Charles Stanley – A Godly Testimony

 

Acts 8:26-40

Christians have adopted a narrow definition of the word testimony. But sharing Jesus is much more than telling our conversion story or talking about God’s work in our life, although these things are important. We need to be prepared to meet unbelievers at the point of their spiritual need, even if our own story is very different.

Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch can teach us quite a lot. While young Israelites had friends and family to disciple them in their faith, a foreign convert often had to work alone to discern the meaning of complex scriptures. So by asking, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip showed that he understood the Ethiopian’s disadvantage. That one question enabled him to discover that the man had a genuine thirst for God’s truth but did not know of the Messiah.

Philip used that information to tailor a gospel testimony for his particular listener. Consider how easily the Ethiopian could have become confused or frustrated if Philip—whose Jewish background was so different from the foreigner’s—had told only his own conversion story. The evangelist wisely avoided any extraneous information and instead used the power of God’s Word to introduce the man to Jesus Christ.

Philip’s testimony began with the passage the Ethiopian was reading. He effectively spoke to the man’s spiritual interest in general while specifically answering his questions about Isaiah 53. We, too, must be sensitive to unbelievers’ concerns so we can explain how God will meet their needs.

Our Daily Bread — My Friends And I

 

1 Samuel 18:1-4; 23:15-18

Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. —1 Samuel 18:3

John Chrysostom (347–407), archbishop of Constantinople, said this about friendship: “Such is friendship, that through it we love places and seasons; for as . . . flowers drop their sweet leaves on the ground around them, so friends impart favor even to the places where they dwell.”

Jonathan and David illustrate the sweetness of a true friendship. The Bible records an intimate and immediate bond between them (1 Sam. 18:1). They kept their friendship alive by demonstrating their loyalty to each other (18:3; 20:16, 42; 23:18), as well as nurturing it by expressions of concern. Jonathan gave gifts to David (18:4) and watched out for him through many difficulties (19:1-2; 20:12-13).

In 1 Samuel 23:16, we see the highest moment of their friendship. When David was a fugitive on the run from Jonathan’s father, “Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God.” Friends help you find strength in God during the low points of life.

In a world where most relationships are about what we can get, let us be the type of friends who focus on what we can give. Jesus, our perfect Friend, demonstrated for us that “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). —Poh Fang Chia

Thank You, Lord, for the friends You’ve given me to love

me in spite of my failures and weaknesses. Let me treat

them as You treated Your friends. Bind us together in

You and enable us to help one another.

The glory of life is to love, not to be loved; to give, not to get; to serve, not to be served.

Bible in a year: Obadiah; Revelation 9

Insight

The deep friendship between David and Jonathan withstood the test of time and circumstances, evidenced when Jonathan went against his father, King Saul (1 Sam. 20), endangering his own life in order to save David (v.33). Although Jonathan was the crown prince, he encouraged David by assuring his safety and affirming that he would be the next king (23:17). After Jonathan died in battle (31:1-6), David honored him with the “Song of the Bow,” which was to be remembered by the people of Judah (2 Sam. 1:18-27).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Debt and Gratitude

 

“Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill.” So goes the counsel of Ralph Waldo Emerson, which is worth considering, perhaps particularly in the season of gift giving. Do you feel pressure to reciprocate when someone treats you to lunch? Do you find yourself repaying kindness for kindness, compliment for compliment, present for present and so on? You are far from alone if you do. According to sociologists, this sense of obligation, which they refer to as the “Rule of Reciprocation,” is present in every single known human society. And it is as powerful as it is prevalent. Professor of psychology Robert Cialdini notes, “So typical is it for indebtedness to accompany the receipt of [favors, gifts, and the like] that a phrase like ‘much obliged’ has become a synonym for ‘thank you.’”(1)

The implications of that etymological statement perhaps unveil our haste in responding to debt. Indebtedness is uncomfortable, after all; to be rid of it is liberating. Gratitude, on the contrary, asks much more of us. Our sense of indebtedness is not removed, but lingers in a state of being thankful.

Of course, you can return a favor and still experience gratitude for the favor given you. But you can also return a favor simply to reciprocate, to mindlessly remove that feeling of indebtedness. One psychology class carried out a revealing experiment on this subject. The professor sent Christmas cards to a large list of complete strangers to test the Rule of Reciprocation. He found response astounding. Cards came pouring back to him, all from people he had never met, the vast majority never even inquiring into the identity of the unknown sender! They simply received his card, and automatically sent one in return.

The experiment merits inquiry into our own lives. How do we respond to the sense of obligation? Are we uncomfortable with indebtedness? It is worth asking if for no other reason than that there will be times in life for which there is no fitting response to indebtedness. What happens when we discover there is no appropriate response to the gift or the giver? What will happen when we simply cannot reciprocate?

One simple option is that we respond with gratitude. We come into the presence of the giver with thanksgiving and we are changed by the gift.

It is an option favored by the historical church. Faith in some ways is an invitation into the life of gratitude. For when the giver is the human Son of God, approaching humanity as one of us, freely mediating our case before God, submitting to death and sorrow in innocence, holding the world in heart, how then do we respond? The old hymn perhaps offers much wisdom:

Alas! and did my Savior bleed,

And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head,

For such a worm as I?

Thus might I hide my blushing face,

While His dear cross appears,

Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,

And melt my eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay,

The debt of love I owe:

Here, Lord, I give my self away,

‘Tis all that I can do.(2)

It is gratitude that sees this sacred debt for which there is no reciprocating and with devotion says, “Come, Lord Jesus. Here I am.”

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

(1) Robert Cialdini, Influence: Science and Practice (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2001), 20.

(2) Isaac Watts, “Alas and Did my Savior Bleed?“

 

Alistair Begg – Take Stock

 

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.  Proverbs 27:23

Every wise businessman will occasionally hold a stock-taking, when he will examine his accounts, consider what he has on hand, and determine clearly whether his trade is prosperous or declining. Every man who is wise in the kingdom of heaven will cry, “Search me, O God . . . Try me”;1 and he will frequently set apart special seasons for self-examination, to discover whether things are right between God and his soul. The God whom we worship is a great heart-searcher; and in the past His servants referred to Him as “I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.”2

Let me encourage you in His name to diligently search and solemnly test your spiritual state, for fear you should come short of the promised rest. This is what every wise man does, and what God Himself does with us all. I exhort you to do the same yourself this evening. Let the oldest saint examine the basics of his piety, for gray heads may cover evil hearts: And the young professor should not despise the word of warning, for the greenness of youth may accompany the rottenness of hypocrisy. Every now and then a spiritual giant falls. The enemy still continues to sow tares among the wheat.

It is not my aim to introduce doubts and fears to your mind; I rather hope that the rough wind of self-examination may help to drive them away. It is not security but fleshly security that we would kill, not confidence but carnal confidence that we would overthrow, not peace but false peace that we would destroy.

By the precious blood of Christ, which was not shed to make you a hypocrite, but rather that sincere souls might declare His praise, I urge you to search and look, for fear that in the end it will be said of you, “Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.”3

1) Psalm 139:23   2) Revelation 2:23   3) Daniel 5:27

The family reading plan for December 18, 2014 * Zechariah 5 * John 8

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – The inexhaustible barrel

 

“And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:16

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 5:6-11

If God saves us, it will be a trying matter. All the way to heaven, we shall only get there by the skin of our teeth. We shall not go to heaven sailing along with sails swelling in the breeze, like sea birds with their fair white wings, but we shall proceed with sails torn to ribbons, with masts creaking, and the ship’s pumps at work both by night and day. We shall reach the city at the shutting of the gate, but not an hour before. O believer, thy Lord will bring thee safe to the end of thy pilgrimage; but mark, thou wilt never have one particle of strength to waste in wantonness upon the road. There will be enough to get thee up the hill Difficulty, but only enough then by climbing on your hands and knees. You will have strength enough to fight Apollyon, but when the battle is over your arm will have no strength remaining. Your trials will be so many, that if you had only one trial more, it would be like the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. But, nevertheless, though God’s love should thus try you all the journey through, your faith will bear the trying, for while God dashes you down to the earth with one hand in providence, he will lift you up with the other in grace. You will have consolation and affliction weighed out in equal degree, ounce for ounce, and grain for grain; you will be like the Israelite in the wilderness, if you gather much manna, you will have nothing over; while blessed be God, if you gather little you shall have no lack. You shall have daily grace for daily trials.

For meditation: The Christian does not need to go looking for problems—they are as fundamental to the Christian faith as any major doctrine (Acts 14:22); but the Christian receives from God the ability to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Sermon no. 290

18 December (1859)

John MacArthur – Bearing with an Exhortation

 

“I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22).

Invitations to salvation must provide both exhortation and warning.

Hell is undoubtedly full of people who did not actively oppose Jesus Christ, but simply drifted into damnation by neglecting to respond to the gospel. These are the kinds of people the writer challenges in Hebrews 2:1-4. They were aware of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, but weren’t willing to commit their lives to Him. As a result, they were drifting past the call of God into eternal disaster.

The Word of God always demands a response. Any effective teacher of it must do more than just dispense facts; he must warn, exhort, and extend an invitation. He may have impressive knowledge of the truth, but if he doesn’t have a passionate concern for how people react to it, he is not a worthy representative of Jesus Christ.

Jesus had that kind of compassion. Despite the rejection of His own people, He ached for their salvation: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen ushers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). You can feel His heart go out to the people.

Paul had similar compassion: “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of My brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:2-3). A true teacher is interested in more than just academics; he is concerned that people respond rightly to what is taught.

Just as the writer of Hebrews had to warn and exhort his readers, at times it becomes necessary for us to warn those we are witnessing to. If you want to see unbelieving friends, relatives, or associates come to Christ, warn them. Let them see the passion in your heart and your love for them. Please don’t allow anyone to slip into eternal destruction without being warned sufficiently.

Suggestion for Prayer; Ask God to give you wisdom regarding when to warn the people you are witnessing to.

For Further Study; Read Hebrews 3:7—4:13, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, and 12:25-29 noting the pattern the writer followed in presenting these other warnings.

Joyce Meyer – God Chooses the Weak

 

[No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.—1 Corinthians 1:27

God gives us His power (grace) so we can do what is needed in spite of our weaknesses. In fact, God purposely chooses the weak and foolish things of the world to work through so we will give Him the glory for what is being done. God wants to amaze the world, and one of the ways He does so is by accomplishing great things through people who are weak and don’t have the natural ability to complete the task at hand (see 1 Corinthians 1:25–29).

Relax; don’t be afraid you won’t be able to do what God has given you to do. Step out in faith, and God will meet you where you are and give you His grace (undeserved favor and power) to complete the task. Through Christ you can do all things!

Power Thought: God uses my weaknesses to show His strength.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He is Faithful

 

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised)” (Hebrews 10:23, KJV).

When we share our faith with others – hopefully a natural part of our daily walk, though we need not “preach a sermon” to share – we can remain steadfast in that profession of our faith, not wavering as we consider all He has done for us.

Why is that possible?

Simply this: He is faithful that promised.

The writer of Hebrews, presumably the apostle Paul, knew that the believers had been suffering persecution and there might be a tendency or temptation to become weak in their faith. Even serious doubts might have crept in. So Paul is seeking to guard against any kind of apostasy.

He wants to be sure the people are not shaken by their trials or by the arguments of their enemies. So he exhorts them in unmistakable terms.

Paul’s reasoning to the people about faithfulness was this: Since God is so faithful to us, His children, we ought to be faithful to Him. Further, the fact that He is faithful should be an encouragement to us. We are dependant upon Him for grace to hold fast the profession of our faith.

All that God has promised, He will perform. He is faithful.

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will state in positive, confident terms what God has done for me, knowing that He is the faithful One who will do all He has promised. With this assurance, I can draw open His faithfulness to live supernaturally.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Character Check

 

Adopting the world’s ways instead of God’s ways is serious business. Someone once said, “Give the church a few years and it will assimilate the ways of the world.” Several would argue this has already been happening for some time.

Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will.

Ezra 10:11

In the scripture surrounding today’s verse, Israel had disobeyed God by marrying foreign wives. This was a big deal back then. They had not only invited the ladies into their homes, but they had adopted their ways. God demanded repentance not just because His people had disobeyed Him, but because they had also compromised their character in pursuit of what they wanted, not what He knew was best.

Believers are to be in the world, not of it; not to simply pass time until Heaven, but to be sent into the world as Christ’s witnesses (John 17:18). Yet you can’t represent Jesus if there is no difference between your lifestyle and the unbelievers around you (Romans 12:2). Is your focus self-centered and pleasure-seeking, or do you strive to be like Jesus, express His character, and declare His name? Pray for Christians in America to be a shining light in this nation this holiday season and in the year to come.

Recommended Reading: John 17:6-19

Greg Laurie – What I Want for Christmas

 

“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” —Colossians 2 :16–17

I have always believed in the promise of Christmas. There has always been something special to me about this time of the year, going back to my earliest days of childhood.

What is it that we love about Christmas, once we get past the initial trappings?

I think it is the sense of wonder, beauty, and anticipation. It is the music, the look of surprise on a child’s face, and the amazing food. It’s the companionship of family and good friends. It is also the absence of strife and meanness (that is, with the exception of the crowds on “Black Friday”).

But how often does Christmas really deliver on its promises? A little bit here and there, but by and large, it ends up being the endless drone of mind-numbing ads on TV. It is the friction and pressure that comes when we are obligated to purchase gifts for people we barely know. It is the expectation put on us by others and sometimes even ourselves.

Then there is that big post-Christmas letdown—the letdown of expectations that can never really be met. We were not able to give what we really wanted to give, or what they really wanted to receive. Or you yourself did not get what you had hoped for. Then there are those bills that come due . . .

So what is Christmas at its worst? It is a crass, commercial, empty, exhausting, and very expensive ritual that drags on endlessly for months at a time.

What is Christmas at its best? It is a glimpse of things to come—the beauty, the worshipful music, the adoring angels, the love, the warmth, the promise, the hope. . .all things promised to us in a life to yet come.

You see, Christmas is a promise. It is a promise that has not yet been fully kept.

Christmas cannot be all that we want it to be. It’s only a holiday. Christmas cannot bring harmony to your home. Christmas cannot bring peace on earth. Christmas cannot bring happiness.

But Christ Himself can do all of this and more. That is really what we are longing for deep inside.

Not Christmas, but Christ.

Not merriment, but the Messiah.

Not goodwill, but God.

Not presents, but His presence.

Anything or anyone short of this will disappoint. But God never will.

That’s what I want for Christmas—Jesus Christ.

Max Lucado – A Sacred Delight

 

Scripture says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)

No man had more reason to be miserable than Jesus—yet no one was more joyful. He was ridiculed. Those who didn’t ridicule Him, wanted favors. He was accused of a crime he had never committed. Witnesses were hired to lie. They crucified him. He left as He came—penniless.

He should have been miserable and bitter. But He wasn’t. He was joyful! He possessed a joy that possessed Him. I call it a sacred delight. Sacred because it’s not of the earth, delight because it is just that: the joy of God. And it is within reach—in the person of Jesus. He offers it to you, my friend…a sacred delight!

From In the Manger