Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Making Tracks

 

Have you even been stopped cold in your tracks with a timely-asked question? Jonah, a believer in the Old Testament, was given a specific assignment by God. It was a difficult task and he could not be successful without divine help. At his core, Jonah didn’t like how God was going about things. One day in frustration he sat down under a tree – overcome, irritated and annoyed.

And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

Jonah 4:4

Many times in Scripture, as in today’s verse, one’s spiritual condition is bluntly exposed with a question. In Genesis God asks Adam, “Who told you that you were naked?” In Matthew Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say I am?” In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks Judas, “Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Today, if you find your soul vexed by what seems to be happening on the world stage or in your own life, ask yourself this question: “How dedicated am I to being part of God’s providential plan, done in His way and in His timing?” Pray many will join you in humbly dedicating themselves to staying on track and seeing that God’s purposes are being accomplished in America.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 26:2-8

Greg Laurie – Don’t Miss Christmas

 

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

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room.”—Joy to the World

This Christmas, don’t miss the point of celebrating Christmas. Don’t be like the innkeeper who missed Jesus because he was too busy (see Luke 2). Make time for the Lord. Don’t be like King Herod who was too afraid to let Christ rule his life (see Matthew 2). Turn your heart over to Christ. Finally, don’t run your life like the Roman Empire, who missed Christmas because other gods took the place of Christ in their lives. Allow nothing else to take the place of worshipping Jesus Christ.

On Christmas morning we will unwrap our Christmas presents, but eventually the novelty of it all will wear off. The present that was once so precious to you will end up stuffed in the closet or handed off to someone else. A newer version of your latest gadget will arrive that has more megapixels, or is smaller, or faster, or has better battery life. In time, your Christmas gifts will mostly be forgotten. But God has given us the ultimate gift—the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.

Don’t miss Christmas this year. As Watts and Handel once wrote, “Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room.”

Max Lucado – No Room in the Inn

 

Some of the saddest words on earth are “We don’t have room for you.” Jesus knew the sound of those words. He was still in Mary’s womb when the innkeeper said,“We don’t have room for you.” And when He hung on the cross, wasn’t the message one of utter rejection? “We don’t have room for you in this world.”

Today Jesus is given the same treatment. He goes from heart to heart, asking if He might enter. Every so often, He’s welcomed. Someone throws open the door of his or her heart and invites Him to stay. And to that person Jesus gives this great promise, “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (Jn. 14:2). We make room for Him in our hearts, and Jesus makes room for us in His house!

From In the Manger

Our Daily Bread — The Heart Of Christmas

 

1 Timothy 1:12-17

The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. —1 Timothy 1:14

Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol was released on December 19, 1843, and has never been out of print. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a wealthy, sour, stingy man who says, “Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas,’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding!” Yet, one Christmas Eve, Scrooge is radically changed into a generous and happy man. With great humor and insight, Dickens’ book captures the universal longing for inner peace.

As a young man, the apostle Paul opposed Jesus and His followers with a vengeful spirit. He “made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3). But one day he encountered the risen Christ, and his life became a different story (9:1-16).

In a letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, Paul described that life-changing event by saying, even though he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man . . . the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:13-14).

Jesus was born into our world and gave His life so that we can be forgiven and transformed through faith in Him. This is the heart of Christmas! —David McCasland

Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,

That hath made heaven and earth of naught,

And with His blood mankind hath bought. —English carol

A change in behavior begins with Jesus changing our heart.

Bible in a year: Jonah 1-4; Revelation 10

Insight

Though Paul’s words to Timothy in today’s reading are not one of the traditional biblical texts we read at Christmas, they definitely have application for this season. In verse 15 we read: “Christ Jesus came into the world.” This is a reference not only to Christ’s coming but also to His purpose for coming. Why was He born in human flesh? Paul answers that question by adding, “to save sinners.” Jesus’ coming was a mission of rescue for a race that desperately needed a Savior.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The House of Christmas

 

Some years ago, we were spending Christmas in the home of my wife’s parents. It was not a happy day in the household. Much had gone wrong during the preceding weeks, and a weight of sadness hung over the home. Yet, in the midst of all that, my mother-in-law kept her routine habit of asking people who would likely have no place to go at Christmas to share Christmas dinner with us.

That year she invited a man who was, by everyone’s estimate, somewhat of an odd person, quite eccentric in his demeanor. Not much was known about him at the church except that he came regularly, sat alone, and left without much conversation. He obviously lived alone and was quite a sorry-looking, solitary figure. He was our Christmas guest.

Because of other happenings in the house (not the least of which was that one daughter was taken to the hospital for the birth of her first child), everything was in confusion. All of our emotions were on edge. It fell upon me, in turn, to entertain this gentleman. I must confess that I did not appreciate it. Owing to a heavy life of travel year-round, I have jealously guarded my Christmases as time to be with my family. This was not going to be such a privilege, and I was not happy. As I sat in the living room, entertaining him while others were busy, I thought to myself, “This is going to go down as one of the most miserable Christmases of my life.”

But somehow we got through the evening. He evidently loved the meal, the fire crackling in the background, the snow outside, the Christmas carols playing, and a rather weighty theological discussion in which he and I were engaged—at his instigation, I might add. He was a very well-read man and, as I found out, loved to grapple with heavy theological themes. I do too, but frankly, not during an evening that has been set aside to enjoy life’s quiet moments.

At the end of the night when he bade us all good-bye, he reached out and took the hand of each of us, one by one, and said, “Thank you for the best Christmas of my life. I will never forget it.” He walked out into the dark, snowy night, back into his solitary existence.

My heart sank in self-indictment at those tender words of his. I had to draw on every nerve in my being to keep from breaking down with tears. Just a few short years later, relatively young, and therefore to our surprise, he passed away. I have relived that Christmas many times in my memory. That year God taught me a lesson. A home can reflect and distribute the love of Christ.

The first time I walked through the noisy streets of Bethlehem and endured its smells, I gained a whole new sense of the difference between our Christmas carols, glamorizing the sweetness of the “little town of Bethlehem,” and the harsh reality of God becoming flesh and making a home among us. G.K. Chesterton captures the wonder of such a thought:

A child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where he was homeless

Are you and I at home:

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,

But our hearts we lost—how long ago!

In a place no chart nor ship can show

Under the sky’s dome.

To an open house in the evening

Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome.

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.(1)

Jesus’s earthly address changes our own. Christ comes this Advent, and shows us what it means to live.

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

(1) G.K. Chesterton, “The House of Christmas,” from Robert Knille, ed., As I Was Saying (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1985), 304-5.

Alistair Begg – A Grand Question

The sea was no more.  Revelation 21:1

We could scarcely rejoice at the thought of losing the glorious old ocean: The new heavens and the new earth are not attractive to our imagination if in fact there is literally going to be no great and wide sea with its gleaming waves and sandy shores. Should the text not be read as a metaphor tinged with the prejudice with which the oriental mind universally regarded the sea in the olden times?

A real physical world without a sea is a sad idea; it would be an iron ring without the sapphire that made it precious. There must be a spiritual meaning here. In the new dispensation there will be no division—the sea separates nations and divides peoples from each other. To John in Patmos the deep waters were like prison walls, shutting him out from his brethren and his work: There will be no such barriers in the world to come. Leagues of rolling billows lie between us and family members whom tonight we prayerfully remember, but in the bright world to which we go there will be unbroken fellowship for all the redeemed family. In this sense there shall be no more sea.

The sea is the emblem of change; with its ebbs and flows, its glassy smoothness and its mountainous billows, its gentle murmurs and its tumultuous roarings, it is never the same for very long. It is a slave of the fickle winds and the changing moon, and its instability is proverbial. In this earthly journey we have too much of this; earth is constant only in her inconstancy. But in our heavenly state all mournful change will be unknown, and with it every fear of storms that would wreck our hopes and drown our joys. The sea of glass glows with splendor unbroken by a wave. No tempest howls along the peaceful shores of paradise.

Soon we will reach that happy land where partings and changes and storms shall be ended! Jesus will guide us there. Are we in Him or not? This is the grand question.

The family reading plan for December 19, 2014 * Zechariah 6 * John 9

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

Charles Spurgeon – Love

 

“We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Suggested Further Reading: 1 John 3:14-18

We have known many Christians who have forgotten much of their love to Christ when they have risen in the world. “Ah!” said a woman, who desired to do much for Christ in poverty, and who had had a great sum left her, “I cannot do as much as I used to do.” “But how is that?” said one. Said she, “When I had a meagre purse I had an overflowing heart, and now I have an overflowing purse I have only a meagre heart.” It is a sad temptation for some men to get rich. They were content to go to the meeting-house and mix with the ignoble congregation, while they had but little; they have grown rich, there is a Turkey carpet in the drawing-room, they have arrangements now too splendid to permit them to invite the poor of the flock, as once they did, and Christ Jesus is not so fashionable as to allow them to introduce any religious topic when they meet with their new friends. Besides this, they say they are now obliged to pay this visit and that visit, and they must spend so much time upon attire, and in maintaining their station and respectability, they cannot find time to pray as they did. The house of God has to be neglected for the party, and Christ has less of their heart than ever he had. “Is this thy kindness to thy friend?” And hast thou risen so high that thou art ashamed of Christ? And art thou grown so rich, that Christ in his poverty is despised? Alas! Poor wealth! Alas! Base wealth! Alas! Vile wealth! It would be well for thee if it should be all swept away, if a descent to poverty should be a restoration to the ardency of thine affection.

For meditation: If success in the world goes to our hearts it can do others much good (1 Timothy 6:17-19); if it goes to our heads it can do us much harm (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Sermon no. 229

19 December (1858)

John MacArthur – A Warning to the Intellectually Convinced

 

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard” (Heb. 2:3).

Many people know the facts of the gospel but won’t make a commitment to it.

I will never forget a lady who came to my office, confessing that she was a prostitute and was desperate for help. I presented the claims of Christ to her and asked if she wanted to confess Christ as Lord of her life. She said yes and prayed, seemingly inviting Christ into her life.

Then I suggested that we burn her book of contacts. She looked at me incredulously and said, “What do you mean?” “If you want to live for Jesus Christ,” I explained, “and you’ve truly accepted His forgiveness and embraced Him as Lord, then you need to prove it.” “But that book is worth a lot of money,” she said. “I don’t want to burn it.” After putting it back in her purse, she looked me right in the eye and said, “I guess I don’t really want Jesus, do I?”

When it came to counting the cost, she wasn’t ready. I don’t know whatever became of her, but my heart aches for her and others like her.

I’m sure you know people like her—they know and believe that Christ is the Savior, they know they need Him, but they are unwilling to make a commitment to Him. Perhaps they even go to church and hear the Word of God. They are like the proverbial man who says he believes a boat will keep him afloat, but never sets foot in one.

Those people are the most tragic of all. They need to be warned—to be given a powerful shove toward Christ. May the Lord use you as His instrument for that purpose in the lives of many who are on the edge of a decision for Christ.

Suggestion for Prayer; Ask God to soften the hearts of people you know who understand the facts of the gospel, but haven’t yet made a commitment to it.

For Further Study; Read Matthew 19:16-22. What kinds of questions should you ask of someone who appears eager to become a Christian?

 

Joyce Meyer – How to Deal with Disappointment

 

Does your happiness depend on everything in your life being just right? If you think you can’t be happy until all your circumstances are right, you will never be happy!

We all experience times in life when we feel down for various reasons, but we can’t allow our circumstances to control our emotions. Satan seeks to fill our minds with negative thoughts that eventually cause us to lose our joy and feel negative. He is a discourager, and he wants to pull us down emotionally, spiritually, financially, and in every way he can.

But Jesus is our Encourager, and He came to lift us up! He came to give us righteousness, peace and joy. He wants us to expect good things for our future and fill us with hope.

Everyone experiences times of frustration and distress over unfulfilled plans or dreams. When things don’t go the way we hope, it is normal to feel disappointment. But we must be careful how we deal with that feeling, because if we remain in a state of disappointment for too long, it can turn into discouragement, despair, and even depression.

I’m not talking here about some depression that can be the result of a chemical imbalance in your physical body. I’m talking about situational depression dealing with our circumstances or disappointments.

Psalm 30:5 tells us that …Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Things may make us feel sad temporarily, but we must not stay sad. If we do, Satan takes advantage of the open door and pushes his way further into our lives, bringing more serious problems. However, with God, when we get disappointed, we can always make a decision to get reappointed. We can choose to look to Him for new hope and renewed strength to go forward.

The Way You Respond Makes All the Difference

I’ve often said emotions can be one of our greatest enemies. It’s easy to be led by how we feel, but we must realize that feelings are fickle—they change from day to day! We shouldn’t follow every thought that comes to our mind because they can often contradict the truth of what God says about us.

For many years of my life, I experienced regular depression. I would awake in the morning with a little voice in my head saying, “I feel depressed.” I believed this was my own thought, not realizing the enemy was attempting to speak lies to my mind.

Later, when God drew me into a closer walk with Him and I began seriously studying His Word, I learned that I didn’t have to follow every feeling and thought that I had. I began to speak aloud and say, “I will not be discouraged or depressed.”

Isaiah 61:3 tells us to put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (NKJV). We may not always feel like praising God, but taking a few moments to talk to the Lord and thank Him for His goodness is one of the most powerful weapons we have to fight discouragement. We literally invite God’s presence into our situation, which brings us His strength, peace and joy.

We’ll never be able to completely avoid disappointments in life, but we can choose how we react to them. The next time you encounter a situation that threatens to pull you down, make a decision to turn to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to fill you with hope. Choose to believe what God says instead of your feelings. As you do, you’ll soon find yourself enjoying life…and looking forward to the good things ahead.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God’s Gift of Himself

 

“Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17,18, KJV).

Near the Church of St. Mark’s in Venice are three 17th century churches often admired for their highly ornate sculpture. On closer inspection, Ruskin points out, they are found to be “entirely destitute of every religious symbol, sculpture or inscription.”

They are really monuments to the glory of three Venetian families who provided the funds for their construction. “Impious buildings, manifestations of insolent atheism,” they were called by John Ruskin, English writer, art critic and sociologist.

Many Christians are like these buildings. Their association with God is more of a facade, formal and ritualistic. They do not know God as a caring Father with whom they experience a delightful, loving relationship.

As we meet God’s conditions, he becomes our Father, and we become His sons and daughters. His gift of Himself is illustrated in the life of a successful young attorney.

“The greatest gift I ever received,” he said, “was a Christmas gift from my dad. Inside a small box was a note saying, ‘Son, I will give you an hour every day after dinner – 365 days. It’s all yours. We’ll talk about what you want to talk about, we’ll go where you want to go, we’ll play what you want to play. It will be your hour.

“He not only kept his promise, but every year he renewed it – and it was the greatest gift I ever had in my life. I had so much of his time.”

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:11-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will count myself richly blessed for having so much of my Father’s time and will seek diligently to be worthy of His love and availability to me.