Tag Archives: faith

The High Cost of Free Grace – John MacArthur

 

“In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood” (Eph. 1:7, emphasis added).

Sin is not a serious issue to most people. Our culture flaunts and peddles it in countless forms. Even Christians who would never think of committing certain sins will often allow themselves to be entertained by them through television, movies, music, and other media.

We might flirt with sin but God hates it. The price He paid to redeem us from it speaks of the seriousness with which He views it. After all, we “were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold . . . but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). In Scripture the shedding of blood refers to violent physical death–whether of a sacrificial animal or of Christ Himself. Sin is so serious that without bloodshed, there is no forgiveness of sin in God’s sight (Heb. 9:22).

The sacrificial animals in the Old Testament pictured Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That’s why John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Old Testament sacrifices were necessary but incomplete. Christ’s sacrifice was perfect, complete, and once for all (Heb. 10:10). No further sacrifices are needed other than the “sacrifice of praise to God” for what He has done (Heb. 13:15) and our very lives in service to Him as “a living and holy sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). By His sacrifice Christ demonstrated not only God’s hatred for sin, but also His great love for sinners. You could never redeem yourself, but Christ willingly paid the price with His own precious blood. He “gave Himself up for [you], an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:2). His sacrifice was acceptable to the Father, so your redemption was paid in full. What magnanimous love and incredible grace!

Suggestions for Prayer:

Worship God for His wonderful plan of salvation.

Worship Christ for the enormous sacrifice He made on your behalf.

Worship the Holy Spirit for applying Christ’s sacrifice to your life and drawing you to Christ in saving faith.

Ask God to help you guard your heart from flirting with sin.

For Further Study: Read 2 Samuel 11

What circumstances led to David’s sin with Bathsheba?

How did David attempt to cover his sin?

How did David finally deal with his sin (see Ps. 51)?

Big Dreams? Be Faithful – Greg Laurie

 

Do you have big dreams to accomplish something great for God?

I have some advice for you: Be faithful in the little things and God will give you more to do.

When David was called by God to be king, he was out watching sheep, just being faithful. The day David killed Goliath, he didn’t wake up that morning and hear God say, “David, today you are going to the valley of Elah. There will be a giant Philistine named Goliath, and you will kill him with a stone.” No, at his dad’s request, David was taking some cheese sandwiches to his brothers out on the front line. . .just being faithful on an errand for his dad.

What was Gideon doing when God called him? He was hiding from his enemies. He was terrified. But God saw his potential, and the next thing Gideon knew, he was leading troops into battle.

And what was Elisha doing when Elijah called him to carry on the work? He was out plowing in the field. Moses was watching a bunch of sheep in the desert when God called him to deliver the Israelites. Then there was Daniel, who was so faithful to the Lord that his enemies couldn’t find one thing wrong with him. They had to make up lies about him so that he would be sentenced to death. And how about that teenage girl named Mary living in Nazareth who had a visit from one of God’s most powerful angels, with a message about a Child, who would be called the Son of the Most High?

My point is this: They were faithfully doing what God had set before them. They weren’t running around, looking for big, important things to accomplish. They didn’t have public relations consultants or agents. They were simply doing the little things, waiting on God.

Sometimes, we have great ideas of what God will do. But we have to wait on Him. What are your dreams right now? Maybe you want to do something for God, but you think it will never happen. Then again. . .maybe it will. Maybe it even will surpass your wildest dreams. Just be faithful to do what God has set before you right now.

Your future is safe in His hands.

Whom is the Wisest – Bro Bo in Hawaii

Psalm 19:1 (KJ21) The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.

Romans 11:33 (KJ21) O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!

Just as God is the all knowing, the creator of everything. We, ones who were created by the creator know nothing, in comparison.

It is hard to admit, our pride is such that we feel we are the smartest, but when you stop to really think about it; you know the scriptures are right.

All the best minds Mankind has produced has just left us falling way short of God’s level. The Fredrich Nietzches and Michel Foucaults of the world have no real answers. Nietzsche ended his life in a mental ward and Foucault ended his life in misery and disgrace. Before dying of AIDS, he knowingly gave all his partners the disease so they too could experience his answer to life.  Which I will quote here – “ Every trace of ourselves that is shaped by others must be destroyed: our political, cultural, and sexual identities, our notion of right and wrong, sanity and madness, even what is true and false, all must vanish.” 1

When highly educated men can provide  no satisfactory answers to life’s fundamental questions, those that learn from them are severely handicapped in trying to be educated.
Because when you have a populace educated on a diet of Secularism they are not prepared for life and certainly not ready to teach their children. Still to this day some of the bestsellers at bookstores at major campuses across the country are by Nietzches and Foucaults.
Paul addressed the great Greek thinkers of His day;
1st Cor 1:20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.

Our challenge is to seek out God’s Wisdom that is in this world and learn from it. Use the tools of the times; The Internet with our Blogs and WEBsites. Identify the truth and question everything; test what you read with the fiery furnace of the Bible. We must also be aware of the worldly wisdom that is in opposition to us today, to combat it and stand against it.

Remember to be Wise men who know the times  (Jan 10 Dev.) and to know where the Wisdom comes from…God.

Peace be to you all from Bro Bo in Hawaii

– Life is a long journey but we all end up before the same God in Heaven, What will He say to you?

1.) Arthur Herman, The Idea of Decline in western history New York – Free Press 1997

Walking Away from God – Charles Stanley

 

Luke 15:20-32

Like the father of the prodigal son, our heavenly Father will not force us to remain with Him. If we ignore His guiding Holy Spirit and insist on following an ungodly path, He’ll let us go our own way. Examining the parable, we learn what happens if we move outside of God’s plan.

• Our fellowship with the Father is significantly affected. The wayward son was no longer in close contact with his dad; their relationship was not as important to him as it had been. If we wander and make ourselves higher priority than the Lord, we will also experience a disconnect with our heavenly Father. As Christians, we cannot move off God’s chosen path without first closing our mind and heart to His truth and His call on our lives.

• Our resources—time, talent, and treasure—are wasted. The son squandered his money on frivolous things and ended up worse off than the laborers at his father’s house. God has bestowed spiritual gifts and material resources to build His kingdom, and He’s also provided His Spirit to offer guidance. Pursuing our own plan wastes what He has given us.

• Our deepest needs go unmet. Chasing after dreams that are outside of the Lord’s purposes will lead to discontent. Only in Christ can we find true fulfillment.

A great weariness will overtake us if we live apart from God. Poor choices can result in lifelong regrets, but they don’t have to dictate our future. The heavenly Father will welcome us with great joy and love when we repent and turn back to Him. Have you wandered away? He’s waiting for you.

The Best Intentions – Ravi Zacharias Ministries

 

How far can we get on good intentions? According to one survey conducted among a diverse group of men and women, thirty percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions admit not keeping them into February. Just one in five continues his or her resolution for six months or more. Apparently, we don’t get very far.

We meet life with intentions to succeed, intentions to be a good person, intentions to live life to the fullest. Yet however many ways we might interpret success, goodness, or full-living, our good intentions have certain aspects in common: the hope to improve, the idea of becoming something more than what we are at the moment, the expectation that one should reach his or her potential. It is as if there is an image implanted in our minds that upholds the idea of something we could be or might be—some even use the language of even being meant to be. But there is all too often a tragic side to best intentions. When they are not fully realized, there is usually a sense that it is we who have gotten in the way.

Great minds from Augustine to G.K. Chesterton saw clearly that the most verifiable truth of the Christian worldview is certainly the depravity of humanity. It can be observed across countries and languages, at any time and within every decade, from barbaric accounts of depravity in far away places to more accepted forms of depravity close at home. We close our eyes to reality where we refuse to see the same story repeating itself again and again. We might euphemize the thought of sin into neurotic myth, outdated opinion, or church propaganda, but it has not been euthanized. Observe for a short time at any playground and you will note quickly amongst even the youngest that something is amiss. If we were to truly observe our hearts, motives, and wills, we would hardly find them good and consistent leaders to follow.

The Christian worldview recognizes the recurring story of a disappointed and disappointing humanity. Not only do we miss our own intentions, we miss the intention of one we faintly recognize within us; we sense in our createdness the greater mark and glory of the creator disappointingly out of reach. The one who spoke to the dejected Eve in the Garden of Eden and to the defiant David through the prophet Nathan is the present one beside whom we, too, stand in contrast. We can step no closer to that standard by our own intentions than a foolish king can order the stars to bow before him. To look at the Son is to find that even our best intentions are made of straw.

Yet looking at Christ, we not only see our humanity beside a perfect human, we find this perfect human moving toward us in mercy, giving us a bigger picture of the good and the fullest, and ushering us into the possibility of holding more than we ever imagined. Where we are honest about our limits and shortfalls, we can truly grasp the beauty of Jesus and the unimaginable depth of a Father’s love. It is in Christ where we find that God moves the blur of sin to give us the picture of all God intended. And here, we find the Christian worldview not only coherently offers the diagnosis, but also the cure.

The late Christian songwriter Rich Mullins alluded to the bigger pictures of God when he observed of his own life: “What I’d have settled for/ You’ve blown so far away/ What You brought me to/ I thought I could not reach.” In the intentions of God, we find that where we would have settled, where we would have been content with success or goodness, the Father moves us far beyond. Where we would have fallen beyond reach, the Son took our place. “God who is mighty,” proclaims the psalmist, “has done great things for me.” In the coming of this New Year, might we recognize a similar story in our own lives.

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

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “These have no root.” / Luke 8:13

My soul, examine thyself this morning by the light of this text. Thou hast

received the word with joy; thy feelings have been stirred and a lively

impression has been made; but, remember, that to receive the word in the ear

is one thing, and to receive Jesus into thy very soul is quite another;

superficial feeling is often joined to inward hardness of heart, and a lively

impression of the word is not always a lasting one. In the parable, the seed

in one case fell upon ground having a rocky bottom, covered over with a thin

layer of earth; when the seed began to take root, its downward growth was

hindered by the hard stone and therefore it spent its strength in pushing its

green shoot aloft as high as it could, but having no inward moisture derived

from root nourishment, it withered away. Is this my case? Have I been making a

fair show in the flesh without having a corresponding inner life? Good growth

takes place upwards and downwards at the same time. Am I rooted in sincere

fidelity and love to Jesus? If my heart remains unsoftened and unfertilized by

grace, the good seed may germinate for a season, but it must ultimately

wither, for it cannot flourish on a rocky, unbroken, unsanctified heart. Let

me dread a godliness as rapid in growth and as wanting in endurance as Jonah’s

gourd; let me count the cost of being a follower of Jesus, above all let me

feel the energy of his Holy Spirit, and then I shall possess an abiding and

enduring seed in my soul. If my mind remains as obdurate as it was by nature,

the sun of trial will scorch, and my hard heart will help to cast the heat the

more terribly upon the ill-covered seed, and my religion will soon die, and my

despair will be terrible; therefore, O heavenly Sower, plough me first, and

then cast the truth into me, and let me yield thee a bounteous harvest.

 

Evening  “I have prayed for thee.” / Luke 22:32

How encouraging is the thought of the Redeemer’s never- ceasing intercession

for us. When we pray, he pleads for us; and when we are not praying, he is

advocating our cause, and by his supplications shielding us from unseen

dangers. Notice the word of comfort addressed to Peter–“Simon, Simon, Satan

hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but”–what? “But go

and pray for yourself.” That would be good advice, but it is not so written.

Neither does he say, “But I will keep you watchful, and so you shall be

preserved.” That were a great blessing. No, it is, “But I have prayed for

thee, that thy faith fail not.” We little know what we owe to our Saviour’s

prayers. When we reach the hill-tops of heaven, and look back upon all the way

whereby the Lord our God hath led us, how we shall praise him who, before the

eternal throne, undid the mischief which Satan was doing upon earth. How shall

we thank him because he never held his peace, but day and night pointed to the

wounds upon his hands, and carried our names upon his breastplate! Even before

Satan had begun to tempt, Jesus had forestalled him and entered a plea in

heaven. Mercy outruns malice. Mark, he does not say, “Satan hath desired to

have you.” He checks Satan even in his very desire, and nips it in the bud. He

does not say, “But I have desired to pray for you.” No, but “I have prayed for

you: I have done it already; I have gone to court and entered a counterplea

even before an accusation is made.” O Jesus, what a comfort it is that thou

hast pleaded our cause against our unseen enemies; countermined their mines,

and unmasked their ambushes. Here is a matter for joy, gratitude, hope, and

confidence.

 

The Slavery That Frees – John MacArthur

 

God exalted Christ “and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).

Here Paul uses a graphic analogy to illustrate the relationship of Christ to the church: He is the head; believers are His body. Paul elaborates that we’re to hold “fast to the head [Christ], from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God” (Col. 2:19; cf. Eph. 4:15-16).

Just as the head controls the human body, so Christ governs His Body, the church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-31). By His Spirit and His Word He supplies all the resources the church needs to function to His glory. In that way He guarantees that His purposes will be fulfilled.

The church is in fact “the fulness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). The implication is that the incomprehensible, all-sufficient, all-powerful, and utterly supreme Christ is in a sense incomplete–not in His nature, but in the degree to which His glory is seen in the world.

A synonym for “fulness” is “complement.” The church was designed to complement Christ. He is the One who fills all in all”–the fullness of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9) and the giver of truth and grace (John 1:16). Yet He chooses to reveal His glory in and through the church. Therefore, until the church is fully glorified, Christ will not be fully complemented.

Does your life complement Christ? Do you “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2:10)? Do you “let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16)? You have every spiritual resource to do so, so don’t let anything hold you back (Heb. 12:1-2)!

Suggestions for Prayer: Read Psalm 139:23-24 and pray with David that God will search your heart and reveal any sin that might hinder you from complementing Christ today.

For Further Study: Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-30

What spiritual gifts are mentioned in this passage?

How does Paul deal with the misconception that some gifts are more important than others (see vv. 14-30)?

As a member of Christ’s Body, you are gifted by the Spirit to minister to others. Are you doing so?

Don’t Waste Your Pain – Greg Laurie

 

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.—2 Corinthians 1:3–4

Personal adversity and suffering give us a new compassion for others who are in pain. Someone who has suffered can minister with great compassion to another person who is experiencing the same kind of adversity.

I believe the most effective person to minister to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer is a cancer survivor, because he or she can say, “I know what you are going through. I know what it is like to hear that news. Let me tell you what I did. Let me tell you how I have gotten through this.”

A person with a disability can minister more effectively to another person with a disability than someone who doesn’t have one at all. They can say, “I, too, struggle. I, too, have to deal with this. But let me share with you how God has helped me.”

A person who has lost a loved one often can minister more effectively to someone else who has lost a loved one. They know what it is like.

The apostle Paul wrote that God “comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:4–5).

Don’t waste your pain. If you have gone through hardship, if you have gone through adversity or are going through difficulty, God can use you to help someone else. God can open up your heart and give you opportunities to minister to people in ways you never have had before.

This is one of the things that suffering can bring about in a person’s life. And nothing ever happens accidentally to a child of God.

Wise men who knew the times – Bro Bo in Hawaii

 

1 Chronicles 12:32 (KJ21)  And of the children of Issachar, who were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command.

Esther 1:13 (KJ21) Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for so was the king’s manner toward all who knew law and judgment;

These Scriptures give notice to the fact that the people being talked about knew what was going on around them. They were not deceived by popular current news stories or mislead by gossip and rumor that is present at all times in history.

Wouldn’t you like to be known as one of these? Trusted men who understand their times.

What this really means is that we need to know what is going on around us, just like in King David’s time or with Esther, there will be confusing and misleading news and information. There will always be bad news, false reports and people’s opinions. So the question becomes can you tell the difference between the truth and the lies?

This will be what sets you apart to become one of the Trusted Men, One who can cut through all the crap and give good answers and advice. More than ever there are so many lost and desperate people in this world looking for answers. Family, friends and neighbors all around you need to hear the truth.

Whatever method works best for you, use it. Look at where you get your news and information from and always question the sources. Challenge what you see and hear and compare everything to the Word of God and use the Bible to establish the cornerstones of your faith.

Find reliable sources of Biblical based information on the Internet and visit the sites daily.

Pray and ask for Wisdom and use what you learn every day to grow into the person God wants you to be.

Peace be to you all from Bro Bo in Hawaii

– Life is a long journey but we all end up before the same God in Heaven, What will He say to you?

Living to the Glory of God – John MacArthur

 

God chose us “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in [His beloved Son]” (Eph. 1:6).

Englishman Henry Martyn served as a missionary in India and Persia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Upon his arrival in Calcutta, he cried out “Let me burn out for God.” As he watched the people prostrating themselves before their pagan idols and heard blasphemy uttered against Christ, he wrote, “This excited more horror in me than I can well express. . . . I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified; it would be hell to me, if He were to be always thus dishonored” (John Stott, Our Guilty Silence [InterVarsity, 1967], pp. 21-22).

Martyn had a passion for God’s glory–and he was in good company. Angels glorify God (Luke 2:14), as do the heavens (Ps. 19:1) and even animals (Isa. 43:20). But as a believer, you glorify God in a unique way because you are a testimony to His redeeming grace.

You were created for the purpose of glorifying God–even in the most mundane activities of life, such as eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10:31). You are to flee immorality so you can glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:19- 20). You are to walk worthy of your calling “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified” (2 Thess. 1:12).

Glorifying God is an enormous privilege and an awesome responsibility. When others see His character on display in your life, it reminds them of His power, goodness, and grace. But when they don’t, it dishonors God and calls His character into question.

Aim your life at God’s glory and make it the standard by which you evaluate everything you do.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank the Lord for the privilege of glorifying Him.

Ask Him to show you any areas of your life that do not honor Him.

Find a trusted Christian friend who will pray with you and hold you accountable for the areas you know need to change.

For Further Study: Read Exodus 33:12-34:8

What did Moses request?

What was God’s response and what does it teach us about His glory?

God’s Perspective on our Troubles – Charles Stanley

 

James 1:2-4

Today’s passage seems to make an impossible demand: how on earth can we “consider it all joy” when we face terrible hardships? Doesn’t this admonition belittle our honest troubles and concerns?

Scripture never instructs us to ignore situations that cause us heartaches, doubt, fear, or worry. In fact, the Bible is quite honest about what we as Christians can expect from a life devoted to Christ. Jesus proclaimed, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 niv). Because we seek to live by biblical values, the world does not understand our motivation and will therefore often stand against us.

How, then, can we rejoice when we face trouble? It is through our hardships that Christ often makes Himself known in our lives. If we lived trouble-free lives, what need would we have for a Savior? Rather, it is because we live fragile lives that we can see Jesus clearly.

When we face a problem head-on with the certainty that God will provide a solution and the strength to endure, we gain spiritual stamina. It is similar to training our physical bodies. Only through the resistance of an opposing force, such as a barbell, do our muscles grow. Likewise, our faith develops as a result of dealing with spiritual resistance.

Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can find the faith to rejoice in our pain. This is possible because we not only have the assurance that God will provide, but we also can trust that when we walk with Him, we will be better prepared to face the next obstacle.

Remember God – Greg Laurie

 

“Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.”           Deuteronomy 8:18

Why does God allow suffering in our lives? Why does He allow us to experience adversity?

One purpose, I believe, is to keep us humble. Prosperity and success can sometimes make us proud and self-sufficient. We think we don’t need God because we have our salary…we have our investments…we have our health…we have our family…we have a successful ministry.

But when the economy goes south or the stock market crashes or our home burns down, we turn to God, and we are reminded of what really matters.

Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God warned them,

“Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14)

I think we should pray for success in what we do, but I also think it is right to say, “Lord, Your will be done.” Sometimes God will not allow us to be successful in our efforts.

It is better to fail and turn to God than to succeed and forget Him. That doesn’t mean we always have to fail. But the doorway to success is often through the hallway of failure. And failure has its place, because it is part of a learning process.

Sometimes God may allow us to fail or experience hardship so we will trust in Him.

Personal Gethsemanes – Greg Laurie

 

Prior to the cross, Jesus went to a garden called Gethsemane. There, as He faced the horrors of what was to come on the cross, He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.”

What was that cup that Jesus was recoiling from? I believe it was the cup of God’s wrath, which He would drink for all of us. The judgment of God that should have come upon me instead came on Him.

He then prayed, “Not My will, but Yours be done.”

We will all face our own “Gethsemanes” in life. By that I mean, a time…

When life is not making any sense.

When your problems seem too great to bear.

When you are seemingly overwhelmed.

When you feel like you just can’t go on another day.

There is a point where we have to say something that is very important to God. And that is the same thing Jesus said: “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

Much is said about the cross (and rightly so), but keep in mind, here in the Garden of Gethsemane we see the decision that took Him to the cross was agonizingly made!

It is interesting that sin began in a garden. And the commitment to bear that sin was also in a garden.

In Eden, Adam sinned. In Gethsemane, Jesus conquered.

In Eden, Adam hid himself. In Gethsemane, our Lord boldly presented Himself.

In Eden, the sword was drawn. In Gethsemane, it was sheathed.

Jesus did this all for us.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning  “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.” / Isaiah 49:8

Jesus Christ is himself the sum and substance of the covenant, and as one of

its gifts. He is the property of every believer. Believer, canst thou estimate

what thou hast gotten in Christ? “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the

Godhead bodily.” Consider that word “God” and its infinity, and then meditate

upon “perfect man” and all his beauty; for all that Christ, as God and man,

ever had, or can have, is thine–out of pure free favour, passed over to thee

to be thine entailed property forever. Our blessed Jesus, as God, is

omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Will it not console you to know that all

these great and glorious attributes are altogether yours? Has he power? That

power is yours to support and strengthen you, to overcome your enemies, and to

preserve you even to the end. Has he love? Well, there is not a drop of love

in his heart which is not yours; you may dive into the immense ocean of his

love, and you may say of it all, “It is mine.” Hath he justice? It may seem a

stern attribute, but even that is yours, for he will by his justice see to it

that all which is promised to you in the covenant of grace shall be most

certainly secured to you. And all that he has as perfect man is yours. As a

perfect man the Father’s delight was upon him. He stood accepted by the Most

High. O believer, God’s acceptance of Christ is thine acceptance; for knowest

thou not that the love which the Father set on a perfect Christ, he sets on

thee now? For all that Christ did is thine. That perfect righteousness which

Jesus wrought out, when through his stainless life he kept the law and made it

honourable, is thine, and is imputed to thee. Christ is in the covenant.

“My God, I am thine–what a comfort divine!

What a blessing to know that the Saviour is mine!

In the heavenly Lamb thrice happy I am,

And my heart it doth dance at the sound of his name.”

 

Evening   “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.” / Luke 3:4

The voice crying in the wilderness demanded a way for the Lord, a way

prepared, and a way prepared in the wilderness. I would be attentive to the

Master’s proclamation, and give him a road into my heart, cast up by gracious

operations, through the desert of my nature. The four directions in the text

must have my serious attention.

Every valley must be exalted. Low and grovelling thoughts of God must be given

up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and self-seeking and carnal

delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys a glorious causeway of

grace must be raised.

Every mountain and hill shall be laid low. Proud creature-sufficiency, and

boastful self-righteousness, must be levelled, to make a highway for the King

of kings. Divine fellowship is never vouchsafed to haughty, highminded

sinners. The Lord hath respect unto the lowly, and visits the contrite in

heart, but the lofty are an abomination unto him. My soul, beseech the Holy

Spirit to set thee right in this respect.

The crooked shall be made straight. The wavering heart must have a straight

path of decision for God and holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are

strangers to the God of truth. My soul, take heed that thou be in all things

honest and true, as in the sight of the heart-searching God.

The rough places shall be made smooth. Stumbling-blocks of sin must be

removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a

visitor must not find miry ways and stony places when he comes to honour his

favoured ones with his company. Oh that this evening the Lord may find in my

heart a highway made ready by his grace, that he may make a triumphal progress

through the utmost bounds of my soul, from the beginning of this year even to

the end of it.

Obeying God – Charles Stanley

 

Jeremiah 9:23-24

Peter was a professional fisherman. He knew how to read weather conditions, where to find the best places to fish, and when to end an unproductive session. Because of his expertise, he may have silently questioned the reasonableness of Jesus’ instruction. Why let down the nets when an experienced team of fishermen hadn’t caught anything all night?

At times God asks His children to act in ways that may not seem logical. His request might involve leaving a job or ministry that He provided only recently, taking on more responsibility when life already feels overloaded, or accepting an assignment that appears better suited for someone with a different skill set. Perhaps God’s plan makes no sense in view of age, finances, or health. Yet, because of the One who asks, it will be the absolutely right thing to do. We must decide whether to do what is sensible by human standards or to obey God.

The Bible talks about many people who had to make such a choice. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. Noah was told to build an ark on dry land because a flood was coming. Joshua was given a military strategy of marching around Jericho instead of attacking it. Gideon, the inexperienced fighter, was told to send most of his warriors home before the battle (Judges 7:2-3).

Don’t make the mistake of allowing human logic to dictate whether you follow God’s plan. Trust in Him as Peter and those other faithful believers did. When they chose to obey what the Lord was saying, they all experienced divine power released on their behalf.

Closer Than You Think – Greg Laurie

 

“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene.”

— Acts 26:9

Does it ever seem impossible to you that God could save certain people? Is there someone you know right now who is not a believer and, in fact, seems far from becoming one? Maybe it is almost laughable to envision this person carrying a Bible around and saying something like, “Praise the Lord!”

In the book of Acts we find the story of one of the most amazing conversions of all time—a conversion so unexpected that even the Christians at the time didn’t think it was possible. I am speaking of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, later to become the great apostle Paul. The interesting thing about Saul’s conversion is that he was one of the most radical antagonists of the early church. It was Saul who presided over the death of Stephen, the first martyr of the church who courageously stood up for his faith.

It was Saul who went out of his way to literally hunt down Christians, imprison them, and even destroy them. This man was bent on the eradication of the Christian faith.

If you know an antagonistic person, someone who seems to go out of his or her way to make your life miserable, someone who is always trying to stump you with a hard question, it just may be they are closer to the kingdom of God than you realize.

Sometimes the people who attack the most, the people who are the greatest mockers and antagonists, are those who are actually under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And that is why they do what they do. The person who is the most opposed to the things of God may be actually closer than you think.

Remember, no one is beyond the reach of God—no one. So start praying for them by name.

The Spirit That Conquers – Charles Stanley

 

Philippians 3: 7-14

Paul was a man with a spirit that conquered. Throughout his ministry, he faced countless obstacles but never gave up. He pictured the Christian life as a race, and we each need this same kind of spirit if we hope to finish well.

Courage: A conquering spirit is willing to risk failure. Though we naturally want to appear strong and capable, God delights in empowering us in our weaknesses so He gets the glory.

Confidence: We’re likely to stumble when we doubt our ability to do what God requires. However, when our confidence is placed in the Lord instead of in ourselves, we can move ahead, knowing that He’ll enable us to do His will.

Commitment: The Lord promises to: guide us as we run the race; provide whatever is needed; and strengthen us along the way. However, we must be committed to Him and determined to carry out His will.

Persistence: The road we’re traveling is full of distractions, opposition, and obstacles that tempt us to give up. That’s why Paul advises us to “press on” through hardships toward that which is of eternal value (v. 14).

Forward Focus: We must also forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead (v. 13). Those weighed down by baggage from the past lose sight of the goal.

The key to success in this race is an all-consuming desire to reach the goal. If we find no value in the prize, we’ll readily give up along the way and settle for the immediate gratification the world offers. But if we understand what awaits us at the finish line in heaven, we’ll press on.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning   “They did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” / Joshua 5:12

Israel’s weary wanderings were all over, and the promised rest was attained.

No more moving tents, fiery serpents, fierce Amalekites, and howling

wildernesses: they came to the land which flowed with milk and honey, and they

ate the old corn of the land. Perhaps this year, beloved Christian reader,

this may be thy case or mine. Joyful is the prospect, and if faith be in

active exercise, it will yield unalloyed delight. To be with Jesus in the rest

which remaineth for the people of God, is a cheering hope indeed, and to

expect this glory so soon is a double bliss. Unbelief shudders at the Jordan

which still rolls between us and the goodly land, but let us rest assured that

we have already experienced more ills than death at its worst can cause us.

Let us banish every fearful thought, and rejoice with exceeding great joy, in

the prospect that this year we shall begin to be “forever with the Lord.”

A part of the host will this year tarry on earth, to do service for their

Lord. If this should fall to our lot, there is no reason why the New Year’s

text should not still be true. “We who have believed do enter into rest.” The

Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance; he gives us “glory begun

below.” In heaven they are secure, and so are we preserved in Christ Jesus;

there they triumph over their enemies, and we have victories too. Celestial

spirits enjoy communion with their Lord, and this is not denied to us; they

rest in his love, and we have perfect peace in him: they hymn his praise, and

it is our privilege to bless him too. We will this year gather celestial

fruits on earthly ground, where faith and hope have made the desert like the

garden of the Lord. Man did eat angels’ food of old, and why not now? O for

grace to feed on Jesus, and so to eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan this

year!

 

Evening   “We will be glad and rejoice in thee.” / Song of Solomon 1:4

We will be glad and rejoice in thee. We will not open the gates of the year to

the dolorous notes of the sackbut, but to the sweet strains of the harp of

joy, and the high sounding cymbals of gladness. “O come, let us sing unto the

Lord: let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation.” We, the

called and faithful and chosen, we will drive away our griefs, and set up our

banners of confidence in the name of God. Let others lament over their

troubles, we who have the sweetening tree to cast into Marah’s bitter pool,

with joy will magnify the Lord. Eternal Spirit, our effectual Comforter, we

who are the temples in which thou dwellest, will never cease from adoring and

blessing the name of Jesus. We will, we are resolved about it, Jesus must have

the crown of our heart’s delight; we will not dishonour our Bridegroom by

mourning in his presence. We are ordained to be the minstrels of the skies,

let us rehearse our everlasting anthem before we sing it in the halls of the

New Jerusalem. We will be glad and rejoice: two words with one sense, double

joy, blessedness upon blessedness. Need there be any limit to our rejoicing in

the Lord even now? Do not men of grace find their Lord to be camphire and

spikenard, calamus and cinnamon even now, and what better fragrance have they

in heaven itself? We will be glad and rejoice in Thee. That last word is the

meat in the dish, the kernel of the nut, the soul of the text. What heavens

are laid up in Jesus! What rivers of infinite bliss have their source, aye,

and every drop of their fulness in him! Since, O sweet Lord Jesus, thou art

the present portion of thy people, favour us this year with such a sense of

thy preciousness, that from its first to its last day we may be glad and

rejoice in thee. Let January open with joy in the Lord, and December close

with gladness in Jesus.

Loving Your Child – Charles Stanley

 

As parents, we want our children to love us, spend time with us, talk with us, and stay close to us for as long as we live. More importantly, we would like them to want to do those things. But if we don’t love them unconditionally now, it’s unlikely they will remain nearby in the future.

“But aren’t I responsible to help them develop to their fullest potential?” you might ask. “Are there not times when I need to push a little?”

Absolutely! In fact, motivating your children to excellence and improvement is part of expressing unconditional love and acceptance to them. To allow kids simply to get by in life is a form of covert rejection.

If you want to motivate your children without expressing an attitude of conditional acceptance, two things must be true:

First, all your prodding and exhortation must be preceded by demonstrations of unconditional love for them. There must be memorials, so to speak, to their worthiness in your eyes. By “memorials,” I mean prior events or conversations that have clearly expressed your love.

Memorials are beneficial because they give your children something to recall for reassurance when you pressure them to perform. Sometimes your expectations will be too high, and they will fail. Without reminders of your unconditional acceptance, children might fear your disappointment and rejection.

Memorials can also take the form of a gift or even the bestowal of certain privileges. In presenting the gift, stress several times that it is not connected with any particular occasion or action on their part; you are giving simply because you love them.

• Second, to properly motivate your child, you must measure him by his own ability, not somebody else’s. Comparing one child’s performance to that of another eventually destroys self-esteem, expressions of individuality, and creativity.

The real key here is to view each of your children as a unique individual. Every young person is gifted in some particular way. Your goal as a parent is to recognize that area of strength and emphasize it as your child develops, for within these strengths is his or her greatest potential for excellence. By cultivating these strengths, you will also do great things for your children’s self-esteem.

When I was growing up, I didn’t do so well in high school. Everything turned out okay, but I didn’t have a good start. As a result, I never told my kids that I expected them to make As or Bs while they were in school. I didn’t tell them they had to make the baseball team or be the most popular. Instead, my question to them was, “Did you do your best?”

One good way to find out whether or not your children feel unconditional acceptance is simply to ask them, “What do you think it would take for you to make Mom and Dad as proud of you as we could possibly be?”

Evaluate the answer carefully. Is it task-oriented? Do they feel they must do all their chores every day or be straight-A students? Do they feel obligated to make a team or squad, or perform some other task to win your approval?

Perhaps the answer is more character-related. Do your children believe that doing their best at every task they undertake is what would please you? Do they know you would be proud of them for obeying God, regardless of the cost?

Their reply will give you insight into what you’ve actually communicated, regardless of what you have said. The value system you establish will serve as a basis upon which they accept themselves and others.

Simply telling your children that you accept them unconditionally is not enough. The apostle John wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18 NKJV). Unconditional love and acceptance are communicated more clearly by what we do and how we do it than simply by what we say.

Our children must have a backlog of memories to sustain their belief that we truly love them, no matter what. Such love tells our sons and daughters that we accept them for who they are—despite what they do. What a sense of security and acceptance this gives them!

Do you want to encourage your kids to succeed? You don’t need to push expectations on them. If we direct their focus to the Lord, then they will want to be obedient and do their best for Him.

Never take for granted the impact that you have on their lives. Remember, the way you act toward your kids today greatly influences the way they will respond to you tomorrow.

Unwanted Gifts – Ravi Zacharias

 

There’s an amusing commercial airing in Atlanta this Christmas season. Five friends gather around a fireplace to exchange gifts. When one recipient opens her package, she exclaims with a fake beauty contestant smile, “Oh, a kitty book! Now everyone will know I’m still single! Yeah!” Another chimes in enthusiastically about his unwanted gift, “Oh man! This is gonna go straight in the trash!” No one is subtle about their jovial dislike of what they receive, and so the narrator advises, “Give a better gift this year.”

Besides the obvious humor, the advertisement’s appeal highlights our own cognitive dissonance. While we may share similar feelings about certain gifts, few of us would blurt out, “What were you thinking?!” And yet, sometimes we may not hesitate to say such words to God.

I am reminded of the story of Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, which Luke records in the first chapter of his Gospel. Elizabeth is barren and they are both well advanced in years. Unlike Abraham and Sarah—and even Simeon—as far as we know, Zechariah and Elizabeth have not been given any promise of a child. They are living in a period of silence, as some Bible scholars call it: it has been over 400 years since God spoke of a coming Redeemer and his forerunner through the prophet Malachi. Nevertheless, Zechariah and Elizabeth hold onto God; as Luke tells us, “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).

Year after year faithful Zechariah serves in the temple, and one day the lots fall to him to perform the evening offering—a once in a lifetime privilege. He is alone at the altar of incense when suddenly the angel Gabriel appears. “When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear,” writes Luke. “But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord’” (Luke 1:11-15a). Gabriel adds that John will go before the Lord to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (verse 17).

The name John is significant because none of Zechariah’s relatives share this name and, as it is still today, it was customary to name a firstborn son after his father.(1)John is a Greek form of the Hebrew phrase Yohanan, meaning “God is gracious.” Hebrew scholar Skip Moen offers this insight about the word gracious:

This single word describes an elaborate picture. It creates an image of two parties; one who has a gift to give and the other who is in desperate need of the gift. However, the imagery does not convey the idea that the giver patronizes the recipient with the needed gift. There is no suggestion of condescension here. Rather, the picture is one of a deep, heartfelt concern on the part of the giver so that the gift is granted not from anything that the recipient may negotiate or earn but out of compelling mercy. When the Old Testament uses this verb of God, it conveys the idea of God’s unmerited but nevertheless unlimited love for His children. God willingly favors us with His love and blessings entirely because He chooses to pour His mercy upon us.(2)

Strangely, Gabriel’s announcement to Zechariah that God has answered his prayer is met with distrust: “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Indeed, Zechariah rejects the very gift he has longed for because he is completely focused on wanting tangible proof of this promise. Perhaps this is because he and his wife have lived for decades with disappointment and heartache—barrenness in their culture symbolized shame, scorn, and God’s supposed disapproval. Whatever his reason, he is struck dumb until Elizabeth gives birth and they bring the child to the temple where Zechariah encountered Gabriel. There Zechariah acknowledges God’s gracious gift and “to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, ‘His name is John.’Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.”

The Christmas season and namely, the asking for and receiving of gifts, often taps into our deepest hopes and fears. Maybe you can sympathize with Zechariah’s initial refusal to receive the good that God offers him. You have known disappointment and loss. You may be grateful for untold blessings but still wonder why God doesn’t answer a particular prayer. Or, you may be hesitant or even resistant to hope in a God who is unpredictable.

In such places, the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth—or of Abraham, Hannah, and Joseph—can speak intimately into our lives. And then there are those around us, like quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, who sees her wheelchair and recent cancer as a gift, for they have “pushed her deeper into [God’s] embrace…convincing her that she’d rather be in her chair knowing Him, than on her feet without Him.”(3) Those are sobering words and a gift few of us would want to receive. But perhaps, as we consider the Christmas story, we might discover gifts shining with the brightness and magnitude of a God who,

has come to his people and redeemed them…

to give his people the knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of their sins,

because of [his] tender mercy…

by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven

to shine on those living in darkness

and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the path of peace.(4)

Danielle DuRant is director of research and writing at RZIM.

(1) See Luke 1:59-61.

(2) http://skipmoen.com/tag/gracious/

(3) See Joni speaking about her life at http://www.joniandfriends.org/television/id-rather-be-wheelchair-knowing-him/. Regarding her cancer, see Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).

(4) Luke 1:68, 77-79.