Tag Archives: jesus christ

Joyce Meyer – You’re Invited

Joyce meyer

The next day Jesus desired and decided to go into Galilee; and He found Philip and said to him, Join Me as My attendant and follow Me. — John 1:43

When Jesus invited people to become His disciples and follow Him, I think He was basically asking them if they wanted to join His party. I realize that He was talking about His group, but I think traveling with Jesus was probably a lot of fun as well as a lot of hard work. Repeatedly throughout the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) we see that Jesus invited people to leave their lifestyles and side with His party; He is still issuing that invitation today.

Living for God, serving Him and others can be so much fun if we approach it with the mind of Christ. It comes down to our attitude. My favorite image of Jesus is one I have seen of Him laughing. Jesus’ mission could not have been any more serious and yet I am positive that He laughed with His disciples, made jokes about their goofy ways, enjoyed food, rested and somehow managed to turn the mission into something that was enjoyable. When we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and decide we want to be a Christian and live a Christian lifestyle, we are not going to a solemn assembly or a funeral; we are joining His party.

Jesus can even make dying to self, which means being delivered from selfish, self-centered living, an interesting journey if we look at it properly. I speak a lot on spiritual maturity, dying to selfishness, taking up our cross and living holy lives, and I am continually amazed at how much people laugh while I do it. Somehow the Holy Spirit brings the teaching out of me in a way that makes people laugh while they are being corrected. God is amazing! People tell me all the time how funny I am and yet I speak a very straightforward, hard-hitting message that is quite serious. I have joined Jesus’ party.

Love Yourself Today: What about you? Have you joined Jesus’ party? Are you enjoying your life and having a good time as you follow Him? You’re invited!

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Seeking God’s Face

dr_bright

“If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV).

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart,” Andrew Murray once wrote. “It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”

For years, I have claimed God’s promise recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:14. My emphasis has been on the humbling of ourselves and turning from sin. But recently a minister friend made a passing reference to the phrase, “seeking God’s face,” and it triggered in my mind some new thoughts about this great promise from God.

In a sense, the humbling of ourselves and turning from sin are the by-products, or end results, of coming to know God as He is, by meditating upon His character and attributes. To “seek God’s face” is to meditate upon His sovereignty, His holiness, His power, His wisdom, His love – getting to know Him as He is.

The disciples of the first-century church were mightily used of God because of their exalted view of Him. There was nothing too great for Him. God could do anything. The church today can once again experience that same dynamic that characterized those first believers if we, too, become totally absorbed in the character and attributes of our great God.

It is then that we will truly begin to believe God for supernatural, impossible things and make a great impact for good on the world.

Bible Reading: Psalm 145:5-12

Today’s Action Point: I will deliberately choose to seek God’s face today by meditating on His attributes, found in Psalm 145, and by looking for Him in every circumstance of my life this day.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Navigational Nightmare

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“Please proceed to the highlighted route.” If you have a GPS navigation system, you’re certainly familiar with this message, which is delivered in a voice that sounds both authoritative and sure. Donna Cooper followed that direction, just as you probably would. Outside of her air-conditioned car, the temperature in California’s Death Valley was 125 degrees. Three days later, a rescue helicopter finally found Cooper and her passengers…thirsty but alive. The GPS unit, as it turned out, led them down roads that no longer existed. Others were not so fortunate; it’s called Death Valley for a reason.

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

James 1:18

Who will you rely upon for navigation in 2014? “There is a way that seems right to a man,” says Proverbs 14:12, “but its end is the way to death.” The way of the world often seems logical and compelling, but only the “word of truth” found in the Scriptures provides reliable guidance.

America, Christians would agree, has chosen the wrong routes, leading to a dead end of debt, crime and immorality. But God can turn the direction of a nation “wherever He will.” (Proverbs 21:1) Today, pray that President Obama and your leaders in Washington D.C. will submit to His leading.

Recommended Reading: Proverbs 21:1-8

 

 

Greg Laurie – Dealing with Discouragement

greglaurie

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. —Psalm 42:11

It’s not unusual for even the most spiritual people to have their days of doubt. Moses, on one occasion at least, was overwhelmed by his circumstances. After he had listened to the constant complaining of the children of Israel, he basically told the Lord, “I’m fed up. Just kill me. I don’t want to deal with this another day.”

Elijah, after his contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, heard that Jezebel had put a contract out on his life. He was so overwhelmed by his circumstances, so discouraged, so uncertain, and so filled with doubt that he said to God, “Take my life.”

Even the great apostle Paul had moments when he was discouraged. He wrote to the church at Corinth, “We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).

Jeremiah, the great prophet, faced it as well. He was ridiculed and harassed for giving out the Word of God. Because he was tired of the pressure he was facing, it made him want to stop giving out God’s Word altogether. He said, “The word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name’ ” (Jeremiah 20:8-9).

You aren’t the only one who has ever faced doubt or uncertainty or has been perplexed as to why God did not work in a certain way. We may be in the midst of God’s working and can’t see the big picture as He can.

We can trust His heart, even when we can’t trace His path.

 

Max Lucado – The Summit

Max Lucado

Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28).

I wish I could say it happens all the time; but it doesn’t. Sometimes He asks and I don’t listen. Other times He asks and I just don’t go. But sometimes I follow. I leave behind the deadlines, the schedule and walk the narrow trail up the mountain with Him.

You’ve been there. You’ve turned your back on the noise and sought His voice. You’ve stepped away from the masses and followed the Master as He led you up the winding path to the summit. The roar of the marketplace is down there, the perspective of the peak is up here.

He gently reminds you, “You’ll go nowhere tomorrow that I haven’t already been.”  “The victory is already yours.”  “My delight is one decision away—seize it!” Ah, the words on the sacred summit. A place of permanence in a world of transition.

From The Applause of Heaven

Our Daily Bread — The Hidden Life

Our Daily Bread

Colossians 3:12-17

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. —Colossians 3:17

Some years ago, I came across a poem by George MacDonald titled, “The Hidden Life.” It tells the story of an intellectually gifted young Scot who turned his back on a prestigious academic career to return to his aging father and to the family farm. There he engaged in what MacDonald called, “ordinary deeds” and “simple forms of human helpfulness.” His friends lamented what they saw as a waste of his talents.

Perhaps you too serve in some unnoticed place, doing nothing more than ordinary deeds. Others might think that’s a waste. But God wastes nothing. Every act of love rendered for His sake is noted and has eternal consequences. Every place, no matter how small, is holy ground. Influence is more than lofty acts and words. It can be a simple matter of human helpfulness: being present, listening, understanding the need, loving, and praying. This is what turns daily duty into worship and service.

The apostle Paul challenged the Colossians: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and “do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance” (Col. 3:17,23-24). God takes notice and delights in using us. —David Roper

Dear Lord, may I be willing to be hidden and unknown

today, yet ready to speak a word to those who are

weary. May Your Spirit touch my words and make

them Your words that enrich and refresh others.

The way to accomplish much for Christ is to serve Him in any way we can.

Bible in a year: Genesis 20-22; Matthew 6:19-34

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Christmas, Continued.

Ravi Z

The Christmas season as most of us know it has drawn to a close. All the preparations and fanfare of Christmas fade into the calendar of another year. But the church calendar, an ever-present reminder of a different rhythm within the world around us, offers the countercultural suggestion that we take the Christmas story with us into the New Year. Six days into our new calendars, after trees have come down and lights are put away and the ambiance of Christmas has dimmed, Epiphany is celebrated. Hardly dim in significance, the feast of Epiphany commemorates the events that first revealed Christ’s identity to the world: the magi’s adoration of the Christ child, the manifestation of Christ at his baptism, the first miracle at the wedding in Cana, among others.

The arrival of the magi to the birthplace of Jesus was the first of many windows into the identity of the child born to Mary and Joseph. “After [the magi] had heard [Herod] the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route”(Matthew 2:9-12). As it had been foretold, nations came to his light and kings to the brightness of his dawn; they brought gold and frankincense and worshiped him.(1) A new mystery was revealed in Jesus, and the story continued to unfold before the world.

With those who first saw this light of God in an unlikely stable, with those who saw water turned to wine by a wedding guest, and with those who saw the heavens open up and the Spirit descend at a rabbi’s baptism, the Christian story on the feast of Epiphany is that we are a people with whom God is profoundly communicating. Like those who first journeyed to set their eyes on the Child, we are invited to see it all for ourselves. We are invited to participate in a story that takes us far beyond ourselves, even as it requires us to die to ourselves. But in so doing, Christ himself transforms our lives and our deaths, breathing something new where death stings and tears flow.

Jesus appeared on the scene of a people who had lived with God’s silence for 400 years. There had not been a word from God since the prophet Malachi. The heavens were silent; but God was getting ready to proclaim the best of all news.  Into this wordless void, God not only spoke, but revealed the Word as flesh standing beside us, crying with us, and leading us home. Epiphany, like the Incarnation itself, reminds us that into ordinary days epiphany comes, so that even death itself cannot stop our uniting with the Christ who has been revealed. The Christ child appeared before the magi. The Son of God revealed himself in signs and wonders. The risen Christ stood among his startled disciples. And Christ the King will come again. There was a first Epiphany and there will be more to come. The good news of the Christian telling of Christmas is that Christmas indeed continues.

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

(1) cf. Isaiah 60:3, 6.

Alistair Begg – The Greatest Joy

Alistair Begg

For your love is better than wine.

Song of Songs 1:2

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, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but” 1–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 would be a great blessing. No, it is, “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” 2

We little know what we owe to our Savior’s prayers. When we reach the hilltops of heaven and look back upon all the way whereby the Lord our God has led us, how we shall praise Him who, before the eternal throne, undid the mischief that Satan was doing upon earth.

How we shall 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. Consider, 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 You have pleaded our cause against our unseen enemies; You have unmasked their ambushes. Here is a matter for joy, gratitude, hope, and confidence.

1 Luke 22:31

2 Luke 22:32

 

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The King’s highway opened and cleared

CharlesSpurgeon

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:31

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 16:21-23

I remember a certain narrow and crooked lane in a certain country town, along which I was walking one day while I was seeking the Saviour. On a sudden the most fearful oaths that any of you can conceive rushed through my heart. I put my hand to my mouth to prevent the utterance. I had not, that I know of, ever heard those words; and I am certain that I had never used in my life from my youth up so much as one of them, for I had never been profane. But these things sorely beset me; for half an hour together the most fearful imprecations would dash through my brain. Oh, how I groaned and cried before God! That temptation passed away; but before many days it was renewed again; and when I was in prayer, or when I was reading the Bible, these blasphemous thoughts would pour in upon me more than at any other time. I consulted with an aged godly man about it. He said to me, “Oh, all this many of the people of God have proved before you. But,” said he, “do you hate these thoughts?” “I do,” I truly said. “Then,” said he, “they are not yours; serve them as the old parishes used to do with vagrants—whip them and send them on to their own parish. So,” said he, “do with them. Groan over them, repent of them, and send them on to the devil, the father of them, to whom they belong—for they are not yours.” Do you not recollect how John Bunyan hits off the picture? He says, when Christian was going through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, that one stepped up softly to him, and whispered blasphemous thoughts into his ear, so that poor Christian thought they were his own thoughts; but they were not his thoughts at all, but the injections of a blasphemous spirit.

For meditation: The Lord Jesus Christ heard things that were temptations to him, but he always resisted them and never sinned. As long as we hate and resist them, temptations remain temptations only—they become sins only when we enjoy them and give in to them.

Sermon no. 293

8 January (1860)

John MacArthur – Matching Your Practice to Your Position

John MacArthur

God chose us “that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4).

God chose you in Christ to make you holy and blameless in His sight. To be “holy” is to be separated from sin and devoted to righteousness. To be “blameless” is to be pure without spot or blemish–like Jesus, the Lamb of God (1 Pet. 1:19).

Ephesians 1:4 is a positional statement. That is, Paul describes how God views us “in Christ.” He sees us as holy and blameless because Christ our Savior is holy and blameless. His purity is credited to our spiritual bank account. That’s because God made Christ “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Despite our exalted position in God’s sight, our practice often falls far short of His holy standard. Therefore the challenge of Christian living is to increasingly match our practice to our position, realizing that sinless perfection won’t come until we are in heaven fully glorified (Rom. 8:23).

How do you meet that challenge? By prayer, Bible study, and yielding your life to the Spirit’s control. Commit yourself to those priorities today as you seek to fulfill the great purpose to which you’ve been called: “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that you should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God that He does not expect you to earn your own righteousness but has provided it in His Son.

Ask His Spirit to search your heart and reveal any sin that might hinder your growth in holiness. Confess that sin and take any steps necessary to eliminate it from your life.

For Further Study:

Read Philippians 1:9-11

What ingredients must be added to Christian love to produce sincerity and blamelessness?

What is the primary source of those ingredients (see Ps. 119:97-105)?

What specific steps are you going to take to add or increase those ingredients in your life?

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – All Your Plans and Paths

dr_bright

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at things of God: But They delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on His laws and thinking about ways to follow Him more closely. They are like trees along a river bank bearing luscious fruit each season without fail. Their leaves shall never wither, and all they do shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3).

Of all the great promises from God’s Word, I claim none more frequently than these. As I focus on the attributes of God, I truly “delight myself in the Lord” and experience the full, adventuresome life which our Lord promised.

The psalmist expands on what it means to delight ourselves in the Lord. Note these three things: First, we should delight in doing everything God wants us to do; second, day and night we should meditate on His laws; and third, we should always be thinking about ways to follow Him more closely.

Sam had been a loser all of his life, a failure in everything that he attempted. As a result he had developed a very poor self-image and a defeatist attitude.

“Can you help me?” he pleaded. “I really don’t know what to do – I am about ready to give up.”

Together we read and discussed Psalm 1. He agreed to delight himself in the Lord and to follow the three-fold formula for spiritual success found in this psalm. Immediately his life began to change and within six months the results were dramatic.

“I begin every day delighting myself in the Lord,” he said. “I spend special time studying and memorizing God’s Word, telling Him that I want to do everything he wants me to, and I am always thinking about ways to follow Him more closely.

“I am no longer discouraged and defeated. My self-respect and confidence have been restored and I am truly experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promise: ‘All you do shall prosper.'”

The successful, fruitful, joyful Christian who lives a supernatural life is one whose thoughts are focused on our wonderful God and His attributes, who knows and obeys His Word and who delights himself in Him.

Bible Reading: Proverbs 3:1-6

Today’s Action Point: I determine with the help of the Holy Spirit to delight myself daily in the Lord and experience the reality of His promise, “All you do shall prosper.”

 

 

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Pursue Holiness

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In a December interview, Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren was asked about tolerance and the equality of all human beings. “How can you espouse genuine equality if you don’t allow gay people the same right to get married as straight people?” the journalist asked.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

Romans 12:2

Their discussion was polite and animated. When pressed on supporting same-sex marriage, Warren firmly concluded the argument saying, “I cannot see that happening in my life. I fear the disapproval of God more than I fear your disapproval or the disapproval of society.” His intent – to not let the world squeeze him into its mold.

As Christians in America face more and more pressure to conform to the culture’s standards, it should be the goal for all to resist fitting in, favoring instead an aspiration to Godly living. Thankfully, in Romans 12, a formula for victorious Christian living is provided. Being transformed is an act of your will and it involves work. Living holy in an unholy world demands time with the Lord and time in His Word.

Among your family, friends, neighbors and national leaders, pray for those who struggle in their faith…and that those who have taken a firm stand will remain strong.

Recommended Reading: Romans 11:33-12:3

 

greglaurie The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. —2 Chronicles 16:9 Before he became the great evangelist, D. L. Moody had a conversation that deeply impacted him and would direct the course of his life from that point on. Someone said to Moody, “You know, the world has yet to see what God can do with and through the man who is totally committed to Him.” Those words went deep into Moody’s heart, and he prayed, Lord, I want to be that man. He sure came close. The book of Acts is a story of ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things because they allowed God to have His way in their lives. In the same way, God wants to use you to turn your world upside down for Christ. It starts with your saying, “Lord, I want to make a difference. I don’t want this world to turn me around. I want to turn it around. Use me.” The world has yet to see what God can do with and through the man or woman who is totally committed to Him. Will God find such people today? I wonder if you would say, like Moody, “I want to be that person.” If you will, then your life can make a difference. It will be exciting in the days ahead to see what God will do through and with you. But He wants you to be available to Him. One of these days, your life will come to an end. What will you say about your life? What will others say? How great it would be to say, like Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7, NLT).

Max Lucado – The Command to Do Nothing

Max Lucado

When I was ten, my mother enrolled me in piano lessons. Spending thirty minutes every afternoon tethered to a piano bench was a torture just one level away from swallowing broken glass.

I hammered the staccatos. I belabored the crescendos. But there was one instruction in the music I could never obey to my teacher’s satisfaction.  The rest.  The zigzagged command to do nothing.  Nothing!  What sense does that make? “Because,” my teacher patiently explained, “music is always sweeter after a rest.”

“Be still,” the scripture says, “and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  Perhaps it is time for you to let the music slow to a stop…and be still and rest.

From The Applause of Heaven

Charles Stanley – A Spiritual Pottery Lesson

Charles Stanley

Isaiah 64:8

I decided to take a cue from the prophet Jeremiah, who visited a potter’s studio at the Lord’s request (Jer. 18:1-6). So I stopped by an art institute to observe a class—my sole purpose was to better understand the biblical metaphor of God as the Potter and people as the clay. Here’s what I learned when I walked into a room full of whirring pottery wheels.

The Potter has power over the clay. He can do what He chooses. We humans do have limited free will, but God’s will is greater. So even if we try to resist His sculpting hand, He continues to work toward His purpose. The master Craftsman has set out to achieve a particular design in us, and He has a plan to make it take shape.

The Potter works the clay with patience. Since God knows that spiritual maturity can’t be rushed, He forms our Christlike character slowly—one experience at a time. That means He must also have perseverance, as human clay sometimes shifts off-center and becomes misshapen. Just as clay can be fashioned only when it sits precisely in the middle of the wheel, Christians must be in the Father’s will to grow spiritually. The Potter maneuvers the drifting believer back into position and begins remolding. He never discards His vessels but tirelessly works to perfect them.

Our God is a personal Potter. Our God is a personal Potter. His creations reflect His personality and character. And His Spirit is poured into each human vessel so He can be an intimate part of our life. The result is a work of true beauty—a saint wholly committed to Him.

 

Our Daily Bread — Words That Help And Heal

Our Daily Bread

Matthew 6:5-15

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. —Matthew 6:9

On November 19, 1863, two well-known men gave speeches at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The featured speaker, Edward Everett, was a former congressman, governor, and president of Harvard University. Considered one of the greatest orators of his day, Mr. Everett delivered a formal address lasting 2 hours. He was followed by President Abraham Lincoln, whose speech lasted 2 minutes.

Today, Lincoln’s speech, the Gettysburg Address, is widely known and quoted, while Everett’s words have almost been forgotten. It is not just Lincoln’s eloquent brevity that accounts for this. On that occasion, his words touched the wounded spirit of a nation fractured by civil war, offering hope for the days to come.

Words do not have to be many to be meaningful. What we call the Lord’s Prayer is among the shortest and most memorable of all the teachings of Jesus. It brings help and healing as it reminds us that God is our heavenly Father whose power is at work on earth, just as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9-10). He provides food, forgiveness, and fortitude for each day (vv.11-13). And all honor and glory belong to Him (v.13). There is nothing in our past, present, and future that is not included in our Lord’s brief words that help and heal. —David McCasland

How easy it is to use many words

And give little thought to the things you say;

So willingly yield your lips to the Lord

And hearts will be blest by them every day. —D. DeHaan

Kind words smooth, and quiet, and comfort the hearer. —Blaise Pascal

Bible in a year: Genesis 18-19; Matthew 6:1-18

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Exile

Ravi Z

A recent post in The New York Times caught my eye: “Amsterdam Has a Deal for Alcoholics: Work Paid in Beer.”(1) One of the most emailed columns that week, the article detailed the creative and controversial work of The Rainbow Group Foundation, an NGO helping to prevent social isolation for people without caring networks of community like the homeless, the poor, drug users and those with psychiatric problems. Vital connections are formed that foster community and enable these socially exiled individuals to participate in society in more healthy ways.

Their latest project, however, has provoked public ire and praise. Hiring alcoholics as street cleaners and paying them with beer is not a traditional form of compensation, nor does it appear to deal with their addiction. Yet, one of the unlikely supporters of the Rainbow Foundation’s efforts is the Muslim district mayor of Eastern Amsterdam, where there is a large percentage of these marginalized persons. As a practicing Muslim, the district mayor personally disapproves of alcohol but says she believes that alcoholics “cannot be just ostracized” and told to shape up. “It is better,” she said “to give them something to do and restrict their drinking.” Indeed, Hans Wijnands, the director of the Rainbow Foundation, explained: “You have to give people an alternative, to show them a path other than just sitting in the park and drinking themselves to death.”

 

One of the participants in this program has struggled with alcoholism since the 1970′s after he found his wife, who was pregnant with twins, dead in their home from a drug overdose. He has since spent time in a clinic and tried other ways to quit but has never managed to entirely break his addiction. “I’m not proud of being an alcoholic, but I am proud to have a job again” he said. Once a construction worker, he was out of work for more than a decade because of a back injury, and his chronic alcoholism. Finally landing this job sponsored by the Rainbow Foundation, he now gets up at 5:30 a.m., walks his dog and heads out ready to clean litter from the streets of eastern Amsterdam. While he has found a new sense of purpose he still acknowledges how difficult life can be. “Every day is a struggle,” he said during a lunch break with his work mates. “You may see these guys hanging around here, chatting, making jokes. But I can assure you, every man you see here carries a little backpack with their own misery in it.”

As I read this article, I couldn’t help but hear the traditional Advent hymn in the back of my mind:

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

 

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

The haunting tune of this hymn provides a musical illustration of this modern day exile: solitary individuals, mostly men, homeless often on cold, wintry streets in Amsterdam, living in a world where most consider them a nuisance at best. Gaining access to that which enslaves them as payment for cleaning the streets, they exist in a form of exile. These individuals wander in their own wilderness of addiction, exiled from themselves, from others, and likely feeling far, far away from the presence of God.

This notion of exile, of being exiled from ourselves, others, and from God, is an overarching theme in the Bible. Indeed, it is often the mournful story of God’s people who traverse its pages as captives, wanderers, and exiles. First captives in the land of Egypt, the children of Israel are freed from their bondage only to spend the next forty years wandering around in what is now the Sinai Peninsula. Brought into the land of promise, their years of freedom were relatively short-lived before they were again exiles; first, conquered by the armies of Assyria, then conquered by the armies of the Babylonians, the people of Judah ‘wept by the rivers of Babylon’ for their home. Even when they returned to their land, they were now under the thumb of the Roman Empire; captives, wanderers, and exiles.

As I thought about the juxtaposition of biblical exile with more modern day examples of exile, I couldn’t help but recognize the story of exile as a story of human nature. We find ourselves in exile for a variety of reasons. Some are pilgrims who choose to walk a road less traveled; some wander off the path and become lost. Some, like the Israelites, long to return to places of enslavement mistaking them as places of comfort and solace. The story of Israel’s exile is our human story—how we wander, how often we get lost, and how we are exiled from the better angels of our nature, from one another and from our Creator. For many, we are exiled for so long we no longer remember our homes, or the way back home.

O come, O come Emmanuel is a cry that resounds in a world of exiles. The word Emmanuel means ‘God with us’ and the arrival of Christmas is the culmination of that cry, and a declaration of a God who reaches into human exile in the weakness of a baby. But that baby, Jesus of Nazareth, would declare at the beginning of his public ministry that he would “preach the gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(2)

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

(1) Andrew Higgins, “Amsterdam Has a Deal for Alcoholics: Work Paid in Beer,” The New York Times, December 4, 2013.

(2) Luke 4:14-19.

 

Alistair Begg – The Lord’s Exclusive Portion

Alistair Begg

My sister, my bride.

Song of Songs 4:12

Observe the sweet titles with which the heavenly Solomon with intense affection addresses His bride, the church. “My sister, one near to Me by ties of nature, partaker of the same sympathies. My bride, nearest and dearest, united to Me by the tenderest bands of love; My sweet companion, part of My own self. My sister, by My Incarnation, which makes Me bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh; my bride, by heavenly betrothal, in which I have married you to Myself in righteousness

My sister, whom I knew of old, and over whom I watched from her earliest infancy; My bride, taken from among the daughters, embraced by arms of love and joined to me forever.” See how true it is that our royal Kinsman is not ashamed of us, for He dwells with manifest delight upon this twofold relationship. We have the word “my” twice in our version; as if Christ dwelt with rapture on His possession of His Church.

His delights were with the sons of men because those sons of men were His own chosen ones. He, the Shepherd, sought the sheep because they were His sheep; He has gone about “to seek and to save that which was lost,” because that which was lost was His long before it was lost to itself or lost to Him.

The church is the exclusive portion of her Lord; none else may claim a partnership or pretend to share her love. Jesus, Your church delights to have it so! Let every believing soul drink solace out of these wells. Soul, Christ is near to you in ties of relationship. Christ is dear to you in bonds of marriage union, and you are dear to Him; behold, He grasps both of your hands with both His own, saying, “My sister, my bride.” Consider how the Lord gets such a double hold of you that He neither can nor will ever let you go. Be not, O beloved, slow to return the hallowed flame of His love.

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The immutability of God

CharlesSpurgeon

“I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” Malachi 3:6

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 11:33-12:2

It has been said by some that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. We shall be obliged to feel:

“Great God, how infinite art thou,

What worthless worms are we!”

But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.

For meditation: “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1) could well describe these opening sentences of Spurgeon’s “New Park Street Pulpit”. But who or what comes first in our thoughts and lives?

Sermon no. 1

7 January (1855)

John MacArthur – Avoiding a Spiritual Identity Crisis

John MacArthur

God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

Many people in our society are on a seemingly endless and often frantic quest for personal identity and self- worth. Identity crises are common at almost every age level. Superficial love and fractured relationships are but symptoms of our failure to resolve the fundamental issues of who we are, why we exist, and where we’re going. Sadly, most people will live and die without ever understanding God’s purpose for their lives.

That is tragic, yet understandable. God created man to bear His image and enjoy His fellowship forever. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they violated that purpose and plunged the human race into sin. That created within man a spiritual void and an identity crisis of unimaginable proportions.

Throughout the ages ungodly people have tried to fill that void with a myriad of substitutes but ultimately all is lost to death and despair.

Despite that bleak picture, a true sense of identity is available to every Christian. It comes from knowing that God Himself personally selected you to be His child. Before the world began, God set his love upon you and according to His plan Christ died for you (1 Pet. 1:20). That’s why you responded in faith to the gospel (2 Thess. 2:13). Also, that’s why you can never lose your salvation. The same God who drew you to Himself will hold you there securely (John 10:29).

Don’t allow sin, Satan, or circumstances to rob your sense of identity in Christ. Make it the focus of everything you do. Remember who you are: God’s child; why you are here: to serve and glorify Him; and where you are going: to spend eternity in His presence.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for choosing you to be His child and for drawing you to Himself in saving faith.

Praise Him for His promise never to let you go.

For Further Study:

Read John 6:35-44; 10:27-30; Romans 8:31-39

According to Jesus, how many believers will lose their salvation? What was his reasoning?

What did Paul base his certainty on?