Charles Stanley – A Necessary but Challenging Lesson

 

Psalm 27:14

Have you ever wondered why the psalmist coupled the admonition to wait for the Lord with encouragement to be strong and courageous? The reason is that sometimes delaying is the hardest thing to do. In fact, practicing patience is one of the most important lessons in God’s School of Obedience—it’s essential that believers learn to wait upon Him.

Modern culture is in such a hurry. Gotta have it now! Gotta do it now! We’ve been primed to stay in a permanent state of readiness. It takes courage to be still when the world is rushing past. It takes strength to obey when everything in us hollers, “Go!” while God is whispering, “Wait.” But people are quick to act because they are afraid of missing out on something. Believers who buy into that attitude make a move and then hope the Lord will bless them.

God leaves nothing to chance. He does not place a decision before us with the hope that we’ll make the right choice. That would be irresponsible and out of character. The Father is more than willing to show His children what to do, because He is personally interested in their welfare. But until the Lord makes clear what is the way forward, we’ve got to pause and wait.

Waiting upon God is not passivity. It is not laziness. Nor is it an excuse for avoiding responsibility. In fact, the opposite is true: People who seek God’s will are those who pause to pray, search Scripture, and perhaps even fast before taking action. And in the meantime, they are still serving God wherever they can.

Our Daily Bread — A Ukrainian Christmas

 

Luke 2:6-14

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men! —Luke 2:14

The people of Ukraine include many wonderful elements in their observance of Christmas. Sometimes wisps of hay are placed on the dinner table as a reminder of the Bethlehem manger. Another portion of their celebration echoes the events of the night when the Savior entered the world. A Christmas prayer is offered and then the father in the household offers the greeting, “Christ is born!” The family then responds, “Let us glorify Him!”

These words draw my mind to the appearance of the angels in the sky over Bethlehem on the night Christ was born. The angel of the Lord declared, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The heavenly host responded, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (v.14).

Those twin messages give such depth of meaning to this wonderful time of year. The Savior has come bringing forgiveness and hope—and He is deserving of all the worship we can give Him.

May all who know the wonder of His gift of eternal life join with the voices of that angelic host declaring, “Glory to God in the highest!” —Bill Crowder

With th’angelic hosts proclaim,

“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!” —Wesley

The spectacular glory of God’s love for us was revealed in the coming of Jesus.

Bible in a year: Amos 4-6; Revelation 7

Insight

Luke’s telling of the birth of Christ includes the shepherds, who lived apart from society in their lowly occupation, and the angels, who announced to those shepherds the arrival of the Messiah (vv.9-14). From the humble to the heavenly, the contrast of shepherds and angels pictures the journey of the Son who came from the highest place to be the Lamb of God.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Voice in the Wilderness

 

Amidst all the twinkling lights, decorations, gleeful holiday carols, festive parties, and holiday sales, a more somber spirit resides. In Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland, Ohio, and Staten Island, New York there is weeping and mourning for lost loved ones. Not places in the thoroughfares, these are towns on the margins. And for many, these are people who appear to be on the margins. Yet here in these marginal places, the cry for justice goes up and interrupts the mainstream revelry and festivity that is the Christmas season.

Traditionally, the season that precedes Christmas, the Advent season, is a somber season. It is a season that calls for repentance and reflection. For during the Advent season, another voice from the margins of society calls for repentance, righteousness and justice. It is the voice of John the Baptizer crying out from the wilderness.

John’s voice, often forgotten in our hurried, holiday preparations, is crucial to our understanding of this season. His is such a crucial message that all four gospel writers include aspects of John’s story. Mark, in particular, begins his gospel this way: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY; THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT” (Mark 1:1-3).

For the writer of Mark’s gospel, the beginning of the gospel is not a birth narrative, as in Matthew and Luke, but the one who proclaims the Messiah; proclaims his Advent, and proclaims the Advent of his kingdom. Advent, like John the Baptist, calls for preparation, for reflection, and for repentance in preparation for the coming of God’s anointed one. For all who would declare Jesus the Messiah, preparation involves aligning lives with the values of his kingdom.

Luke’s gospel continues where Mark begins by providing the most detailed portrait of John’s wilderness preaching and message. Here the reader learns of the kingdom values. John exhorts his audience: “Therefore, bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.’ And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:8-9). As Luke’s narrative continues, three groups come to John asking him what they should do to prepare for the King and his kingdom, and avoid this terrible and awesome fate. John tells those who have an abundance to share food and clothing with those who have none; he exhorts tax collectors to exercise fair business practices, and he tells soldiers not to take money by force, accuse anyone falsely, and to be content with their wages.(1)

I was surprised, as I read John’s exhortations, at the immense practicality of repentance. To bear good fruit involves the treatment of others, generosity, fair measures, the proper use of wealth and resources, and a sense of contentment. This seems a timely word today, as mistreatment of others, perpetual cycles of violence, fear, and the temptation to hoard resources tempts us to turn this season of repentance into an empty celebration of materialism and mindless consumption.

Instead, I wonder if Advent preparations can be practical provisions—bringing forth fruit “in keeping with repentance”? As repentance has its way—literally understood as “turning around” or “turning toward”—might there be a turning away from that diminishes life, and turn toward the One to whom John pointed—One who provides fullness of life? The life that if offered by Jesus can then be poured out as blessing for others.

John’s message of repentance is the “beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” And his call during the Advent season is a call to join him in the margins. As I listen again to John’s voice in this season of preparation and repentance, I hear his prophetic call to me; he calls me out of my busyness, my own preoccupation with comfort, and my own self-interested desires. He calls to me to “bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance.” Through the din of the all the other voices, I strain to hear his voice calling to me from the wilderness.

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

(1) See Luke 3:1-14; See also Mark 12:28-31 and Matthew 22:34-40.

Alistair Begg – Help us Understand

 

You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. Isaiah 48:8

It is painful to remember that to a certain degree this accusation may be laid at the door of believers, who too often are in some measure spiritually insensitive. We may well bemoan the fact that we do not hear the voice of God as we should: “You have never heard.” There are gentle motions of the Holy Spirit in the soul that are unheeded by us: There are whisperings of divine command and of heavenly love that are equally unobserved by our dull minds. Sadly, we have been carelessly ignorant—”You have never known.” There are spiritual matters that we ought to have seen, corruptions that have been allowed to develop unnoticed, tender affections that are being harmed like flowers in the frost, untended by us, glimpses of the Lord that we might have perceived if we had not barricaded the windows of our soul.

But we “have never known.” As we think of this we are truly and deeply humbled. How we must adore the grace of God as we realize from the context that all of our folly and ignorance was foreknown by God, and notwithstanding that foreknowledge, He has still been pleased to deal with us in mercy! Ponder and admire the marvelous sovereign grace that could have chosen us in the sight of all this! Wonder at the price that was paid for us when Christ knew what we would be!

He who hung upon the cross foresaw us as unbelieving, backsliding, cold of heart, indifferent, careless, lax in prayer, and yet He said, “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Because you are precious in My eyes and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” How wonderful and glorious is this redemption when we think how sinful we are! Holy Spirit, give us from now on a hearing ear and an understanding heart!

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The family reading plan for December 16, 2014 * Zechariah 3 * John 6

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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 – Heaven

 

“The things which God hath prepared for them that love him. ” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 26:26-29

One of the places where you may most of all expect to see heaven is at the Lord’s table. There are some of you, my dearly beloved, who absent yourselves from the supper of the Lord on earth; let me tell you in God’s name, that you are not only sinning against God, but robbing yourselves of a most inestimable privilege. If there is one season in which the soul gets into closer communion with Christ than another, it is at the Lord’s table. How often have we sung there:

“Can I Gethsemane forget? Remember thee and all thy pains,

Or there thy conflicts see, And all thy love to me,

Thine agony and bloody sweat, Yes, while a pulse, or breath remains,

And not remember thee? I will remember thee.”

And then you see what an easy transition it is to heaven:

“And when these failing lips grow dumb,

And thought and memory flee;

When thou shalt in thy kingdom come,

Jesus, remember me.”

O my erring brethren, you who live on, unbaptised, and who receive not this sacred supper, I tell you they will not save you—most assuredly they will not, and if you are not saved before you receive them they will be an injury to you; but if you are the Lord’s people, why need you stay away? I tell you, the Lord’s table is so high a place that you can see heaven from it very often. You get so near the cross there, you breathe so near the cross, that your sight becomes clearer, and the air brighter, and you can see more of heaven there than anywhere else. Christian, do not neglect the supper of your Lord; for if you do, he will hide heaven from you, in a measure.

For meditation: When you come to the Lord’s Table, do you look forward to the future in anticipation as well as to the past in gratitude (1 Corinthians 11:26)?

Sermon no. 56

16 December (1855)

John MacArthur – Christ’s Eternal Existence

 

“Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay a foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they will perish, but Thou remainest; and they all will become old as a garment. And as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; as a garment they will also be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end” (Heb. 1:10-12).

Christ existed before the beginning of the world; thus He is without beginning.

Jesus Christ is no creature. To be able to lay the foundation of the earth and create the heavens in the beginning implies that He must have existed before the beginning. The apostle John testified to this when he said, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). Christ is eternal.

Jesus is also immutable, which means He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” We need to hang onto this truth as we approach a day when much of what we know will change drastically.

One day what looks so permanent will fold up. Like the people Peter warned, we are tempted to think that “all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). But Hebrews 1:11 tells us that one day Jesus will discard the heavens and the earth, just as we would a useless garment.

Even more amazing, verse 12 specifies that Christ will roll up the heavens. Revelation 6:14 says, “The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” During the time of the tribulation, the heavens, as if stretched to all corners, will roll right up like a scroll.

But we can be confident that although creation will perish, Jesus will not, and He will create a new heaven and a new earth. Living creatures, worlds, and stars are subject to decay, but not Christ. He never changes and is never subject to change. What confidence that should give us for the daily issues of life we face each day!

Suggestion for Prayer; Thank the Lord for His unchanging plan for your life and His ability to keep it.

For Future Study; Read 2 Peter 3 and develop an approach to answering charges unbelievers make about biblical prophecies regarding the end times.

Joyce Meyer – Cooperation Required

 

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord,thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.— Jeremiah 29:11

The most important thing is not how we start but how we finish. Some people get started with a bang, but they never finish. Others are slow starters, but they finish strong.

God has a plan for each of us. It is our destiny. But it is a possibility, not a “positively.” Even if someone prophesies over us wonderful things in the name of the Lord, what is being prophesied is the heart, the will, and the desire of God for us. It doesn’t mean it is positively going to happen, because if we don’t cooperate with God, it is not going to come to pass. We have a part to play in seeing that plan come true.

I challenge you to cooperate with God every single day of your life to develop your potential. Every day you should learn something new. Every day you should grow. Every day you should be a bit further along than you were the day before. We must each discover our God-given gifts and talents, what we are truly capable of, and then put ourselves to the task of developing those gifts, talents, and capabilities to their fullest extent.

Lord, I am thrilled that You have a plan for my life. That I have a destiny is amazing. I want to cooperate with You today and make that a reality. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Trusting an Unchanging God

 

“God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those He promised to help would be perfectly sure and never need to wonder whether He might change His plans” (Hebrews 6:17).

If there is one characteristic that might describe us all, more than any other trait, it would have to be that we are changeable and unpredictable. We are not dependable. How wonderful then to know and serve someone who never changes – who is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can know what to expect from Him in any given situation without fear of a sudden change in behavior, thought or purpose.

A scientist knows there are laws governing the universe and that those laws are inviolate. Thus, when President John F. Kennedy challenged industry to put a man on the moon, a mobilized army of scientists and engineers was able to accomplish the feat within nine years from the drawing board stage. When the assignment was given, no one knew what to do, and yet there were basic laws – dependable, trustworthy laws of the universe – on which they could build. Through much creative planning and thinking, the miracle occurred.

Today, it is commonplace to send men into space. God of the universe, who established the laws that govern all life, never changes. Our moods and our attitudes and actions vacillate, but God never changes. That is the reason we can absolutely, without question, believe His promises, and in so doing, release His mighty supernatural resources in terms of money, manpower and technology to envelop the entire world of almost five billion people with the most joyful news ever announced.

We are reminded in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God. Have you learned how to claim the promises of God by faith? When you do, you will learn how to live supernaturally.

Bible Reading: Psalms 102:24-28

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Realizing that God has bound Himself with an oath to keep His promise, I shall trust and obey Him no matter what happens, for this is the way to supernatural living. This is the way to maximize myself for the glory of God.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Foregoing Frivolity

 

Every trial lawyer worth his or her salt is intimately familiar with a legal volume entitled Rules of Civil Procedure. It is a courtroom bible of sorts that spells out how pleadings and proceedings are to be conducted. And every lawyer knows about Rule 11, which says, in essence, that lawsuits must be brought in good faith. Arguments may not be presented which are “frivolous” or brought for “any improper purpose such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.”

There is one body and one spirit.

Ephesians 4:4

Wouldn‘t it be nice if Christians also would commit to avoiding frivolous arguments? For God’s will and purposes to be fulfilled in America over the coming year, followers of Christ must set aside non-essential disagreements and focus on the enemy at hand. The apostle Paul was no doubt thinking of infighting among believers when he reminded the church at Ephesus that there is “one body and one spirit.”

As you pray today, ask God to help those who call Him Lord to set aside petty spats and get on the same page. If Christians stand together with one voice in 2015 for biblical truth and values, the impact on Congress, the White House and the nation will be overwhelming!

Recommended Reading: John 13:31-35

Greg Laurie – The Pursuit of God

 

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.—John 15:4

A glance at today’s headlines could lead us to conclude that we live in pretty bleak times. There is great uncertainty about the future, especially among teens and twenty-somethings. Many feel they have nothing to grasp, no one to believe in, and no one to trust except themselves.

I would like to say there is something to grasp. There is someone to trust in, but it is not ourselves. It is the God who created us.

Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? These are questions that everyone should ask as they look to the future, especially if they are young. If we have no goals, purpose, or guiding principles, then we will waste our lives like so many others have wasted theirs. As it has been said, if we aim at nothing, we’re bound to hit it.

According to the Bible, you don’t find happiness, fulfillment, and joy by just looking for them here and there. These things are by-products of a relationship with the living God, in Christ. Let me put it this way: If you seek God and live according to His plan for your life, then you will find happiness. You will find joy. You will also find fulfillment—not through the pursuit of those things, but through the pursuit of God. So seek Him!

Max Lucado – What Love Does

 

Would you do what Jesus did? He exchanged the worship of angels for the company of killers. If you were God, would you? I wouldn’t, but Christ did! Jesus humbled Himself. He went from commanding angels to sleeping in the straw. Why? Because that is what love does. It puts the loved before itself. Your place in heaven was more important to Him than His place in heaven, so He gave up His so you could have yours.

It’s time to let His love cover all things in your life. Every promise broken, every cross word, and harsh word. His love covers all things. Let it! Do it for His sake. For the peace of your heart. And do it for their sake. For the people in your life. Let His love fall on you so yours can fall on them.

From In the Manger