Charles Stanley – The Real Heaven

 

Matthew 25:14-30

Trying to picture life in eternity, many people imagine lying around on clouds, strumming harps. I’m not sure how this misconception about heaven got started, but I can assure you that is unlikely. We have been gifted, equipped, and enabled to fulfill God’s purpose in this life. And He will still have a purpose for us in the life to come.

In today’s passage, Jesus described the kingdom of heaven in the context of a man giving his servants money to invest. The men who served their master faithfully were heartily congratulated and given greater responsibility. When we reach Christ’s judgment seat, our foremost reward will be to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:23 NIV). I can’t imagine words that could please me more than a commendation from the Savior I love above all.

We will also receive our new assignment in God’s heavenly kingdom. This is the part of the reward that corresponds to the words, “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” (v. 23). There will be no lazing about for us! We will have a renewed heaven and earth to live in and enjoy (2 Peter 3:13). In our perfected bodies, with hearts and souls attuned to the Lord, we will serve Him and each other.

God has a plan for every believer to pursue, and He has gifted each of His children specifically for that purpose. That plan requires our passion and motivation—on earth or in heaven. This world is our training ground for the greater life to come, so let’s prepare like good and faithful servants.

Bible in One Year: Revelation 5-8

 

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Our Daily Bread — Good Riddance Day

 

Read: Psalm 103:1–12 | Bible in a Year: Zechariah 5–8; Revelation 19

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Since 2006 a group of people have celebrated an unusual event around the New Year. It’s called Good Riddance Day. Based on a Latin American tradition, individuals write down unpleasant, embarrassing memories and bad issues from the past year and throw them into an industrial-strength shredder. Or some take a sledgehammer to their good riddance item.

The writer of Psalm 103 goes beyond suggesting that people say good riddance to unpleasant memories. He reminded us that God bids good riddance to our sins. In his attempt to express God’s vast love for His people, the psalmist used word pictures. He compared the vastness of God’s love to the distance between the heavens and the earth (v. 11). Then the psalmist talked about His forgiveness in spatial terms. As far as the place where the sun rises is from the place where the sun sets, so the Lord has removed His people’s sins from them (v. 12). The psalmist wanted God’s people to know that His love and forgiveness were infinite and complete. God freed His people from the power of their transgressions by fully pardoning them.

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Life After Christmas

In the days following of Christmas, for many the mood is something like 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 until my five year old son collapsed into a pool of tears beside our Christmas tree, horizontally resting on the curb beside the trash bins. For my son as much as the poet, the dismantling of Christmas is a lamentable affair:

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. Still 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—at five or ninety-five.

Yet Auden’s attempt to describe life after Christmas is far more than an offer of depressing poetry. Auden reminds us that we come down from the heights of Christmas in order to embrace again the world in all of its brokenness and finitude, in order to 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 on the church calendar 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 may forget the Child. Yet here, in the quiet and empty days after celebrations have ceased, the sights and sounds of the human God 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, then the days thereafter usher us further into the presence of a God who not only knocks and draws near, but has opened wide the doors of heaven and calls us further into the kingdom where God himself wipes away every tear.

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.

 

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Joyce Meyer – Best

 

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. — James 1:17

Adapted from the resource Wake Up to the Word Devotional – by Joyce Meyer

You were created to have a deep, intimate, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and the very best life He came to offer.

Acts 10:34 (AMPC) says, God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons. This means His promises apply equally to everyone who follows Him.

Yes, you can have the very best God offers, but you can’t give up when times get tough. If you’ll trust God and follow Him wholeheartedly, you will discover your best life in Him.

God has a great purpose for you, and I urge you not to settle for anything less. He wants to bless you and give you a life that will not only thrill you, fulfill you, and bring you deep joy and sweet satisfaction but also challenge you, stretch you and help you discover that, in Christ, you’re stronger than you think.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I want every good thing You have for my life! Help me to persevere through life’s difficulties and seek You with my whole heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Praying for Results

 

“Ask and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you will knock, the door will be open” (Matthew 7:7,8).

We were conducting a Bible study on the subject of prayer when Amy, a professing Christian most of her life, said, “God never answers my prayers. In fact, I cannot recall a single prayer of mine that God has answered specifically.”

Several others in the group chimed in and said, “Neither can I.” So we turned to this passage and discussed it together. Would God lie to us? Is His Word trustworthy? Or is prayer an exercise in futility? Are we simply talking to ourselves and each other, or is there a God who hears and answers? If so, why have these not had their prayers answered?

First of all, we had to review the qualifications for prayer. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My Word abides in you, ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.” The Scripture also says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” So if we expect to have our prayers answered, Jesus Christ must be the Lord of our lives. There must be no unconfessed sin in our lives and we must be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Further, 1 John 5:14,15 reminds us: “If we ask anything according to God’s will, He hears us and answers,” so we must be sure that we are praying according to the Word of God. As we pray, the Spirit of God impresses upon us certain things for which to pray specifically, such as the salvation of a friend, the healing of a body or a financial need. If the prayer is offered with a pure motive and according to God’s will, we can expect an answer to it.

And we cannot pray casually. We must enter into an expectant spirit of prayer, knowing that, when we meet His conditions, God will hear and answer us.

Within a matter of weeks everyone in that Bible study, especially Amy, was inspired by the exciting challenge of prayer. God had truly heard, and again and again, they were able to point to specific answers.

Bible Reading:Luke 11:5-13

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I shall review my spiritual walk to be sure I am meeting God’s conditions: (1) Christ is Lord of my life. (2) I am filled with the Holy Spirit. (3) There is no unconfessed sin in my life. (4) I am praying according to God’s Word. And (5) I am praying specifically. As a result, I expect my prayers to be answered because God promises they will be.

 

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Max Lucado – Change the Way You Sing

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “We all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness. . .”  As we behold him, we become like him.

It’s a principle I experienced first-hand when an opera singer visited our church.  You wouldn’t have known by his appearance.  But you could by his voice. He tried to contain himself, but how can a tuba hide in a room of piccolos?  I was startled…inspired…emboldened by his volume!  I lifted mine.  Did I sing better?  No, but did I try harder?  No doubt.  His power brought out the best in me.  Could your world use a little music?  If so, invite heaven’s baritone, Jesus Christ, to cut loose.  Who knows?  A few songs with him might change the way you sing!

Read more Next Door Savior

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

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Denison Forum – Veteran visits wife’s grave over 1,300 times

Ted Richardson is a ninety-three-year-old veteran. He and Florence met as teens, then he left to serve as a Marine in World War II. But he took her picture with him everywhere he went.

They got married after the war. Ted says Florence always took care of him–for seventy-two years. So, now it’s his turn to take care of her.

Ted visits his wife’s grave six days a week, without fail, taking three buses to get there. He cares for it meticulously, trimming weeds and brushing away leaves. He has already arranged for his church to bring flowers to Florence’s grave after he dies.

He has already visited over 1,300 times. He says it’s worth it to be close to the love of his life.

Adversity is opportunity

As you look back over 2018, what events come to mind?

If you’re like most of us, your challenges and problems loom large. If someone you loved passed away, their death marked your life.

History feels the same way. When we think of David, Goliath is followed immediately by Bathsheba. Our first thought about Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy is usually their assassination.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Veteran visits wife’s grave over 1,300 times