Charles Stanley – Immanuel—God Is With Us

 

Matthew 1:18-25

Names have great significance in the Bible. Jesus was called Messiah in Hebrew, which is translated as Christ in Greek. Both of those terms designated Him as an anointed One who would become King. Immanuel was another important name He was given. It means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).

To understand what a difference it makes to have God with us, consider how this blessing affected three biblical leaders. First of all, the Lord’s presence was the reason Moses repeatedly approached Pharaoh to demand the release of the Israelite slaves—God’s promise enabled him to overcome his fear (Ex. 3:12).

Second, after Moses’ death, Joshua was appointed to take Israel into the Promised Land. Imagine what it meant to this new leader to realize that the Father was always near. As commander, Joshua would face many challenges, including travel, combat, and rebellion. He could be a courageous leader because he knew that the Lord would never leave him.

Third, as a young shepherd boy and later as king, David knew the Lord’s presence well (1 Sam. 17:37; 2 Sam. 7:18). In Psalm 23, he wrote that in his darkest times, he would not fear evil because God was with him.

Our Father has pledged to be with all those whom He has redeemed (Isa. 43:1-2). If you’ve received Jesus as your personal Savior, then His Holy Spirit dwells within you. No matter what happens in your life, God remains with you to strengthen, guide, and comfort.

Our Daily Bread — In The Neighborhood

 

John 1:1-14

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. —John 1:14

It was the buzz of our neighborhood. A famous professional football player had moved in just two houses down from where we lived. We had seen him on television and read about his great skills on the field, but we never thought he would choose to reside in our neighborhood. Initially, our expectations were that we would welcome him into the neighborhood and we would all become great friends. But his life was obviously far too busy for any of us to get to know him personally.

Imagine this: Jesus—the Lord of the universe and Creator of all things—chose to dwell among us! He left heaven and came to this earth. As John says, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). Jesus chose to become intimately involved with all who will come to Him. And, even more significant, for those of us who have received His redeeming love, the Holy Spirit has now set up residence in our hearts to comfort, counsel, convict, lead, and teach us.

When you think of the Babe in the manger, remember how special it is that He not only moved into our “neighborhood,” but that He did it so He could bless us with the intimate privileges of His residence within us. —Joe Stowell

Lord, I’m amazed that You, the greatest One of all,

would take up residence within us! Help us to treasure

the gift of Your presence as our ultimate joy. Draw us

to Yourself to enjoy intimacy with You.

Take advantage of the gift of God’s presence.

Bible in a year: Haggai 1-2; Revelation 17

Insight

John’s writings focus on the theme of light. Here, in the prologue of his gospel, John identifies Jesus as “the Light” to whom he bears witness (v.7). While also picturing Jesus as the Word (v.1) and the Creator (v.10), the portrayal of Jesus as the “Light of the world” seems to be foremost in John’s mind (John 8:12; 9:5). He is the Light who has come to live among us.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God in Person

 

“I’m inclined to suspect that there are very few atheists in prison,” writes Richard Dawkins.(1) In his book The God Delusion, the Oxford biologist sets forth the very curious estimation that post-Christian secular societies are far more moral than societies that operate from a religious foundation. He recounts the horrors carried out in the name of God, moving past the monstrosities of the 20th century at the hands of atheist regimes by claiming their atheism had nothing to do with their behavior. When it comes to behaving ethically, he is insistent that believers are worse than atheists.

British statesman Roy Hattersley, himself a fellow atheist, disagrees. In an article published some time after Hurricane Katrina hit U.S. shores, Hattersley makes some observations about the kind of people doing disaster work long after the disaster has been forgotten. “Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs and atheists’ associations—the sort of people who not only scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil.”(2) His words are bold, even if strewn with typical condescension. He continues:

“Civilised people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and—probably most difficult of all—argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time has come for some serious medical treatment.”(3)

Those who confess the truthfulness of Christianity—and so choose to embody its message—have confounded the world for ages. Throughout the second century there emerged a great number of rumors regarding the curious beliefs and practices of Christians. After all, the leader these people claimed to follow was a criminal executed by Roman authorities. There was thus a great deal of suspicion surrounding the motives and behavior of Christians. Why would anyone follow a man who had been crucified? Why would they choose to die rather than renounce their faith? Why would they treat those who hate them with kindness?

A Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity named Celsus was particularly convinced that Christians were, in fact, insane. The Nativity story, the Incarnation of God in Christ, among other things, seemed to him completely irrational. “What could be the purpose of such a visit to earth by God? To find out what is taking place among humans? Does He not know everything? Or is it perhaps that He knows, but is incapable of doing anything about evil unless He does it in person?”(4)

Similarly buried under insult, Celsus nonetheless had his finger on the very quality of Christianity that makes Christians as curious as the philosophy they profess: Their God came in person. In fact, they profess, as Celsus claims, God had to come near; though not because God couldn’t speak to us otherwise nor because God was incapable of touching the world from afar. As a Father who longs to gather his children together, God came near because each child matters. God comes to earth—God comes in person, in body, in flesh—because bodies matter, because the Father longs to be near, because one lost, or one hurting, or one in need was one God would not ignore. Insanely in fact, God comes near enough to lay down his life for each of these reasons.

Christmas is about remembering the one who came in person. It is this God who came near and reordered the world, calling us to see life and each other in startling new ways. It is this God who stepped into an ordinary stable to show us God in the ordinary, who touched the unclean and claimed the untouched, whose broken body is given again and again for broken bodies that we might be whole. Our morality, our countenance, our lives are wrought by his coming among us. In each ordinary moment, forgotten victim, and broken soul and body we see the face of God because God first saw us.

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

(1) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 229.

(2) Roy Hattersley, “Faith Does Breed Charity,” The Guardian, September 12, 2005.

(3) Ibid.

(3) As quoted by Origen in the apology Against Celsus.

Alistair Begg – Always There

 

I am with you always.  Matthew 28:20

The Lord Jesus is among His people; He walks between the golden candlesticks; His promise is, “I am with you always.” He is as surely with us now as He was with the disciples at the lake when they saw coals of fire and fish being prepared for breakfast. Not physically, but still in reality, Jesus is with us. And an important truth this is, for where Jesus is, love becomes passionate. Of all the things in the world that can set the heart burning, there is nothing like the presence of Jesus! A glimpse of Him is so overwhelming that we are ready to say, “Turn away Your eyes from me, for they have overcome me.” Even the fragrance of the aloes and the myrrh and the cinnamon, which linger on His perfumed garments, causes the sick and the faint to grow strong.

A moment’s leaning of the head upon that gracious chest, welcoming His divine love into our poor cold hearts, and suddenly we are no longer cold but shine like seraphs, equal to every task and capable of bearing every suffering. If we know that Jesus is with us, every power will be heightened, and every grace will be strengthened, and we will cast ourselves into the Lord’s service with heart and soul and strength; therefore the presence of Christ is to be desired above all things. His presence will be realized most by those who are most like Him.

If you desire to see Christ, you must grow in conformity to Him. Bring yourself, by the power of the Spirit, into union with Christ’s desires and motives and plans of action, and you are likely to be favored with His company.

Remember, His presence may be enjoyed. His promise is as true as ever. He delights to be with us. If He does not come, it is because we hinder Him by our indifference. He will reveal Himself to our sincere prayers and graciously allow Himself to be detained by our cries and by our tears, for these are the golden chains that bind Jesus to His people.

The family reading plan for December 26, 2014 * Zechariah 13:2-9 * John 16

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

Charles Spurgeon – The vanguard and rear guard of the Church

 

“The Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rearward.” Isaiah 52:12

Suggested Further Reading: Ezra 8:21-23 and 31-32

We shall soon launch into another year, and hitherto we have found our years to be years of trouble. We have had mercies, but still we find this house of our pilgrimage is not an abiding city, not a mansion of peace and comfort. Perhaps we are trembling to go forward. Foreseeing trouble, we know not how we shall be able to endure to the end. We are standing here and pausing for a while, sitting down upon the stone of our Ebenezer to rest ourselves, gazing dubiously into the future, saying, “Alas! What shall I do? Surely, I shall one day fall by the hand of the enemy.” Brother, arise, arise; anoint your head, and wash your face, and fast no longer; let this sweet morsel now cheer you; put this cup to your lips, and let your eyes be enlightened: “The Lord Jehovah will go before you.” He has gone before you already. Your future path has all been marked out in the great decrees of his predestination. You shall not tread a step which is not mapped out in the great chart of God’s decree. Your troubles have been already weighed for you in the scales of his love; your labour is already set aside for you to accomplish by the hand of his wisdom. Depend upon it, your:-

“Times of trial and of grief,

Times of triumph and relief,

All shall come and last and end

As shall please your heavenly Friend.”

Remember, you are not a child of chance. If you were, you might indeed fear. You will go nowhere next year except where God shall send you.

For meditation: Fear of the future and fear of the unknown still have to be faced by the believer. But the Christian has the remedy to such fear—a great God who knows the future and who leads the way (Acts 20:22-24; Hebrews 11:8-10).

Sermon no. 230

26 December (1858)

John MacArthur – Born to Die

 

“We . . . see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).

Jesus Christ was born to die as our substitute.

At this time of year, it is difficult for us to see Jesus other than as a little baby. We of course know why He came, but we usually focus on His death on the cross at another time of year. But we must never forget that He came to die.

Those soft baby hands fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb were made to have two great nails hammered through them. Those little chubby feet were to walk up a hill and be nailed to a cross. That sacred head was made to wear a crown of thorns. His tender body wrapped in swaddling clothes would be pierced by a spear to reveal a broken heart. The death of Christ was no accident; He was born to die.

Jesus died to remove the curse so we could regain our dominion. But to do that, He had to come as a man. Even though in doing so He temporarily became lower than the angels, He accomplished something no angel could: our restoration.

The first and foremost reason for the incarnation is that Christ might taste death on behalf of every man and woman. He came to die in our place—to be our substitute. God had two options: Either let us die and pay for our own sins, or allow a substitute to take our punishment and die in our place. He mercifully chose the latter.

It is vital that we affirm the fact of Christ’s substitutionary death because modern liberal theology claims Jesus died merely as an example, like a martyr dying for some cause. But He died as a substitute for you and me. As a result He freed us to live for and with God. Rejoice that the creator of angels, the Lord of hosts, would become lower than His creation for our sakes.

Suggestion for Prayer; Thank the Lord for His willingness to humble Himself to become a man to save you.

For Further Study; Read Psalm 22 and note which verses prophesy Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

Joyce Meyer – An Overcoming Attitude In an Imperfect World

 

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. —John 16:33 NKJV

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the world is not perfect. You don’t have to live long to figure that out, but something within us as human beings still seems to want to experience perfection in our lives. We want the perfect family celebration, the perfect marriage, the perfect friends, the perfect job, the perfect neighborhood, the perfect salary, the perfect vacation, and the perfect church. Or at least we want what we think would be perfect.

But the truth is: perfection is a completely unrealistic expectation. It simply doesn’t exist on earth. As long as we live, we will deal with imperfection. We can be miserable about that, or we can be gracious toward ourselves, others, and our circumstances, and respond with faith and flexibility.

The enemy often uses unrealistic expectations concerning our circumstances as a tool to bring discouragement and despair into our lives. For example, he knows that if he can get us to focus on the imperfections in our spouse, our marriage will be filled with frustration and disappointment instead of peace and joy.

I urge you to expect good things to happen in your life. But I also urge you to be realistic and realize that we all have to deal with difficult things. Our attitudes will make the difference between whether we live with continual frustration and disappointment or whether we can accept imperfections and enjoy life in spite of them.

Love Yourself Today: Be determined to never again allow yourself to be discouraged or disappointed by the normal imperfections of life.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Resist the Devil

 

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, KJV).

I received a call for help one day from the wife of an alcoholic. He is a wonderful person when he is sober, but a demon when he is drinking. Why does he keep drinking?

Another day I talked with a young man who was on drugs. He is deathly afraid that someone will find him out and he will be caught, end up in jail and have a police record. Still, something about drugs woos him to go on another trip, to smoke another joint.

While it is true that addiction plays an important part in such enslavement, it is also true that Satan is chortling behind the scenes – and he needs to be resisted.

Satan manifests himself in various ways. At times he presents himself as one who has world authority. Another time he comes as an angel of light, or as a roaring lion. Satan’s demons can have direct influence in your life or mine.

We wrestle against supernatural power. Satan is not just a man. He possesses supernatural powers. He is a very real enemy. True, he has no authority over us except that which is given to him of God, but we dare not become careless about our Christian walk and yield to temptations which he engineers through “the world, the flesh and the devil.”

And that’s the reason I shudder when I think of individuals who are careless in their use of alcohol and drugs, and who become involved in unscriptural sex relationships. The drug culture has spawned a Satan-worship cult, and men are committed to Satan just as you and I are committed to Jesus Christ. In the words of James, we need to resist the devil, knowing he then will flee from us.

Bible Reading: 1 Peter 5:8-11

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Upon every entrance of satanic influence into my life, I will submit myself to the Lord and resist the devil, and I will claim by faith the power of the Holy Spirit to live victoriously and supernaturally.

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Best Laid Plans

 

In 1937, John Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men. The title came from the poem To a Mouse, written by Robert Burns in 1786. The line “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” was Steinbeck’s inspiration. It is said Burns composed his poem after finding a mouse nest overturned while plowing a field. Despite the mouse’s idea that its home was in a protected place, things didn’t go as planned. The same theme is played out for the characters in Steinbeck’s novel.

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:15

Today’s verse explains how plans should be made. James teaches that you do not know what tomorrow will bring. Plans made by men are superseded by God’s purposes (Proverbs 19:21).When deciding what you will undertake, whether it be for ordinary everyday events or for life’s larger goals, don’t lean on your own abilities and understanding. Instead, keep your focus on God’s will so your endeavors will be successful.

As you look ahead to this final week of 2014 and into the New Year, take time to pray particularly that you’ll be more sensitive to His ways and plans for you. Seek His guidance and rely upon it (Proverbs 3:5), then intercede for the nation’s leaders to do the same.

Recommended Reading: Lamentations 3:25-27, 37-41

Greg Laurie – What God Can Do

 

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. —Colossians 1:13

Our society doesn’t really have answers for all the problems we are facing in our country today. Ironically, our society seems to do everything it can to undermine the only one who can help us, and that is Jesus Christ.

There are people caught in our legal system as repeat offenders. There are judges who make the wrong decisions. There is the breakdown of the family. And all of these elements combined produce a society that can do very little to change a person’s heart, if anything at all. Rehabilitation efforts largely fail. In fact, the only real programs that seem to produce lasting change are faith-based, and more specifically, are being operated by Christians who are calling people to faith in Jesus Christ. Society doesn’t have the answers.

Jesus met two men whose lives had been controlled and ruined by Satan. Society didn’t have the answers. Enter the Savior, Jesus. What did He do? He sought them out in their graveyard and offered them hope. In fact, Luke’s account of the story tells us what happened to one of the men who was delivered: “Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid” (Luke 8:35). Why were people afraid? They didn’t know what to make of it. He was so transformed it frightened the people. They couldn’t even imagine a guy like him could be changed in such a dramatic way.

It is such a glorious thing when Christ so transforms someone that you can’t even imagine that person being what he or she used to be. You realize that it is the power of a changed life. And that is what God can do.

Max Lucado – The Secret of Forgiveness

 

You will never forgive anyone more than God has already forgiven you. Is it still hard to consider the thought of forgiving the one who hurt you? If so, go one more time to the room. Watch Jesus as he goes from disciple to disciple. Can you see him? Can you hear the water splash? Can you hear him shuffle on the floor to the next person? Keep that image.

John 13:12 says, “When he had finished washing their feet. . .” Please note, he finished washing their feet. That means he left no one out. Why is that important? Because that means he washed the feet of Judas. Jesus washed the feet of his betrayer. That’s not to say it was easy for Jesus, and that’s not to say it’s easy for you. It IS to say, God will never call you to do what he hasn’t already done!

From Inspirational Reader