Tag Archives: Peace

Our Daily Bread — Christmas Wonder

Our Daily Bread

1 Chronicles 16:7-13

Remember His marvelous works which He has done. —1 Chronicles 16:12

After my first semester in seminary, my family was given airline tickets to fly home for Christmas. The night before our flight, we realized we had less than $20 for the trip. Parking, transportation, and other incidentals were certain to cost more than $20. Heartsick, we resolved to pray about it. Though our children were small (6 and 2), we included them in the prayer time.

As we were praying, we heard footsteps in the hallway of the apartment building, and then “whisk”—the sound of an envelope sliding under the door. Inside the envelope was an anonymous gift of $50.

The wonder reflected on our 6-year-old daughter’s face matched the wonder in our own hearts. Here was a mighty God writing His name on a little girl’s heart by hearing and answering our prayer in the same instant. And so we, like the psalmist David, could “talk of all His wondrous works!” (1 Chron. 16:9).

So it was that first Christmas night, when a mighty, all-knowing, all-powerful God wrote His name on the heart of humanity, stunning us with the generosity of forgiveness and the joy of unconditional love. The birth of Christ is the answer to our most fervent prayers for love and forgiveness. Can you feel the wonder? —Randy Kilgore

Lord, restore to me the wonder of Christmas,

felt most keenly when I first met Jesus;

for I long to tell the story with all the

joy it brought me that day.

A wonder-filled life is ours when we know the Christ of Christmas.

Bible in a year: Micah 6-7; Revelation 13

Alistair Begg – How Can He Fail You?

Alistair Begg

I will strengthen you.

Isaiah 41:10

God has a strong reserve with which to discharge this responsibility, for He is able to do everything. Believer, until you can drain the ocean dry of omnipotence, until you can break into pieces the towering mountains of almighty strength, you never need to fear.

Do not think that the strength of man will ever be able to overcome the power of God. While the earth’s huge pillars stand, you have enough reason to live firm in your faith.

The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lamps of heaven has promised to supply you with daily strength. While He is able to uphold the universe, do not dream that He will prove unable to fulfill His own promises.

Remember what He did in the past, in the former generations. Remember how He spoke and it was done, how He commanded and it stood firm. Will He who created the world grow weary? He hangs the world upon nothing; will He who does this be unable to support His children? Will He be unfaithful to His word for lack of power?

Who is it that restrains the tempest? Does He not ride upon the wings of the wind and make the clouds His chariots and hold the ocean in the hollow of His hand? How can He fail you? When He has put such a faithful promise as this on record, will you for a moment indulge the thought that He has outpromised Himself or gone beyond His power to fulfill? No! You can doubt no longer.

My God, You who are my strength, I believe that this promise will be fulfilled, for the boundless reservoir of Your grace can never be exhausted, and the overflowing storehouse of Your strength can never be emptied by Your friends or plundered by Your enemies.

Now let the feeble all be strong,

And make Jehovah’s arm their song.

 

John MacArthur – The Confirmation from God

John MacArthur

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Heb. 2:3-4).

When Jesus preached the gospel, He performed miracles that made what He said believable. He said, “Though you do not believe Me, believe the works” (John 10:38). Jesus claimed to be from God, then made it obvious He really was from God.

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “No one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him” (John 3:2). Jesus confirmed His ministry by His own miracles. Peter reiterated that fact on the day of Pentecost: “Jesus the Nazarene [was] a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22).

God also gave these same confirming signs to His second generation of preachers–the apostles–so no one could dispute the validity of their message. What the apostles said was not their own opinion; it was divine truth substantiated by signs, wonders, and miracles.

Signs, wonders, and miracles are synonyms referring to all the supernatural things the apostles did. But the apostles also confirmed the Word with “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” That’s a reference to the temporary sign gifts described in Scripture, such as tongues and healings, not to the permanent edifying gifts given to the church for all time.

Today God attests to the gospel with the miracle of His written Word. Let it not be said that you neglected Jesus Christ. History confirms that hours of neglect cost Napoleon Waterloo. Neglecting Christ’s salvation will cost you eternal blessing and joy and bring you damnation. Don’t allow yourself to drift past God’s grace.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Thank God for His Word, and that through it you have all the truth you need to communicate the gospel.

For Further Study:

Read Acts 5-19 and list all the miracles performed by the apostles to confirm the gospel.

 

Joyce Meyer – Peace in the House

Joyce meyer

Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.

—Philippians 2:2

When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two to do miracles, signs, and wonders, in essence He said to them, “Go and find a house and say, ‘Peace be unto you.’ And if your peace settles on that house, you can stay there. If it doesn’t, shake the dust off your feet and go on” (see Mark 6:7-11).

One day God showed me what Jesus was really saying to them: “I want you to go out with the anointing, but to do that you need to have peace in the house.” You need to do whatever you can to maintain peace in your home because it dramatically affects the anointing and power of God that rests on your life. Keep the strife out of your life! No peace, no power! Know peace, know power!

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Proof of His Love

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“For when He punishes you, it proves that He loves you. When He whips you it proves you are really His child” (Hebrews 12:6).

Most of us prefer more pleasant ways of having others prove their love for us. Children, for example, never particularly relish the idea of having the “board of education” applied to the “seat of learning,” but sometimes the disciplinary spanking is necessary.

We do that to our children because we love them. How much more important that our heavenly Father discipline us to keep us in line with His perfect plan and will for our lives. Sometimes that discipline is tough and painful.

This does not mean, of course, that God sends chastisement which is not deserved, or that He sends it for the mere purpose of inflicting pain. But it does mean that He is showing His paternal, loving care for us as His children when He punishes us.

As a child, a practical illustration helped me with this concept, so much so that it still sticks with me. When I allow my life to be flexible, like putty or soft clay, God can take it and mold it as He chooses. When I decide to be stubborn and resistant – hard like concrete – He sometimes has to smooth the rough edges, and that always hurts.

We sing a chorus about the Spirit of God falling afresh on us. “Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.” When you and I are like putty in His hands, yielded and committed to Him, He can indeed mold us in His image.

Bible Reading: Revelation 3:19-22

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will surrender to God’s disciplinary action in my life realizing that as a kind, loving heavenly Father He must take such action for my own good and benefit, when I am in need of correction.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G.- Knowing Him

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Earlier this year, England’s Prince William and his wife Catherine bore a new royal offspring. They faced the selection of a name for the babe. They were influenced in their choices by family, friends and British tradition, and spent much effort discerning the meanings of the names they ultimately chose: George Alexander Louis.

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

Matthew 1:21

Mary and Joseph were also influenced in the name of their firstborn. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not only what to name the boy, but why: Jesus, the angel prescribed, for He shall save His people from their sins. (J-E)These are the first letters in Jehovah. The name “Jesus” identifies this child with His people and, more, it identifies Him with the Father, the only true God. (S-U-S) Some consider this the abbreviated form of “Savior.” This is the express purpose of the Son of God: His mission, His future.

It’s not enough to just know the name of the Living Son of God. You must know Him – Jesus – as your own personal Savior. Do that today if you never have. Then pray that America’s leaders will find their identity with the Father and His Son.

Recommended Reading: Romans 10:8-15

Charles Stanley – Good News of Great Joy

Charles Stanley

Micah 5:2

The Hebrew Scriptures—that is, the Old Testament—included many prophecies about the coming Messiah. A few of them probably left Israelite scholars and laymen alike scratching their heads and wondering how one individual could fulfill such lofty promises. The birth of such a person would be “good news of great joy,” just as the angel proclaimed (Luke 2:10). The Messiah would be . . .

• A descendant of Abraham seated on David’s throne. There is a reason that both Matthew and Luke painstakingly trace Jesus’ genealogy (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38): the Messiah’s family line mattered. God promised that all nations would be blessed through the house of Abraham (Gen. 22:18), and Isaiah prophesied that Christ would reign forever on David’s throne (Isa. 9:7). The gospel writers showed that Jesus could claim direct lineage from both of these men.

• A man born in Bethlehem who comes out of Egypt. The Messiah’s place of origin must have caused confusion. Though His predicted birthplace was Bethlehem, He was expected to come out of Egypt (Mic. 5:2; Hos. 11:1). We know that a census brought Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to tiny, insignificant Bethlehem just in time for the Christ child’s arrival. And Matthew’s gospel explains the rest of the mystery: the family fled to Egypt to avoid Herod’s jealous rage (Matt. 2:13).

God was specific in describing the Messiah because He wanted people to recognize the Anointed One and rejoice in His coming. That’s exactly what happened when the King of Kings rode a donkey into Jerusalem (prophecy: Zech. 9:9; completion: John 12:12-15). Jesus is the promised Christ—this truly is great news and reason to rejoice.

Our Daily Bread — Light And Shadow

Our Daily Bread

Isaiah 9:1-7

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. —Isaiah 9:2

Art historian Seymour Slive described the great Dutch artist Rembrandt (1606–1669) as the master of light and shadow, a compelling storyteller on canvas. Rembrandt’s painting The Adoration of the Shepherds portrays the darkened stable in Bethlehem where two shepherds kneel beside the manger while other people stand farther away. One man holds a lantern, but the brightest light shines not from his lantern but from the Christ-child, illuminating those who have gathered close to Him.

Seven centuries before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah used an image of light and shadow to foretell the coming of a Savior for Israel: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. . . . For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” (Isa. 9:2,6).

Each person may see a different story in Rembrandt’s painting, but perhaps each of us is represented somewhere in that stable. Are we kneeling in worship, standing back in hesitation, or hiding from the light that has penetrated our darkness?

Christmas invites us to step out of the shadows of darkness and to allow the light of Christ to shine into our hearts. —David McCasland

Observing God’s love from afar

Is only a passing delight;

But when we experience Christ’s presence,

Our darkness is turned into light. —Hess

Faith in Christ is not a leap into the dark; it’s a step into the Light.

Bible in a year: Micah 4-5; Revelation 12

 

Alistair Begg – An Everlasting Covenant

Alistair Begg

For he has made with me an everlasting covenant.

2 Samuel 23:5

This covenant is divine in its origin. “He has made with me an everlasting covenant.” Oh, that great word “he”! My soul, consider-God, the everlasting Father, has positively made a covenant with you; yes, the God who spoke the world into existence by a word; He, stooping from His majesty, takes hold of your hand and makes a covenant with you. Isn’t this act so stupendous and such an example of condescension that it would overwhelm us forever if we could really understand it? “He has made with me an everlasting covenant.”

A king has not made a covenant with me-that would be something; but the Prince of the kings of the earth, Shaddai, the Lord All-sufficient, the Jehovah of ages, the everlasting Elohim-“He has made with me an everlasting covenant.”

But notice, it is particular in its application. “For he has made with me an everlasting covenant.” Here is the sweetness of it to each believer. It is nothing for me that He made peace for the world; I want to know whether He made peace for me! It is a small matter that He has made a covenant; I want to know whether He has made a covenant with me.

Blessed is the assurance that He has made a covenant with me! If God the Holy Spirit gives me assurance of this, then His salvation is mine, His heart is mine, He Himself is mine-He is my God.

This covenant is everlasting in its duration. An everlasting covenant means a covenant that had no beginning and that will never, ever end. How sweet in all the uncertainties of life to know that “God’s foundation stands firm,”1 and to have God’s own promise, “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.”2 I will sing of this through all my days and at their ending and forever.

1 2 Timothy 2:19 2 Psalm 89:34

 

Charles Spurgeon – Going home—a Christmas sermon

CharlesSpurgeon

“Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” Mark 5:19

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Kings 7:3-9

First, tell it truthfully. Do not tell more than you know; do not tell John Bunyan’s experience, when you ought to tell your own. Do not tell your mother you have felt what only Rutherford felt. Tell her no more than the truth. Tell your experience truthfully; for perhaps one single fly in the pot of ointment will spoil it, and one statement you may make which is not true may ruin it all. Tell the story truthfully.

In the next place, tell it very humbly. I have said that before. Do not intrude yourselves upon those who are older, and know more; but tell your story humbly; not as a preacher, not ex-cathedra, but as a friend and as a son.

Next, tell it very earnestly. Let them see you mean it. Do not talk about religion flippantly; you will do no good if you do. Do not make puns on texts; do not quote Scripture by way of joke: if you do, you may talk till you are dumb, you will do no good, if you in the least degree give them occasion to laugh by laughing at holy things yourself. Tell it very earnestly.

And then, tell it very devoutly. Do not try to tell your tale to man till you have told it first to God. When you are at home on Christmas Day, let no one see your face till God has seen it. Be up in the morning, wrestle with God; and if your friends are not converted, wrestle with God for them; and then you will find it easy work to wrestle with them for God. Seek, if you can, to get them one by one, and tell them the story. Do not be afraid; only think of the good you may possibly do.

For meditation: Many of us will be with unconverted friends or relatives over Christmas. May Spurgeon’s four points help each of us to speak of “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Sermon no. 109

21 December (1856)

John MacArthur – The Certainty of Judgment

John MacArthur

“If the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:2-3).

Today the majority believes that God is a God of love and grace, but not of justice. One brief look at Hebrews 2:2-3 ought to convince anyone otherwise. The writer’s point is this: Since the Old Testament makes it clear that transgression and disobedience met with severe and just punishment, how much more so will equal or greater punishment be rendered under the New Testament, which was revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?

Both the Old and New Testaments confirm that angels were instrumental in bringing the law (Deut. 33:2; Acts 7:38). The law the angels spoke, primarily the Ten Commandments, was steadfast. That meant if someone broke the law, the law would break the lawbreaker. The law was inviolable; punishment for breaking it was certain.

“Every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense” (v. 2). Transgression refers to stepping across a line–a willful, purposeful sin. Disobedience, however, refers to imperfect hearing–the sin of shutting one’s ears to the commands, warnings, and invitations of God. It is a sin of neglect or omission, doing nothing when something should be done.

Hebrews 2:2 also puts to rest the notion that God is not fair. The writer says every sin received a “just recompense.” God, by His very nature, is just. Every punishment He meted out to those who defied Him was a deterrent to the sin He wanted to stop.

God severely punished the nation of Israel because they knew better. That leads to the important principle that punishment is always related to how much truth one knows but rejects. The person who knows the gospel, who has intellectually understood it and believed it, yet drifts away will experience the severest punishment of all.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Ask God to give you an even greater appreciation of the punishment He has saved you from to motivate you to pursue the lost more vigorously.

For Further Study:

Read Matthew 11:20-24, 12:38-42, and Luke 12:47-48 to discover Christ’s attitude toward those who know the truth yet rebel against it.

 

Joyce Meyer – Peace in the House

Joyce meyer

Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.

—Philippians 2:2

When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two to do miracles, signs, and wonders, in essence He said to them, “Go and find a house and say, ‘Peace be unto you.’ And if your peace settles on that house, you can stay there. If it doesn’t, shake the dust off your feet and go on” (see Mark 6:7-11).

One day God showed me what Jesus was really saying to them: “I want you to go out with the anointing, but to do that you need to have peace in the house.” You need to do whatever you can to maintain peace in your home because it dramatically affects the anointing and power of God that rests on your life. Keep the strife out of your life! No peace, no power! Know peace, know power!

 

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Holy Spirit Promised

dr_bright

“But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about Me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection” (Acts 1:8).

Evangelists were gathered in Amsterdam, Holland, from more than 130 countries around the world to attend the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. On the third night of this historic event I was asked to bring the address on “How to be Filled With the Holy Spirit.” Just before I was to speak, a note from Billy Graham was handed to me. It said, “I consider this one of the most important addresses of the entire conference.”

According to the hundreds of thousands of surveys which our ministry has taken all over the world, 95 percent of the professing believers do not understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This includes a majority of pastors, evangelists and missionaries. In fact, if I had only one message to give to the Christian world, it would be how to be filled with the Holy Spirit and how to walk moment by moment in the fullness of His power. Indeed if I had to choose between introducing a non-believer to Christ or helping a defeated, fruitless, impotent Christian to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit and share his faith in Christ with others, I would choose the latter because inevitably the end result would be far greater in terms of the number of people who would be introduced to Christ. The one great need of the Body of Christ today that transcends all other needs is to be awakened to the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit, to be empowered and controlled by Him, to allow Him to exalt and honor our Lord Jesus Christ in and through us, for that is the purpose of His coming. “He (the Holy Spirit) shall praise Me and bring Me great honor by showing you My glory” (John 16:14).

On hundreds of occasions throughout the world I have spoken on this subject and always, when the invitation is given, a good percentage indicate their desire to be filled with the Spirit. The Scripture promises, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? If so, you are a candidate for the fullness of God’s Spirit. You can by faith appropriate His fullness right now by claiming His promise that God will release His power through you in order that you may be an effective witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bible Reading: Romans 15:15-21

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will claim by faith the fullness of God’s Spirit in order to live the supernatural life and to be a more fruitful witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that it is the Holy Spirit who will enable me to live that exciting, supernatural life.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – Longingly Looking

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If you asked average Americans what they are watching – the answer is likely to be everything! According to current statistics from YouTube, 100 hours of video is uploaded to their website every hour, and six billion hours of video is viewed each month. That’s almost an hour for every person on Earth.

There were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Luke 2:8

In contrast to those frantic video viewing habits, the Bible paints a different picture of “watching.” In Luke’s account of the Christmas story, shepherds were on guard keeping their flock of sleeping sheep safe when they saw a great gift from God…a visit by angels in the starry heavens. In Matthew, another story is told about virgin brides preparing themselves, watching and eagerly waiting for their bridegroom, determined not to miss their own wedding.

What are you watching today? Are you numbly in step with much of the world, filling your time with mindless entertainment, or are you longingly looking for God’s great gifts, anticipating their appearance on the horizon? Don’t miss what the Lord is doing in your life and in America. Like the faithful shepherds, keep your watch by day and by night.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 25:1-13

 

Greg Laurie –”I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

greglaurie

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” —Luke 2:14

One of the most familiar carols we hear during the holidays is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The story behind the song, based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is very interesting.

In 1860, Longfellow was at the peak of his success as a poet. Abraham Lincoln had just been elected President, giving hope to many in the nation. But things soon turned dark for America and for Longfellow, personally. The Civil War began the following year, and Longfellow’s wife died of severe burns after her dress caught fire. Longfellow sustained severe burns on his hands and face from trying to save his wife. He was so badly burned that he could not even attend her funeral. In his diary for Christmas Day 1861, he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.”

In 1862, the Civil War escalated and the death toll from the war began to mount. In his diary for that year, Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “‘A merry Christmas,’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” In 1863, Longfellow’s son, who had run away to join the Union Army, was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.

For Christmas Day that year, Longfellow wanted to pull out of his despair, so he decided to try to capture the joy of Christmas. He began:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

As Longfellow came to the sixth stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, goodwill to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But he kept writing and what did he write?

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

That could be said of our day as well.

But then, catching an eternal perspective and the real message of Christmas and Christ Himself, he wrote:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;

“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Charles Stanley – Jesus: The Son of God

Charles Stanley

Matthew 16:13-16

What difference does it make who Jesus is? Why should we take Him seriously? The way we answer these questions will deeply impact our belief system, mold our character, and influence our lifestyle. They will also determine where we spend eternity.

Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God and stated that He and the Father are one. In other words, whoever has seen Christ has seen the Father (John 10:30; 14:9). Conversely, those of us who long to know God must draw near to Jesus—He alone reveals the Father.

The Son of God was sent here to give His life as a ransom for many. The purpose was to rescue us from slavery to sin and prepare us for our heavenly home, where we’ll spend eternity. Notice that in describing His mission, Jesus said He “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). Those who belong to Him are to imitate His life of service.

Jesus testified that He does exactly as the Father commands (John 14:31). This, too, is an example for us. His life of obedience shows us how to please God. Jesus knew why He came, and He did what was asked in order to glorify His Father (John 17:1). There’s a plan and purpose for every one of us as well, and we likewise glorify the Lord by our obedience.

Matthew 28:18 gives another reason to obey: since Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth,” we are to live in submission to Him.

Do you believe Jesus’ testimony? If so, thank Him for the difference He has made in your life. Then share with others how knowing Him has impacted you.

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Taking Refuge

Our Daily Bread

Proverbs 18:1-10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. —Proverbs 18:10

In the medieval world, farmers would care for their crops until an enemy appeared on the horizon. Then they would flee with their families to their fortified city for protection from the marauders.

The city of Carcassonne has been a refuge for generations. Built in the 5th century BC, this stone fortress has provided protection for Romans, Gauls, Visigoths, Franks, and French. Its sprawling size and majestic watchtowers and battlements gave confidence to those hiding inside its protective walls.

As believers, we can take refuge in the presence of the living God. The book of Proverbs tells us: “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov. 18:10). “The name of the LORD” refers to God’s character—abounding with faithfulness, power, and mercy. The term safe means “set on high out of danger.”

We all face threats at times that make us want to run for cover. Some seek security in material wealth or relationships. But the Christ-follower has a more secure refuge. Because of who God is and what He can do for us, our best protection ultimately rests in Him. If you are facing a threat today, go to the Lord, who is a strong tower. You will find refuge in His care. —Dennis Fisher

In the times of greatest struggle,

When the angry billows roll,

I can always find my Savior,

Christ, the Refuge of my soul. —Woodruff

In good times and bad, God is our safe resting place.

Bible in a year: Micah 1-3; Revelation 11

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Questioning Gabriel

Ravi Z

The Gospel of Luke begins with two monumental exchanges between the material and the spiritual. A messenger of the Lord appears first to an aging man in the midst of his priestly duties, and later to a young, peasant girl in the midst of anticipating the life ahead of her. In each visit, like a gust of wind that turns an umbrella inside out, the message delivered was the sort of news that moves the lives of all who go near it, let alone the worlds of those who heard it first. Both visits incite fear. Both invoke questions. But in the interchange of the eternal and the temporal, though the promises of God are similarly moving, we find two very different human responses.

Zechariah was chosen by lot amongst the other priests at the temple that day to offer the daily incense to the Lord. While the crowd stood praying outside, Zechariah entered the temple only to find an angel standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  “And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him,”imparts Luke. “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John’” (1:12,13).

Now Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth did have any children. The angel’s words confronted a prayer long on his lips, a hope long deferred, a shame daily unforgotten. Zechariah’s response does not seem unreasonable to me. Fearful and uncertain, his wounded heart cried to know that God had been moving in those silent years of childlessness. “How can I be sure?” Zechariah asked. Another translation renders, “How will I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (v. 18, ESV).

There is a protective cynicism that runs in the hearts of those who live in the reality of unanswered prayers. Do we really believe that God not only knows the greatest desires of our hearts but is also able to answer them? Do we trust the most weighted areas of our lives, the most tender corners of our hearts in his hands? At such moments of reckoning, Jesus’s words seem much more a commandment than a comfort: “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).

The angel replied to Zechariah’s question with words reassuring and rebuking at once. “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time” (vv. 19, 20). It seems unfairly ironic. The one who remained upright through years of anguished silence was now silenced himself.

Six months later, this same messenger appeared before a young girl named Mary. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (1:30,31). Like Zechariah, Mary was troubled. And similarly, she responded with a question. But unlike Zechariah, who had diligently prayed for such a miracle, Mary was unwed, a teenager with marriage and children as hopes yet unrealized. And yet this peasant girl responds with faith greater than the priest, with wisdom as sharp as her youth. “How will this be?” she asked.

Whereas Zechariah spoke in fear and uncertainty, Mary spoke with unfathomable faith. In the tenderness of youth and greatness of belief, there was no question in her mind that God would do as God said. Her question was as trusting as it was expectant: “I know this will be so, but how, since I am only a virgin?” In other words, how will God accomplish his plan through me? She was ready for the unfathomable because she saw her days in the hands of the one who sees all things.

 

The responses of Mary and Zechariah remind us that we live well when we give God room to move sovereignly over our lives, through loss and silence, surrendering even our expectations to the one who sees. Unlike Zechariah, Mary was never introduced to her messenger. Yet to Gabriel she uttered, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). Mary’s was a life that seemed both aware and ready for the world to be a place where God is ready and able to break through.

Perhaps for this reason Elizabeth recognized that Mary was blessed among women indeed. For most of us it takes places of loss and mourning to discover the unfathomable places of God’s presence and grace, tears and silence to shape our truest song.

One can only imagine the words welling up inside Zechariah as his child was delivered from the womb of his once-barren wife. Naming his newborn son, his mouth was opened and he declared in song, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel… [who] enables us to serve him without fear.”

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

Alistair Begg – Love Beyond Doubt

Alistair Begg

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Jeremiah 31:3

Sometimes the Lord Jesus tells His Church His love thoughts. “He does not consider it sufficient to declare them behind her back, but in her very presence He says, ‘Behold, you are beautiful, my love.’1 It is true, this is not His ordinary method. He is a wise lover and knows when to hold back the intimation of love and when to declare it; but there are times when He will make no secret of it, times when He will put it beyond all dispute in the souls of His people” (R. Erskine’s Sermons).

The Holy Spirit is often pleased, in a most gracious manner, to witness with our spirits to the love of Jesus. He takes the things of Christ and reveals them to us. No voice is heard from the clouds, and no vision is seen in the night, but we have a testimony more certain than either of these

If an angel should fly from heaven and inform the believer personally of the Savior’s love for him, the evidence would not be one bit more satisfactory than that which is born in the heart by the Holy Spirit.

Ask the Lord’s people who have lived the nearest to the gates of heaven, and they will tell you that they have had seasons when the love of Christ toward them has been a fact so clear and sure that they could no more doubt it than they could question their own existence.

Yes, dear believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has soared to the heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the shoulder of our Lord, and we have not questioned our Master’s affection for us. The dark question, “Lord, is it I that will betray You?” has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of His mouth and killed our doubts by the closeness of His embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.

1 Song of Solomon 1:15

 

Charles Spurgeon – The first Christmas carol

CharlesSpurgeon

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 14:5-9

I wish everybody that keeps Christmas this year, would keep it as the angels kept it. There are many persons who, when they talk about keeping Christmas, mean by that the cutting of the bands of their religion for one day in the year, as if Christ were the Lord of misrule, as if the birth of Christ should be celebrated like the orgies of Bacchus. There are some very religious people, that on Christmas would never forget to go to church in the morning; they believe Christmas to be nearly as holy as Sunday, for they reverence the tradition of the elders. Yet their way of spending the rest of the day is very remarkable; for if they see their way straight up stairs to their bed at night, it must be by accident. They would not consider they had kept Christmas in a proper manner, if they did not verge on gluttony and drunkenness. There are many who think Christmas cannot possibly be kept, except there be a great shout of merriment and mirth in the house, and added to that the boisterousness of sin. Now, my brethren, although we, as successors of the Puritans, will not keep the day in any religious sense whatever, attaching nothing more to it than to any other day: believing that every day may be a Christmas for ought we know, and wishing to make every day Christmas, if we can, yet we must try to set an example to others how to behave on that day; and specially since the angels gave glory to God: let us do the same. Once more the angels said, “Peace to men”: let us labour if we can to make peace next Christmas day.

For meditation: The unconverted cannot understand why Christians do not join them in their wild Christmas celebrations (1 Peter 4:3-4); those who celebrate the event without being able to give a sensible reason for doing so, are providing us with wonderful opportunities to give a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).

Sermon no. 168

20 December (1857)