Tag Archives: jesus christ

Alistair Begg – Hospital of the Cross

Alistair Begg

Ask, and it will be given to you.

Matthew 7:7

There was a place in England that no longer exists, where a loaf of bread was served to every passerby who chose to ask for it. Whoever the traveler was, he had only to knock at the door of St. Cross Hospital, and the loaf of bread was his to enjoy. Jesus Christ loves sinners so much that He has built a St. Cross Hospital, so that whenever a sinner is hungry, he has only to knock and have his needs supplied.

He has actually done better: This Hospital of the Cross has a bath; and whenever a soul is marred and filthy, it may go to this effective fountain and be cleansed. No sinner ever went into it and found that it could not wash away his stains. Sins that were scarlet and crimson have all disappeared, and the sinner was made whiter than snow.

As if this were not enough, there is attached to this Hospital of the Cross a dressing room, and a sinner making application simply as a sinner may be clothed from head to foot; and if he wishes to be a soldier, he will be provided not just with street clothes, but with armor that will cover him from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. If he asks for a sword, that will be given to him, and a shield too. He will be denied nothing that is good for him. He will have spending money as long as he lives, and he will have an eternal heritage of glorious treasure when he enters into the joy of his Lord.

If all these things are available by simply knocking at mercy’s door, then, my soul, knock hard this morning, and make large requests of your generous Lord. Do not leave the throne of grace until all your wants have been spread before the Lord and until by faith you are confident that they will all be supplied.

You need not be shy about taking Jesus up on His invitation. No unbelief should hinder when Jesus promises. No coldheartedness should restrain when such blessings are to be obtained.

 

Joyce Meyer – His Words

Joyce meyer

But the Lord said to me, Say not, I am only a youth; for you shall go to all to whom I shall send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Be not afraid of them [their faces], for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.

—Jeremiah 1:7-9

God called Jeremiah as “a prophet to the nations,” and He had to straighten out Jeremiah’s mouth before He could use him.

It is no different with you. You must understand that when God calls you to do something, you should not say you cannot do it. If God says you can, then you can! So often we speak out of our insecurities, or we verbalize what others have said about us, or what the devil has told us. Make a decision tonight that from now on you will say about yourself what God says about you.

 

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Fishers of Men

dr_bright

“And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, KJV).

Each morning I kneel to acknowledge Christ’s lordship of my life and ask Him to have complete, unhindered control of my life for that day, to walk around in my body, to think with my mind, to love with my heart, to speak with my lips and to continue seeking and saving the lost through me.

Sometime ago I was at a conference in a midwestern city, anticipating an early adjournment so that I could catch a plane to Los Angeles and rejoin my waiting family.

When I arrived at the airport, I discovered that flight after flight had been cancelled because of poor weather conditions. Rushing from one airline ticket counter to another, I hoped to find one that was still flying its planes. Finally, to my disappointment, I had discovered that all the airlines had cancelled their flights.

On one hand I was discouraged, but on the other I was encouraged by the promise of the Bible, “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans” (Romans 8:28, LB).

Back at the hotel for the night, in the lobby I met a businessman who was hungry for God. As I shared Christ with him, I learned that he and his wife had been visiting a different church every Sunday for the past couple of years. They were looking for God but had not been able to find Him.

I explained to my new friend how to receive Christ. Together, we knelt and prayed, and he received Christ into his life as his personal Lord and Savior.

With great joy and enthusiasm my new brother in Christ announced, “I want to take these things to my wife because she too is eager to receive Christ.” It is our responsibility to follow Christ. It is His responsibility to make us fishers of men.

Bible Reading: Matthew 4:18-22

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: As I follow Christ today, I will recognize that even the delays, hindrances and closed doors may well be opportunities for me to share my faith in Jesus Christ. I shall remember, with God’s help, to share Him with others at every opportunity.

Greg Laurie – A Son Was Given

greglaurie

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

—Isaiah 9:6

In a broad sense God is omnipresent, which means that everywhere we go, He is there. But if we really want God with us, and more specifically, if we want Christ living in our hearts, then we must turn from our sin and believe in Him.

The beautiful baby in the manger came with an express purpose, and that was to die for the sins of the world. The birth of Jesus was so there would be the death of Jesus and, ultimately, the resurrection of Jesus. He was born to die so that we might live.

I personally know the pain of losing a child. And I think, for a parent, there is no greater pain than this. God knows all about that. He knows what it is like to lose a child. We talk about the sacrifice of Jesus, and justly so, as He came to this earth, laid aside His privileges of deity, and voluntarily went to a cross and died for the sins of the world. But let’s not forget the sacrifice of the Father who watched His Son enter this world.

Isaiah 9:6 sums it up perfectly: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

That gives us the perspective of both heaven and earth. From earth’s perspective, unto us a child was born. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. But from heaven’s perspective, unto us a Son is given. The Father sent the Son. He did this because He loves all of us, because He wants us to have the ultimate gift: the gift of eternal life. It’s the only gift that keeps on giving.

 

 

Charles Stanley – The Pathway to Spiritual Growth

Charles Stanley

2 Peter 3:18

Not many people can say that on the day they accepted Christ, someone explained how to grow spiritually. Sadly, some believers aren’t ever taught. God wants His children to bear the image of Christ, but we do not grow in our faith unless we take action.

First, we are responsible for renewing our mind (Rom. 12:2). Though God saves us and gives us a new spirit, He does not give us a new brain. Our minds have many trenches that have been dug or worn by rebellion, self-focus, or habit. That is why it’s important to meditate on the Bible, which expresses the thoughts of God. Meditation is more than reading—it involves thinking about what the words mean and then applying truth. There’s no way to grow spiritually without absorbing Scripture into our thinking.

A second step toward Christian maturity is being ready to admit and assume responsibility for failure. When we deny our sins, we delay spiritual growth, but as we learn to confess wrongdoing, the opposite happens—growth is inevitable.

The third step naturally follows the second: after confession should come repentance. This is more than a mere acknowledgement of wrongdoing or a promise to try harder. Repentance means that we commit to make an about-face and head in the opposite direction from our sin.

Our Father’s goal is for all believers to continually make progress toward Christlikeness. With these steps, you’ll develop in that direction. And the most important consequence is that your relationship with God will deepen.

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Incarnate

Ravi Z

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is one of the world’s largest maximum-security prisons, an eighteen-thousand acre habitat to people who have committed horrible crimes. It houses roughly five thousand inmates, more than half of which are serving life sentences. Death looms large at Angola; ninety-four percent of inmates who enter are expected to die while incarcerated. The fear of dying alone in prison, coupled with the reality that for many inmates their first encounter with death was committing murder, makes death a weighted subject, often locked up in anger, guilt, and dread.

For a few, however, the Angola Hospice volunteer program has drastically changed this. In 1998, equipped with a variety of staff trustees and inmate volunteers, the LSP hospice opened its doors to its first terminally ill inmate. Today it is recognized as one of the best programs of its kind. Giving inmate volunteers a role in the creation of the hospice and in the primary care during the dying process, inmates find themselves in the position to tangibly affect the lives of others by being present, by giving a hand, by offering dignity to the dying. Reckoning with death as a fate that awaits all of humanity as they care for dying friends and strangers, the men often gradually let go of hardened demeanors. As one man notes, “I’ve seen guys that used to run around Angola, and want to fight and drug up, actually cry and be heartbroken over the patient.”(1) Another describes being present in the lives of the dying and how much this takes from the living. “But it puts a lot in you,” he adds. A third inmate describes how caring for strangers on the brink of death has put an end to his lifelong anger and helped him to confront his guilt with honesty.

It may seem for some an odd story as a means of examining the story of Christmas, but in some ways it is the only story to ever truly introduce the story of Christmas: broken, guilty souls longing for someone to be present. As martyred archbishop Oscar Romero once said, it is only the poor and hungry, those most aware they need someone to come on their behalf, who can celebrate Christmas. For the men at Angola who stare death in the eyes and realize the tender importance of presence, for the child whose mother left and whose father was never there, for the melancholic soul that laments the evils of a fallen world, the Incarnation is the only story that touches every pain, every lost hope, every ounce of our guilt, every joy that ever matters. Where other creeds fail, Christmas, in essence, is about coming poor and weary, guilty and famished to the very scene in history where God reached down and touched the world by stepping into it.

The Incarnation is hard to dismiss out of hand because it so radically comes near our needs. Into the world of living and dying the arrival of Christ as a child turns fears of isolation, weakness, and condemnation on their heads. C.S. Lewis describes the doctrine of the Incarnation as a story that gets under our skin unlike any other creed, religion, or theory. “[The Incarnation] digs beneath the surface, works through the rest of our knowledge by unexpected channels, harmonises best with our deepest apprehensions… and undermines our superficial opinions. It has little to say to the man who is still certain that everything is going to the dogs, or that everything is getting better and better, or that everything is God, or that everything is electricity. Its hour comes when these wholesale creeds have begun to fail us.”(2) Standing over the precipices of the things that matter, nothing matters more than that there is a loving, forgiving, eager God who draws near.

The great hope of the Incarnation is that God comes for us. God is aware and Christ is present, having come in flesh, and it changes everything. “[I]f accepted,” writes Lewis, “[the Incarnation] illuminates and orders all other phenomena, explains both our laughter and our logic, our fear of the dead and our knowledge that it is somehow good to die,…[and] covers what multitudes of separate theories will hardly cover for us if this is rejected.”(3) The coming of Christ as an infant in Bethlehem puts flesh on humanity’s worth and puts God in humanity’s weakness. To the captive, there is no other freedom.

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

(1) Stephen Kiernan, Last Rights (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2006), 274.

(2) C.S. Lewis, The Complete C.S. Lewis (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 282.

(3) Ibid.

 

 

Alistair Begg – God Has an Elect People

Alistair Begg

I have many in this city who are my people.

Acts 18:10

This should be a great encouragement in proclaiming the Gospel, since among the people in our communities-the disinterested, the rebellious, the careless-God has an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs.

They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ’s property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of selfish pleasures and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them, He will have them.

God is not unfaithful to forget the price that His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go to them with the quickening Word of God.

More than this, the ungodly are prayed for by Christ before the throne. “I do not ask for these only,” says the great Intercessor, “but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”1 Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and before long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace

The predestinated moment has not struck; but when it comes, they will obey, for God will have His own. They must, for the Spirit is not to be resisted when He comes with the fullness of power-they must become the willing servants of the living God. “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power.”2 He will “make many to be accounted righteous.”3 “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.”4 “I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.”5

1 John 17:20

2 Psalm 110:3

3 Isaiah 53:11

4 Isaiah 53:11

5 Isaiah 53:12

 

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Getting to Know You

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Besides singing White Christmas, Bing Crosby also crooned Getting to Know You: “Getting to know you / Getting to know all about you / Getting to like you / Getting to hope you like me.” In Jesus, God introduced Himself to all mankind. “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” (Hebrews 1:3)

That which was from the beginning…concerning the word of life.

I John 1:1

Since the very beginning, the Holy God began working out a way to have loving relationships with sinful people. From Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to Moses, to the Jewish people, He made a way for The Way for people to get to know Him. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)

Let the Christmas season remind you that God knows you completely and wants you to get to know Him. And when you take advantage of this gift, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) Pray for the leaders and citizens of this nation to get to know “the word of life.”

Recommended Reading: John 14:1-14

 

 

Charles Stanley – The Power Within

Charles Stanley

Acts 1:6-9

The pressure is on. At times it seems that the problems in our lives are multiplying, and there can be enormous temptation to choose ungodly solutions. If we are to make good decisions, we need divine power and wisdom. The way to obtain that, according to James 1:5, is to ask God, who longs to bestow it on all who have yielded to His plan.

Stop to consider the potential available and already residing within each believer. The Holy Spirit’s power—which we see in the work of Jesus Christ, who resisted the Devil’s temptations, raised Lazarus from the dead, and chose God’s will over His own (Luke 22:42)—produces Christlike character in us. It’s not something we can harness or turn on and off at will. Rather, the Spirit of God knows exactly when and how to utilize it in our life.

One of God’s primary uses for this power is to cultivate spiritual fruit in His followers (Gal. 5:22-23). Unbelievers are attracted to the light of Jesus within us when we demonstrate inner quietness and steadiness in the face of difficulty. They recognize Spirit-filled behavior is not the typical human reaction. When spiritual fruit is revealed in our lives, it is like shouting the message, “Jesus is real!”

Divine power gives us the authority as well as the spiritual energy needed to carry out God’s plan. The Holy Spirit releases His power so that our lives glorify the Father and demonstrate that God does rescue and transform people through His Son Jesus Christ. Won’t you yield to the Spirit’s control so that He may work dynamically in your life and circumstances?

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Waiting

Ravi Z

In the world of quirky factoids and interesting anecdotes, I have often heard that if one lives to be seventy years old, one will have spent three years of her life just waiting. Waiting in line at the grocery store; waiting in the doctor’s office; waiting in traffic; waiting for lunch to be ready; waiting for recess time at school; waiting. In his book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, children’s author Theodor Geisel, or “Dr. Seuss,” describes a place called “the waiting place.” It sounds like the place most of us inhabit. He describes it as a useless place where people are just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

Sometimes waiting feels useless and futile. We are waiting around for what, exactly? More than this, waiting is difficult. It is difficult to have patience. It is something we admire in others, but find difficult for ourselves. Patience is something I can admire in the driver behind me, for example, but not in the one ahead of me!

The patience required by waiting is counterintuitive in our busy, fast-paced world. When our daily lives are made up of high speed Internet, instant messaging, and fast food, waiting for anything seems like an eternity. Moreover, in a world where so much beckons us, waiting asks us to be still and this can feel meaningless. English poet John Milton once wrote that those who serve stand and wait. Indeed, waiting asks us to be disciplined, self-controlled, and emotionally mature as the world speeds by us. Waiting requires an unshakeable faith, hope, and love that will trump all the action done for the sake of expediency. Waiting is often our best, hard work.

Waiting comprises a large part of the Christian worldview. But it is not the useless waiting of “the waiting place” that Dr. Seuss writes about, nor is it simply waiting for certain things or events, a trip or a raise, or even fulfillment. Christians await the return of Jesus in glory.

The season of Advent that precedes Christmas is a season of hope-filled waiting. Advent looks forward in anticipation of Christ’s return, but also remembers all those who awaited his arrival into our world more than two thousand years ago. Advent is a season of stillness and reflection and as such, it is the antithesis of all the busyness and chaos of the Christmas shopping season.

The consumer mentality overwhelms and demands a fever pitch of activity. Sadly, any waiting one might do is more likely waiting for Christmas to be over. And rather than being filled with hope and joy, we wait in a state of anxiety, or cynicism, or harried indifference toward the miracle that is upon us. In all of our busyness, we miss the gift of waiting with hope and expectation.

Yet, the Advent season extends an invitation to do just this: to watch and wait for the coming of the King, to wait for the Christ who comes in new ways into the very messy stuff of our lives—not just one season a year. But we cannot hope to catch a glimpse of him without the hard waiting for him to show up.

Of course, there are those who feel they have been waiting so long for God to show up in the messy details of their lives. Giving up on waiting seems to hold the promise of rest, as the work of waiting is wearisome. Just as there were those in the early days of the Christian movement who began to ask “Where is the promise of his coming?” and those who mocked the divine silence of inactivity, it is not difficult to understand how those who wait for answers—for an end to suffering, for reconciliation, for transformation—are tempted towards cynical despair.

Is there hope in remembering that Advent invites us to wait for the God who shows up? Can encouragement be found in the celebration of Christmas, a celebration proclaiming that God has come and that God will come again in the waiting of today? Is there reason to watch and wait for a God who arrives in ways we could not expect?

Advent invites the world to examine these things with courage. The very act of waiting opens eyes, hands, and hearts to receive this most precious gift.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

 

Charles Spurgeon – Consolation in Christ

CharlesSpurgeon

“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies.” Philippians 2:1

Suggested Further Reading: John 16:7-15

The Holy Spirit, during the present dispensation, is revealed to us as the Comforter. It is the Spirit’s business to console and cheer the hearts of God’s people. He does convince of sin; he does illuminate and instruct; but still the main part of his business lies in making glad the hearts of the renewed, in confirming the weak, and lifting up all those that be bowed down. Whatever the Holy Spirit may not be, he is evermore the Comforter to the church; and this age is peculiarly the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in which Christ cheers us not by his personal presence, as he shall do by-and-by, but by the indwelling and constant abiding of the Holy Spirit the Comforter. Now, mark you, as the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, Christ is the comfort. The Holy Spirit consoles, but Christ is the consolation. If I may use the figure, the Holy Spirit is the Physician, but Christ is the medicine. He heals the wound, but it is by applying the holy ointment of Christ’s name and grace. He takes not of his own things, but of the things of Christ. We are not consoled today by new revelations, but by the old revelation explained, enforced, and lit up with new splendour by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit the Comforter. If we give to the Holy Spirit the Greek name of Paraclete, as we sometimes do, then our heart confers on our blessed Lord Jesus the title of the Paraclesis. If the one be the Comforter, the other is the comfort.

For meditation: Many of the errors taught about God the Holy Spirit would come to nothing if God’s people understood the Scriptural teaching on the relationships between the three persons of the Trinity. May the Holy Spirit help us to grow in the knowledge of the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3).

Sermon no. 348

3 December (Preached 2 December 1860)

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Recipe for Growth

dr_bright

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2, KJV).

Sam was very impatient with himself. Though he was a new Christian, he could not understand why he was not as spiritual as some of the other students who had walked with the Lord for several years.

I explained to him the Christian life, like physical life, involves a process of growth. A person begins as a baby and goes through various stages of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood to reach Christian maturity. Very few, if any, Christians, I explained to him, become spiritually mature overnight.

Lane Adams, a beloved colleague, gifted teacher, preacher and author, said, “I shrink inside when I think of the times I have mounted the pulpit, recited the conversion experience of the apostle Paul, and then indicated that he went out and turned the world upside down for Jesus Christ immediately.”

He continued, “This simply was not the case. There is a difference of opinion among scholars concerning New Testament dating, but it seems rather plain that many years went by before the Holy Spirit laid the dramatic burden on Paul as a missionary of the cross.”

If you strongly desire to serve the Lord in some particular way, such as teaching, ask the Holy Spirit in faith to empower you to become an effective teacher. Now, it may be that the Holy Spirit will see fit to make you a great teacher overnight, but this is most unlikely. So if it does not happen, do not be discouraged. Have faith!

Continue to ask and believe that the Holy Spirit will make you an effective teacher of the Word of God and be willing to work hardand long to develop your natural ability. The Bible reminds us that “faith without works is useless.”

If we are unique members of the Body of Christ, and we are, if we possess special tasks to accomplish, and we do, then the Holy Spirit will empower us to carry out those tasks. God does indeed have a plan for each of our lives. And He gives us the direction and power of His Holy Spirit to accomplish that plan as we continue to trust and obey Him.

Bible Reading: 2 Peter 3:14-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Recognizing that I am in the process of maturing spiritually, I shall seek to accelerate my spiritual growth by hiding the Word of God in my heart, spending time in prayer, walking in the Spirit and sharing my faith in Christ with others as a way of life.

 

Greg Laurie – The Message of Christmas

greglaurie

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. —John 3:16

When I was a kid, I always wanted a family but never had one. I remember one Christmas with my mom when we were living in a hotel. I got up on Christmas morning, excited about opening my presents, but she was passed out from a night of drinking. I looked around and thought, It has got to get better than this.

I believed that Christmas spoke of something greater. What Christmas really speaks of is what we can have in a relationship with Jesus Christ. The primary message of Christmas is that God came to us: ” ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’ ” (Matthew 1:23).

The message of Christmas is not “Let it snow”; it is “Let us worship” because God is with us. The first Christmas gifts were not from the wise men to the Child. Rather, the first gift of Christmas was the gift of Jesus Christ from God to us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The message of Christmas means this: You will never be alone in life again. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). That is an amazing statement. God the Father and God the Son are saying they want to make their home with you and me.

Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). That is a promise to all people. Why? Because of Immanuel—God is with us.

 

Our Daily Bread — Integrity League

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 26

He who walks with integrity walks securely. —Proverbs 10:9

We call it the Integrity League, but it’s really just a bunch of guys who get together at lunchtime to play basketball. We call fouls on ourselves, attempt to avoid angry outbursts, and simply try to keep everything fair and enjoyable. We are competitive and we don’t like to lose—but we all agree that integrity and honesty should control the atmosphere.

Integrity. Scripture clearly indicates the importance of this trait. And we honor the God of our lives when we practice it.

Through His Word, God has given us clear reasons to “walk in . . . integrity” (Ps. 26:11). A person who has integrity has the security of a quiet life unknown to the one who “perverts his ways” (Prov. 10:9). The follower of God who lives with integrity is preserved by his confidence in God, for that person waits for God’s intervention in his life instead of running ahead of Him (Ps. 25:21). And the one who practices integrity will be given guidance and clear direction (Prov. 11:3).

Why should we care about life’s “Integrity League”? Because obeying God this way shows that we trust Him with our lives and that we want to shine His great love on others. —Dave Branon

Dear Father, help my word be true. Help my

actions be honest. Help my life to

reflect Your holiness and shine God’s light

for all to see. Help me to live with integrity.

Integrity is Christlike character in workclothes.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 42-44; 1 John 1

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Enough

Ravi Z

Black Friday is the name Americans have given the day after Thanksgiving, though the concept is catching on in Canada and Europe. It is called “black” because store-keepers know it as the time of year when sales move further into the black and farther into profit margins. Cyber Monday is a clever addition to the frenzied consumer holiday, luring black Friday shoppers and their less adventurous counterparts to continue their purchasing online. Evoking both buyer and seller competition, steep sales and loud advertisements make for frenzied scenes and the need for stamina. Those who watch as bystanders still sense the fervor that begins on Black Friday and continues in a hectic race until Christmas. When everyone around you seems to be running, standing still is easier said than done.

Each year the commencement of the Christmas shopping season overshadows the commencement of a far quieter season. The season of Advent signals the coming of Christmas for Christians, though not in the way that Black Friday signals the coming of the same. “Advent is about the spirituality of emptiness,” writes Joan Chittister, “of enough-ness, of stripped-down fullness of soul.” It is a far cry from the hustle of the holidays that is a race for storing things up. Speed-hoarding through the days of Christmas preparation, Christmas itself even becomes somewhat anticlimactic. “Long before December 25th everyone is worn out,” said C.S. Lewis more than 50 years ago, “—physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making… They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.”(1) Quite the opposite, Advent is a season meant to slow us down, to open windows of awareness and health, to trigger consciousness. It is about finding the kind of quiet mystery and the sort of expectant emptiness that can offer a place for the fullness of God as an infant among us.

Of course, for even the quietest of hearts, this God who becomes human, the incarnate Christ, is still a mystery. But mystery, like beauty and truth, is well worth stillness, wonder, and contemplation. And this mystery—the gift of a God who steps into the world he created—is rich enough to make the most distracted souls bow. “Let anyone with ears listen!” said Jesus repeatedly throughout his life on earth. “But to what will I compare this generation?” he added. “It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn’” (Matthew 11:15-17). You and I can open our minds to hear the great and unsearchable things we do not know, things like the Incarnation that we may never fully understand but are always invited to know further. Or we can simply look and act for all of Christmas to correspond with societal whims and unconscious distractions—fighting to be heard in the cultural debates about what we call or don’t call the season, arguing about public billboards and private mangers.

Christ will come regardless. The hope of Advent is that it is always possible to make room for him. I’m reminded of Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman who composed a remarkable series of journals in the darkest years of Nazi occupation before being sent to Auschwitz, where she died in 1943. In one of her entries, Etty wrote, “[S]ometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”(2) Advent can be this simple; the invitation of Christ is this simple. Let anyone with ears open them. Contemplating Christmas need not mean defensive words, Christmas wars, lists and budgets, endless labor, and fretful commotion.

Advent, after all, is about the riches of being empty-handed and that is an abruptly countercultural posture; empty-handed, so that we can fully hold the mystery before us and nothing less; empty-handed, like the God who came down from heaven without riches or power, but meek and small—full, expectant, and enough.

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

(1) Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries 1941-1943 (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1983), 93.

(2) C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 305.

 

Charles Spurgeon – Christ our passover

CharlesSpurgeon

“For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” 1 Corinthians 5:7

Suggested Further Reading: John 6:25-35

Some of you, my friends, who are true Christians, live too much on your changing feelings, on your experiences and evidences. Now, that is all wrong. That is just as if a worshipper had gone to the tabernacle and begun eating one of the coats that were worn by the priest. When a man lives on Christ’s righteousness, it is the same as eating Christ’s dress. When a man lives on his feelings, that is as much as if the child of God should live on some tokens that he received in the sanctuary that were never meant for food, but only to comfort him a little. What the Christian lives on is not Christ’s righteousness, but Christ; he does not live on Christ’s pardon, but on Christ; and on Christ he lives daily, on nearness to Christ. Oh! I do love Christ-preaching. It is not the doctrine of justification that does my heart good, it is Christ, the justifier; it is not pardon that so much makes the Christian’s heart rejoice, it is Christ the pardoner; it is not election that I love half so much as my being chosen in Christ before the worlds began; it is not final perseverance that I love so much as the thought that in Christ my life is hid, and that since he gives unto his sheep eternal life, they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand. Take care, Christian, to eat the Paschal Lamb and nothing else. I tell thee man, if thou eatest that alone, it will be like bread to thee—thy soul’s best food. If thou livest on anything else but the Saviour, thou art like one who seeks to live on some weed that grows in the desert, instead of eating the manna that comes down from heaven. Jesus is the manna.

For meditation: This communion sermon reminds us that if we sideline Christ in our Christianity, we are left with little more than an inanity—the best of what remains, even the Lord’s Supper or the doctrines of grace, will be empty if in them we fail to “remember Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:8).

Sermon no. 54

2 December (1855)

 

John MacArthur – Jesus: Our Great High Priest

John MacArthur

“The point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb. 8:1).

Access to God was always a problem for the Jewish people. Exodus 33:20 declares that no man can see God and live. Once each year, on the great Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Jewish high priest entered into the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwelt in a unique sense, to approach God on behalf of the people.

God’s covenant with Israel was the basis for their communion with Him. And the sacrificial system that accompanied the Old Covenant gave the people an outward act to represent their inner repentance. But their sacrifices were incessant because their sin was incessant. They needed a perfect priest and sacrifice to provide access to God permanently. That’s exactly what Jesus was and did.

Hebrews 10 says that Jesus offered His body as a sacrifice for mankind’s sins once for all, then sat down at the right hand of the Father (vv. 10, 12). That was a revolutionary concept to Jewish thinking. A priest on duty could never sit down because his work was never done. But Jesus introduced a new and wonderful element into the sacrificial system: one sacrifice, offered once, sufficient for all time. That was the basis of the New Covenant.

Our Lord’s priesthood is permanent and perpetual: “Because He abides forever, [He] holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:24-25). That’s the central message of the book of Hebrews.

It wasn’t easy for the Jewish people to accept the need for a new covenant. Most rejected Christ outright. Similarly, many people today reject His priesthood, supposing they can gain access to God on their own terms. But they’re tragically mistaken. Jesus Himself said, “No one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).

Suggestion for Prayer:

Praise God for receiving you into His presence through His Son, Jesus Christ.

For Further Study:

Read Hebrews 10:19-25, noting how God wants you to respond to Christ’s priesthood.

 

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Gives Richly

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“Tell those who are rich not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone, but their pride and trust should be in the living God who always richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Arthur S. DeMoss was a gifted and godly businessman. He had built one of the most successful businesses of its kind in America and in the process had amassed a huge fortune of an estimated half a billion dollars. Then suddenly an economic recession began and stock in his company plummeted. He lost $360 million in a period of only four months – an average of $3 million a day – more than anybody had ever lost in such a short time. One would have thought he would have been devastated. Instead, in order to avoid decreasing his Christian giving, he (personally) borrowed funds, at an incredibly high rate of interest, to enable him to increase his giving. As we talked together during that period, he was rejoicing in the Lord.

“The Lord gave me everything I have,” he said. “It all belongs to Him and if He wants to take it away that’s His business. I don’t lose any sleep. I still have a wonderful family and my life-style remains unchanged. I am prepared to do anything that God wants me to do. If He takes away everything I own and wants me to go to the mission field, I’m ready to do it. All He needs to do is tell me.”

Art had his trust completely in the Lord and not in his vast fortune. God honored his faith and obedience and ultimately restored all that he had lost and much more. Art has gone to be with the Lord, but his fortune is still being used for the glory of God.

Paul’s answer to the believers of his day is just as appropriate to the believers of our time. No person should be unduly impressed with his wealth and look down with pride and arrogance on those whom he considers to be inferior. Riches are uncertain because they can be taken away from us. In the personal emergencies of life one cannot depend upon material possessions for strength and comfort. In times of tragedy – the loss of a loved one, a financial reversal, or some other disappointment – material possessions do not insure peace. Our trust must be in the living God who is able to supply all of our needs and do for us what riches cannot do.

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:> I will not take the blessing of God for granted and will not place my trust in any earthy possession. My confidence will be in Him who is the source of the supernatural life.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – The Chosen One

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For a decade, the NBC television show Unsolved Mysteries was a popular weekly broadcast, often featuring stories of adopted children in search of their birth parents or lost siblings. It was a common theme because, until relatively recently, most adoptions were “closed.” In other words, the circumstances surrounding the child’s birth and the identity of the birth family were concealed. Adoptive parents often were counseled by well-meaning professionals not to even disclose to children that they were adopted. It’s now recognized this is bad and harmful advice.

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.

James 1:18

You are adopted by Christ when you receive Him as your Savior—that’s what today’s verse means when it says “he brought us forth,” and it’s certainly nothing to hide! What a wonderful privilege to have been chosen by God. “Before I formed you in the womb,” He says, “I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

As you celebrate Christ this month, take some time to remember what you were before – and what you might have been now – had He not “brought you forth” of His own will. And be thankful for your many blessings…family, friends and this wonderful land of America…as you pray for the nation and its leaders today.

Recommended Reading: Deuteronomy 8:1-10

 

 

Charles Stanley – Good News!

Charles Stanley

 In Mark 16:15, Jesus commanded His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” But what exactly is the gospel? Even believers can’t always give a clear definition for this word. Let’s take a closer look at what this biblical term means.

1. The gospel is good news.

The word for “gospel” in Greek originally meant “reward for doing good.” Eventually it came to mean “good news.”

  • How would you define the gospel in your own words?
  • Briefly summarize the gospel, according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

2. The gospel also has some bad news.

In order for the gospel to be good news, each person must first realize that there was bad news. The problem is that without Christ, each of us is hopelessly headed for eternal separation from God.

  • The prophet Isaiah wrote that “all of us like sheep have gone astray” (Is. 53:6). What characteristics of sheep do you think Isaiah had in mind?
  • The price of sin is high. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.”  What do you think the apostle Paul meant by that phrase?
  • In what ways do people reap the “wages of sin”?

3. The gospel expresses God’s grace.

  • Thankfully Romans 6:23 doesn’t end with our wrongdoings. What does the rest of this verse say about eternal life?
  • Why is it important that salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9)?
  • What reasons do non-believers give to justify their acceptance into heaven?
  • Why aren’t these reasons sufficient (Rom. 3:21-28)?

4. The gospel is for everyone.

God desires that all people accept the free gift of eternal life (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:3-4).
How do people learn of God’s offer for eternal life? The Lord uses believers to share the gospel with others through relationships, local outreaches to the poor, missions support, or service abroad. Opportunities to spread the good news are limitless.

  • In what ways do you currently share the gospel?
  • Ask God what He would have you do to take the good news to others this week.

5. The gospel is unique.

In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” A popular idea today is that every road leads to God. By this, people mean all religions are equally valid paths to heaven. But Jesus boldly proclaimed that He is the only way to the Father.

  • Why do you think people prefer to believe there are more than one path to God, when the way of the cross is so simple?

Closing: The Father, in His infinite wisdom, has only one requirement for salvation—that we place faith in His Son. In terms of eternal life, it makes no difference how virtuous or sinful a person has been. Humanity’s helpless, hopeless condition has only one answer: trusting in Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross.

Prayer: Father, thank You for sending Your Son to die so that I could be forgiven of all my sins. Please empower me to share this good news with my family, neighbors, and friends, both near and far. I surrender my will to be used by You, and I look forward to the work You will accomplish through me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Adapted from The Power of the Gospel, by Charles Stanley. 2003.

 

Related Resources

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The Reason For Our Boldness

Once we become Christians, we have a responsibility to share the truth of salvation with others. But oftentimes, we are not bold in sharing our faith because we have questions and doubts about exactly what the gospel is. (Watch The Reason For Our Boldness.)