that they couldn’t be told (see 2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Paul was essentially saying that he couldn’t put his experience into words.

Heaven is beyond our comprehension. While there aren’t many verses in the Bible that tell us about it, Scripture does tell us a few things. It says that in heaven there will be no night. There will be no fear. There will be no suffering or death. All of the pain and disabilities that we face in this life will be gone in heaven.

But the glory of heaven is even more than having new bodies—and even more than the absence of darkness and sorrow and pain and death. The fact that Jesus Christ will be there is better than all the beauty and all the answers to all our questions.

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar. (Isaiah 33:17, NIV)

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

Max Lucado – Linger Near the Manger

 

Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption! Just ask the Bethlehem shepherds!  They had no expectations of excitement. These are sheep they’re watching. We count sheep to go to sleep! Shepherds treasured the predictable. This was the night shift. Any excitement was bad excitement—wolves, lions, poachers. Just because they wanted a calm night, didn’t mean they would get it.

Luke 2 says, “Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord shining around them, and they became very frightened” (v 9). We always assume the worst before we look for the best. It’s a good thing the shepherds lingered; otherwise, they might have missed the second message. “Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ the Lord” (v 11).

I hope you’ll do what the shepherds did—linger near the manger!

From In the Manger