Tag Archives: love

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Great Metaphor

Ravi Z

The places in literature that most often slow my mind to a reflective halt are usually intensely visual. Among them, perhaps surprisingly to some, are images from ancient scriptures that offer some of the most beautiful scenes. The ageless cry of Isaiah 64:1, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,” is like a museum filled with the most hopeful, most disturbing, and most inviting images. Fitting with Isaiah’s vision for a world that revolves around the throne and the kingship of God at the center, his cry was a fervent prayer for the severe presence of a God he knew could come nearer.

Like the God for which he longed, the prophet’s words are intense, stirring, and intentional. Isaiah’s use of words—in fact, the entire genre of prophetic literature—cries out with poetic vision. As Abraham Heschel comments, “Prophecy is the product of a poetic imagination. Prophecy is poetry, and in poetry everything is possible, e.g. for the trees to celebrate a birthday and for God to speak to man.”(1) And that is to say, God gives us something of the divine character in the prophet’s powerful interplay of word, metaphor, and image. As messenger, the prophet yields the words of God, and the poetic nature of prophetic speech reveals a God who speaks in couplets, a God who uses simile and metaphor, rhythm and sound, alliteration, repetition, and rhetorical questions. Any reading of prophetic speech requires that one engage these poetic structures. A quick scan of Isaiah 64:1 reveals a depth of interacting words and key patterns, and a metaphor that moves us like the mountains Isaiah describes:

If only you would cleave the heavens!

(If only) you would come down,

From facing you, mountains would quake!

These few stanzas make use of repeated words and paired images to convey an intensity about human longing for the transcendence of God. The cry is not merely for God’s presence, but a presence that will tear open the heavens and cause mountains—even Mount Zion and the children of God—to tremble. Set in the opening line, the Hebrew word qarata is as illustrative in tone as it is meaning. The guttural sound and sharp stop in its pronunciation contribute to the severity of the word itself, which means to tear, to rend, to sever, or to split an object into two or more parts. ”Oh that you would rend the heavens…”  “If only you would cleave open the heavens and come down…”

Significantly, this Hebrew word is most often found in the Old Testament referring to the rending of garments out of grief or desperation. Ezra describes falling in prayer “with my garments and my mantle torn, and on my knees, I spread out my hands to the Lord my God” (Ezra 9:5). The same word is used of David after hearing that Absalom had killed all of his sons: “The king rose, tore his garments, and lay on the ground; and all his servants who were standing by tore their garments also” (2 Samuel 13:31). The images of grief and shredded garments would likely have come to the minds of those who first heard the cry of Isaiah to God: If only you would tear the heavens in two and see what is happening in your holy cities… If only you would sever this distance that sits between us like a heavy garment…

But this act of rending is also used in the Old Testament figuratively, usually in terms of removing someone from power or formally tearing away their authority, as when Samuel told Saul that the kingdom had been rendered from him and given to his neighbors. Here, in the context of Isaiah’s prayer, the word seems to take on both figurative and literal qualities. Oh that you would rend the heavens like a garment and come down here, tear away our perception of authority and show us something real, your own power. The cry is clearly making use of metaphor and yet it is a desperate plea for God’s presence in power, tangibly and substantially—”so that the nations might tremble at your presence,” Isaiah cries.

 

Even so, whether uttered metaphorically or literally, the cry for God to tear open the heavens and come down is a cry no mind conceived, nor ear perceived how thoroughly God would answer. For those who read this passage in light of Christ, fully taking in the poignant image of the heavens tearing like a garment brings to mind the tearing of the temple curtain when Jesus took his last breath. ”Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. And at that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:50-51). The incarnation, the death, and resurrection of Christ was God’s bold answer to an ancient longing—the longing and the answer both intensely visual and unapologetically real. The Word himself is God’s response to the great metaphor of a God who rends the heavens like a garment, a God so present that he comes down to be among us, causing the earth to quake at his own breath.

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

(1) Abraham Heschel, The Prophets (New York: Harper, 2001), 469.

(2) See 1 Samuel 15:28.

Charles Spurgeon – The inexhaustible barrel

CharlesSpurgeon

“And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.” 1 Kings 17:16

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 5:6-11

If God saves us, it will be a trying matter. All the way to heaven, we shall only get there by the skin of our teeth. We shall not go to heaven sailing along with sails swelling in the breeze, like sea birds with their fair white wings, but we shall proceed with sails torn to ribbons, with masts creaking, and the ship’s pumps at work both by night and day. We shall reach the city at the shutting of the gate, but not an hour before. O believer, thy Lord will bring thee safe to the end of thy pilgrimage; but mark, thou wilt never have one particle of strength to waste in wantonness upon the road. There will be enough to get thee up the hill Difficulty, but only enough then by climbing on your hands and knees. You will have strength enough to fight Apollyon, but when the battle is over your arm will have no strength remaining. Your trials will be so many, that if you had only one trial more, it would be like the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. But, nevertheless, though God’s love should thus try you all the journey through, your faith will bear the trying, for while God dashes you down to the earth with one hand in providence, he will lift you up with the other in grace. You will have consolation and affliction weighed out in equal degree, ounce for ounce, and grain for grain; you will be like the Israelite in the wilderness, if you gather much manna, you will have nothing over; while blessed be God, if you gather little you shall have no lack. You shall have daily grace for daily trials.

For meditation: The Christian does not need to go looking for problems—they are as fundamental to the Christian faith as any major doctrine (Acts 14:22); but the Christian receives from God the ability to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Sermon no. 290

18 December (1859)

John MacArthur – Bearing with an Exhortation

John MacArthur

“I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22).

Hell is undoubtedly full of people who did not actively oppose Jesus Christ, but simply drifted into damnation by neglecting to respond to the gospel. These are the kinds of people the writer challenges in Hebrews 2:1-4. They were aware of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, but weren’t willing to commit their lives to Him. As a result, they were drifting past the call of God into eternal disaster.

The Word of God always demands a response. Any effective teacher of it must do more than just dispense facts; he must warn, exhort, and extend an invitation. He may have impressive knowledge of the truth, but if he doesn’t have a passionate concern for how people react to it, he is not a worthy representative of Jesus Christ.

Jesus had that kind of compassion. Despite the rejection of His own people, He ached for their salvation: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen ushers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). You can feel His heart go out to the people.

Paul had similar compassion: “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of My brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:2-3). A true teacher is interested in more than just academics; he is concerned that people respond rightly to what is taught.

Just as the writer of Hebrews had to warn and exhort his readers, at times it becomes necessary for us to warn those we are witnessing to. If you want to see unbelieving friends, relatives, or associates come to Christ, warn them. Let them see the passion in your heart and your love for them. Please don’t allow anyone to slip into eternal destruction without being warned sufficiently.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Ask God to give you wisdom regarding when to warn the people you are witnessing to.

For Further Study:

Read Hebrews 3:7–4:13, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, and 12:25-29 noting the pattern the writer followed in presenting these other warnings.

 

 

Joyce Meyer – He Loves You

Joyce meyer

In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins. Beloved, if God loves us so [very much], we also ought to love one another.—1 John 4:10, 11

Have you ever gone through a time in your life when you thought something would make you happy, and then when you got, it didn’t make you happy at all? Maybe you were thrilled for a little while, but you soon realized it wouldn’t bring deep, lasting happiness to your life? Lots of people do that. They think they will be happy if they get a raise, or a new house, or a new car or something else that money can buy. They are focused on what they can get, not what they can give. These pursuits never lead to happiness!

The right way to happiness lies in caring for others and giving to them, not in seeing how much we can accumulate for ourselves. I have learned this by personal experience. In fact, becoming a giver has brought me levels of happiness I never knew were possible. Giving is a great joy!

When we love, we must give; giving is the very nature of love. God is love, and He is the ultimate Giver. John 3:16 proves this: “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost), but have eternal (everlasting) life.”

When we have God’s love in us, we can give it away. We can choose to love others lavishly. We can love them unconditionally as He has loved us. Everyone in the world desires to be loved and to be accepted. The love of God is the most wonderful gift we are given. It flows to us, and then it should flow through us to others.

Love God Today: Lord, it is amazing to me that you love me so much. Help me to remember that you give me so much love that there’s plenty for me to share!

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He is Faithful

dr_bright

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised)” (Hebrews 10:23, KJV).

When we share our faith with others – hopefully a natural part of our daily walk, though we need not “preach a sermon” to share – we can remain steadfast in that profession of our faith, not wavering as we consider all He has done for us.

Why is that possible?

Simply this: He is faithful that promised.

The writer of Hebrews, presumably the apostle Paul, knew that the believers had been suffering persecution and there might be a tendency or temptation to become weak in their faith. Even serious doubts might have crept in. So Paul is seeking to guard against any kind of apostasy.

He wants to be sure the people are not shaken by their trials or by the arguments of their enemies. So he exhorts them in unmistakable terms.

Paul’s reasoning to the people about faithfulness was this: Since God is so faithful to us, His children, we ought to be faithful to Him. Further, the fact that He is faithful should be an encouragement to us. We are dependant upon Him for grace to hold fast the profession of our faith.

All that God has promised, He will perform. He is faithful.

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will state in positive, confident terms what God has done for me, knowing that He is the faithful One who will do all He has promised. With this assurance, I can draw open His faithfulness to live supernaturally.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Adore Him

ppt_seal01

“Sing choirs of angels / Sing in exaltation / Sing all ye citizens of Heaven above / Glory to God, glory in the highest / O come, let us adore Him.” It’s easy to sing this beloved Christmas carol and miss the awesomeness of it. A whole, thick book can be written about angels, as evangelist Billy Graham demonstrated.

When he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God‘s angels worship him.”

Hebrews 1:6

Angels are amazing: supernatural, fearless and strong. When humans encounter these holy beings, they fall trembling before them, yet angels worship Jesus – who was both human and God. The entirety of Hebrews 1 points out Christ’s deity. The Heavenly Father gave this divine gift in human packaging that people might believe and receive eternal life.

Worship Him, as the angels do, and thank the Savior for leaving the glory of Heaven to express God to all people. And pray the nation’s leaders and citizens alike will receive revelation of who Jesus is…like Peter did, “Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’” (Matthew 16:16-17)

Recommended Reading: Matthew 16:13-20

 

 

Greg Laurie – Joseph, the Unsung Hero

greglaurie

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. —Luke 1:26–27

To me, Joseph is the unsung hero of the Christmas story. Very little is said about him, but he was a righteous man.

Luke’s Gospel tells us that Mary was “betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph” (1:27). This arrangement was a little different than engagements of today. According to the rabbinical writings, there were two stages in a Hebrew marriage. The first, known as the betrothal period, was as legally binding as marriage. If at any time during this phase of marriage either person violated their vows, a formal divorce was required to nullify the marriage. Mary and Joseph were legally married, and during the approximate twelve-month period of their betrothal, they had no physical relationship and lived in separate houses. The second stage was the wedding ceremony, which lasted for seven days.

It was in the first stage of their betrothal that Mary became pregnant with the Son of God. Joseph could have divorced her because of this. His heart must have been broken, but he didn’t want to make a spectacle out of Mary. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

Joseph knew that he would be thought of as the husband of the woman who had broken her vow. And indeed Mary went through life with that reputation. The Pharisees once said to Jesus, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God” (John 8:41). In other words, “You were conceived out of wedlock, Jesus.”

Joseph was willing to endure all of that. He loved Mary. He obeyed God. And both of them agreed to God’s plan.

Max Lucado – Jesus is the Gift

Max Lucado

Little Carol with the pigtails, freckles, and shiny back shoes. Don’t let her sweet appearance fool you.  She broke my heart!  On the day of the great gift exchange in my fourth-grade class, I ripped the wrapping paper off the box to find—stationery! Brown envelopes and folded note cards with a picture of a cowboy lassoing a horse.  What ten-year-old boy uses stationery?  There’s a term for this kind of gift:  obligatory!

I know we shouldn’t complain, but don’t you detect a lack of originality? And when a person gives a genuine gift, don’t you cherish the presence of a gift just for you?  Have you ever received such a gift?  Yes, you have.  You’ve been given a perfect personal gift.  One just for you. God says to anyone who’ll listen:  ”There has been born for you…a Savior….” Jesus is the gift!

“There has been born for you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11”

From GRACE

Charles Stanley – The God Who Reveals Himself

Charles Stanley

Hebrews 1:1-4

People have all kinds of distorted impressions of God. As a result, their view of life is awry—for example, they may think life is just a matter of fate. But the Lord of the universe leaves nothing to chance.

Because God wants us to approach life correctly, His Word gives us a clear picture of what He is like. One way He reveals Himself is through the material world. The Bible says that the heavens “declare the glory of God” and “pour forth speech” about the Author of creation (Ps. 19:1-2 niv). They are telling of His strength and magnificence. Likewise, the wind, waves, and natural disasters show forth the power of our awesome God. And in a similar way, all the cycles of nature, with their vivid colors and changing patterns, tell of our Maker’s creative genius.

Another way God chooses to reveal Himself is through man’s conscience. Even people who have never heard of God’s laws instinctively know what is right and what is wrong (Rom. 2:11-15). There are atheists who would never lie, steal, or kill. This standard comes from God, who has impressed a moral sense on every person’s conscience.

Many people obey their conscience yet fail to believe in God or recognize that they are accountable to Him. The fact is that unbelief doesn’t cancel your accountability to the Lord. The evidence for His existence is undeniable, but He will not force anyone to believe. Everybody has a choice to make: Will I worship a god of my own creation, or will I worship the One who created me?

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Out of Ivory Palaces

Ravi Z

Impossible to miss in any mall, grocery store, elevator, or voice mail system, Christmas music is as ubiquitous as snow in Alaska. I have yet to walk into a store this Christmas season that wasn’t playing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I’m sure you are familiar with the song and can hear the tune in your head: With kids jingle belling/and everyone telling you/”Be of good cheer,”/It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With this music all around me, I can’t help but begin to hum along, and feel uplifted as if it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

And yet, for many individuals, Christmas is anything but wonderful. In fact, the joviality, décor, and the music simply strike dissonant chords because of the memories, emotions, and experiences associated with this season.  Families in Sandyhook, Connecticut and Arapahoe County Colorado in the United States feel the emptiness of loss, the hemorrhage of violence, and the undertow of grief as a result of two random shooters. I suspect this will mark their Christmas seasons for the rest of their lives. There are many who also grieve the loss of a loved one—not necessarily from armed violence—but from the violence of a body turned against itself through cancer or some other debilitating or destructive disease. For them, Christmas reminds them of yet another empty chair. Others experience joblessness or underemployment, numbing loneliness, disappointed expectations, ruptured relationships, and rejection that twist and distort the joy of the season into a garish spectacle. Instead of uplifting them in celebration, the most wonderful time of the year seems a cruel mockery.

For all of these, and many others, the Christmas season seems more like the opening verse of Christina Rossetti’s haunting Christmas hymn, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,

earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

All the excitement, anticipation, and beauty of the season can easily be frozen by pain, disappointment and grief; instead of singing songs of joy, a bitter moan emanates like the cold, frost-bitten wind.

Into this world—the world of the bleak midwinter—God arrived. Not sheltered from grief or pain, God descended into a world where poverty, violence, and grief were a daily part of God’s human existence in the person of Jesus. Joseph and Mary, barely teenagers, were poor, and Mary gave birth to the Messiah in a dirty barn. Herod the Great used his power to slaughter all the male children who were in Bethlehem under the age of two. Shepherds slept on grassy hills, their nomadic home. Even in Jesus’s public ministry, his cousin, John the Baptist, would be beheaded. Jesus would experience rejection and eventually die a criminal’s death, with only a few, grieving women remaining at his side. The old hymn, “Out of the Ivory Palaces” said it well:

Out of the ivory palaces, into a world of woe,

Only His great, eternal love, made my Savior go.

Into this world—our world of bleak midwinter—God arrives. God arrives in the midst of pain and suffering, doubt and disappointment, longing and loneliness to make a home with us, to be alongside of us because of “great, eternal love.”  The gospel of John tells us that God did not stay removed from us or from our sufferings, but that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). For those who find the Christmas season far from the “most wonderful time of the year,” Immanuel, God with us, comes to be our consolation.

And those who celebrate this season as the most wonderful time of the year can demonstrate its beauty, joy, and celebration by reaching out to those in bleak midwinter, doing our part, giving our all, sharing our hearts.

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

 

Alistair Begg – He Never Ceases to Remember

Alistair Begg

I remember the devotion of your youth.

Jeremiah 2:2

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

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

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

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

1 Proverbs 8:31

John MacArthur – Christ’s Superior Destiny

John MacArthur

“To which of the angels has He ever said, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet’? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:13-14).

“At the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10). That great promise confirms that Jesus Christ is destined to be the ruler of the universe.

Yet notice this about Christ’s rule: “When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Christ is subordinate to His Father, but only in His role as the Son. While the eternal Son is equally divine, He is officially in subjection to God.

Eventually God will put all kingdoms, authorities, and powers of the world in subjection under Christ when He comes in glory at His second coming. “He will rule [the nations] with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS'” (Rev. 19:15-16). Christ’s eternal destiny is to reign over the new heavens and the new earth.

But what about the angels? While Christ has the greater destiny, it is their destiny to serve forever those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14)–and that’s us!

Angels protect and deliver the believer from temporal danger. They rescued Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom. They went into the lions’ den with Daniel and protected him. In addition to being forever in God’s presence, our destiny is to be served by angels forever–service that begins the moment of our salvation.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the many ways He takes care of you: by saving you, having Christ intercede for you, giving you the Holy Spirit to teach you, and sending His angels to serve you.

For Further Study:

Read 2 Kings 6:8-23 and note the amazing way that angels served the prophet Elisha.

 

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Rewards All Who Look for Him

dr_bright

“You can never please God without faith, without depending on Him. Anyone who wants to come to God must believe that there is a God and that He rewards those who sincerely look for Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

A friend of mine, one of the most dedicated men I have ever known, lived by a little black book. In this book he kept a careful record of all his activities, past, present and future.

In it he recorded the time he was to get up every morning, how long to have his devotions, how many verses of Scripture he should memorize that day, and to how many people he should witness. I was impressed; I wanted to be like him.

One day he had a mental breakdown, however. After he was released from the hospital, he said to me, “I was unable to live the Christian life. I tried to be a man of God by imposing upon myself certain rigid spiritual disciplines.

“Before they took me to the hospital, my last conscious act was to throw that little black book, which had become my god, into the corner. I never wanted to see it again.”

This man had to discover what I discovered with great relief some years ago: I will never be able to live the Christian life through my own self-efforts.

My only hope for victory, power and fruitfulness is to trust Christ to live His resurrection life in and through me. He and He alone can enable me to live the Christian life. It is faith, not effort, that pleases Him, though we should never forget that faith without works is dead. Genuine faith always produces action – good works that please and glorify Him.

Bible Reading: Hebrews 7:17-22

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today by faith I will claim Christ’s resurrection life, and since He alone is holy I will claim His power to live a supernatural life. Since He came to seek and to save the lost, I will claim by faith His ability to seek and to save the lost.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – Perfect Gift

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Jesus was fully human and fully divine. The power of the Most High overshadowed Mary, she conceived in her womb, and she bore a son who would “be called holy – the Son of God.” ((Luke 1:35) God, in His wisdom, ordained the combination of human and divine influence so Jesus’ full humanity would be evident in the fact of His ordinary birth, and His full deity evident through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.

Luke 1:31

How calmly Mary accepted her commission from God! “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) It proved she had immersed herself in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. She knew the promise God had made to His people in Isaiah 7:14 and firmly believed He would fulfill them.

The virgin birth is an unmistakable reminder that salvation can only come from the Lord, never from human effort. The sinless Lamb came to Earth to redeem you. Pray that you, the people of this nation, and America’s leaders will understand the awesomeness of God’s perfect gift…the Savior, Christ the Lord.

Recommended Reading: Luke 1:46-55  Click to Read or Listen

 

Greg Laurie – Childlike Faith

greglaurie

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. —Luke 1:38

Lord, I want Your will. I will do what You want me to do. I will go where You want me to go. I will say what You want me to say.

Have you ever said that to God? Mary did.

When Gabriel suddenly appeared to her one day and announced that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she was completely obedient, saying, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

I love that. Mary had childlike faith. How open and trusting children are. If my grandchildren are on a step and I tell them to jump to me, they will jump. Why? It’s because so far I’ve caught them (and I plan on continuing to catch them). So when I say jump, they simply jump, with a smile. I catch them, and they want to do it again.

But sometimes when God tells us to jump, we say, “What?” We think, I don’t want to jump. What if God drops me? But He won’t drop us. What kind of parent would do that? Our heavenly Father will catch us.

We often wonder about the will of God for our lives, but here is something to consider: Obedience to revealed truth guarantees guidance in matters unrevealed. Is there something you know to be God’s will for you right now? Have you done it? Don’t ask God to reveal His will beyond that until you take care of what you know is His will. We say that we want God’s will, but often we want Him to reveal it first so we can decide whether or not we are going to do it.

Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Have you made that commitment as well?

 

Max Lucado – Blessed are the Meek

Max Lucado

A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus.  Behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps. You can enter the main area and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave where a star embedded in the floor recognizes the birth of the King. There’s one stipulation, however.  You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t go in standing up. The same is true of the Christ. Blessed are the meek, Jesus explained. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness the Savior, you have to get on your knees.

While the theologians were sleeping, and the elite were dreaming, and the successful were snoring, the meek were kneeling. They were kneeling before the One only the meek will see. They were kneeling in front of Jesus.

From The Applause of Heaven

Charles Stanley – How God Sees the Unbeliever

Charles Stanley

Ephesians 2:1-5

God’s Word is always true but not always popular. When it runs counter to cultural preferences, the message of the gospel can be uncomfortable to hear and may lead to challenge and confrontation. We need to know biblical truth, including the fact that God sees unbelievers as . . .

• Dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). As newborn babies, we are physically alive but spiritually dead. Spiritual death came to all generations through the first Adam (Rom. 5:12); spiritual life comes only through Jesus, the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45).

• Unable to grasp spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). Those who are spiritually dead can’t perceive the things of God. Divine truth can’t penetrate because their “receiver,” or spirit, is dead within them.

• Not part of God’s family (John 1:12). Spiritually, there are only two families in the world: God’s and Satan’s (John 8:44). A person is born into God’s family—or “born again”—by trusting in Christ’s sacrifice and receiving Him as Savior.

• Under wrath (Eph. 2:3). Unbelievers, even kind and loving ones, are under judgment. A sin debt is owed (Rom. 6:23), and it can’t be paid by kind or loving acts of service. Jesus paid on our behalf, and only by trusting in His substitutionary sacrifice can we escape God’s wrath.

Unbelievers are in grave danger, but most do not realize it. The good news is that God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ is still available. Have you reached out for the hand of your Rescuer? If your answer is yes, are you pointing others to the One who wants to rescue them?

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A World Off Balance

Ravi Z

Once and a while a friendship is forged that seems to surprise everyone but the two who are in it. In a story that first circulated in 2006, Zookeepers at Tokyo’s Mutsugoro Okoku Zoo couldn’t agree more. Gohan and Aochan had been living side by side for months, at times even curling up next to one another as they sleep. Such behavior is, perhaps, natural among creatures sharing habitats—except that Gohan and Aochan should have naturally been predator and prey. Gohan was a three and a half inch dwarf hamster, and her companion, Aochan, a rat snake. The hamster, who was jokingly named “meal” in Japanese, was originally given to Aochan as dinner after the snake refused to eat frozen mice. But instead of dining, Aochan decided to make friends. Much to the zookeeper’s surprise, the two began sharing a cage. Their comfort around one another was most peculiar, with Gohan able to climb over Aochan like he was part of the furniture or recline on his coiled back and take a nap.

The thought of such a relationship is one that fascinates in its complexity (if not an accident waiting to happen). Though the friend who first sent me this story assured me that unusual bondings have occurred throughout the animal kingdom without bad endings, I still find myself leery of the snake’s intentions. Can a snake really surrender its natural instincts to hunt? What happens when Gohan gets in his way or makes him mad, or when the zookeeper is running late feeding the reptiles? Can the nature of a snake remain reversed because of a relationship?

In a significant prophecy of the coming Messiah (literally, anointed one) and his ensuing reign, Isaiah describes a scene full of similarly unusual relationships:  “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

On many levels it is a scene that is unimaginable. We would no sooner trust the cobra than we would trust the one who suggests we allow a child to play near it. Yet the vision speaks of a dramatic change in nature throughout God’s kingdom, where the aggressiveness and cruelty that are so much a part of our world will be forever changed. We will look at the relationship of Gohan and Aochan and not fear the hamster’s trust of the snake. With good reason, we ascribe such a reality as something God promises in the future, in heaven, when nature as we know it has passed away. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain; the wolf will live with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the goat, for the old order of things will have passed away. I believe this is indeed an image of things to come. Could it not also be something more?

What if there is something about the coming of the Messiah that brings this scene to life even now? What if the Incarnation—the coming of Jesus onto a first century scene—caused things on earth to be turned upside-down ever since? Like the brutal outlaw in one of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, the Misfit, recognizes, there is something about the Incarnation that has “thrown everything off balance.” The mere presence of the source of all matter in our very midst, the Incarnate Christ coming to us in flesh and blood introduces a possibility of grace that changes the nature of everything. “If He did what He said, then its nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him, and if He didn’t, then its nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him.”(2) Isaiah depicts a world where lions and vipers will not kill; young lambs will rest peacefully beside predators, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). It is unnatural for a wolf not to harm a defenseless lamb or a snake not to bite the hand that invades its nest. Is it any more natural that you or I should be able to defy our human nature? That we should claim the old has gone and left a new creation in its place? That we should find ourselves born a second time from above?

Yet to bow before the person of Christ—in life, in prayer, in relationship, in community—is to lay our lives at the feet of the one who is both Lamb and Lion in a way that overturns these very notions of nature. In his work Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton finds fault with the way this is often envisioned. “It is constantly assured,” he writes “…that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is—Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity?”(1) This, somehow, Christ achieves. To know him is to cling to the fierce hope of transformation and the gentle assurance of new life—on earth and as it will one day be in heaven. He alone can reverse the nature of the snake; he is both Lamb and Lion.

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

(1) G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 105.

(2) Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find, Complete Stories (Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library, 1980), 151.

 

Alistair Begg – The Call of Christian Faith

Alistair Begg

Come to me.

Matthew 11:28

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

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

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

1 Matthew 25:34

 

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – Heaven

CharlesSpurgeon

“The things which God hath prepared for them that love him. ” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 26:26-29

One of the places where you may most of all expect to see heaven is at the Lord’s table. There are some of you, my dearly beloved, who absent yourselves from the supper of the Lord on earth; let me tell you in God’s name, that you are not only sinning against God, but robbing yourselves of a most inestimable privilege. If there is one season in which the soul gets into closer communion with Christ than another, it is at the Lord’s table. How often have we sung there:

“Can I Gethsemane forget? Remember thee and all thy pains,

Or there thy conflicts see, And all thy love to me,

Thine agony and bloody sweat, Yes, while a pulse, or breath remains,

And not remember thee? I will remember thee.”

And then you see what an easy transition it is to heaven:

“And when these failing lips grow dumb,

And thought and memory flee;

When thou shalt in thy kingdom come,

Jesus, remember me.”

O my erring brethren, you who live on, unbaptised, and who receive not this sacred supper, I tell you they will not save you—most assuredly they will not, and if you are not saved before you receive them they will be an injury to you; but if you are the Lord’s people, why need you stay away? I tell you, the Lord’s table is so high a place that you can see heaven from it very often. You get so near the cross there, you breathe so near the cross, that your sight becomes clearer, and the air brighter, and you can see more of heaven there than anywhere else. Christian, do not neglect the supper of your Lord; for if you do, he will hide heaven from you, in a measure.

For meditation: When you come to the Lord’s Table, do you look forward to the future in anticipation as well as to the past in gratitude (1 Corinthians 11:26)?

Sermon no. 56

16 December (1855)