Tag Archives: nature

Charles Spurgeon – The vanguard and rear guard of the Church

CharlesSpurgeon

“The Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.” Isaiah 52:12

Suggested Further Reading: Ezra 8:21-23 and 31-32

We shall soon launch into another year, and hitherto we have found our years to be years of trouble. We have had mercies, but still we find this house of our pilgrimage is not an abiding city, not a mansion of peace and comfort. Perhaps we are trembling to go forward. Foreseeing trouble, we know not how we shall be able to endure to the end. We are standing here and pausing for a while, sitting down upon the stone of our Ebenezer to rest ourselves, gazing dubiously into the future, saying, “Alas! What shall I do? Surely, I shall one day fall by the hand of the enemy.” Brother, arise, arise; anoint your head, and wash your face, and fast no longer; let this sweet morsel now cheer you; put this cup to your lips, and let your eyes be enlightened: “The Lord Jehovah will go before you.” He has gone before you already. Your future path has all been marked out in the great decrees of his predestination. You shall not tread a step which is not mapped out in the great chart of God’s decree. Your troubles have been already weighed for you in the scales of his love; your labour is already set aside for you to accomplish by the hand of his wisdom. Depend upon it, your:-

“Times of trial and of grief,

Times of triumph and relief,

All shall come and last and end

As shall please your heavenly Friend.”

Remember, you are not a child of chance. If you were, you might indeed fear. You will go nowhere next year except where God shall send you.

For meditation: Fear of the future and fear of the unknown still have to be faced by the believer. But the Christian has the remedy to such fear—a great God who knows the future and who leads the way (Acts 20:22-24; Hebrews 11:8-10).

Sermon no. 230

26 December (1858)

 

John MacArthur – Born to Die

John MacArthur

“We . . . see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).

At this time of year, it is difficult for us to see Jesus other than as a little baby. We of course know why He came, but we usually focus on His death on the cross at another time of year. But we must never forget that He came to die.

Those soft baby hands fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb were made to have two great nails hammered through them. Those little chubby feet were to walk up a hill and be nailed to a cross. That sacred head was made to wear a crown of thorns. His tender body wrapped in swaddling clothes would be pierced by a spear to reveal a broken heart. The death of Christ was no accident; He was born to die.

Jesus died to remove the curse so we could regain our dominion. But to do that, He had to come as a man. Even though in doing so He temporarily became lower than the angels, He accomplished something no angel could: our restoration.

The first and foremost reason for the incarnation is that Christ might taste death on behalf of every man and woman. He came to die in our place–to be our substitute. God had two options: Either let us die and pay for our own sins, or allow a substitute to take our punishment and die in our place. He mercifully chose the latter.

It is vital that we affirm the fact of Christ’s substitutionary death because modern liberal theology claims Jesus died merely as an example, like a martyr dying for some cause. But He died as a substitute for you and me. As a result He freed us to live for and with God. Rejoice that the creator of angels, the Lord of hosts, would become lower than His creation for our sakes.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Thank the Lord for His willingness to humble Himself to become a man to save you.

For Further Study:

Read Psalm 22 and note which verses prophesy Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Resist the Devil

dr_bright

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, KJV).

I received a call for help one day from the wife of an alcoholic. He is a wonderful person when he is sober, but a demon when he is drinking. Why does he keep drinking?

Another day I talked with a young man who was on drugs. He is deathly afraid that someone will find him out and he will be caught, end up in jail and have a police record. Still, something about drugs woos him to go on another trip, to smoke another joint.

While it is true that addiction plays an important part in such enslavement, it is also true that Satan is chortling behind the scenes – and he needs to be resisted.

Satan manifests himself in various ways. At times he presents himself as one who has world authority. Another time he comes as an angel of light, or as a roaring lion. Satan’s demons can have direct influence in your life or mine.

We wrestle against supernatural power. Satan is not just a man. He possesses supernatural powers. He is a very real enemy. True, he has no authority over us except that which is given to him of God, but we dare not become careless about our Christian walk and yield to temptations which he engineers through “the world, the flesh and the devil.”

And that’s the reason I shudder when I think of individuals who are careless in their use of alcohol and drugs, and who become involved in unscriptural sex relationships. The drug culture has spawned a Satan-worship cult, and men are committed to Satan just as you and I are committed to Jesus Christ. In the words of James, we need to resist the devil, knowing he then will flee from us.

Bible Reading: 1 Peter 5:8-11

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Upon every entrance of satanic influence into my life, I will submit myself to the Lord and resist the devil, and I will claim by faith the power of the Holy Spirit to live victoriously and supernaturally.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Begin with the End

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Have you ever started a book by reading the last chapter? Some book enthusiasts compulsively read the end of a story first, and then start again at the beginning. Most say knowing the ending helps them appreciate the finer details of the story.

The Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father.

Matthew 16:27

Do you know the end of the Bible? In the last chapter of the last book, Jesus is basically saying “Look, I am coming soon and my reward is with me.” He invites those listening to come partake of His free gifts and spend eternity in bliss with Him. And He warns those rejecting Him they are on the edge of an eternity without God’s wonderful presence.

As the end of another year approaches, are you prepared for Christ’s return? If you were to suddenly hear heavenly beings announce the approach of the King of kings, would your heart leap in anticipation of your Savior’s presence, or would fear drive you to dread and retreat? Make no mistake…when the end comes, every nation and every person will confess Jesus Christ as Lord! Pray for America and its leaders – and personally prepare yourself: the end of the book is the beginning of eternity.

Recommended Reading: Revelation 22:12-21

 

Greg Laurie –The Unpopular Truth

greglaurie

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. —1 Timothy 2:5

One of the most often-asked questions regarding the Christian faith goes something like this: “What about the person who has never heard that Jesus is the only way to God? What about the person in the middle of the jungle who has never heard the gospel?” (They are always in a jungle for some unknown reason—or in the desert.)

The teaching that Jesus Christ is the only way to God has never been popular. But maybe it has never been more controversial than it is today. If you want to get someone’s blood boiling, then say that Jesus is the only way to God. The “coexist” bumper sticker on their car will catch fire.

The idea that you would have the audacity to say that Jesus is the only way is, in effect, saying that other religions are not true. That is the way it works itself out, and people don’t like it. It is acceptable if you say that Jesus is a way to God. But when you dare to say that He is the only way, then you can be certain that will have some pushback.

But here is what it comes down to. We have to say what the Bible says, whether it is popular or not. It is not for me to edit the message of the Bible; it is for me, as a Christian, to simply deliver it.

It would be like a doctor’s discovering a very serious problem with a patient’s health, but then being unwilling to say what that problem is, because it might make that patient uncomfortable.

We have to tell people the truth about their real condition, which happens to be sinful, and then seek to save them, which is to point them to Jesus Christ as the only solution.

 

 

Max Lucado – Blind Ambition

Max Lucado

Success at all cost.  Becoming a legend in one’s own time. Climbing the ladder.  King of the mountain.  Top of the heap. We call it blind ambition!

We make heroes out of people who are ambitious.  We hold them up as models for our kids. And rightly so, for this world would be in bad shape without people who dream of touching the heavens. Ambition is a gift in the soul which creates disenchantment with the ordinary.

But left unchecked it becomes an insatiable addiction to power and prestige. The husband who feeds his career with twelve-hour days, the social-conscious mother who never misses a chance to serve on a committee.  “It’s all for a good cause,” she fools herself.

Blind ambition.  Distorted values. God won’t tolerate it. Blind ambition is a giant step away from God and a step closer to catastrophe!

From God Came Near

Charles Stanley – The Shepherds’ Obedience

Charles Stanley

Luke 2:8-20

Since the Savior’s birth was the greatest news of all time, shouldn’t God have announced it to important people like kings and nobles? Instead, He sent His angel make the announcement to insignificant shepherds. They were absolutely awed by what they heard and witnessed—the long-awaited Messiah had finally arrived. Though their message probably seemed strange to others and could have resulted in ridicule, they wanted everyone to hear the good news.

We must become bold like those shepherds. It’s our job to take the gospel to people who haven’t heard, but many believers lack the courage to share their faith. At times we don’t feel knowledgeable enough, and yet we understand far more than the shepherds did. They had this one experience with angels, but we have the written Word of God available anytime we choose to open it. Don’t let the fear of rejection, embarrassment, or inadequacy keep you from sharing the only message that can change someone’s eternal destiny.

Today you probably won’t get a message from an angel, but through Scripture or by an inaudible “whisper,” God still speaks to those who are humbly listening. The real issue is what we do after hearing from Him.

The shepherds left immediately to find the newborn Messiah—just think what they’d have missed had they refused to leave their sheep! Are you quick to obey God’s instructions? By hesitating, you could miss great opportunities. Ready obedience is the key to experiencing the Lord’s plans for you.

 

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Christingle

Our Daily Bread

1 John 1:1-7

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. —John 1:9

In the Czech Republic and other places, the Christmas celebration includes “Christingles.” A Christingle is an orange, representing the world, with a candle placed in the top of it to symbolize Christ the light of the world. A red ribbon encircles the orange, symbolizing the blood of Jesus. Four toothpicks with dried fruits are placed through the ribbon into the sides of the orange, representing the fruits of the earth.

This simple visual aid vividly represents the purpose behind Christ’s coming—to bring light into the darkness and to redeem a broken world by shedding His blood.

In John’s account of Christ’s life, the disciple describes Jesus as the Light of the world. He wrote of Christ: “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9). Not only did Christ the Light come to penetrate our world’s darkness, but He is also “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (v.29).

Think of it! The baby of Bethlehem became the living, risen Christ who has rescued us from our sin. And so John instructs us to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). May all who have experienced His rescue find in Jesus the peace of walking in His light. —Bill Crowder

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in Thee tonight. —Brooks

The newborn Christ-child became the Light of the world and the Lamb of God.

Bible in a year: Zephaniah 1-3; Revelation 16

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Person

Ravi Z

“I’m inclined to suspect that there are very few atheists in prison,” writes Richard Dawkins.(1) In his book The God Delusion, the Oxford biologist sets forth the staggering estimation that post-Christian secular societies are far more moral than societies that operate from a religious foundation. He recounts the horrors carried out in the name of God, moving past the monstrosities of the 20th century at the hands of atheist regimes by claiming their atheism had nothing to do with their behavior. When it comes to behaving ethically, he is insistent that believers are worse than atheists.

British statesman Roy Hattersley, himself a fellow atheist, disagrees. In an article published some time after Hurricane Katrina hit U.S. shores, Hattersley makes some observations about the kind of people doing disaster work long after the disaster has been forgotten. “Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs and atheists’ associations—the sort of people who not only scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil.”(2) His words are bold, even if strewn with typical condescension. He continues:

“Civilised people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and—probably most difficult of all—argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time has come for some serious medical treatment.”

Those who confess the truthfulness of Christianity—and so choose to embody its message—have confounded the world for ages. Throughout the second century there emerged a great number of rumors regarding the curious beliefs and practices of Christians. After all, the leader these people claimed to follow was a criminal executed by Roman authorities. There was thus a great deal of suspicion surrounding the motives and behavior of Christians. Why would anyone follow a man who had been crucified? Why would they choose to die rather than renounce their faith? Why would they treat those who hate them with kindness?

A Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity named Celsus was particularly convinced that Christians were, in fact, insane. The Nativity story, the Incarnation of God in Christ, among other things, seemed to him completely irrational. “What could be the purpose of such a visit to earth by God? To find out what is taking place among humans? Does He not know everything? Or is it perhaps that He knows, but is incapable of doing anything about evil unless He does it in person?”(3)

Similarly buried under insult, Celsus nonetheless had his finger on the very quality of Christianity that makes Christians as curious as the philosophy they profess:  Their God came in person. In fact, they profess, as Celsus claims, God had to come near; though not because God couldn’t speak to us otherwise nor because God was incapable of touching the world from afar. As a Father who longs to gather his children together, God came near because each child matters. God comes to earth—God comes in person, in body, in flesh—because bodies matter, because the Father longs to be near, because one lost, or one hurting, or one in need was one God would not ignore. Insanely in fact, God comes near enough to lay down his life for each of these reasons.

Christmas is about remembering the one who came in person. It is this God who came near and reordered the world, calling us to see life and each other in startling new ways. It is this God who stepped into an ordinary stable to show us God in the ordinary, who touched the unclean and claimed the untouched, whose broken body is given again and again for broken bodies that we might be whole. Our morality, our countenance, our lives are wrought by his coming among us. In each ordinary moment, forgotten victim, and broken soul and body we see the face of God because God first saw us.

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

(1) Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 229.

(2) Roy Hattersley, “Faith Does Breed Charity,” The Guardian, September 12, 2005.

(3) As quoted by Origen in the apology Against Celsus.

 

Charles Spurgeon – A Christmas question

CharlesSpurgeon

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Isaiah 9:6

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 2:8-20

Why are we sad? I am looking upon faces just now that appear the very reverse of gloomy, but maybe the smile covers an aching heart. Brother and sister, why are we sad this morning, if unto us a child is born, if unto us a Son is given? Listen to the cry! It is “Harvest home! Harvest home!” See the maidens as they dance, and the young men as they make merry. And why is this mirth? Because they are storing the precious fruits of the earth, they are gathering together into their barns wheat which will soon be consumed. And what, brothers and sisters, have we the bread which endureth to eternal life and are we unhappy? Does the worldling rejoice when his corn is increased, and do we not rejoice when, “Unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given?” Listen yonder! What means the firing of the Tower guns? Why all this ringing of bells in the church steeples, as if all London were mad with joy? There is a prince born; therefore there is this salute, and therefore are the bells ringing. Ah, Christians, ring the bells of your hearts, fire the salute of your most joyous songs, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Dance, O my heart, and ring out peals of gladness! Ye drops of blood within my veins, dance every one of you! Oh! All my nerves become harp strings, and let gratitude touch you with angelic fingers! And thou, my tongue, shout—shout to his praise, who hath said to you: “Unto you a child is born, unto you a Son is given.” Wipe that tear away! Come, stop that sighing! Hush your murmuring. What matters your poverty? “Unto you a child is born.” What matters your sickness? “Unto you a Son is given.” What matters your sin? For this child shall take the sin away, and this Son shall wash and make you fit for heaven.

For meditation: God sent his only begotten Son to be born as a child, so that sinners could be born again and become the children of God. The deepest sadness belongs to all who still refuse to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour (John 1:12-13).

Sermon no. 291

25 December (1859)

 

 

John MacArthur – Recovering Man’s Destiny

John MacArthur

“We . . . see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).

The ultimate curse of our lost destiny is death. God warned Adam that if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die (Gen. 2:17). In the restored kingdom we will be elevated again over a redeemed earth. But the only way that we could ever reign again as kings was to have the curse of sin removed, and the only way to remove it was to pay the penalty of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23).

There’s just one problem: how can we reign if we are dead? We need to be raised from the dead, but we certainly can’t do that ourselves. That’s why God sent Jesus Christ.

To accomplish this great work for us, Jesus had to become a man. He Himself had to be made “for a little while lower than the angels.” To regain man’s dominion He had to taste death for every man. Christ came to die for us because in His dying He could conquer death.

But He was also raised from the dead: “Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:9). How does that help us? “If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (v. 5).

The moment you put your faith in Christ, you are identified with Him. You died with Him on the cross, you were resurrected, and you began to walk in newness of life. You now are a joint heir with Christ in His eternal kingdom.

Christ tasted death for you and me so we could recover our lost destiny. Celebrate that glorious truth as you celebrate His birth today.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Before you do another thing today, praise your heavenly Father for His wonderful plan of salvation.

For Further Study:

Read Isaiah 2:2-4 and 11:6-9 noting the character of our future kingdom.

 

Joyce Meyer – From the Inside Out

Joyce meyer

They tie up heavy loads, hard to bear, and place them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not lift a finger to help bear them.—Matthew 23:4

You and I pressure ourselves and other people when we have unrealistic expectations. We often expect more out of people than they are able to give us. Continued pressure on people we are in relationship with will ultimately cause the collapse of that relationship. God does not want us or others to live under this kind of pressure.

I remember the years I furiously tried to change my husband, Dave, and each of our children in different ways. Those were frustrating years, because no matter what I tried, it didn’t work! We cannot change people by pressuring them or by nagging them. Only prayer and God’s love will work.

As humans, all of us require space, or freedom, to be who we are. We want to be accepted and loved as we are. We don’t want people giving us the message, even subtly, that we must change in order to be “in.” I am not saying that we must accept sin and wrong behavior in other people and merely put up with it. I am saying that the way to change is prayer, not pressure! For change to be lasting, it must come from the inside out. Only God can cause that type of heart change.

Lord, I have tried to change loved ones, and it’s always failed. Show me how to pray for them and to release them into Your hands. Amen.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Is My Helper

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“That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, ‘The Lord is my Helper and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me'” (Hebrews 13:6).

Do you and I really exercise perfect confidence that God will help us in our times of need?

The writer to the Hebrews borrows a clause, an expression, used by the psalmist. “The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me” (Psalm 118:7, KJV).

With the Lord as our helper, mere man can do nothing to us or against us except that which God permits (Acts 4:28). Whatever trials we face, the fact remains that God will be our protector and friend in and through them all.

One effective tool of the enemy is to bring up “exception clauses” time and time again. “My God is able to do anything, but…I’m not quite sure of His interest and/or power in this particular situation.” “I know He can help me, but it may not be His will at this particular time or in this particular case.”

In the face of God’s power, mere man begins to look pretty small, and that is just the way God intends it to be. He wants to give us confidence that He is able for every need we have: large, small or medium. None is too large, none too small for Him.

Bible Reading: Psalm 118:5-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: “Dear Lord, thank You that You are indeed my Helper. I will depend upon You as never before in living the supernatural life which will bring the greatest possible glory to You.”

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Christmas Easter Connection

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Today, you may be celebrating Christmas with your family, exchanging gifts, and eating a traditional meal. Perhaps you’re in an occupation that requires you to work. Maybe you’re in the middle of a severe trial of some kind. Regardless of your circumstances, remember why God sent His Son…and how Christmas is really about Easter.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Psalm 148:1

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17) “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) “ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Praise Him for this incredible gift. Pray for the nation, its leaders and troops to see Christ in Christmas. Find joy in expressing Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Recommended Reading: Isaiah 53:1-12

 

 

Greg Laurie – Christ the Lord

greglaurie

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” —Luke 2:10–11

The angel began that wonderful announcement to the shepherds with, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. . . .” Maybe you are suffering today. You might find yourself wondering, Where is the joy? But what is the joy about? Is it about an opportunity to go shopping? Is the message of Christmas “Let it snow?” No, it is, “Let us worship.”

The angels’ visit to the shepherds became the first Christmas celebration. It’s as though heaven and earth were celebrating it together, as though a portal to glory had been opened up. These shepherds saw the supernatural world, the heavenly world. On that first Christmas, there was a big celebration in heaven and on earth over the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have a Savior: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). That is the most important thing. We have a Savior who came to save us from the power and penalty of sin. Whatever you are going through in life, remember this: you have a Savior. He has put your sins as far away from you as the east is from the west.

Christ means “anointed one.” Another word for that is Messiah. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to send His Son as the Messiah. This is a simple reminder that God keeps His promises. God said that He would send a Messiah, and the Messiah came.

Lord means that we have a sovereign God who is in control of our lives.

So set aside the things you have become preoccupied with and remember that you have a Savior. You have a Lord. You have a Christ. And you have His promises.

 

Max Lucado – God Sent a Savior

Max Lucado

Every Christmas I read this reminder that came in the mail several years ago. If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.

But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior!  Christmas cards. These punctuated promises. Phrases filled with the reason we do it all anyway. He became like us, so we could become like him. Angels still sing and the star still beckons.

Isaiah 9:6 proclaims, “God has given a son to us. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God. Prince of Peace.”

Ah, the wonder of it all is that He loves each one of us like there was only one of us to love!

From Grace for the Moment

Charles Stanley – An Intimate Look at the Birth of Jesus

Charles Stanley

Luke 2:1-7

Every year around Christmastime, we read the account of Jesus’ birth, but perhaps we’ve let the familiarity of the story dull our concentration. More often than not, we skim over the well-known verses, telling ourselves we already understand all there is to know about the story. But without a deeper, more intimate look at our Savior’s birth, we’ll miss some of the truths the Lord wants us to learn and apply to our lives.

From a human perspective, there was nothing special about this scene. Mary and Joseph were just an ordinary couple having a baby. Because poor people were so common, even the lowly setting of a stable as a birthplace was no big deal. Yet this was the most significant event in human history. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, that baby was the fulfillment of biblical prophecy—the Creator and sovereign Ruler of the universe became Immanuel, God with us (Matt. 1: 23). The Son of God and Savior of the world was lying in a cattle feeder!

Who could ever have imagined God’s plan—to send His Son into the world as a baby who would grow up in an ordinary family? It’s such an unimpressive way for the Messiah to make His entrance. The lesson is that we can’t judge a situation on the basis of appearance.

Likewise, events that seem ordinary in our lives may be occasions when God is doing something awesome. Since He works continually to achieve His will, every event and choice in our lives has significance. We just need the eyes to see beneath the surface and the faith to believe that He’s working.

 

 

Our Daily Bread — One Silent Night

Our Daily Bread

Luke 2:1-14

Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. —Luke 2:10

Simon had emigrated from the Netherlands to the United States. His wife, Kay, and all three of their children had been born in the US. Then Jenny married Roberto from Panama. Bill married Vania from Portugal. And Lucas married Bora from South Korea.

On Christmas Eve, as the family gathered for a celebration, they began singing “Silent Night” in their native tongues—a sweet sound indeed for the Lord of the earth to hear as they celebrated the birth of His Son.

Two thousand years ago, the silence of a quiet night ended abruptly when an angel told the shepherds a baby had been born: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10). Then a multitude of angels began praising God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (v.14). Christ the Lord, the Savior of the world, was born!

God’s gracious gift, His Son, which was announced on that long-ago silent night, is still available to everyone—“every tribe and nation” (Titus 2:11-14; Rev. 5:9-10). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). —Cindy Hess Kasper

Silent night! holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight;

Glories stream from heaven afar,

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia—

Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born! —Mohr

Heaven’s choir came down to sing when heaven’s King came down to save.

Bible in a year: Habakkuk 1-3; Revelation 15

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Good News Bad News

Ravi Z

One of the wonderful aspects of the Christmas season is the celebration of unique and sometimes quirky family traditions that make the season special for each one of us. In my family, we had several Christmas television specials that became part of our celebration ritual. One of my favorites was “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I loved the music that undergirded the animated characters and plot; I loved the fact that Charlie Brown finds the lowliest Christmas tree for the pageant, and I loved Linus’s gentle, yet poignant reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. I’m sure we all remember his slow walk to the center of the stage with thumb in mouth and blanket trailing behind him.

To this day, his recitation from the second chapter of Luke still gives me goose bumps. Tears of joy and beauty often fill my eyes as I hear his small, childlike voice proclaiming the powerful message of God’s good news:

“And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased’” (Luke 2:8-14).

In recalling Linus’s recitation, I’ve been thinking about the message of good news the angels proclaimed to the shepherds that starry night. I think about what a contrast that message is to our prevailing “bad news” messages today. Wars continue; millions of children are orphaned because of AIDS; political candidates lambaste and defame one another instead of discussing policy agenda and objectives; friends lose loved ones to cancer. We live in a world of bad news.

As I juxtapose the bad news of our world with Luke’s message of good news, I have to wonder if it’s just wishful thinking. In light of our bad news world, what is good about the good news?

First, the angel proclaims that salvation has come in one “born this day in the city of David, who is Messiah.” For those poor shepherds, this was indeed good news! Their deliverer had come to rescue them from Roman oppression, and now all of Israel would be restored under the rule of God’s messiah. Second, the good news of God’s promised Messiah demonstrates God’s favor towards us. “Glory to God in the highest,” the angel host says, “and on earth peace among men with whom God is pleased.” The Greek word for pleased literally means “to think well of, to approve, or to take delight in or pleasure.” So often, perhaps influenced by bad news all around us, many of us struggle with a foreboding sense that God is angry with us, smoldering with rage and wrath against us. But the angels declare the exact opposite—and this is indeed, good news!  God sends Jesus, the Messiah, out of a sense of delight and pleasure with his creation. The Messiah coming as one of us, Immanuel, God with us is the greatest good news we could ever hope to receive. Jesus says in John’s gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only, begotten son; that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

In the face of the bad news of our world and in our lives, the good news of God should resound in our hearts and minds as we enter the Christmas season: God is with us, God is pleased with us, and God loves us! Jesus inaugurates the reign of good news, his shalom, even in the face of bad news. We can embrace the good news of God’s reign even in the midst of crisis. And we can live the good news as we continue to hope in the God who has dwelt among us. “In the world, you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Glory to God in the highest!

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

 

 

Alistair Begg – He Became Poor

Alistair Begg

For your sake he became poor.

2 Corinthians 8:9

The Lord Jesus Christ was eternally rich, glorious, and exalted; but “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.” As the wealthy believer cannot be true in his fellowship with his poor brethren unless from his wealth he ministers to their needs, so (the same rule holding with the head as between the members) it is impossible that our Divine Lord could have had fellowship with us unless He had given to us from His own abounding wealth and had become poor so as to make us rich.

If He had remained upon His throne of glory, and we had continued in the ruins of the Fall without receiving His salvation, fellowship would have been impossible on both sides. Our position by the Fall, apart from the covenant of grace, made it as impossible for fallen man to communicate with God as it is for Satan to be in communion with Christ. In order, therefore, that communion might be enjoyed, it was necessary for the rich relative to bestow his estate upon his poor relatives, for the righteous Savior to give to His sinning brethren from His own perfection, and for we, the poor and guilty, to receive of His fullness grace for grace, so that in giving and receiving, the One might descend from the heights, and the other ascend from the depths, and in this way be able to embrace each other in true and hearty fellowship.

Poverty must be enriched by Him in whom are infinite treasures before it can begin to commune; and guilt must lose itself in imputed and imparted righteousness before the soul can walk in fellowship with purity. Jesus must clothe His people in His own garments or He cannot admit them into His palace of glory; and He must wash them in His own blood or else they will be too defiled for the embrace of His fellowship.

Believer, herein is love! For your sake the Lord Jesus “became poor” that He might lift you up into communion with Himself.