Tag Archives: nature

Joyce Meyer – Determine Your Priorities

Joyce meyer

You shall have no other gods before or besides Me. —Exodus 20:3

The best way to determine if God is first in your life is to slow down and ask yourself some simple questions: What do I think about the most? What do I pray and talk about the most? What do I do with my time?

You see, we always make time for what we really want to do— no matter how busy we are. If you want to spend time with God, then you are going to make Him a priority.

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where your priorities are out of line. Then allow His conviction to motivate you to seek a deeper relationship with God. It is God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Who will give you the ability to adjust your lifestyle and bring it in line with the Word (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23 NLT). If you truly want Him to, He will enable you to put God first in your thoughts, conversations, and actions.

You may need to make some changes in your schedule, but they will be ones that will produce good results.

Power Thought: God is number one in my life.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Nothing You Cannot Do

dr_bright

“I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).

What would you give for the power to live a truly holy, fruitful life? Strangely enough, it is yours for the asking. If your problem is timidity in witnessing, God promises to help you share your faith with others: “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7).

If it is victory over temptation, He reminds us that temptation is not a sin; it is only in the yielding that it becomes sin.

If you need victory in your thought-life, He promises to allow no tempting or testing above that you are able to bear – and that certainly includes your thought-life (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are invited to “cast all your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

If it is forgiveness you seek, He offers it freely. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, KJV).

In short, you have no burden, no problem, no need that is too big for our Lord to handle. “Ye receive not, because ye ask not,” He reminds us.

If your need is for physical healing, know that He is able to heal you if it is His will. If His answer to your prayer is no, thank Him for the sure knowledge that His grace is sufficient in the midst of pain and suffering. Acknowledge His sovereign right to be God in your life, whatever the cost may be. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him to help you do it and He will” (Psalm 37:5).

Bible Reading: Philippians 4:6-12

Today’s Action Point: I will begin this day – and every day – by committing everything I do to the Lord and expecting Him to help me. I will remember that I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength and power (Philippians 4:13).

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – Courageous Changes

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The human body truly is a magnificent creation. Consider the stomach – a muscular, hollow organ that stores, mixes and digests the food you eat, and protects you from infectious organisms. There’s also the heart what pumps oxygen-rich blood into every living cell in the body. It beats approximately 80,000 to 100,000 times a day, pumping almost 2,000 gallons of blood, for a lifetime.

What comes out of a person is what defiles him.

Mark 7:20

But these amazing physical characteristics can be overshadowed by the heart’s moral qualities, for it can pump out evil thoughts and words at an alarming rate. That is what defiles you, corrupting your life. The opposite, a right relationship with the Lord, is a matter of inward affection and attitude resulting in true worship of and obedience to Creator God. Exalting Scripture and holding its principles as truth will strengthen your faith…giving you confidence and direction to do God’s will.

The New Year can be a time of great opportunity for self-examination in order to make courageous changes. Take time to do that. Then intercede for this country’s people, and for your president and other leaders, that they would do the same and apply it to governing the nation.

Recommended Reading: I Thessalonians 3:11-4:7, 11-12

 

Greg Laurie – From His Perspective

greglaurie

Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” —Matthew 19:26

I heard the story of an elderly minister who liked to visit people in hospitals. He often would take along a little, embroidered bookmark that he carried in his Bible. On the back of the bookmark was a group of tangled threads with no apparent pattern. He would hand this bookmark, with the back facing up, to those who were hurting or upset and say, “Look at that and tell me what it says.” As they looked at all the tangled threads, they would say, “I have no idea what it says. It doesn’t seem to say anything.”

Then he said, “Now, turn it over.” As they would flip that bookmark over, they saw the words “God is love.” The minister would say, “Many times as we look at what God is doing, we just see tangled threads with no rhyme or reason. But from God’s perspective, He is dealing with us in love, and He knows what He is doing.”

The next time you think it’s all over for you, just remember how things turned out for Joseph in the book of Genesis. Just remember how things turned out for Daniel — no doubt things looked pretty grim when he was in the den of lions. It looked hopeless as well for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego when they were thrown into the fiery furnace. Things looked pretty hopeless for Peter when he was in prison, awaiting execution. And things certainly looked bleak for Martha and Mary when their brother died.

You see, things can look bad at one moment, but then God will step in and turn events around. Then as time goes on, you will look back and say, “Now I understand what God was doing.”

 

 

Max Lucado – Stubborn Peace

Max Lucado

Who do you know with a stubborn peace? Their problems aren’t any different, but there’s a serenity that softens the corners of their lips.

A priest visited just such a man in the hospital.  The man was nearing death. The priest noticed an empty chair beside the bed and wondered if someone else had been there. The old man smiled, “I place Jesus on that chair, and I talk to him.” The priest was puzzled so the man explained. “Years ago a friend told me prayer is as simple as talking to a good friend.  So every day I pull up a chair and Jesus and I have a good talk.”

When his daughter informed the priest her father had died, she explained, “When I got to his room, I found him dead.  Strangely, his head was resting, not on the pillow, but on an empty chair beside his bed.”  The picture of stubborn peace!

From The Applause of Heaven

Charles Stanley – Our God of Grace

Charles Stanley

Ephesians 2:4-5

Grace is God’s favor and love shown to mankind. We cannot earn it or ever be good enough to deserve it. To truly appreciate His grace, we need to comprehend certain truths about Him and ourselves.

First, God is absolutely holy, and sin cannot coexist with the sacred perfection of His presence. When Adam and Eve chose to eat from the forbidden tree, their intimate relationship with Him was broken. Since all future generations inherited their sinful nature, every person is born with a nature bent away from the Lord.

Next, God’s character is just. As a result, He requires payment for sin. The penalty He demands is death (Rom. 6:23), not just physically but also spiritually through eternal separation from Him.

Finally, we have a merciful God who does not treat us as our actions deserve but instead extends His grace toward us. He devised a plan that would affirm His holy nature, meet the requirements of His justice, and enable us to become members of His family: He sent His Son to accomplish our salvation. Born as a human being, Jesus lived a perfect life and fulfilled the Law. He alone was qualified to satisfy divine justice. Christ took our place, bore our sins, and experienced God’s wrath over our rebellion—all so that we could be reconciled to the Father.

God made this provision for our salvation while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Have you acknowledged your sinful state and received His forgiveness through faith in Jesus? If so, are you expressing ongoing thankfulness for His grace?

 

Our Daily Bread — As Below, So Above

Our Daily Bread

Luke 24:44-53

You are witnesses of these things. . . . but tarry in the city . . . until you are endued with power from on high. —Luke 24:48-49

The Roman paganism of Jesus’ day taught that the actions of gods in the heavens above affected the earth below. If Zeus got angry, thunderbolts shot out. “As above, so below,” went the ancient formula.

Jesus, though, sometimes inverted that. He taught: As below, so above. A believer prays, and heaven responds. A sinner repents, and the angels rejoice. A mission succeeds, and God is glorified. A believer rebels, and the Holy Spirit is grieved.

I believe these things, yet somehow I keep forgetting them. I forget that my prayers matter to God. I forget that the choices I make today bring delight or grief to the Lord of the universe. I forget that I am helping my neighbors to their eternal destinations.

The good-news message of God’s love that Jesus brought to this earth we can now bring to others. That was the challenge He gave His disciples before ascending to His Father (see Matt. 28:18-20). We who follow Jesus serve as an extension of His incarnation and ministry. It is why He came to earth. Before He left, He told His disciples that He would send His Spirit from above to them below (Luke 24:48). He did not leave us alone. He fills us with His power that we might touch lives here below to affect eternity. —Philip Yancey

Thank You, O my Father,

For giving us Your Son,

And leaving Your Spirit

Till the work on earth is done. —Green

You ascended before our eyes, and we turned back grieving, only to find You in our hearts. —Augustine

Bible in a year: Genesis 23-24; Matthew 7

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Nothing Is Ordinary

Ravi Z

Some time ago, my wife and I were trying to get our daughter admitted into a school. For many reasons, it was quite a challenging experience. We narrowed down our selections and set about the long process of getting her enrolled. As we were about to enter yet another school building, I found myself thinking about how often we consider ourselves the masters of our own futures. We make choices in so many areas—are we not in charge?

A sharp person knows that this is not entirely true. We do not decide where we are born, our nationality, our family, our gender, our facial features, or so on. Moreover, there are also many times when our own lives depend on someone else’s choice. Though we chose the school where we wanted to see our child admitted, we could not ensure that the school would choose her. School officials regularly find themselves with a pool of candidates, all of whom they will evaluate, and not all of whom will be admitted. Applicants must wait and see if they are chosen by the school for enrollment.

Christians take a certain comfort in knowing that God uses the language of choosing them. We are not chosen because we are the most intelligent or the best behaved, but because God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. We are not heirs of the kingdom because we are people of inherent honor, but because Christ extends to us the glory of God. We are not God’s children because we are strong, but because we are weak. Not only do these things prevent believers from boasting in anything but Christ, they also offer a confidence in living out our lives together.

The consequences are many and indeed good news to all who will heed the call of a God who chooses us. No longer do we need to be achievement-driven; we were not chosen because of some special ability or gifting. No longer do we need to please people for a sense of acceptance; we are the apple of God’s eye. No longer do we need to fear the future, for we are held in the arms of one who holds everything in kind and able hands. Despair and defeat need not rule our lives—not because we are go-getters and succeed at all costs—but because we are confident that God is using all that happens in our lives to weave a beautiful tapestry. For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

For the Christian, to live as Christ’s own is to live with the assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God. And thus we also live with the reminder that nothing is ever really ordinary. As we go about the seemingly mundane and sometimes frustrating scenes in the drama of daily life, we are invited to see something greater in every scene. There is the hope of God’s grace in all that confronts us. There is the comfort of God’s presence throughout the stories of our lives. Even in our shortfalls and bad choices God is still near, going about the gift of redemption, urging us onward and further into the life of Father, Son, and Spirit. This God who begins a good work will be certain to bring it to completion.

Cyril Georgeson is a member of the speaking team with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Delhi, India.

 

Charles Spurgeon – Free grace

CharlesSpurgeon

“Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.” Ezekiel 36:32

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

My God! I have rebelled against thee, and yet thou hast loved me, unworthy me! How can it be? I cannot lift myself up with pride, I must bow down before thee in speechless gratitude. Remember, my dear brethren, that not only is the mercy which you and I have received undeserved, but it was unasked. It is true you sought for mercy, but not till mercy first sought you. It is true you prayed, but not till free grace made you pray. You would have been still today hardened in heart, without God, and without Christ, had not free grace saved you. Can you be proud then?—proud of mercy which, if I may use the term, has been forced upon you?—proud of grace which has been given you against your will, until your will was changed by sovereign grace? And think again—all the mercy you have you once refused. Christ sups with you; be not proud of his company. Remember, there was a day when he knocked, and you refused—when he came to the door and said, “My head is wet with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night; open to me, my beloved;” and you barred it in his face, and would not let him enter. Be not proud, then of what you have, when you remember that you once rejected him. Does God embrace you in his arms of love? Remember, once you lifted up your hand of rebellion against him. Is your name written in his book? Ah! there was a time when, if it had been in your power, you would have erased the sacred lines that contained your own salvation. Can we, dare we, lift up our wicked heads with pride, when all these things should make us hang our heads down in the deepest humility?

For meditation: For meditation: Whatever we have become or achieved in the Christian life must always be attributed to God’s grace and directed to his glory. The apostle Paul needed no reminder (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Sermon no. 233

9 January (1859)

John MacArthur – Living out Your Royal Heritage

John MacArthur

“In love [God] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:4-5).

Moses told Israel that God didn’t choose them because of their great numbers or any inherent goodness on their part, but as an expression of God’s sovereign will and sacrificial love (Deut. 7:7-8). That’s true of you as well if you’re a Christian.

The Greek word translated “love” in Ephesians 1:4 speaks not of emotional or sentimental love but of love that seeks God’s best for others at any cost. It is marked by sacrifice rather than selfishness–giving rather than receiving. It seeks to forgive rather than condemn–to dismiss offenses rather than count them.

Such love is epitomized in God Himself, who loved you so much that He sacrificed His Son on your behalf, who willingly laid down His own life for you (John 3:16; 15:13).

While false gods are worshiped out of fear and ignorance, the true God–your Heavenly Father–has eliminated all fear so that you can confidently enter into His presence (Heb. 10:19; 1 John 4:18). You have received a spirit of adoption and can address Him as “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15), the Aramaic equivalent of Daddy or Papa.

Your Heavenly Father delights in your praise and glories in your obedience. Be a faithful child. Make this day count for Him. Live out your royal heritage. Seek His wisdom in all you do. Go to His Word and follow its counsel. Demonstrate His love to others in practical ways.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for granting you the privilege of being a member of His family.

Thank Him for the many manifestations of His love that you enjoy each day.

Ask Him to lead you to someone to whom you can demonstrate His love in a practical and sacrificial way.

For Further Study:

Read 1 Corinthians 13

List the characteristics of godly love.

How does the quality of your love for others compare to God’s standard? What steps can you take today to bring your love into greater conformity to His?

 

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

Charles Stanley – A Fruitful Life

Charles Stanley

Proverbs 3:5-12

God has created us with a longing to know that our presence in this world counts. He also designed us to find the fulfillment of that desire through His Son Jesus Christ.

Dependence on God is central to an abundant life. Trusting Him with all our heart means giving Him control over our families, finances, jobs, and everything else. Today’s passage emphasizes how essential trust is to a fruitful life: we are cautioned against being wise in our own eyes and warned—twice—not to lean on our own understanding (3:5, 7).

When facing decisions, we can be tempted to gather information and choose the answer that looks right. But we can’t know all the facts or predict with certainty how others will respond. God, however, is omniscient. He “reads” hearts and perceives every thought; no aspect of our life escapes His notice (1 Chron. 28:9; Ps. 11:4), and He cares about everyone. That’s why He alone knows which decision is best for each situation.

The abundant life also involves acknowledging the Lord in all we do. Speaking about Him is just part of what it means to give Him recognition. As His children, we are to have a marked resemblance to our heavenly Father—in thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Our priorities are to reflect His, and our plans should fit with His purposes.

Life becomes fruitful as we surrender ourselves to the Lord and carry out His will. By allowing His Spirit to live through us (Gal. 2:20), we will find our lives characterized by significance and satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

 

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)