Charles Stanley – The Words of Our Mouth

 

Psalm 19:12-14

Our voices can be tools for great good. For example, we can talk to our heavenly Father on behalf of ourselves and others; we can speak the truth of Jesus Christ and sing praises to Him; we can train, motivate, encourage, and warn; and we can express loving devotion to one another.

However, our voices also have the power to injure. It often starts out with something small—a comment regarding a church policy or a brief conversation about an acquaintance can snowball, causing unforeseen damage. At times, we may express our opinion in a critical way (“Did you see how he . . . ?”) or out of curiosity, ask a question that elicits the negative (“Do you know why she . . . ?”). Our questions and comments may sow seeds of doubt and distrust that can hurt someone else’s reputation. Another word for this is “gossip.”

God has strong things to say about gossips—they separate close friends, betray confidences, and stir up dissension. And notice how God views a gossip’s traveling companions: Romans 1:29-30 describes them with terms like unrighteousness, wickedness, and greed, as well as slanderers and haters of God. The Lord takes our words seriously.

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about your words, and let it transform any heart attitudes that might be prompting gossip. “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34). Be one who protects the reputation of others, whether family, coworkers, believers, or unbelievers. Be a blessing with your words.

Our Daily Bread — Delay May Not Mean Denial

 

John 11:21-35

When [Jesus] heard that [Lazarus] was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. —John 11:6

My sons’ birthdays are in December. When they were small, Angus quickly learned that if he didn’t receive a longed-for toy for his birthday at the beginning of the month, it might be in his Christmas stocking. And if David didn’t receive his gift for Christmas, it might appear for his birthday 4 days later. Delay didn’t necessarily mean denial.

It was natural for Martha and Mary to send for Jesus when Lazarus became seriously ill (John 11:1-3). Perhaps they looked anxiously along the road for signs of His arrival, but Jesus didn’t come. The funeral service had been over for 4 days when Jesus finally walked into town (v.17).

Martha was blunt. “If You had been here,” she said, “my brother would not have died” (v.21). Then her faith flickered into certainty, “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (v.22). I wonder what she expected. Lazarus was dead, and she was wary about opening the tomb. And yet at a word from Jesus, Lazarus’ spirit returned to his decaying body (vv.41-44). Jesus had bypassed simply healing His sick friend, in order to perform the far greater miracle of bringing him back to life.

Waiting for God’s timing may also give us a greater miracle than we had hoped for. —Marion Stroud

My Savior hears me when I pray,

Upon His Word I calmly rest;

In His own time, in His own way,

I know He’ll give me what is best. —Hewitt

Time spent waiting on God is never wasted.

Bible in a year: Zechariah 9-12; Revelation 20

Insight

Martha, often maligned for her attitude in Luke 10:38-42, displays great faith in today’s passage. Not only does she believe that Jesus has a special relationship with the Father (John 11:22), she also affirms her confidence that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God (v.27).

 

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Time Being

 

In the days following of Christmas, it is almost natural to find our mood something like that of the brilliant lights we have just unplugged. Guests go home. Decorations come down. Celebrations cease. Life resumes with a little less fanfare perhaps. Poet W.H. Auden describes the letdown of Christmas almost too well—reminding me even of things I hadn’t considered:

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,

Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes…

There are enough left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week—

Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,

Stayed up so late, attempted—quite unsuccessfully—

To love all of our relatives, and in general

Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again

As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed

To do more than entertain it as an agreeable

Possibility, once again we have sent Him away…

The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,

And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware

Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension…(1)

For Auden, in the days after Christmas, we step down from the heights of the holiday and along with our colored lights return to dimmer realities: daily life and its monotony, despairing headlines, another year of wearisome failures, blind spots, and missteps. Writing in 1942, Auden’s sense of the dismal reality of life after Christmas was likely heightened by the uncertainties of war and the certainty of violence. For many, Christmas indeed serves as a moment of respite in the midst of harsher realities that promise to recommence. For others, the season itself is disheartening and the aftermath is more of the same. Regardless, the picture W.H. Auden paints is one in which many can enter.

Yet Auden’s attempt to describe life after Christmas is far more than an offer of depressing poetry. Auden reminds us that we must come down from the heights of Christmas in order to embrace again the world in all of its brokenness and finitude, in order to truly receive the Child whose arrival was not marked by lights and decoration but the slaughter of the innocents at Herod’s orders and a few witnesses in an unknown stable. Auden reminds us that the time after Christmas is the time when Christ can step into the thick of our lives as he intended. Writes Auden:

To those who have seen

The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,

The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.

The countercultural Christmas story that sits at the heart of all our holiday efforts begs us to see it as far more than a peak event in December. Christmas is an annual reminder that God is on the move and was on the move long before we knew it. In fact, it was precisely into our dismal, empty, post-festive reality that the Child came near in the first place.

In the bleak moments of late winter, Christmas is not anti-climactic; it confronts us all the more. It is our startling reminder that God has not forgotten, though in the thick of our empty routines, despairing headlines, and blinding self-interest we have forgotten the Child. Yet here, in the quiet and empty days after celebrations have ceased, the sights and sounds of the Child among us can better be noticed and more authentically received. If Advent brings the world’s attention to the sounds of one who stands at the door and knocks, and Christmas marks the culmination of that knocking in the cry of a newborn king, the days thereafter usher us further into the presence of a God who not only knocks and draws near, but has forever changed the time being itself.

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

(1) W.H. Auden, Collected Poems, ed. Edward Mendelson (New York: Random House, 1991), 399.

 

 

Alistair Begg – “Till Now…”

 

What do you think about the Christ?  Matthew 22:42

The great test of your soul’s health is, What do you think about Christ? Is He the best of friends—”distinguished among ten thousand”1—your all in all? When Christ is held in such esteem, all the faculties of the spiritual man are energized. I can gauge your piety by this standard: Does Christ take a high or low position with you? If you have thought little of Christ, if you have been content to live without His presence, if you have cared only slightly for His honor, if you have neglected His laws, then I know that your soul is sick—God grant that it may not be a sickness leading to death!

But if the first thought of your spirit has been, How can I honor Jesus?—if the daily desire of your soul has been, “O that I knew where I might find him!”2 I tell you that you may face a thousand infirmities, and even hardly know whether you are a child of God at all, and yet I am persuaded beyond a doubt that you are safe, since Jesus is great in your esteem.

I’m not concerned about your rags—what do you think of His royal apparel? I’m not concerned about your wounds, though they bleed profusely—what do you think of His wounds? Are they like glittering rubies in your esteem? I think none the less of you, though you lie like Lazarus on the refuse pile, and the dogs lick you—I do not judge you by your poverty: What do you think of the King in His beauty? Does He sit enthroned in your heart? Would you set Him higher if you could? Would you be willing to die if you could add another trumpet to the melody that proclaims His praise? Then it is well with you. Whatever you may think of yourself, if Christ is great to you, you will be with Him in the end.

Though all the world my choice deride,

Yet Jesus shall my portion be;

For I am pleased with none beside,

The fairest of the fair is He.

1) Song of Solomon 5:10   2) Job 23:3

The family reading plan for December 29, 2014 * Malachi 2 * John 19

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

Charles Spurgeon – The cleansing of the leper

 

“And if a leprosy break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague from his hand even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh; Then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague: it is all turned white: he is clean.” Leviticus 13:12-13

Suggested Further Reading: Colossians 3:5-14

Sinner, if you are to be saved, Christ must do it all; but when once you have faith in Christ, then you must be washed; then must you cease from sin, and then by the Holy Spirit’s power you shall be enabled to do so. What was ineffective before shall become mighty enough now, through the life which God has put into you. The washing with water by the word, and the cleansing of yourself from dead works, shall become an effectual and mighty duty. You shall be made holy, and walk in white, in the purity wherewith Christ has endowed you. The shaving off of his hair was fitly to represent how all the old things were to pass away, and everything was to become new. All the white hair was to be cut off, as you read in Leviticus 14:9: “He shall shave all the hair off his head, and his beard, and his eyebrows.” There was not a remnant or relic left of the old state in which the hair was white; all was to be given up. So it is with the sinner. When he is once pardoned, once cleansed, then he begins to cut off the old habits, his old prides, his old joys. The beard on which the hoary Jew prided himself was to come off, and the eyebrows which seem to be necessary to make the countenance look decent, were all to be taken away. So it is with the pardoned man. He did nothing before, he does everything now. He knew that good works were of no benefit to him in his carnal state, but now he becomes so strict that he will shave off every hair of his old state. Not one darling lust shall be left, not one iniquity shall be spared, all must be cut away.

For meditation: Very soon many will be breaking their New Year’s resolutions! The Christian is already a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), a new person with a new nature. May God give us grace and strength to be what we are in Christ.

Sermon no. 353

29 December (Preached 30 December 1860)

John MacArthur – He Who Sanctifies

 

“Both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, ‘I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise.’ And again, ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ And again, ‘Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me'” (Heb. 2:11-13).

Our holy Christ has made us holy; thus He can now call us His brothers.

From our own perspective and experience, it is difficult to think of ourselves as holy. Sin simply is too much a part of us in this fallen world. In thought and practice we are far from holy, but in Christ we are perfectly holy.

We may not always act holy, but because of our faith in Christ we are perfectly holy in God’s sight. Just as a child may not always act like his father, he is nonetheless still his son. We are holy in the sense that before God, the righteousness of Christ has been applied and imputed on our behalf through faith. We were made holy through His sacrifice and have become “those who are sanctified.”

“By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). We are as pure as God is pure, righteous as Christ is righteous, and therefore entitled to be called His brothers because we now share in His righteousness.

The Sanctifier and sanctified now have “one Father,” and the Sanctifier “is not ashamed” to call the sanctified His brothers. What an overwhelming truth!

The practical experience of a Christian’s life in this world includes sin, but the positional reality of his or her new nature is holiness. “In Him [we] have been made complete” (Col. 2:10). Yet practically we have a long way to go. So the overriding purpose of our lives is to become in practice what we are in position. Now that we are Christ’s brothers and God’s children, let that be all the motivation we need to live like it.

Suggestion for Prayer; Thank the Lord for His sanctifying work on the cross, which enables you to be holy.

For Further Study; Read Romans 1:16. Based on what God has done for you through Christ, can you wholeheartedly echo Paul’s statement?

Joyce Meyer – Get Rid of Distractions

 

That which is desired in a man is loyalty and kindness [and his glory and delight are his giving]. —1Proverbs 19:22

Sometimes you may just need to clear away the clutter so you can clearly see what is worthwhile. Here is a simple suggestion: Don’t keep more than you can take care of. If you have so much junk in your home that it takes you hours to dust it, get rid of something.

Find a big carton and write “Blessing Box” on the side of it. Start putting extra things into it until cleaning is more manageable. Find someone who doesn’t have much and bless them. You will be amazed at how easy it is to start your day right when you are no longer distracted by things you don’t need.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Tempted Like We Are

 

“For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, KJV).

“In your opinion, who is the greatest person who ever lived, and who has done more good for mankind than anyone else who ever lived?” I asked a student who was both an atheist and a card-carrying Communist.

There was an awkward silence. Then finally came this reluctant reply, “I guess I would have to say Jesus of Nazareth.”

How could an atheist and a Communist, who had been reared in another religion, give such an answer?

Jesus has done more good for mankind than anyone else who has ever lived. He is the greatest person of the centuries, because it is a fact. Compare Jesus, even as a man, with any other person – Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, anyone else in any country at any time in history – and it would be like comparing a giant with a midget.

Though he lived 2,000 years ago and changed the course of history, though He was the greatest leader, the greatest teacher, the greatest example the world has ever known, He is infinitely more than these. He is God.

The omnipotent Creator God visited this little planet earth and became a man, the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth. He was perfect God and perfect man, and as perfect man He understands our weaknesses, since He had the same temptations we do – though He never once gave way to them and sinned.

Do you believe that Jesus ever had the temptation to lie, to lust, to steal or to be immoral? Make a list of your temptations, all your weaknesses, all your failures, and then, as suggested in the verse following our reference, “Let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive His mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Bible Reading: Hebrews 2:14-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Since Jesus is my high priest and knows everything about me, having been tempted as I am and yet without sin, I will come boldly into His presence today and every day. I will come to receive His mercy and grace to live a supernatural life, which will enable me to live victoriously and to be fruitful for the glory and praise of His matchless name.

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M.- Open Hands

 

For almost half a century, Don Ritchie prevented approximately 160 people from jumping to their death. Ritchie would approach people contemplating suicide at the edge of The Gap, just 50 meters from his home in Watsons Bay in Sydney, New South Wales. With his palms facing up, he would say, “Is there something I could do to help you?” Often that was all that was needed to turn people around. His daughter, Sue Bereny, explained, “He would say not to underestimate the power of a kind word and a smile.”

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

Isaiah 60:1

Isaiah called on God’s people to be His light to those around them. Jesus now calls you to do the same. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father.”

As 2015 nears, open your hands and your heart and ask God for opportunities to serve others each day. One way is to intercede for your local and national leaders. Pray, too, that God would use you to be a lifesaver to those near you who are surrounded by despair. Share His joy and kindness. As you do, Jesus will be gloriously reflected through you.

Recommended Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14

Greg Laurie – Make Your Choice

 

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” —Joshua 24:15

Are you trying to live in two worlds? If so, then I know something about you. I know you’re not happy. Am I right? When you spend time around other Christians, you’re uncomfortable because of your sin. On the other hand, when you’re doing things you know you shouldn’t as a Christian, then you have the conviction of that sin.

I have an idea: Stop doing that stuff. Make your choice. As Joshua said to the Israelites, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Every one of us must make that decision. I can’t make it for you, and you can’t make it for me.

Are you in a relationship that is dragging you down (see 2 Corinthians 6:14)? Are you doing things that are weakening your resolve? Stop doing those things.

I’m not saying it is easy. We all get tempted. We all have a sinful nature. And as Christians we all have a God who will give us the strength to do what He has called us to do.

It really comes down to this: Do you really want to change? If you do, then God will give you that resolve. When the Lord came to Moses and spoke to him through the burning bush, Moses basically said, “I can’t do this. I don’t know what to say. I stumble over my words.”

But later in Exodus we see him facing off with the most powerful man on the face of the earth. That is because God gave him the strength.

In the same way, God will give you the strength to do what you need to do. Don’t live in two worlds. Make a complete commitment to Jesus

Max Lucado – God’s Never Failing Love

 

God will not let you go. The big news of the Bible is not that you love God but that God loves you! He tattooed your name on the palm of his hand. His thoughts of you outnumber the sand on the shore. You never leave his mind, escape his sight, flee his thoughts. You need not win his love. You already have it. He sees the worst of you and loves you still. Your sins of tomorrow and failings of the future will not surprise him; he sees them now. Every day and deed of your life has passed before his eyes and been calculated in his decision.

He knows you better than you know you and has reached this verdict: he loves you still! No discovery will disillusion him. No rebellion will dissuade him. He loves you with an everlasting love. God’s love– never failing, never ending.

From Lucado Inspirational Reader