Tag Archives: Bible

Greg Laurie – The 3 Things we can give to God in 2014

greglaurie

As we enter into a new year, here is something to remember: When it’s all said and done, we have three things we can offer God—our treasure, our talent, and our time. Each of these is given to us by God, and each of them should be given back in generous portions.

First, there is our treasure. I urge you to commit yourself to give faithfully and generously to the Lord in this coming year. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21 NKJV). Whenever we put our money into something, we develop a vested interest in it. It makes sense to us that we would place our treasures where our hearts are. If we love reading books, or being entertained, or the latest technology, we spend our treasure on those things. And if our heart’s desires change, that changes where we put our treasure.

But it works the other way too: Where we put our treasures, our heart will follow. Do you want your heart to be in the things of God? Then put your treasures in the things of God! Develop a vested interest in God’s kingdom.

The second thing we can give to God is our talent. God has gifted each believer in different ways. Everyone has something to offer for the work of the kingdom. Romans 12 says, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us different work to do” (NLT).

Finally, there is our time. Let’s say that one day your phone rang and it was the president of the bank that you use. He told you that an anonymous donor who loved you very much had decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into your bank account each and every morning. At first, maybe that didn’t seem like a lot. But then you figured out that it was $864 a day. At seven days a week and 52 weeks a year, those pennies add up to almost $315,000 each year! But the bank president added one thing: “The anonymous giver said you must spend all of the money on the day you receive it! No balance will be carried over to the next day. Each evening the bank must cancel whatever sum you failed to use! Remember, what you don’t spend is lost.”

That may sound like fantasy, but here’s the reality: Every morning, Someone who loves you very much deposits into your “bank of time” 86,400 seconds, which represent 1,440 minutes, which of course equals 24 hours each and every day. God gives you that much to use each day. Nothing is ever carried over on credit to the next day. There is no such thing as a 27-hour day. It’s called time, and you can’t escape it. Time is ticking away right now. The Bible tells us to “redeem the time”—to make sacred and wise use of every opportunity.

Offer God your treasure, your talent, and your time. Live this next year as if it were your last, because it could be. Make those minutes count!

 

Charles Stanley – God’s Emphasis on Jesus’ Return

Charles Stanley

Colossians 3:1-4

The idea of eternity is a hard one to grasp. Though it is difficult to wrap the human mind around the concept of endlessness, God wants His children to live with an eternal perspective. So throughout Scripture, He stresses Christ’s second coming to help us think about our life in those terms.

Realizing that Jesus could return at any time keeps the church’s focus right. Paul reminds us to set our minds on heavenly things rather than on the things of earth (Col. 3:2). Though we live in the material world, we’re to consider long-term impact when deciding where to spend our time, money, and energy.

One critically important decision for us involves obeying God’s call to evangelize. Every believer has a personal responsibility to share the gospel with people in his or her sphere of influence (Matt. 28:19). The goal of the church, as well as individual believers, must be to take along as many as possible into eternity. But for that to happen, believers need to get busy sharing the good news before Jesus returns. People won’t come to Christ unless they’ve heard the story of His grace, mercy, and redemption.

The Word of God emphasizes Jesus’return so that believers will live with an eternal mindset. Christ can come back at any time, and when He does, those who have trusted Him as Savior will experience uninterrupted, never-ending life in His presence. In preparation for that day, we must live now with our feet on the ground, our hands busy for God, and our spiritual eyes watching for the Savior’s arrival.

 

Our Daily Bread — The Challenge Of Confinement

Our Daily Bread

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. —2 Peter 3:18

At the age of 86, Ken Deal concluded more than 3 decades of volunteer jail and prison ministry with a final Sunday sermon. His message to the inmates was about serving the Lord while incarcerated. Many of the examples he used came from prisoners, some serving life sentences. In a place everyone wants to leave, he encouraged them to grow and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.

After the people of Judah were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar and deported to Babylon because of their disobedience to God, the prophet Jeremiah sent them this message from the Lord: “Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands . . . that you may be increased there, and not diminished” (Jer. 29:5-6).

We may face some limiting circumstance today. Whether it is the result of our failure, or through no fault of our own, we can “go” through it or seek God’s strength to “grow” through it. The challenge of every confinement is to increase rather than decrease; to grow and not diminish. The Lord’s goal is to give us “a future and a hope” (v.11). —David McCasland

I know, Lord, that You can use the circumstances

I am in for my good. Change me, and grow

me in my knowledge of You and intimacy

with You. Give me Your strength.

A limited situation may afford the soul a chance to grow.

Bible in a year: Zechariah 1-4; Revelation 18

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The World We Know

Ravi Z

Garrison Keillor’s description of Aunt Marie is one I have not been able to shake this season. Repeatedly, she has come to mind in discordant moments of Christmas preparation, somewhere between errands at the mall and lyrics that put a stop to them. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining,/ Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” No description of the Incarnation more readily makes the common stressors of Christmas seem less important. And yet, Aunt Marie, with her “fat little legs” and “her heavy, fur-collared coat,” has made a serious attempt to wrestle me back down to a sad, human, earthly reality. Keillor writes:

“She knew that death was only a door to the kingdom where Jesus would welcome her, there would be no crying there, no suffering, but meanwhile she was fat, her heart hurt, and she lived alone with her ill-tempered little dogs, tottering around her dark little house full of Chinese figurines and old Sunday Tribunes. She complained about nobody loving her or wanting her or inviting her to their house for dinner anymore. She sat eating pork roast, mashed potato, creamed asparagus, one Sunday at our house when she said it. We were talking about a trip to the North Shore and suddenly she broke into tears and cried, ‘You don’t care about me. You say you do but you don’t. If I died tomorrow, I don’t know as you’d even go to my funeral.’ I was six. I said, cheerfully, ‘I’d come to your funeral,’ looking at my fat aunt, her blue dress, her string of pearls, her red rouge, the powder on her nose, her mouth full of pork roast, her eyes full of tears.”(1)

Christmas has reminded us what many of us already know: that the world is waiting, groaning for more, longing for redemption, for peace on earth and goodwill to humanity, for release from darkness and sin and loneliness and disillusionment, for God to come near to the world as we know it. Like Aunt Marie, this waiting is sometimes fraught with discomfort; we wait, and we sense a lonely, earthly reality. But Advent forces the experience of waiting into a different light. Our waiting need not be dehumanizing, dispiriting, as waiting often feels.

The New Testament describes it quite differently—not as a difficult means to a better end, but as part of the promise itself. Eugene Peterson writes, “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”(2) Waiting itself is, of course, a reminder that we are earthbound.

But so is Christ.

The Christian’s celebration of Christmas is the assurance that we wait with good reason. “The word became flesh,” wrote John, “and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God did not merely come near, he became flesh that could touch weaknesses, experience loneliness, and encounter the lowest moments of being human. He came to be with us, to move through us, to work within us. He came as small and vulnerable as humans come, getting close enough to bear the scars of our outrage and near enough to prove he would stay regardless. He came far nearer than Aunt Marie—or most of us—are yet able to recognize. “That is what incarnation means,” writes Frederick Buechner. “It is untheological. It is unsophisticated. It is undignified. But according to Christianity, it is the way things are. All religions and philosophies that deny the reality or the significance of the material, the fleshly, the earthbound, are themselves denied.”(3)

God became one of us, not to erase every shadow or to undo the difficulties of humanity, but to be with us in the midst of it, to transform our spectrum of darkness by bearing a truer depth of light, and to enlarge us with the joy of expectancy until the fullness of time when every hope has come to pass.

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

(1) Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home (New York: Viking, 1987), xxi-xxii.

(2) Eugene Peterson, The Message, Romans 8:24-25.

(3) Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), 169.

 

Alistair Begg – Flourish Even in Drought

Alistair Begg

Can reeds flourish where there is no water?

Job 8:11

The reed is spongy and hollow, and so is a hypocrite; there is no substance or stability in him. It is shaken back and forth in every wind, just as the outwardly religious yield to every influence; for this reason the reed is not broken by the storm, neither are hypocrites called to face persecution. I would not willingly be a deceiver or be deceived; perhaps the text for today may help me to test myself to see whether I am a hypocrite or not.

The reed by nature lives in water and owes its very existence to the mire and moisture in which it has taken root; let the water drain away, and the reed withers very quickly. Its greenness is absolutely dependent upon circumstances; a continuous supply of water makes it flourish, and a drought destroys it at once.

Is this my case? Do I only serve God when I am in good company or when faith is profitable and respectable? Do I love the Lord only when I am enjoying comforts from His hands? If so I am just a hypocrite, and like the withering reed, I will perish when death deprives me of outward joys.

But can I honestly maintain that when there have been few bodily comforts, and my surroundings have been adverse to grace rather than at all helpful to it, I have still maintained my integrity? Then I have hope that there is genuine vital godliness in me.

The reed cannot grow without water, but the Lord’s plants can and do flourish even when there is a drought. A godly man often grows best when his worldly circumstances are daunting. He who follows Christ for money is a Judas; those who follow for loaves and fishes are children of the devil; but those who stay close out of love to Himself are His own beloved ones. Lord, let me find my life in You, and not in the shifting sands of this world’s favor or gain.

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – “What have I done?”

CharlesSpurgeon

“What have I done?” Jeremiah 8:6

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Peter 1:3-8

What hast thou done? I hear thee reply, “I have done nothing to save myself; for that was done for me in the eternal covenant, from before the foundation of the world. I have done nothing to make a righteousness for myself, for Christ said, “It is finished;” I have done nothing to procure heaven by my merits, for all that Jesus did for me before I was born.” But say, brother, what hast thou done for him who died to save thy wretched soul? What hast thou done for his church? What hast thou done for the salvation of the world? What has thou done to promote thine own spiritual growth in grace? Ah! I might hit some of you that are true Christians very hard here; but I will leave you with your God. God will chastise his own children. I will, however, put a pointed question. Are there not many Christians now present who cannot recollect that they have been the means of the salvation of one soul during this year? Come, now; turn back. Have you any reason to believe that directly or indirectly you have been made the means this year of the salvation of a soul? I will go further. There are some of you who are old Christians, and I will ask you this question: Have you any reason to believe that ever since you were converted you have ever been the means of the salvation of a soul? It was reckoned in the East, in the times of the patriarchs, to be a disgrace to a woman that she had no children; but what disgrace it is to a Christian to have no spiritual children—to have none born unto God by his instrumentality! And yet there are some of you here that have been spiritually barren, and have never brought one convert to Christ; you have not one star in your crown of glory, and must wear a starless crown in heaven.

For meditation: While the self-righteous makes the fatal mistake of thinking that good deeds lead to salvation, the saved can make the sad mistake of forgetting that salvation is supposed to lead to good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Sermon no. 169

27 December (1857)

 

John MacArthur – The Humiliation of Christ

John MacArthur

“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’ death on the cross was not easy or costless–it was a horrific death. It was not calm and peaceful; it was accompanied by outward torture and inward agony. The death He tasted was the curse of sin. In a few hours on that cross, He suffered the total agony of every soul for all eternity. He was guilty of no sin, yet He chose to suffer the weight of all sins committed for all time.

God sent His Son, and His Son willingly came to die to redeem mankind. Paul writes, “When the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law” (Gal. 4:4-5).

Only by tasting death as a man could He free mankind from death. Historically, kings have had someone taste their food and drink before they consumed it. Christ drained to the dregs the cup of poison rightfully meant for us before it could ever touch our lips. He substituted His death for ours, releasing us from the deadness of sin to life with God.

What moved Jesus to suffer for us? Grace. What we did not deserve (salvation) we received, and what we did deserve (death) we did not receive. Unbounded love prompted Christ’s gracious work on our behalf: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

After He accomplished the work of His substitutionary death, He was “crowned with glory and honor” and exalted to the right hand of the Father, where He will reign forever and ever. He is our great Substitute, whom we can thank and praise throughout all eternity.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Ask God to give you opportunities to communicate the gospel to new people, even if you might suffer in the process.

For Further Study:

Read Isaiah 52:13–53:12 to understand what the God of the universe had to endure at the hands of men.

Joyce Meyer – God Wants You to Show Mercy to Others

Joyce meyer

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.—Matthew 6:14–15 NLT

Why is it so hard to completely ignore offenses? Even when we do overlook offenses, we want to mention the fact that we overlooked them so the people who offend us do not think they can treat us improperly and get away with it—it is a type of self-protection. But God wants us to trust Him to protect us as well as to heal us from every hurt and emotional wound, every day.

I wonder how weary we would be at the end of each day if God mentioned every tiny thing we did wrong. He does deal with us, but I am quite sure He also overlooks a lot of things. If people are corrected too much, it can discourage them and break their spirits. We should form a habit of dealing only with what God Himself prompts us to address, not just everything we feel like confronting or every little thing that bothers us.

I am the type of person who is not inclined to let anybody get away with anything. I don’t like feeling someone is taking advantage of me, partially because I was abused in my childhood and partially because I am human, and none of us embrace disrespect. In the past, I was quick to tell everyone his or her faults, but I have learned that is not pleasing to God. Just as we want others to give us mercy, we must give it to them. We reap what we sow—nothing more or less. God may even withhold His mercy from us if we are unwilling to give mercy to others.

Jesus said He gives us power even to “trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]” (Luke 10:19). He promised that nothing will harm us in any way. If we have power over the enemy, surely we can overlook the offenses of others.

Trust in Him: Are you able to overlook offenses—painful or simply obnoxious ones—completely? God has given you the ability to forgive and show mercy to everyone who offends you, and He wants you to trust Him to heal you from every hurt, every day.

 

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Mighty Things Through Faith

dr_bright

“And so [Jesus] did only a few great miracles there, because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58).

It was my first visit to Nazareth, and through a series of fortuitous circumstances, I found myself enjoying lunch with one of the city’s prominent leaders. As we talked together in the crowded dining room our conversation turned to Jesus Christ, and ultimately this gentleman bowed his head and began to pray aloud, inviting Christ to be his Savior and Lord.

The change seemed to be immediate and dramatic, and follow-up has proven that God did meet him and change his life. During the course of our conversation, he indicated that what I had shared with him was a new truth. Though he was religious and active in his church, he never had been told that he should receive Christ.

Upon further exploration, I found that, in the entire community of Nazareth, there were but a few in those days who understood the truth of the living Christ indwelling the believer. I was amazed!

Nazareth was the town in which our Lord had spent approximately thirty years of His life. The son of a carpenter, He had walked those winding streets, living, loving and laughing with other young children as they were growing up. He left the town when He entered His public ministry, and went on to perform mighty miracles, die on the cross for our sins and be raised from the dead – and He changed the whole course of history. But 2,000 years have passed since then, and there is still little evidence of the influence of Jesus in the lives of the people of Nazareth.

Then I remembered that it was said of our Lord, He could do no mighty things in Nazareth because of their unbelief. That seems to be true in more than just that city today. Even though there are a billion and a half professing followers of Christ throughout the world, the majority seem to be practical atheists.

And so, our Lord cannot do mighty things in Nazareth, or throughout the world, because of unbelief. The key to releasing His power to accomplish revolutionary, supernatural things in the world – and in individual lives – is faith. “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29, KJV). “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23, KJV). “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17, KJV).

Bible Reading: Mark 6:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Remembering that Jesus Christ lives within me in all of His supernatural power, waiting to accomplish great and mighty things through me, I will trust and obey Him for a life that is characterized by the supernatural, and I will encourage others to do the same.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Praise Epidemic

ppt_seal01

Now that Christmas has past and all the shopping is over, you might be saying with Peter in today’s verse, “I have no silver and gold.” But notice the next phase, and ask: “What do I have?”

I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.

Acts 3:6

In Christ, you have so much: eternal life (Romans 6:23), forgiveness and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (I Corinthians 1:30), grace and peace (Romans 1:7), triumph (II Corinthians 2:14), faith and love (I Timothy 1:14), and knowledge of God’s glory (II Corinthians 4:6). You also have the gift of being a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17), the reality of Christ in you (II Corinthians 13:5) and of being a child of God (Galatians 3:26). You’re given equal social standing (Galatians 3:28) and every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3), closeness to God (Ephesians 2:13) and a holy calling (II Timothy 1:9).

This country needs Jesus. What time, talents and resources can you combine with all you have in Christ to honor God and reach out to others? Write them down and pray about them. Ask God to show you new ways He can use you in the coming year. Then pray, too, for an epidemic of praise to the Heavenly Father as you and fellow Christians reach out in love.

Recommended Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

 

Greg Laurie – A Pivotal Moment in Church History

greglaurie

Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” —Acts 10:28

A pivotal moment arrived in the spread of the gospel by the early church with the conversion of a man named Cornelius. His conversion was significant because Cornelius was not a Jew, but a Gentile.

For us living today in the melting pot called the United States of America, that doesn’t mean a lot. But it did mean a lot to the first-century Jew. Despite the fact that Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, that really wasn’t happening. Christianity was running the risk of becoming a sect of Judaism.

But that all changed when God impacted one man, and that man was Simon Peter. Peter was pretty much like any other Jew living in his time. He was proud of his heritage, and I don’t mean that in a critical way.

The Jews of this time, however, wanted nothing to do with non-Jews, or Gentiles. So God wanted to redirect the early church to go to the non-Jews and bring them the message of the gospel. And the Lord did that through Peter.

Acts 10 tells us that while Peter was waiting for lunch one day in Joppa, he went up on the housetop to pray. Then he fell into a trance and saw the sky open, while something resembling a sheet was lowered that contained all kinds of unclean animals. Then a voice said, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (verse 13).

This wasn’t about food as much as it was about people. God was saying: “Peter, time to leave your comfort zone and reach a whole new group of people—the Gentiles.”

Soon after, Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his relatives and friends, and they believed. Peter obeyed God and left his comfort zone, and it changed church history.

 

 

Max Lucado – Divine Warnings

Max Lucado

Warnings.  Red lights in life that signal us of impending danger. They exist in all parts of life. Sirens scream as a marriage starts to sour; alarms blare when a faith weakens.

We usually know when trouble is just around the corner. Christians who’ve fallen away felt the fire waning long before it went out.  Unwanted pregnancies or explosions of anger are usually the result of a history of ignoring warnings about an impending fire.

Are your senses numb? Are your eyes trained to turn and roll when they should pause and observe?  One-night stands.  Dust-covered Bibles.  Careless choice of companions.  Denial of Christ.

Proverbs 19:27 says, “Cease listening to [My] instruction and you will stray from the words of knowledge.”

Divine warnings.  Inspired by God; tested by time. Heed them and safety is yours to enjoy!

From God Came Near

Charles Stanley – The Promise of Christ’s Return

Charles Stanley

John 14:1-3

The return of Jesus Christ—a vital part of God’s redemptive plan for humanity—was foretold by prophets, affirmed by angels, and discussed by Jesus and Paul. 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 often than His death.

The second coming of Christ will be the Devil’s final defeat. God prophesied Satan’s end when He told the serpent, “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel”(Gen. 3:15). Satan appeared to have won a tremendous victory when Jesus was crucified. But the Resurrection dealt the Enemy a lethal blow by proving Golgotha to be but a “bruised heel.” Christ’s return will seal the Devil’s fate because God has promised to remake the earth. When He is finished, we’ll live in a world as perfect as the Lord intended before Adam and Eve tainted Eden with sin.

The Father wants us excited and hopeful about Jesus’ return because that event is the culmination of His plan for humanity. Many centuries of Christians spreading the gospel are leading to the moment when all who choose to serve God will be gathered together on a new earth. To keep our hope alive, He has told us what to expect.

Although we don’t know the day or hour of the second coming, Jesus Christ’s final biblical prophecy reminds us to live and evangelize with a sense of urgency: “Yes, I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20).

If we are saved and serving, we can say with John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

 

Our Daily Bread — Be Present

Our Daily Bread

Job 2:3-13

They sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. —Job 2:13

After 20 children and 6 staff members were murdered in a Connecticut school, the entire nation was stunned that such a horrific thing could happen. Everyone focused on the tragedy and the questions surrounding it: What kind of person would do such a thing, and why? How can we prevent it from happening again? How can we help the survivors? Amid the chaos, an unlikely group moved in and made a difference.

From Chicago came dogs— specially trained golden retrievers that offered nothing except affection. Dogs don’t speak; they simply offer their presence. Children traumatized by the violence opened up to them, expressing fears and emotions they had not spoken to any adult. Tim Hetzner of Lutheran Church Charities said, “The biggest part of their training is just learning to be quiet.”

As we learn from the book of Job, people in grief do not always need words. Sometimes they need someone to sit silently with them, to listen when they need to speak, and to hug them when their sorrow turns to sobs.

God may not intervene to change circumstances and He may not explain suffering, but He comforts us through the presence of other believers (Col. 4:8). —Julie Ackerman Link

He’s with us in the valley,

Amid the darkest night

He tells us in our sorrow;

Faith will give way to sight. —D. DeHaan

Listening may be the most loving and Christlike thing you do today.

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

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Context

Ravi Z

The first Christmas narratives remind the enquiring mind that what took place in those days had a context. As a college student in the early 1980′s, I was once challenged by a contemporary who said that the story of the Bible was written by someone under the influence of substances. Coming from one who was especially immersed in Marxian thought, it was logical to interpret the charge as an off- shoot of the Marxian conclusion that religion was the “opium of the masses.”

When Matthew wrote his second chapter, he opened the section with some very important words. The context was being laid out. Had he been covering the section in a classroom talk, he would have pointed to a globe or to a map as he said, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea…” (Matthew 2:1). In that one statement Matthew conclusively identified the location of God’s activity in relation to the earth. Geography lovers may cheer for that clarity. Matthew then proceeded to make the context even clearer as he approached another realm of study. He entered the worldview of history as he said, “during the time of King Herod” (Matthew 2:1). In Matthew’s understanding, the activity of God during that first Christmas was firmly placed within a context of time, space, and matter. My contemporary, and others holding his Marxian persuasion, would do well to recognize that Matthew’s point is precisely that the story did not happen in the “suspended animation of someone’s imagination.”

Interpreters of biblical texts similarly do well in remembering the principle that “a text without its context can be a pretext.” Think about this. What if Matthew had started his record without his referrals to history and geography in that first Christmas narrative? Imagine he had told us that since it was all about wise men, he was leaving the details to our “wise guesses.” Or what if his narrative began something like, “and it came to pass that wise men came from ‘who knows where’ to some place in the direction of the East…”? Are we not grateful for the unchangeable references of time and space that the narrative affords us?

For over a decade, my wife and I have had the privilege of knowing the pastor of a church in Montoursville Pennsylvania. Over the years, I have heard much of this church in Montoursville. Yet as one who had never actually seen it, I could only rely on pictures and spoken or written words to understand their context. How would it have helped me as I traveled from India to be at this church if the pastor had only told me, “Arun, you are welcome to our church, which is somewhere out there. Just walk about the U.S. and hopefully you’ll get there”?  To reach this context I needed clear guidance.

Similarly, when it came to seeking after the King, the wise men had their guidance. While writing the narrative, the writer had his as well. And while reading the text, we modern readers have ours. The context is always important, and to be guided rightly to it is critical. Montoursville is thus no longer a spot on a map to me. It is a place I have entered.

The most wonderful benefit of appreciating the matter of context in relation to God’s activity is that we are given permission to see things from our context as well–the context of our environmental issues, our bills, our aches and pains, our relationships, our ambitions, our challenges, our accomplishments, our sins, and our failures. Isn’t it simply special that the first Christmas means God not only studied our context; God actually entered it. On account of this step, there is one who can make the claim to understand us. Our pains, disappointments, joys, questions, and complaints are understood. All because Jesus chose to trade his context for ours!

Might you have a blessed season of discovering the delights of his love, clarity, and understanding. And as you discover, might you also come to mark the world by his truths, knowing well that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never been able to put it out—despite those who still want to chalk the story up to the imagination of the mind.

Arun Andrews is a member of the speaking team with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bangalore, India.

 

Alistair Begg – The Sponsor and Substitute

Alistair Begg

The last Adam.

1 Corinthians 15:45

Jesus is the representative head of His people. In Adam every heir of flesh and blood has a personal interest, because he is the covenant head and representative of the race when considered under the law of works; so under the law of grace, every redeemed soul is one with the Lord from heaven, since He is the Second Adam, the Sponsor and Substitute of the elect in the new covenant of love.

The apostle Paul declares that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him: It is a certain truth that the believer was in the loins of Jesus Christ, the Mediator, when in eternity the covenant settlements of grace were decreed, ratified, and made sure forever.

Whatever Christ has done, He has accomplished for the whole body of His Church. We were crucified in Him and buried with Him (read Col. 2:10-13), and to make it still more wonderful, we are risen with Him and even ascended with Him to the seats on high (Eph. 2:6). It is in this way that the Church has fulfilled the law and is “blessed in the Beloved.”1

She is regarded with satisfaction by the just Jehovah, for He views her in Jesus, and does not look upon her as separate from her covenant head. As the Anointed Redeemer of Israel, Christ Jesus has nothing distinct from His Church, but all that He has He holds for her. Adam’s righteousness was ours so long as he maintained it, and his sin was ours the moment that he committed it; and in the same way, all that the Second Adam is or does is ours as well as His because He is our representative.

Here is the foundation of the covenant of grace. This gracious system of representation and substitution, which moved Justin Martyr to cry out, “O blessed change, O sweet permutation!” is the very groundwork of the Gospel of our salvation and is to be received with strong faith and rapturous joy.

1 Ephesians 1:6

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The vanguard and rear guard of the Church

CharlesSpurgeon

“The Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.” 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

John MacArthur

“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).

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

Joyce meyer

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.

Most of us like to think about how we want our lives to unfold and then have them go exactly according to our plans, but that rarely happens. This is not a negative statement; it’s simply a reality of life on earth. Jesus promises us in today’s verse that He has overcome everything in the world, and, through the Holy Spirit, He gives us the power to overcome too.

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. I certainly would not tell you to expect bad things. But I also urge you to be realistic and realize that we all have to deal with things that are unpleasant and with circumstances that are less than desirable. Our attitudes about these kinds of situations make the difference between whether we live with continual frustration and disappointment over things that aren’t perfect 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

dr_bright

“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.