Charles Stanley – Spreading Light Throughout Your World

 

Matthew 5:14-16

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12). He also said of His followers—which includes modern believers—“You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Both statements are true because Christians act as lanterns for Christ. While we ourselves are not the Light, we are holders of light.

People who are stumbling in the darkness of sin and despair can look at believers and see hope. From within us glows the truth of Jesus Christ—the message of salvation through forgiveness of sins. We allow Him to shine forth not only when we speak about biblical truth but also when we model His ways. Righteous behavior gets attention because it’s so different from the selfish, unsatisfying lifestyle typical of the world. Many who see our light will want Jesus for themselves.

Reflecting Him to the world is the believer’s God-given job, so we must keep our flame bright. That means protecting our relationship with God by spending time praying and reading His Word. Otherwise, we will make unwise decisions, our fervor for the Lord will begin to lessen, and unbelievers won’t be able to see contentment or joy in us. We must also keep our lantern spotless by resisting temptation. Sin soils the believer’s testimony. However, when we do sin, our slate is wiped clean through confession and repentance.

It’s a great honor to reflect Jesus to the world. Don’t allow negligence or wrongdoing to dim your flame. Someone in your sphere of influence needs your “lantern” to guide him or her toward the true Light of the world.

Our Daily Bread — Remember The Wrapping

 

Philippians 2:5-11

[Jesus] made Himself of no reputation . . . coming in the likeness of men. —Philippians 2:7

At our house some Christmas events are the same each year. Among them is my wife Martie’s appeal to the kids and grandkids as they attack their gifts: “Save the paper, we can use it next year!” Martie loves to give nice gifts, but she also appreciates the wrapping. Presentation is part of the beauty of the gift.

It makes me think of the wrapping Christ chose when He came as a redemptive gift to rescue us from our sinful selves. Jesus could have wrapped Himself in a mind-boggling show of power, lighting up the sky with His presence in a celestial show of glory. Instead, in a beautiful reversal of Genesis 1:26, He chose to wrap Himself “in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).

So why is this wrapping so important? Because, being like us, He is no stranger to our struggles. He experienced deep loneliness and the betrayal of a dear friend. He was publicly shamed, misunderstood, and falsely accused. In short, He feels our pain. As a result, the writer of Hebrews tells us that we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

When you think of the gift of Jesus this Christmas, remember to keep the “wrapping” in mind! —Joe Stowell

Lord, thank You for wrapping Yourself in our likeness!

Remind us that You understand our struggles and that

we can confidently take advantage of the mercy and

grace You offer to make us victorious.

Don’t disregard the wrapping of the best Christmas gift of all.

Bible in a year: Micah 6-7; Revelation 13

Insight

Philippians 2:5-11 is perhaps the greatest declaration of Christ’s deity and humanity in the Bible. In His incarnation, Jesus did not replace His deity with humanity, but added humanity to His deity; He did not cease to be God, but surrendered the independent use of His divine powers and the right to manifest His own glory as God. Before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed that the Father would restore to Him the glory He had with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). Jesus’ prayer was answered when the Father “highly exalted Him and [gave] Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Critical Care

 

The “doorknob phenomenon” is an occurrence many physicians know well. Doctors can proceed meticulously through complete examinations and medical histories, taking care to hear a patient’s questions and concerns, but it is often in the last thirty seconds of the appointment that the most helpful information is revealed. When a doctor’s hand is on the doorknob, body halfway out the door, vital inquiries are often made; when a patient is nearly outside the office, crucial information is shared almost in passing. Many have speculated as to the reasons behind the doorknob phenomenon (which is perhaps not limited to the field of medicine), though a cure seems unlikely. Until then, words uttered on the threshold remain a valuable entity to the physician.

If I can speak on behalf of patients (perhaps I’ve been a perpetrator of the phenomenon myself), I would note that the doorway marks our last chance to be heard. Whatever the reason for not speaking up until that point—fear, discomfort, shame, denial—we know the criticalness of that moment. In thirty seconds, we will no longer be in the presence of one who might offer healing or hope or change. At the threshold between doctor’s office and daily life, the right words are imperative; time is of the essence.

One of the many names for God used by the writers of the Bible is the Great Physician. It is curious to think of how the doorknob phenomenon might apply. Perhaps there are times in prayer when the prayer feels as if we are moving down sterile lists of conditions and information. Work. Finances. Mom. Jack. Future. Of course, while bringing to God in prayer a laundry list of concerns with repeated perseverance is at times both necessary and helpful, perhaps there are also times when we have silenced the greater diagnosis with the words we have chosen to leave unspoken. Can a physician heal wounds we will not show, symptoms we will not mention?

Thankfully, yes. The Great Physician can heal wounds one cannot even articulate. Scripture writers speak of a God who hears even our groanings too deep for words. On the other hand, choosing to leave out certain details is hardly helpful before any doctor. Can God begin the work that needs to be done if we won’t really come near as a patient? Is there a cure for those who do not seek it?

The prophet Jeremiah once cried, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? No healing for the wound of my people?” Jeremiah lived during one of the most troublesome periods of Hebrew history. He stood on the threshold between a people sick with rebellion and despair and the great Physician to whom they refused to cry out in honesty.

“I have listened attentively,” the LORD declared, “but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.”(1) His words describe behavior a doctor likely recognizes. A patient who complains of a cough while a fatal wound is bleeding will neither find respite for the cough nor her unspoken pain, and of course, a good physician would not treat the cough until the bleeding has been stopped.

In Jeremiah’s day, as in our own, the promise of a quick and effortless remedy was cunningly presented in many ways. Of these ‘prophets of deceit’ God declared, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”(2) There are some promises that are quite easy to stand beside but crumble under the weight of us. To stand in honesty before a physician is more difficult. To stand in honesty with the greatest of Physicians is to submit to a kindness that may undo us. It is to ask to be made well, to be made whole, to be made truly human by the Son of God with human hands, knowing that the cost of my remedy was his.

The great Christmas hymn places before us a powerful resolution:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground

He comes to make His blessing flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found.(3)

The woundedness of humanity is serious: cries of injustice, the wounds of racism, despair and lament at cancers around us, the devastating marks of our own sin left shamefully upon others and ourselves. This cannot be bandaged as anything less than a mortal wound. But the threshold is now. Christ comes near. He weeps with us, ready to address the indications of our illness. Let us in hope and honesty come toward the one who imparts healing and kindness. In the coming of Christ, God offers a cure extending as far as the wound can ever fester.

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

(1) Jeremiah 8:6.

(2) Jeremiah 8:11.

(3) Isaac Watts, Joy to the World, 1719.

 

Alistair Begg – Caring for His Own Sheep

 

The sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  John 10:4

What is it that provides the infallible evidence that you are a child of God? It is a foolish presumption to answer this by our own judgment; but God’s Word reveals it to us, and we may walk confidently when we have revelation as our guide. We are told concerning our Lord, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”1 So if I have received Christ Jesus into my heart, I am a child of God. That reception is described in the same verse as believing in the name of Jesus Christ.

If, then, I believe on Jesus Christ’s name—that is, simply from my heart entrust myself to the crucified but now exalted Redeemer—I am a member of the family of the Most High. Whatever else I may not have, if I have this, I have the privilege of becoming a child of God. The Lord Jesus puts it in another way: “The sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

Here is the matter in a nutshell. Christ appears as a shepherd to His own sheep, not to others. As soon as He appears, His own sheep perceive Him—they trust Him, they are prepared to follow Him. He knows them, and they know Him; there is a mutual knowledge—there is a constant connection between them. And so the evidence, the infallible mark of regeneration and adoption, is a hearty faith in the appointed Redeemer. Reader, are you in doubt, are you uncertain about whether you are one of God’s children? Then do not let an hour pass until you have said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.”2 Do not linger here, I warn you! If you must linger anywhere, let it be about some secondary matter—your health, if you wish, or the title deeds of your home. But about your soul, your never-dying soul and its eternal destiny, I urge you to be in earnest. Make certain of this eternal issue.

1) John 1:12  2) Psalm 139:23

The family reading plan for December 22, 2014 * Zechariah 9 * John 12

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

Charles Spurgeon – Plenteous redemption

 

“With him is plenteous redemption.” Psalm 130:7

Suggested Further Reading: Galatians 4:1-7

This “plenteous redemption” is plenteous, because it is enough for all the distresses of the saints. Your wants are almost infinite; but this atonement is quite so. Your troubles are almost unutterable; but this atonement is quite unutterable. Your needs you can scarce tell; but this redemption I know you cannot tell. Believe, then, that it is “plenteous redemption.” O believing sinner, what a sweet comfort it is for you, that there is “plenteous redemption,” and that you have a lot in it. You will most certainly be brought safely home, by Jesus’ grace. Are you seeking Christ; or rather, do you know yourselves to be sinners? If you do, I have authority from God to say to every one who will confess his sins, that Christ has redeemed him. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Are you a sinner? I do not mean a sham sinner; there are lots of them about, but I have no gospel to preach to them just now. I do not mean one of those hypocritical sinners, who cry, “Yes, I am a sinner,”—who are sinners out of compliment, and do not mean it. I will preach another thing to you: I will preach against your self-righteousness another day; but I shall not preach anything to you just now about Christ, for he “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” But are you a sinner, in the bona fide sense of the word? Do you know yourself to be a lost, ruined, undone, sinner? Then in God’s name I urge you to believe this—that Christ has died to save you.

For meditation: We spend money to buy presents for others; Christ came to spend His lifeblood to buy sinners back for God. Christmas means nothing without the Christ; Christmas means nothing without Easter (Mark 10:45).

Sermon no. 351

22 December (Undated Sermon)

John MacArthur – The Confirmation from God

 

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Heb. 2:3-4).

God confirmed the truth of the gospel preached through Christ with many miracles.

When Jesus preached the gospel, He performed miracles that made what He said believable. He said, “Though you do not believe Me, believe the works” (John 10:38). Jesus claimed to be from God, then made it obvious He really was from God.

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “No one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him” (John 3:2). Jesus confirmed His ministry by His own miracles. Peter reiterated that fact on the day of Pentecost: “Jesus the Nazarene [was] a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22).

God also gave these same confirming signs to His second generation of preachers—the apostles—so no one could dispute the validity of their message. What the apostles said was not their own opinion; it was divine truth substantiated by signs, wonders, and miracles.

Signs, wonders, and miracles are synonyms referring to all the supernatural things the apostles did. But the apostles also confirmed the Word with “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” That’s a reference to the temporary sign gifts described in Scripture, such as tongues and healings, not to the permanent edifying gifts given to the church for all time.

Today God attests to the gospel with the miracle of His written Word. Let it not be said that you neglected Jesus Christ. History confirms that hours of neglect cost Napoleon Waterloo. Neglecting Christ’s salvation will cost you eternal blessing and joy and bring you damnation. Don’t allow yourself to drift past God’s grace.

Suggestion for Prayer; Thank God for His Word, and that through it you have all the truth you need to communicate the gospel.

For Further Study; Read Acts 5-19 and list all the miracles performed by the apostles to confirm the gospel.

Joyce Meyer – Still, Small Voice

 

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.—1 Kings 19:11-12

Someone once told me of a one-act play with three characters—a father, a mother, and a son who had just returned from Viet Nam who are sitting at a table to talk. The play lasts thirty minutes, and they all get their chance to talk. There’s only one problem: No one listens to the others.

The father is about to lose his job. The mother had once held just about every office in their church, and now younger women are pushing her aside. The son struggles with his faith. He had gone to war, seen chaos and death, and now is bewildered about life.

At the end of the play, the son stands and heads toward the door. “You haven’t heard a word I’ve said,” is his parting remark, as he walks out of the room. The parents look at each other, and the mother asks, “What did he mean?”

What the parents didn’t get and the audience obviously does is that the son struggles to believe in a loving, caring God. Every time he tries to explain, one of the parents interrupts with something they want to say. The soldier needed to hear from God. Hoping his mother or father would be the channel through which God would speak, he went to them. However, they were not available for God to use because they were not quiet enough to hear Him. All three of them were so distraught and noisy that they all left the same way they came. What might have happened had they really listened to one another, and then quietly prayed and waited on God? I am sure the outcome would have been very different and much more rewarding.

In the opening scripture, I quoted part of the story of Elijah to make this point clear. That deeply committed prophet had defied the wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel for years. The big moment came on Mount Carmel when Elijah destroyed 450 prophets of Baal. Later, when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him, he ran away, apparently in terror.

He must have been worn out by the powerful events. Then suddenly the man was alone, with no crowds, no one trying to kill him, and no one to talk to. Just before the two verses mentioned above, Elijah had gone into a cave to hide out. When God asked him what he was doing there, he spoke of his zeal for God. Then he told God that the children of Israel had gone astray, killing prophets, And I, I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away (v. 10).

God brought strong winds, falling rocks, an earthquake, and fire. I think that was the way Elijah expected God to appear in the miraculous and powerful. But the writer tells us God wasn’t in those things.

This is really the spiritual principle of God at work. We can find the devil in the noise and the shouts. We can find the devil with big attractions to lead us astray. But God likes to speak in the still, small voice the voice that not everyone will hear the voice that only the committed will listen for.

As long as Elijah sought the dramatic, he wouldn’t hear God. But when he pulled back and listened for the inner voice, the soft, nondemanding voice of the Holy Spirit, Elijah could communicate with God.

What kind of voice from God are you listening for? Will you recognize the still, small voice when you hear it? Do you take time to be quiet and just listen? If not, there is no better time to begin than right now.

Wise God, like Elijah and many others, I often look for the loud, the exciting, and the showy. I know that You sometimes use healings and miracles, but I ask You to help me listen most of all in the soft stillness for the quiet ways in which You speak. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Proof of His Love

 

“For when He punishes you, it proves that He loves you. When He whips you it proves you are really His child” (Hebrews 12:6).

Most of us prefer more pleasant ways of having others prove their love for us. Children, for example, never particularly relish the idea of having the “board of education” applied to the “seat of learning,” but sometimes the disciplinary spanking is necessary.

We do that to our children because we love them. How much more important that our heavenly Father discipline us to keep us in line with His perfect plan and will for our lives. Sometimes that discipline is tough and painful.

This does not mean, of course, that God sends chastisement which is not deserved, or that He sends it for the mere purpose of inflicting pain. But it does mean that He is showing His paternal, loving care for us as His children when He punishes us.

As a child, a practical illustration helped me with this concept, so much so that it still sticks with me. When I allow my life to be flexible, like putty or soft clay, God can take it and mold it as He chooses. When I decide to be stubborn and resistant – hard like concrete – He sometimes has to smooth the rough edges, and that always hurts.

We sing a chorus about the Spirit of God falling afresh on us. “Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.” When you and I are like putty in His hands, yielded and committed to Him, He can indeed mold us in His image.

Bible Reading: Revelation 3:19-22

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will surrender to God’s disciplinary action in my life realizing that as a kind, loving heavenly Father He must take such action for my own good and benefit, when I am in need of correction.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Call to Vigilance

 

Sardis was once a city of great wealth, sitting on the caravan route where merchants brought silks and spices. They even minted their own coins in silver and gold. Over the centuries, it collapsed. Commercial highways bypassed it and earthquakes crumbled its former magnificent structures. You’ve seen similar things in the United States when factories close or interstate lanes circumvent once bustling communities.

Wake up, and strengthen what remains.

Revelation 3:2

Jesus knew what was ahead for the Sardinians. He saw the Christians there were apathetic. Even what they did was left unfinished…a lackluster group to be sure. How is it with you? Is your faith vibrant and at work?

Of course, in His grace, He told them what to do. Wake up, remember and repent. If you are asleep, nothing gets done. Wipe the spiritual slumber from your eyes. Then recall what it is that Christ has done for you – from your salvation to the things He has walked you through. Repentance for your forgetfulness should come next. That done, you’ll then find yourself walking in closer relationship with Him. From there, just follow His lead as you strengthen your faith and remain vigilant against the thief of your soul.

Recommended Reading: Revelation 3:1-6

Greg Laurie – God’s Gift to Us (Part 2)

 

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.—Isaiah 9:6

We celebrate Christmas in order to rejoice over God’s most precious gift to us. The birth of Jesus Christ is a gift from God that came in simple wrapping, as well as a gift we don’t deserve. But the gift of Christ also explains His purpose for humankind.

The gift of Christ was no afterthought. Long before there was a stable in Bethlehem, before Adam and Eve ever set eyes on each other, and even before there existed a garden called Eden, God decided to send His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins.

From the beginning, God knew humankind would fall short of His glory. That is why the Scriptures proclaim that Jesus Christ was slain from the foundation of the world (see Revelation 13:8).

God made a decision from the very beginning that Christ would come to this earth to live and die and rise again from the dead. God’s gift to us proves His purpose to redeem us.

The gift of Jesus Christ is what Christmas is all about. Jesus came near to us so we could come near to Him.

Christmas is not about tinsel or shopping or gifts under a tree. Christmas is about the gift God gave on the tree where Christ died for our sins, giving us the gift of eternal life.

That is what He has accomplished. This is the gift He extends. And if you receive it, you will experience the merriest Christmas of all.

Max Lucado – Anything But a King

 

In Bethlehem, the human being who best understood who God was and what He was doing, was a teenage girl in a smelly stable. As Mary looked into the face of the baby, her son, her Lord, His majesty—she couldn’t take her eyes off Him. Somehow Mary knew she was holding God. So this is He. And she remembered the words of the angel when he said, “His kingdom will never end!”

He looked like anything but a King. His cry, though strong and healthy, was still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter. God came near! Luke 1:33 says, “His kingdom will never end!” May you be a part of it.

From In the Manger