In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Finding Favor With God

The acts of man will never earn God’s favor, but He is pleased when we obey His commands with pure intentions.

Hebrews 11:1-40

There are people who work hard in an attempt to earn the favor of employers, parents, friends, and even God. The truth, however, is that divine approval cannot be earned. There’s only one way to acquire it, which Hebrews 11:6 states clearly: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (NIV). Like the saints commended in today’s passage for their faith, Christians today don’t have to strive for God’s favor. That’s because in Christ, we have been lavished with divine grace (Eph. 1:8). 

Yet we sometimes tend to overlook the most basic examples of the Lord’s kindness to us: He provides for our needs, puts limits on suffering, answers prayers, encourages us in our trials, and offers His strength in our weakness. In fact, every good thing that comes our way is from His hand (James 1:17).

God’s goodness is stored up for those who fear Him and take refuge in Him (Psalm 31:19). But even though His favor isn’t something that can be earned, we still have a responsibility to live in a manner He finds pleasing. As was true for the role models of faith in Hebrews 11, God’s grace should motivate us to be righteous and blameless in our walk with Him. 

Bible in One Year: Hebrews 10-11

Our Daily Bread — Fear Not

Bible in a Year:

Do not be afraid . . . a Savior has been born to you.

Luke 2:10–11

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Luke 2:8–14

Linus, in the Peanuts comic strip, is best known for his blue security blanket. He carries it everywhere and isn’t embarrassed at needing it for comfort. His sister Lucy especially dislikes the blanket and often tries to get rid of it. She buries it, makes it into a kite, and uses it for a science fair project. Linus too knows he should be less dependent on his blanket and lets it go from time to time, always to take it back.

In the movie A Charlie Brown Christmas, when a frustrated Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, with his security blanket in hand, steps center stage and quotes Luke 2:8–14. In the middle of his recitation, as he says, “Fear not,” he drops his blanket—the thing he clung to when afraid.

What is it about Christmas that reminds us we don’t need to fear? The angels that appeared to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10–11).

Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). We have His very presence through His Holy Spirit, the true Comforter (John 14:16), so we don’t need to fear. We can let go of our “security blankets” and trust in Him.

By:  Anne Cetas

Reflect & Pray

What are you afraid of? How can the Holy Spirit’s presence help you with what troubles you?

I’m still learning, God, that You’re the greatest Comforter. Help me to let go of the things that give me false security, and please guide me to cling to You.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Throwing out the Anchor

“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1).

God’s Word is the anchor that will prevent people from drifting past the harbor of salvation.

While English explorer William Edward Parry and his crew were exploring the Arctic Ocean, they needed to go further north to continue their chartings. So they calculated their location by the stars and began a treacherous march.

After many hours they stopped, exhausted. After taking their bearings, they discovered they were now further south than when they started! They had been walking on an ice floe that was traveling faster south than they were walking north.

That is similar to the situation people who continue rejecting Christ find themselves in. Therefore Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”

Why would anyone knowingly reject Christ? He came into the world as God incarnate, died on a cross to forgive our sins, paid our penalty, showed us divine love, and gives us blessing and joy beyond imagination.

The Greek words translated “pay much closer attention to” and “drift away from” both have a nautical usage. The first means “to tie up a ship” and the second can be used of a ship that has been carelessly allowed to drift past the harbor because the sailor forgot to attend to the steerage or chart the wind, tides, and current. Hebrews 2:1 could be translated: “We must diligently anchor our lives to the things we have been taught, lest the ship of life drift past the harbor of salvation and be lost forever.”

Most people don’t deliberately turn their backs on God; they almost imperceptibly slip past the harbor of salvation and are broken on the rocks of destruction. Be sure you warn those you know who might be slipping past that harbor.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to strengthen your resolve when you know you need to confront someone regarding his or her relationship with the Lord.

For Further Study

Memorize Proverbs 4:20-22 as your own reminder of how important it is to hold on to God’s Word.

Joyce Meyer – Enjoy the Righteousness of Christ

 [Righteousness, standing acceptable to God] will be granted and credited to us also who believe in (trust in, adhere to, and rely on) God, Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

— Romans 4:24 (AMPC)

It is an awe-inspiring thing to realize you are in right standing with God simply because you believe in Him. Because Jesus who knew no sin became sin, you are the righteousness of God. What a thrilling and humbling thought.

But the devil doesn’t want you to walk in the wonderful thrill of that reality. He wants to bring up all your faults and distract you from the joy of righteousness Jesus died to give you.

Don’t let the devil steal the thrill of your righteousness through Christ. As you prepare for a night of rest, spend a few quiet moments thinking about that matchless gift, and worship and praise the One who made it all possible.

Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, I thank You for going to the cross so that I can be in right standing with You. Help me fight against the enemy’s lies. In Your precious Name I pray, amen!

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Love Beyond Doubt

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Jeremiah 31:3

Sometimes the Lord Jesus tells His Church His love thoughts. “He does not consider it sufficient to declare them behind her back, but in her very presence He says, ‘Behold, you are beautiful, my love.’1 It is true, this is not His ordinary method. He is a wise lover and knows when to hold back the intimation of love and when to declare it; but there are times when He will make no secret of it, times when He will put it beyond all dispute in the souls of His people” (R. Erskine’s Sermons).

The Holy Spirit is often pleased, in a most gracious manner, to witness with our spirits to the love of Jesus. He takes the things of Christ and reveals them to us. No voice is heard from the clouds, and no vision is seen in the night, but we have a testimony more certain than either of these

If an angel should fly from heaven and inform the believer personally of the Savior’s love for him, the evidence would not be one bit more satisfactory than that which is born in the heart by the Holy Spirit.

Ask the Lord’s people who have lived the nearest to the gates of heaven, and they will tell you that they have had seasons when the love of Christ toward them has been a fact so clear and sure that they could no more doubt it than they could question their own existence.

Yes, dear believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has soared to the heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the shoulder of our Lord, and we have not questioned our Master’s affection for us. The dark question, “Lord, is it I that will betray You?” has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of His mouth and killed our doubts by the closeness of His embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.

1) Song of Solomon 1:15

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Sent the Knowledge of Salvation

“And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.” (Luke 1:76-78)

Before opening gifts at Christmastime, many families have the tradition of reading the Christmas story as it is told in Matthew 1 or in Luke 2. But the first chapter of Luke is a very interesting introduction to Luke’s second chapter. In Luke 1, God records the story of how Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was born. John was to come before Jesus (John was born six months before Jesus), and his purpose in life was to foretell (tell everyone ahead of time) that salvation was coming and that remission (forgiveness) of sins was coming – in the form of Jesus Christ Himself.

Zacharias, John’s father, was a priest. He knew very well that the sacrifical system that the Jews followed back then was supposed to be a picture of their faith in a coming Christ, a Messiah Who would come to bring them redemption, once and for all. John’s birth was a miracle, because both of his parents were very old – too old, humanly speaking, to have children. But Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit when John was born, and he prophesied what God had to say about John: “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.” (Luke 1:76-78)

As John grew older, he began to preach the message he was born to preach. He told the people that God was sending His Messiah (the Christ, the Anointed One) to save repentant sinners. God used John to give the gift of the knowledge of salvation. He sent John ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for Jesus – to prepare the way of salvation.

People who listened to John and followed his teachings identified themselves with him by being baptized. Their baptism represented their belief that they needed to repent of their sins in preparation for the coming Christ, Who was going to bear those sins away (get rid of those sins) by His own righteousness. When Jesus came along and began His public ministry, the very first thing He did was to come to His cousin John and be baptized. Why did Jesus, Who lived a sinless life, want to be baptized with a baptism that showed His agreement that repentance of sins was necessary? Well, Jesus was going to take the sins of repentant sinners upon Himself. And He wanted His righteousness put on those sinners’ accounts. So He identified Himself with sinners by being baptized and agreeing publicly with John.

The people who listened to and followed John the Baptist still could not see the full picture of Who Christ was and why He came – but God used John to point the way. Here was the son of a priest who had been helping to sacrifice lambs in the temple for years. Here was John, preaching in the wilderness and pointing at Jesus Christ and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world…. Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29b and 36)

When Zacharias prophesied over his newborn son, he spoke of God’s tender mercy as the reason why God had sent the knowledge of salvation and remission of sins. God’s whole plan of redemption is an amazing gift, and He mercifully sent messengers and prepared the way for Christ’s arrival. Because of John’s message, we can know better how to respond to Jesus Christ, the only Savior of sins.

In tender mercy, God sent John to prepare the way for Christ and publish the message of what Christ would do for His people.

My Response:
» Have I ever thought much about John the Baptist being a part of God’s plan for salvation?
» Have I repented of my sins and trusted in Christ as the One Who can bear them away?
» Am I truly grateful to God for His merciful provision for the remission of sins?

Denison Forum – Omicron is “going to take over”: Why Christmas offers the paradoxical hope we need

There’s a “candy cane crisis” in America. Logistical issues caused by the pandemic and weakness in peppermint crops are causing shortages in the industry.

In other news, a COVID-19 outbreak forced Saturday Night Live to air without an audience. The show sent home most of its cast and crew, airing mostly pre-taped sketches. The NFL postponed three games over the weekend.

And these stories are just the beginning of what is coming.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas 2020”

Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN yesterday that the omicron variant is “going to take over” the country. He predicted that “it is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper into the winter.”

Coronavirus cases are already skyrocketing across the country. In New York City, for example, cases escalated from 8,266 on Monday to 21,908 on Friday, more than any other single day of the pandemic. The New York Times reports that the nation’s coronavirus testing capacity is facing “enormous new pressure” with long lines, overworked laboratories, and at-home diagnostics “flying off pharmacy shelves.”

With coronavirus hospitalizations increasing 20 percent nationally over the last two weeks, doctors and nurses are “living in a constant crisis,” as one medical director stated. Forbes reports that as COVID-19 restrictions are hitting the retail sector, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas 2020.” Offices are closing and holiday parties are being canceled. Countries across Europe are imposing new travel restrictions and curfews. Harvard is going remote again, as are other schools across the nation. President Biden will address the nation tomorrow to respond to the spread of the omicron variant.

It is especially hard to face this crisis in the days just before Christmas. However, Christmas offers the paradoxical hope we need most in these hard days.

A Christmas thought I had not considered

I read a message recently by Pope St. Leo the Great (AD 400–461) that made a point I had never considered before. He stated, “Unless the new man [Jesus], by being made in the likeness of sinful flesh [Romans 8:3], had taken on himself the nature of our first parents, unless he had stooped to be one in substance with his mother while sharing the Father’s substance and, being alone free from sin, united our nature to his, the whole human race would still be held captive under the dominion of Satan.”

He added: “The Conqueror’s victory would have profited us nothing if the battle had been fought outside our human condition.”

I knew that death was the debt we owed for our sins—the consequence of our sinful choices—since sin cuts us off from the God who is our only source of life and life eternal (Romans 6:23John 14:6). And I knew that only a sinless person could pay the debt of our sins with his death; otherwise, his death would atone for his sins but not for ours (cf. Hebrews 4:15). Thus, I knew that Jesus came to earth to die for our sins (cf. 1 John 4:10) so we could be forgiven (1 John 1:9) and receive eternal life (John 3:16).

However, it had not occurred to me that Jesus would have to be human himself to pay this debt for humanity.

The love proven by Christmas

This is why the sacrifice of animals on the altar of the temple was not enough. Hebrews 10 states, “Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (vv. 11–12).

No other species could pay this debt because no other species owed it. Humans alone of all God’s creation are made in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26) with the capacity to choose whether to obey or disobey his word (cf. Joshua 24:15). As a result, we are the only species that “sins.”

The only way the debt humanity owes for our sin could be paid was if a human paid it. This explains Christmas: the decision by God to become man, to enter fully into the human condition, to face every temptation we face yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), to be forsaken by his Father on the cross (Matthew 27:46) so we could be forgiven by his grace (Ephesians 2:8–9Hebrews 2:14–15).

The necessity of Jesus’ humanity also adds even greater significance to his Father’s decision to create the human race. God knew before he made the first man and woman that they would sin against him and that their sins would separate them from himself. The Father therefore knew before he created humans that his Son would one day have to become one of them to die for them.

This explains why the Bible calls Jesus “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8 NIV). And it is why the love proven by Christmas is the hope we need today.

“Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part”

I was taught in counseling classes not to tell someone “I know how you feel.” That’s because, even if my circumstances have been identical to theirs, I cannot understand their personal feelings as they face them.

But Jesus can.

Because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus experienced hunger (Matthew 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), weariness (John 4:6), grief (Mark 3:5), temptation (Matthew 4:1–10), rejection (John 15:18), and death (Mark 15:37).

He has faced all we face and felt all we feel. In addition, because he knows our inmost thoughts (cf. Luke 6:8) and we are in his hand right now (John 10:28), Jesus truly knows how we feel at this very moment.

So, let me encourage you to go to the Christ of Christmas with your secret sins and private guilt. Trust him with your inmost fears, grief, and pain. Tell him what you can tell no one else and trust him for the help and hope only he can give.

Because God is love, he loves you where you are, as you are. And because Jesus became one of us, we can be one with him.

Philip Yancey observed, “Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part.”

Where do you need the grace of Christmas today?

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Promise of Christ’s Return

Jesus’ triumphant return to Earth is a day that we can and should all look forward to.

Revelation 19:11-21Revelation 20:1-6

The return of Jesus Christ is a vital part of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. That’s why the event was foretold by prophets, proclaimed by angels, and taught by Jesus and the apostles. In fact, more Old Testament passages are devoted to Christ’s second coming than to His first. And in the New Testament, the Lord mentions His return more frequently than He speaks of His death. 

The second coming defeats Satan’s earthly reign and establishes Christ’s kingdom of peace and righteousness in its place. Saints from all the ages will be gathered together to reign with the Lord. And the Father wants us to be excited and hopeful about Jesus’ return, recognizing it as the culmination of His plan for the world. In order to keep our hope alive, Scripture tells us what to expect, though we don’t know the exact timing.

Are you eagerly anticipating Christ’s return, or do you seldom think about it? The apostle John warns us not to love the world or the things it contains, because they are passing away (1 John 2:15-17). Instead, we are to long for our Savior’s return and rejoice in His coming kingdom.

Bible in One Year: Hebrews 1-3

Our Daily Bread — Beautifully Broken

Bible in a Year:

I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.

Psalm 31:12

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Psalm 31:12–24

Our bus finally arrived at our much-anticipated destination—an archaeological dig in Israel where we would actually do some excavation work of our own. The site’s director explained that anything we might unearth had been untouched for thousands of years. Digging up broken shards of pottery, we felt as though we were touching history. After an extended time, we were led to a workstation where those broken pieces—from huge vases shattered long, long ago—were being put back together.    

The picture was crystal clear. Those artisans reconstructing centuries-old broken pottery were a beautiful representation of the God who loves to fix broken things. In Psalm 31:12, David wrote, “I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.” Though no occasion is given for the writing of this psalm, David’s life difficulties often found voice in his laments—just like this one. The song describes him as being broken down by danger, enemies, and despair.

So, where did he turn for help? In verse 16, David cries out to God, “Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.”

The God who was the object of David’s trust is the same One who still fixes broken things today. All He asks is that we call out to Him and trust in His unfailing love.

By:  Bill Crowder

Reflect & Pray

What areas of brokenness have you experienced? How has God helped you through those difficult times?

God of my help, I thank You for all the times I’ve fallen and been broken—times when You’ve put me back together.

For further study, read Understanding the Bible: The Wisdom Books.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Meaning of Christ’s Exaltation

“God highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:9).

The Father exalted the Son as the God-man.

A question that often springs to mind regarding the exaltation of Christ is how Jesus could be exalted since He is already God. We find the answer in Jesus’ High-Priestly prayer in John 17, where He asked the Father to restore to Him the glory He had with the Father before the world began (v. 5). Christ’s request shows that He gave up something that God would give back to Him. Christ gave up His glory in the Incarnation. Beyond glorification, in His exaltation Christ would receive more than He had before.

How is that possible? God has it all. Christ didn’t become any more God or any more perfect; He was already the Most High God—King of kings and Lord of lords. But as the God-man, a new state of being for Him, He suffered things and was given things He would not otherwise have had if He had not become the God-man. For example, He never would have had the privilege of being the interceding High Priest for His people if He had never been touched with the feelings of their infirmities—tempted in all points like them. If He had not become the God-man, He would never have become our substitute by bearing our sins in His own body on the cross. As God He was incapable of elevation, but as the God-Man He could be lifted up from the lowest degradation to the highest degree of glory. So in a sense He received from the Father privileges He didn’t have before—privileges He gained because of His incarnation.

At His ascension Christ was seated at the Father’s right hand. He was elevated to that position as the God-man—a state of being that was His only because of His incarnation. Thus He entered upon the rights and privileges not only of God as God, but of God as the God-man. His exaltation was not with regard to His nature or eternal place within the Trinity but with regard to His new character as the God-man.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Father for exalting His Son to His rightful place in Heaven.

For Further Study

According to Acts 5:31, in what two ways did God exalt Christ to His right hand? Why?

Joyce Meyer – Chasing Joy and Enjoyment

A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.

— Proverbs 15:13 (AMPC)

Difficulty is never enjoyable, but right thinking in the midst of it will cheer us up. Even though we have trials, we can face them with courage, being confident of God’s love and His promise to help us. It seems to me that joy and happiness come more from what we believe than from what is happening to us.

Would you be willing to make some changes in your approach to life and even develop some new habits if it would enable you to have more joy and enjoyment?

Perhaps if we studied the habits and attitudes of happy people, we would be able to see some of the things we might need to change if we truly want to be happy. If we value joy, then we cannot just passively sit and wish to be happy; we can aggressively pursue it and be willing to make adjustments where they are needed.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me make the necessary changes in order to find more joy and enjoyment! In Jesus’ name, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –He Never Ceases to Remember

I remember the devotion of your youth.

Jeremiah 2:2

Let us note that Christ delights to think upon His Church and to look upon her beauty. As the bird returns often to its nest, and as the traveler hurries to his home, so the mind continually pursues the object of its choice. We cannot look too often upon the face we love; we continually desire to have what is precious to us.

This is also true with our Lord Jesus. From all eternity He has been “delighting in the children of man.”1 His thoughts rolled onward to the time when His elect would be born into the world; He viewed them in the mirror of His foreknowledge. “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139:16). When the world was set upon its pillars, He was there, and He set the boundaries of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. Many a time before His incarnation, He descended to this lower earth in the similitude of a man—on the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18), by the brook of Jabbok (Gen. 32:24–30), beneath the walls of Jericho (Josh. 5:13), and in the fiery furnace of Babylon (Dan. 3:19, 25).

The Son of Man visited His people. Because His soul delighted in them, He could not stay away from them, for His heart longed for them. They were never absent from His heart, for He had written their names upon His hands and had graven them upon His side.

As the breastplate containing the names of the tribes of Israel was the most brilliant ornament worn by the high priest, so the names of Christ’s elect were His most precious jewels and glittered on His heart. We may often forget to meditate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. Let us chide ourselves for past forgetfulness, and pray for grace that we might constantly and fondly remember Him. Lord, paint upon the eyeballs of my soul the image of Your Son.

1) Proverbs 8:31

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Gives Us Everything We Need

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:3)

Do you think your mom has the ability to feed you every day at dinner? Does she ever tell you, “I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t get up the strength to feed you today”?

Does your mom ever send you to school without any clothes on because she just doesn’t want to buy you clothes? Of course not. Your mom wants you to get everything you need to live.

Your mom might be able to give you everything you need for living life in the earthly sense (clothes to wear, medicine when you need it, a warm house, good home-cooked food). But God gives you everything you need for living life both in this world and in heaven. God is more powerful than anything or anyone – He made the universe, after all! He gives you everything you need to make it through this life – including your mom! He is the ultimate Provider of food, clothes, home, family, and so much more.

But God doesn’t stop at giving you things you need to live your physical life. He gives you things you need for your spiritual life too – strength, faithfulness, love, and grace – every day. How does God give you these wonderful gifts? By the knowledge of His Son, Jesus. Jesus knows what people need. He lived on Earth, too. But God’s gifts to you come when you know Who Jesus is and what He has done. It’s not just knowing about Jesus. It’s knowing Jesus.

Think of it this way: You know that people live down the street from you; that’s a clear fact. You probably don’t know every single person on your street. But you do know your mom. She’s the one that gives you all those good things. You know who she is and what she does. That’s the way you should know Jesus – as Someone Who can provide for you and Someone Who loves you with a love that never ends. God will provide everything you need to get through life, both physically and spiritually, as you come to know His Son more and more.

God provides physical and spiritual needs through Jesus.

My Response:
» How does my mom provide for my needs?
» How does God provide for my needs?
» Am I taking time to thank God for providing my needs?
» Am I taking time to learn more about Jesus today?

Denison Forum – The remaining kidnapped missionaries have been released

The twelve remaining members of a group of seventeen North American missionaries kidnapped in Haiti two months ago were released yesterday. Five of the hostages had been let go earlier.

In other news, a man in Western Kentucky played the gospel hymn “There’s Something about That Name” on a piano amid the wreckage of his home caused by last weekend’s tornadoes. He did not know that his sister was capturing the video, which has now gone viral.

We can use such good news amidst the hard news of the day:

Why did Jesus do it this way?

Hard news always seems harder when it comes during the Christmas season. However, paradoxically, difficult times are precisely why Christmas happened the way it did.

We know that Jesus came at Christmas because “God loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10) so we could receive forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and eternal life (John 3:16) as the children of God (John 1:12).

So, Jesus came to earth to die for us. But why did he have to die the way he did?

Crucifixion is the most horrific, brutal form of tortured execution ever devised. Why did Jesus not die by hemlock like Socrates or a lethal injection such as is common today? “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5), which shows that you will never face greater physical pain than Jesus bore for you. He died on a cross in solidarity with your suffering and mine.

But why did Jesus not go directly to the cross? Why his three years of public ministry?

Our Lord spent this time “teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matthew 5:23). Because he healed the sick and raised the dead, we can know that he is our Great Physician today.

But why did Jesus not come to earth at the age of thirty to launch this ministry? Why come as a baby who grew as a child into a man (cf. Luke 2:52)?

“In every respect [he] has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Because Jesus experienced the full gamut of humanity, he faced every temptation we face and can empower us to achieve victory whenever we are tempted today (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12).

But why did Jesus come, not just as a baby, but as an infant born to a peasant teenage girl in a cow stall outside an inn in an out-of-the way village?

In The Hungering Dark, Frederick Buechner wrote: “Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man. If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there too.”

“It’s more challenging to serve him when times are bad”

Christmas proves that the creator and ruler of the universe (Colossians 1:16) is aptly called “Immanuel,” a name which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). If you need forgiveness, you can go to your crucified Savior. If you need healing, you can go to your Great Physician. If you are facing temptation, you can go to your sinless High Priest. If your circumstances are difficult, you can go to the manger-born Child of Christmas.

However, an unbelieving world doesn’t know what we know. For them to turn to Jesus for the grace they need, they must see his grace at work in us.

Rev. Wes Fowler is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Mayfield, Kentucky. After a tornado devastated their town last Friday night, the Associated Press reports that he and his church members immediately began the work of ministry, mobilizing to “provide whatever they can to help survivors cope with the disaster’s aftermath and stay afloat—gift cards, food, generators, water, a listening ear, and more.”

The congregation quickly formed three teams: one to help affected church members, a second to work on repairing the church campus, and a third to serve the broader community and coordinate offers of aid.

Pastor Fowler said, “It’s easy to serve the Lord when things are good. It’s more challenging to serve him when times are bad, and I think that’s really when people are looking to see if our faith is genuine, if our faith is true.”

Because of Christmas, we know that the Object of our faith is genuine and true. However, we must experience his reality if we would lead others to experience his reality. As Patty Hammond noted, “Your ministry will never be bigger than your vision of Jesus.”

How big is your vision of Jesus today?

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – How God Views Unbelievers

God is loving and merciful, but it is a harsh truth that the spiritually dead will experience His wrath.

Ephesians 2:1-5

God’s Word is always true, but sometimes it comes across as confrontational when it exposes our erroneous thinking. One truth that’s often considered challenging is the way God describes the desperate state of those who are without Christ. They are …

  • Dead in their offenses and sins. Spiritual death came to all people as a result of Adam’s sin, leaving the human race under God’s condemnation (Eph. 2:1).  
  • Unable to grasp spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). Their minds are darkened, and they cannot understand the things of God. 
  • Outside of God’s family. Spiritually, there are only two families in the world: the family of God and the family of Satan (John 8:44).
  • Under God’s wrath. Unbelievers, even the ones who are kind and loving, are under judgment because of their unforgiven sins (Eph. 2:3). 

Those without Christ are in grave danger and don’t realize it. They need to hear the bad news before they can see their need for a Savior. So find a way to carefully give them these hard truths, and explain how they can be rescued: Through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ on their behalf, they can escape God’s wrath and condemnation.  

Bible in One Year: Titus 1-3, Philemon 1

Our Daily Bread — What Are You?

Bible in a Year:

In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.

Galatians 3:26

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Galatians 3:26–4:7

When I walked into the ice cream shop with my five-year-old biracial son, the man behind the counter glanced at me and stared at my child. “What are you?”

His question and harsh tone triggered the all-too-familiar anger and heartache I’d experienced growing up as a Mexican-American who didn’t fit stereotypes. Pulling Xavier closer, I turned toward my Black husband as he entered the store. With eyes narrowed, the store clerk completed our order in silence.

I prayed silently for the man as my son listed the flavors of ice cream he wanted to try. Repenting of my bitterness, I asked God to give me a spirit of forgiveness. With my light-but-not-white complexion, I’d been the target of similar glares accompanying that same question over the years. I’d struggled with insecurities and feelings of worthlessness until I began learning how to embrace my identity as God’s beloved daughter.

The apostle Paul declares that believers in Jesus are “all children of God through faith,” equally valued and beautifully diverse. We’re intimately connected and intentionally designed to work together (Galatians 3:26–29). When God sent His Son to redeem us, we became family through His blood shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins (4:4–7). As God’s image-bearers, our worth cannot be determined by the opinions, expectations, or biases of others.

What are we? We’re children of God.

By:  Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray

When have you doubted your value as a person due to the opinions, expectations, or biases of others? How does knowing all God’s children are His image-bearers help you love those who are different from you?

Father God, please help me to see myself and others through Your eyes. Help me love with Your heart as I come into contact with people who are different from me.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Seeing the Majesty of Christ

“When [Christ] had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

God has exalted Christ above everyone and everything.

Christ in His majestic glory is “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). That’s why it is His right to have the title deed to the earth, spoken of in Revelation 5:1-7. There He opens that deed and takes possession of what is rightfully His as heir of all things.

Hebrews 1 further describes Christ as “the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature. . . . When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did [God] ever say, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee’? And again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me’? And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’” (vv. 3-6; compare v. 13). Because Christ is the unique Son of God, the angels are called to worship Him.

The Father said of the exalted Christ, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His Kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions” (vv. 8-9). Christ is the eternal, righteous God. He is also the Creator who lives forever and remains the same (vv. 10-12).

If you see Christ in His majesty the way the writer of Hebrews did, you’ll want to make the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn “Rejoice—The Lord Is King!” your own:

Jesus the Savior reigns, the God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains He took His seat above:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Suggestions for Prayer

Both angels and the redeemed worship the exalted Christ. Use Psalm 103 as the basis of your prayer of worship.

For Further Study

Hebrews 1:10 shows Christ to be the Creator. Based on this and Psalm 148, what honor is He owed?

Joyce Meyer – Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and mountaineers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!

— Matthew 5:9 (AMPC)

Pursuing peace means making an effort. We cannot maintain peace simply by our own fleshly efforts; we need God’s help, and we need grace, which is His power assisting us and enabling us to do what needs to be done. 

The efforts we make must be in Christ. Too often we just try to do what is right without asking for God’s help, and that type of fleshly effort never produces good fruit. The Bible calls this a “work of the flesh.” It is man’s effort trying to do God’s job. 

What I am saying is, be sure you lean on God and ask for His help. 

When you succeed, give Him the credit, the honor, and the glory because success is impossible without Him.

Jesus said, Apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing (John 15:5). It takes most of us a long time to believe this Scripture enough to stop trying to do things on our own, without leaning on God. We try and fail, try and fail; it happens over and over until we finally wear ourselves out and realize that God Himself is our strength, our success, and our victory. He doesn’t just give us strength—He is our strength. He does not just give us the victory—He is our victory. Yes, we make efforts to keep peace, but we dare not make efforts without depending on God’s power to flow through us; failure is certain if we do. 

The Lord blesses peacemakers, those who work for and make peace. Peacemakers are committed to peace—they crave peace, pursue peace, and go after it. They don’t just hope or wish for it, they don’t just pray for it. They aggressively pursue it in the power of God. Make a commitment to pursue peace from this day forward. 

Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, I trust you to make me a peacemaker—one who works for and pursues peace with You, myself, and others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –The Call of Christian Faith

Come to me.

Matthew 11:28

The call of the Christian faith is the gentle word, “Come.” The Jewish law spoke harshly: “Go, pay attention to your steps as to the path in which you will walk. Break the commandments, and you will perish; keep them, and you will live.” The law was a dispensation of terror that drove men before it as with a scourge; the Gospel draws with cords of love. Jesus is the Good Shepherd going before His sheep, bidding them follow Him, and leading them forward with the sweet word, “Come.” The law repels; the Gospel attracts. The law shows the distance that exists between God and man; the Gospel bridges that awful chasm and brings the sinner across it.

From the first moment of your spiritual life until you are welcomed into heaven, the language of Christ to you will be, “Come to me.” As a mother extends her hand to her tiny child and woos it to walk by saying, “Come,” even so does Jesus. He will always be ahead of you, bidding you follow Him as the soldier follows his captain. He will always go before you to pave your way and clear your path, and you will hear His life-giving voice calling you to follow Him all through your life; in the solemn hour of death, His sweet words with which He will usher you into the heavenly world will be, “Come, you who are blessed of my Father.”1

This is not only Christ’s call to you, but if you are a believer, this is your call to Christ—“Come! Come!” You will be longing for His return; you will be saying, “Come quickly; even so come, Lord Jesus.” You will desire nearer and closer fellowship with Him. As His voice to you is “Come,” your response to Him will be, “Come, Lord, and stay with me. Come and occupy the throne of my heart; reign there without a rival, and consecrate me entirely to Your service.”

1) Matthew 25:34

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God’s Promises Never Fail

“There hath not failed one word of all his good promise.” (1 Kings 8:56b)

Kayla was sitting in the living room staring out the window when her grandfather came in.

“Why such a long face?” he asked. “It’s a beautiful day outside!”

Kayla frowned. “Yesterday, Dad promised to take me to the zoo today – but this morning he said he had to go to work instead. He broke his promise to me!”

Kayla’s grandfather took a Bible off of the coffee table and sat down on the couch next to her. “I’m sorry you’re disappointed. Your dad didn’t mean to fail you, but he had to go to work. We all get let down by other human beings. But there is One Who will never break a promise.”

Kayla sat up and listened closely. She couldn’t think of anyone who had never broken a promise! Her grandfather opened the Bible to 1 Kings 8. Then he told her about the temple that King Solomon built. When the temple was finished, Solomon prayed to God and thanked Him for keeping the promises He had made to His children.

“It was Solomon’s testimony,” Kayla’s grandfather told her. “He was talking about God when he said, ‘There hath not failed one word of all his good promise.'”

“What kinds of promises did God keep?” Kayla asked.

Her grandfather told her about God’s promise to Abraham – the promise that, even though he was an old man, he would have a son. And that through his son, Abraham’s family would grow to a number more than the number of stars in the sky. He also told her God’s promise to Moses that He would deliver Israel from Egypt and give them the promised land.

“The Bible is full of many more promises just as incredible!” her grandfather said. As he read the Bible to her, Kayla felt more and more amazed that all those promises could have come true.

“But what about you, Grandpa? Are you sure God kept all those promises? Are you sure He will keep promises to you?”

Her grandfather smiled and nodded. “My favorite of all the promises is the promise of eternal life for those who trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.” He turned in his Bible to the book of Hebrews, and pointed to chapter 10, verse 23 – “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).” Kayla’s grandfather leaned over and gave her a big hug. “We never have to doubt God’s promises. We can trust Him that He will never let us down.”

God will keep all of His promises.

My Response:
» When I read promises in the Bible do I believe God will keep them?
» Is there a promise I am afraid that God won’t keep?