Charles Stanley – Fruit, More Fruit, Much Fruit

 

John 15:8,16

I lived for a while in the mountains of North Carolina, in a place that was known as Fruitland. The area got that name because it was—and still is—apple country. I once went to visit a member of my church there, and his wife told me he was out in the orchard, pruning trees. So I walked out to watch. Not knowing any better, I said, “Man, you’re going to kill that tree.” He turned to look at me and said, “You stick to preaching. I’ll take care of the pruning.”

Later I learned that in order to produce a good crop, the tree branches had to be pruned. It’s a lesson I have never forgotten, because it also applies to our spiritual lives. Sometimes we argue with God when bad times hit and we are hurting. We assume He must not love us if He would allow such painful things to happen. But what the Lord is actually doing is pruning us so that we will bear quality fruit; then He prunes us again for more fruit, and finally He prunes us for much fruit. If a branch continues to grow without being cut back, lots of little shoots will emerge from it and draw away the sap’s life-giving sustenance.

Little things in life can be like those shoots, thwarting our fruitfulness: Sometimes we allow our kindness to depend on how we feel when we wake up in the morning; we might let a bad habit develop; or perhaps we allow our peace to get wrapped up in our circumstances. But if we accept God’s pruning with the proper attitude, the Holy Spirit’s sap will nurture the fruit in our life.

Our Daily Bread — Snug As A Bug In A Rug!

 

Psalm 91:9-16

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. —Psalm 4:8

When I was a child, my family lived in a house my father built in the cedar breaks west of Duncanville, Texas. Our house had a small kitchen-dinette area, two bedrooms, and a great room with a large stone fireplace in which we burned 2-foot-long cedar logs. That fireplace was the center of warmth in our home.

There were five people in our family: my father and mother, my sister, my cousin, and me. Since we had only two bedrooms, I slept year-round on a porch with canvas screens that rolled down to the floor. Summers were delightful; winters were cold.

I remember dashing from the warmth of the living room onto the porch, tiptoeing across the frost-covered plank floor in my bare feet, leaping into bed and burrowing under a great mountain of blankets. Then, when hail, sleet, or snow lashed our house and the wind howled through the eaves like a pack of wolves, I snuggled down in sheltered rest. “Snug as a bug in a rug,” my mother used to say. I doubt that any child ever felt so warm and secure.

Now I know the greatest security of all: God Himself. I can “lie down in peace, and sleep” (Ps. 4:8), knowing that He is my shelter from the stinging storms of life. Enveloped in the warmth of His love, I’m snug as a bug in a rug. —David Roper

Leaning, leaning,

Safe and secure from all alarms;

Leaning, leaning,

Leaning on the everlasting arms. —Hoffman

No one is more secure than those who are in God’s hands.

Bible in a year: Hosea 9-11; Revelation 3

Insight

Psalm 91 celebrates the safety and security of those who trust in God, who have made the Lord (the Most High) their refuge, fortress, and dwelling place (vv.2,9). The psalmist affirms that our God is powerful and faithful and therefore trustworthy (vv.1-8). He also testifies of God’s protection and deliverance in a dangerous and destructive world (vv.9-16). In the New Testament, Satan misquoted verses 11-12 to tempt Jesus to test God’s protection by jumping from the top of the temple (Matt. 4:6). In response, Jesus says that God’s promise is for those who love and obey Him (Ps. 91:14-15) and not for those who presume upon God’s grace (Matt. 4:7).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Both Near and Far from Home

 

In his poem Journey of the Magi, T.S. Eliot imagines the reminiscent thoughts of one of the Magi who journeyed from afar to witness the birth of Christ. Using the voice of a king far from home, Eliot portrays the weight in the soul of one who has confronted the human Christ, the king who points us home. The poem powerfully concludes:

“Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt I had seen birth and death.

But had thought they were different, this Birth was

hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our palaces, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

with an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.”

Coming in contact with the Christ, proclaims Eliot, setting one’s eyes on the child who was born to die is like dying ourselves, in a sense, and forever changing our sense of ‘home.’ Though the poem seems to strike a somber note, it is a very note echoed triumphantly throughout New Testament Scripture. The apostle Paul readily utilized the words and imagery of death to describe life in Christ, the interplay of both home and homelessness. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Jesus uttered similarly, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(1)

In the season of Advent, Christians profess to be a people watching and waiting—in hope, in lament, in need—remembering and anticipating with those who first watched God step into the world through the mean estate of a dirty stable. We remember those who first set their eyes on the child who was born to die, becoming, in a sense, as Christ was on that first night, homeless and out of place. We remember that we, too, are far from home, longing for a home we know in part. Having truly seen the person of Christ, the Christian sees all the more clearly the reality of a world in need of justice, reconciliation, mercy, and healing. And we are, as Eliot describes, “no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods.” The message of Advent awakens a sense that we are both near and far from home, reminding a dark world that a light has indeed been born in our midst, reminding a broken world that we are waiting for the return of this one who shows us what it means to be truly human and whole again.

In one of the most comforting conversations between Jesus and the disciples, Jesus gives a description of this place, which we have seen in part, and he assures us of an invitation to be fully inside. “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”(2) Compounding this hope, his words are followed by one of his most quoted promises. As Thomas replied, “But Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

We find in Christ himself the curious interplay of home and homelessness. This one who so loved creation that he joins us within it is not only the herald of our homelessness but the harbinger of our home. He curiously proclaims this very kingdom among us and he mercifully offers himself as the way inside. Thus, G.K. Chesterton describes our own mysterious place of being both near and far from home:

“For men are homesick in their homes,

and strangers under the sun…

but our homes are under miraculous skies

where the Yule tale was begun.”

The story of Christ’s birth is a certain message of hope and home—with the much needed room for lament over all that is presently missing and the desperately needed foretastes of a table where we will one day come together in healed communion with ourselves, our neighbors, and God. He who took on the fullness of humanity became homeless that we might come fully home. He curiously proclaims a kingdom at home among us and mercifully continues to prepare us for a place within it. Let every heart prepare him room!

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

(1) cf. Galatians 2:20, Matthew 10:39.

(2) John 14:2-4.

Alistair Begg – God’s Ways are Everlasting

 

They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord.  Hosea 5:7

Believer, here is a sad truth! You are the beloved of the Lord, redeemed by blood, called by grace, preserved in Christ Jesus, accepted in the Beloved, on your way to heaven, and yet you “have dealt faithlessly” with God, your best friend; faithlessly with Jesus, to whom you belong; faithlessly with the Holy Spirit, by whom you have been born again to life eternal! How faithless you have been in the matter of vows and promises. Do you remember your love in the early days, that happy time, the springtime of your spiritual life? How closely you held to your Master then, saying, “He will never charge me with indifference; my feet will never grow slow in the way of His service; I will not allow my heart to wander after other loves; in Him is blessing I could ever enjoy. I give up everything for my Lord Jesus’ sake.” Has it been so? Sadly if conscience speaks, it will say, “He who promised so much has performed so little. Prayer has frequently been slurred—it has been short but not sweet, brief but not fervent.

Communion with Christ has been forgotten. Instead of a heavenly mind, there have been earthly preoccupations, foolish vanities, and evil thoughts. Instead of service, there has been disobedience, instead of fervency lukewarmness, instead of patience petulance, instead of faith self-reliance; and as a soldier of the cross there has been cowardice, disobedience, and desertion, to a very shameful degree.”

“They have dealt faithlessly.” Faithless to Jesus! What words shall be used in denouncing this? Words are cheap: Let our penitent thoughts condemn the sin that is so surely in us. Faithless to Your sacrifice, O Jesus! Forgive us, and let us not sin again! How shameful to be faithless to Him who never forgets us, but who to this day stands with our names engraven on His breastplate before the eternal throne.

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The family reading plan for December 12, 2014 * Haggai 1 * John 2

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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 blood

 

“When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Exodus 12:13

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-22

The blood of Jesus Christ is blood that has been accepted. Christ died—he was buried; but neither heaven nor earth could tell whether God had accepted the ransom. There was wanted God’s seal upon the great Magna Carta of man’s salvation, and that seal was put, in that hour when God summoned the angel, and commanded him to descend from heaven and roll away the stone. Christ was put in the prison house of the grave, as a hostage for his people. Until God had signed the warrant for acquittal of all his people, Christ must abide in the bonds of death. He did not attempt to break his prison; he did not come out illegally, by wrenching down the bars of his dungeon; he waited: he folded up the napkin, laying it by itself: he laid the grave-clothes in a separate place; he waited, waited patiently, and at last down from the skies, like the flash of a meteor, the angel descended, touched the stone and rolled it away; and when Christ came out, rising from the dead in the glory of his Father’s power, then was the seal put upon the great charter of our redemption. The blood was accepted, and sin was forgiven. And now, soul, it is not possible for God to reject you, if you come this day to him, pleading the blood of Christ. God cannot—and here we speak with reverence too—the everlasting God cannot reject a sinner who pleads the blood of Christ: for if he did so, it would be to deny himself, and to contradict all his former acts. He has accepted blood, and he will accept it.

For meditation: Are you still stuck at the point of asking “What proves the resurrection”? Or have you advanced to consider what the resurrection proves (Romans 4:25; Acts 17:31)?

Sermon no. 228

12 December (1858)

John MacArthur – A More Excellent Name

 

“He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee’? And again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me’?” (Heb. 1:4-5).

Jesus is better than the angels because Christ was more than a messenger—He was a Son.

In our culture, the names we pick for our children don’t have much connection with the child’s character. But in the Bible, God chose specific names that related to some character quality of the individuals who bore them.

The writer of Hebrews was well aware of that when He asked this rhetorical question: “To which of the angels did [God] ever say, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee’? and again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me’?” quoting Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. Of course, the answer is no angel.

The title Son refers to Jesus Christ in His incarnation. Though His sonship was anticipated in the Old Testament (Prov. 30:4), He did not become a Son until He was begotten into time. Prior to that He was eternal God with God. Presenting Jesus as the Son is God’s analogy to help us understand the relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity.

Christ became a Son in two different ways. First, He was not a Son until He came into the world through the virgin birth (Luke 1:35; 3:22). But second, His sonship came to full bloom in His resurrection (Rom. 1:3-4).

The Old Testament prophesied that Christ would come as a Son. In the New Testament He came as a Son in His virgin birth and was declared to be the Son by His resurrection from the dead. Don’t ever get trapped into the heresy of those who claim that Jesus Christ is eternally subservient to God. For a temporary period of time, He set aside what was rightfully His and humbled Himself to become a Son for our sakes.

Suggestion for Prayer

  • Thank God for His amazing plan to redeem man through the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity.
  • Praise Him that He became Man to redeem you.

For Further Study

Read Acts 13:33 and Romans 1:3-4 noting the reason that Christ can be considered God’s Son.

Joyce Meyer – Enter His Rest

 

And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus.  —Ephesians 2:6

There are many places in the Bible where Jesus, after the Resurrection, is described as being seated. We might think standing would be more powerful. But being seated has special significance.

Under the Law, when a priest entered the Holy of Holies to make sacrifices for the people’s sins, he could not sit. He had to keep moving and working the entire time. If the bells on his robe stopped ringing, that meant that he had done something wrong and had fallen over dead.

That is why it is so awesome that Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down as our high priest. He entered the rest of God. As joint heirs with Christ, we can sit too. We no longer have to work and strive to atone for our sins. Choose to rest in His presence tonight.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A Place of Rest

 

“So there is a full complete rest still waiting for the people of God. Christ has already entered there. He is resting from His work, just as God did after the creation. Let us do our best to go into that place of rest, too, being careful not to disobey God as the children of Israel did, thus failing to get in” (Hebrews 4:9-11).

A Christian leader was asked: “How do you handle the incredible pressure of your schedule – speaking, writing, giving leadership to a great movement that touches the lives of millions of people around the world? How do you do it? You must carry a tremendous load!”

The inquirer was surprised at the response. “No, quite honestly I don’t carry the load. I’m not under any pressure. I made a great discovery, probably the greatest discovery that a Christian can make. In the Christian life there is a place of rest which one enters by faith and obedience. No matter how great the pressure, or how terrible the testing, the supernatural resources of God sustain, empower, bless and encourage us and our Lord carries the load and fights for us.”

Though few Christians ever enter into this rest, it is available to all believers. When the Israelites were on their way to the promised land, God had already prepared the hearts of the inhabitants, filling them with fear. There is reason to believe that they would have capitulated readily. But when the twelve spies returned after forty days of checking out the land, ten of them reported, “There are giants in the land, and we felt like grasshoppers in their sight.” Only Joshua and Caleb said, “Let’s go in and take the land. God has withdrawn His blessing from the people and He will fight for us.”

But three million Israelites agreed with the majority report, and as a result, wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Why did it take so long for them to enter the land God had already given them? Because, as recorded in verse 2, they failed to mix the promises of God with faith.

Why does the average Christian not enter into a place of rest with God – that supernatural life which produces an abundance of fruit? Because he fails to mix the promises of God with faith. That is what this book, Promises, is all about – to remind us daily of our heritage as children of God and to show us how we can draw upon the mighty, inexhaustible resources of deity to live the supernatural life. Are you experiencing the life of the Spirit? Have you entered into God’s rest? If not, you can begin to do so now.

Bible Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: As an act of faith and obedience, I will enter that place of rest and I will encourage every believer with whom I have contact today to join me in the adventure.

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Becoming

 

If the adage “you are what you eat” is true, why don’t salad eaters have lettuce for hair or meat eaters have bacon for brains? The reality is a little more complicated. Modern psychology calls it “change blindness” – the tendency of people not to see small changes over time. A salad eater may indeed wake up one day to find a slimmer waistline, and the bacon eater may notice a slight heart palpation after that same time. The change happened, but the process wasn’t really noticed.

They went after false idols and became false.

II Kings 17:15

In the Bible, the ancient Israelite nation was crumbling under persecution after God’s people had given up their faith and began to follow pagan practices. You might think after they had seen the Lord miraculously defeat a mighty Pharaoh and deliver them from slavery, they would never forget their powerful God; but that does not account for change blindness. Life was hard for the Israelites, living among people that did not acknowledge their God. Instead of challenging the situation as the Lord had instructed, they stayed silent. Slowly, over time, they became just like their enemies.

Today, pray for faithful believers in the nation to stay strong, standing for God’s purposes. Have faith that, over time, America will become what you pray for.

Recommended Reading: Philippians 3:8-21

Greg Laurie – Our Backup Plan

 

Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

—Jude 1:21

When police officers are in trouble, what do they do? They call for backup. That is what believers need to do as well. When we are being hassled or tempted, we need to call for backup. We are to stand strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

James 4:7 says, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Notice it doesn’t say that we are to submit to God and carry on extended conversations with the Devil. We want to keep our distance from the enemy, being careful never to yield to his suggestions.

Disobedient and persistent waywardness provides the Enemy a foothold from which he can attack and influence the Christian. So flee temptation and don’t leave a forwarding address. Keep your distance from the things that could drag you down.

We must learn from the example of the Israelites who, in spite of their privileges and exposure to miracles, did not keep themselves in the love of God. As a result, they faced judgment.

We must learn from the example of the fallen angels who, even though they once worshiped God in heaven, they rebelled against Him and became demons in hell.

We must learn from the example of the people living in Sodom and Gomorrah who, in spite of the fact that they were exposed to the preaching and ministry of Abraham, Lot, and even Melchizedek, they rebelled against God.

These all failed to keep themselves in the love of God. So let’s make sure we are taking every step to do that.

Max Lucado – Too Busy to Notice

 

One’s imagination is kindled thinking about the conversation of the innkeeper and his family. Did anyone mention the arrival of the young couple the night before? Did anyone ask about the pregnancy of the girl on the donkey? The innkeeper and his family were so busy. The day was upon them. The day’s bread had to be made. The morning’s chores had to be done. There was too much to do to imagine that the impossible had occurred. God had entered the world as a baby.

Meanwhile the city hummed. Merchants were unaware that God had visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he’d just sent God into the cold. Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival—missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it simply because they weren’t looking. Not much has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

From In the Manger