Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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"So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul."
Fanny Crosby loved sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen. In 1869 she penned the words to “Rescue the Perishing.” When asked about the song, she explained, “It was written following a personal experience at the New York City Bowery Mission.” She went on to explain that she would go one night a week to talk to “her boys.”
One night while speaking to them, she kept having the thought that there was a boy present who had wandered away from his mother and must be rescued that night, or he would be eternally lost. She made a plea to each boy that was there that night. At the end of the service, one of the young men came forward and said, “Did you mean me, Miss Crosby? I promised my mother to meet her in Heaven, but as I am now living that will be impossible.” She prayed with him and led him to Christ. As they finished, he said, “Now I am ready to meet my mother in Heaven, for I have found God.”
There are many things in life that are important, but the greatest task we have been assigned is to do our part to rescue those who are perishing before it is eternally too late. The sacrifices that we make for the sake of the Gospel, whether they are physical or financial, are worth it. Do not allow anything to deter you from reaching those in danger of spending eternity in Hell.
God has chosen you to reach others with the Gospel. Are you faithfully doing that vital work?
"And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few. And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart."
1 Samuel 14:6–7
Dr. Tom Malone often said, “When God is going to do something wonderful, He starts with the difficult. When God is going to do something miraculous, He starts with the impossible.” We have limits and restraints on our abilities and resources, but God does not. He is able to do things that are completely impossible in the natural order of things. The miraculous power of God is not merely a relic of the past. His nature never changes, and He is still able to do great and mighty things.
Many believers tragically live as if they are orphans. A lack of faith keeps us from claiming God’s promises and from relying on God to do the things He has promised in His Word. Certainly, there is much false teaching that leads people to expect things God has not promised, but we should not let anything keep us from claiming the full extent of our birthright as His children.
Psalm 81:10 says, “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” As long as our will is submitted to His will and we are walking in His Spirit, we have every right to make big requests of an Almighty God and expect Him to hear and answer. It was only in unbelief that the children of Israel “limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41). May that never be said of us.
Do not let the obstacles you face today keep you from trusting God to do what He has promised.
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Many people are searching for contentment, but very few seem to find it. That is largely because most people are seeking contentment in the wrong place. It is never found in possessions or circumstances. It is never based on what is happening outside. Contentment flourishes despite circumstances either good or bad, because it grows in a grateful heart.
F. B. Meyer said, “If we would find content, let us go to homes where women are crippled with rheumatism, or dying of cancer, where comforts are few, where long hours of loneliness are not broken by the intrusion of friendly faces, where the pittance of public charity hardly suffices for necessary need, to say nothing of comfort, it is there that contentment reveals itself like a shy flower. How often in the homes of the wealthy one has missed it, to find it in the homes of the poor! How often it is wanting where health is buoyant, to be discovered where disease is wearing out the strength!”
God did not promise us that things would be easy. Some of the greatest Christians in all of history suffered great persecution, bouts of grave illness, financial lack, and times of despair. What God promised us instead was His presence, and in that presence we can find contentment regardless of what else is happening in our lives. God knows everything about your circumstances today, and nothing comes into your life that does not first pass through His hands.
When you learn to accept whatever God has chosen to give you, you are on the pathway to learning true contentment.
"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."
Jesus promised that we would not be left alone—that a Comforter, the Holy Spirit—would come and dwell with us forever. This happens at the moment that we are saved. Though we are to surrender to God’s leading so that we can be filled with the Spirit, we do not need a second baptism to get more of Him in our lives. Instead, we need for Him to have more of us. This is vital to every aspect of our lives and walk with God.
Charles Spurgeon rightly said, “Without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing. We are as ships without the wind, branches without sap, and like coals without fire, we are useless.” It is impossible to live a victorious Christian life or do any meaningful and lasting work for God apart from the power of His Holy Spirit. Our own strength was never meant to be equal to that task. As the old hymn says, “All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.”
There is no substitute for the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. No plan, no program, no effort will replace what only He can do in and through us. Jesus did His work on Earth in the power of the Spirit of God. John 3:34 tells us, “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” Jesus had unlimited Holy Spirit power, and though we will never reach that level, we must have His power active in our lives.
As you yield to the Holy Spirit who dwells in your heart, you will find power to do what God calls you to do.
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
2 Peter 1:19–21
Someone said of the Word of God: “This Book is the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding; its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy.”
Although we know what God has told us about His Word, men keep trying to alter and change it and find some way other than God’s way to determine what we should do and how we should live. We do not need new translations or new concepts, we need to trust that God’s promise to preserve His Word is true and we need to follow what the Bible we have says.
I have learned much from good men and good books, but the only source of infallible truth is the Word of God. It should be the focus of our study and the guide for our lives. The Bible tells us that it is God’s plan for our words, thoughts, and actions to be filled with and directed by what He has told us in Scripture. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” It is a tragedy for us to take the great gift of God’s Word and not study and heed it.
Make a commitment now to regularly spend time in God’s Word. Allow it to saturate your mind and heart so you can know the mind of God and follow His wisdom.
Since God has given us His Word, we must be diligent to learn and follow what it says.
"Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ."
Salvation changes far more than just our eternal destiny. It also changes our current situation. We move from the family of Satan to the family of God. We move from being in the world to being in Christ. Yet too often we fail to fully recognize the changes that have taken place, and thus we do not benefit from them as we should.
R. A. Torrey said, “When Jesus died, He died as my representative, and I died in Him; when He arose, He rose as my representative, and I arose in Him; when He ascended up on high and took His place at the right hand of the Father in the glory, He ascended as my representative and I ascended in Him, and today I am seated in Christ with God in the heavenlies. I look at the cross of Christ, and I know that atonement has been made for my sins; I look at the open sepulcher and the risen and ascended Lord, and I know the atonement has been accepted. There no longer remains a single sin on me, no matter how many or how great my sins may have been.”
We have already received these blessings as part of our conversion. The challenge is for us to overcome the snares of the world and the guilt of the past and begin to live as if what God says about our new position in life and in Him is true.
Live up to your position and privileges as a child of God today.
"And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
I had the privilege of meeting a missionary who had served God faithfully for fifty years. He labored in Lebanon, starting a Baptist church, until he and his wife were kidnapped and held hostage for a period of time before being released and having to leave the country. Rather than abandoning the ministry, they began a new work with the Lebanese people living in Australia. Why did they serve the Lord so long through so many difficulties and dangers? Because they realized that their lives were not their own.
Vance Havner said, “What our Lord said about cross-bearing and obedience is not in fine type. It is in bold print on the face of the contract.” We are not promised that our lives will be easy or that things will go according to our plans. We are promised that God will always be with us and work to make all of the things that happen in our lives produce good.
When we trust Him to do what He has promised, it gives us the strength to endure the challenges and trials we face. The rewards that come from faithfulness are not primarily in this life but in the next. We can be confident that God is in control and that one day He will reward our work for Him.
God has every right to expect your faithful service no matter what may come.
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith."
One of the most beautiful pictures of grace in all the Word of God is found in the story of Noah. At a time when the world was filled with great wickedness—much like our day—Noah found grace from the Lord and was saved along with his family from the flood that destroyed the world. Our modern world skeptically laughs at the story of the flood, just as Peter said that they would. He wrote that in the last days men would deny the truth of this particular Bible story.
Peter said these scoffers “willingly are ignorant…that…the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:5–6). Why would men deny the flood? The answer is twofold: First, denying the flood is an attempt to deny the fact that we must one day face judgment. Second, denying the flood is an attempt to deny that the only way of escape from the judgment that is to come is found in the grace of God.
As you remember, the ark only had one door—symbolizing that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. This message of an exclusive means of salvation is not popular in our day, but it is true. There are not many roads that lead to Heaven; there is only one way. For those of us who have received salvation by grace through faith, there is a responsibility to do as Noah did and invite others to join us in escaping the coming judgment.
Find someone today who has not experienced the grace of God in salvation and point them to Christ.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Though Christmas should be a happy and blessed time as we celebrate the gift of God’s Son, it often becomes a hectic and frantic time as every minute is filled with shopping, parties, travel and extra work. The poet and humorist Ogden Nash wrote, “Christmas was once the season of peace and good will; Now it’s the holiday it’s so many shopping days left until.”
It is a tragedy if we lose sight of the simple and vital message that is at the heart of this special time of year. The point is not getting the most packages under the tree or impressing the neighbors with our display of Christmas lights. The point is that we are celebrating the coming of the Saviour—the greatest gift that ever has or ever could be given. Christmas is not a commercial invention designed to sell things, but instead a spiritual celebration.
The fact that God loved us enough to give His Son for our salvation should be at the center of our thoughts and activities at Christmas. The meaning of the season cannot be found anywhere but in the message the angels brought to the shepherds that night near Bethlehem. And as we celebrate, we should also do what the shepherds did when they returned from seeing Jesus in the manger—tell others what we have heard and seen. This is a wonderful time of year to share the Gospel with family and friends and remind them that the Saviour has come.
Do not allow the hectic pace of the Christmas season to make you forget the Gift we are celebrating.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
After unwrapping all of her presents, a little girl was asked, "Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?" She thought for a moment and said, "No. But then, it's not my birthday." There is a lot attention paid, and rightly so, to the over-commercialization of Christmas. This is not a season for seeing how much stuff we can pile under the tree and how deeply in debt we can go in order to make sure everybody in the family gets everything they want.
This is a season that celebrates the good gifts that we have received from God. Of course the gift of Jesus is the “unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)—a gift so precious there are no words that can adequately describe it. Yet that is far from the only gift that we received because of Christ’s coming. As David put it, God “daily loadeth us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19). The Hebrew word used here signifies a load that is almost too heavy to carry—that’s a lot of benefits!
It is a measure of how much God loves us that He not only gave us His Son but so much more along with Him. We should never forget all that He has graciously bestowed upon us. The gift giving season of Christmas is a time to share our expressions of love with others, but it is also a time when we should be grateful for all that we have received. If you maintain that focus this Christmas, you will find that you are having a truly merry holiday no matter what is under the tree.
All of the blessings we enjoy as children of God can be traced to the gift of God’s Son on the first Christmas.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Sir Edwin Landseer was one of the most famous painters of the Victorian era. His talent developed early, and he had the first showing of his work at the Royal Academy when he was just thirteen years old. He was commissioned to do a number of official portraits of the royal family, and even gave private drawing lessons to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But he was best known for his depictions of the natural settings and life in the Scottish highlands.
One day as he was visiting a family in an old mansion in Scotland, one of the servants spilled a pitcher of soda water, leaving a large stain on the wall. While the family was out for the day, Landseer remained behind. Using charcoal, he incorporated the stain into a beautiful drawing. When the family returned they found a picture of a waterfall surrounded by trees and animals. He used his skill to make something beautiful out of what had been an unsightly mess.
God works in much the same way in our lives. The things that we think of as weaknesses and handicaps can, through His grace, become our greatest strengths—and the very things He uses the most to bring glory to Himself. Rather than wishing that the “stains” in our lives would go away, we should give thanks to God for our infirmities and seek His grace so that even those things can be used for His purposes. God’s grace provides the strength to meet every challenge and overcome every weakness.
When you allow God’s grace to transform your weaknesses, beautiful things result.
"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
We aren’t accustomed to the downward mobility that brought Christ to the manger and then to the cross. In fact, our thought processes are the very opposite of God’s.
We think “up.” By our human standards, we want more recognition, more achievements, more praise—more us.
But Jesus thought “down.” He chose more humility, more service, more sacrifice.
We tend to think in terms of self-promotion. But Christ thought in terms of self-emptying: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
We think of how we can have more self-gratification. But Christ thought of how He could serve: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
We think of our comfort. But Christ thought of the Father’s will: “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29).
Our thinking may bring short-term success, but Christ’s sacrifice bought our salvation.
Philippians 2:5 instructs, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” This Christmas, ask the Lord to help you think the way that Jesus thinks.
Look for ways to humble yourself and serve others. It will change your life—and transform your Christmas.
"No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world."
1 John 4:12–14
There were many reasons that Jesus came to Earth, but the primary purpose for His coming is found in His name. In Hebrew, the name Jesus means “Jehovah saves.” This was not a name that Joseph and Mary selected. Instead, it was a name given to them from Heaven. The angel told Joseph, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
The ultimate message of Christmas is not a long trip by an expectant woman, the search for a place to stay, a baby in a manger, the angel’s message to the shepherds, nor the journey of the wise men to see the newborn king. The ultimate message of Christmas is that there is a Saviour who has come to deliver us from sin. This is the greatest need of a lost and dying world. God loved us enough to provide a way of salvation for us, and that is why there is a Christmas at all.
We hear people talk about “keeping Christ in Christmas,” and it is important that the holiday not be overtaken with commercialism and secular pursuits. But Christmas is not just a religious event. Christmas is the story of God’s plan to redeem those who have been separated from Him by sin. Christmas is a redemptive story. As we celebrate with family and friends, we should never lose sight of that primary truth.
Make sure that God’s provision of salvation through His Son is at the very center of your Christmas celebration.
"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God."
Charles Spurgeon said, “A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies.” There is no substitute for a Gospel witness that is matched by a Gospel life. When we fail to live as we should, we forfeit what is meant to be a mainstay of our witnessing.
Paul instructed the Philippian church to live in a way that was becoming to the Gospel. Our very lifestyle should adorn the Gospel that we share with others. For example, how ridiculous would it have been if, when the shepherds came to visit Christ in the manger, Mary and Joseph were loudly complaining about the raw deal they had been given—having to bring Jesus into the world in a stable? There probably would not have been much worship taking place that night!
Even so, everything about our lives—our speech, our demeanor, our habits, our responses, our relationships—all of it, either gives credence to or discredits our message. If our lives do not reflect that our faith is real to those we meet, it is not likely that they will be interested in listening to any message we give them.
The central message of Christmas is that Jesus came to save us from our sins. And Christ has commissioned us, His people, to actively share this message. Yet if our lives are not what they should be, we will not be effective in winning people to the Lord.
Live in such a way that your conduct matches and strengthens your witness to others.
"Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;"
I distinctly remember sneaking around the house as a young boy in search of a highly coveted Christmas gift. I was praying to find a BB gun hidden somewhere in my house, and there was something exciting about the prospect of being able to capture a quick and hopeful glimpse of that highly anticipated Christmas gift!
I am thankful that when it comes to the greatest Gift ever given to man we don’t have to hope for rare moments of secrecy to catch a glimpse of Him. He is the “brightness of [the Father’s] glory and the express image of his person.” Contrary to my childhood experiences of quickly peeking at gifts, Christ calls us to fix our gaze on Him!
It is vitally important that we have a clear picture of who God is. Our society portrays a god who is a joke—a distant, distracted comic figure. But the God of the Bible revealed both His power and His love when He entered our world through a manger.
John 1:14 captures the heart of the Christmas message: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” When Mary and Joseph and the shepherds looked into the face of the infant Christ child, they looked into the face of God. What an awesome and humbling thought!
In the pressures of daily life and the busyness of a holiday season, it is easy for us to take our eyes off the Lord and to begin to focus on ourselves. Resist the pull to become so wrapped up in the intricacies of daily living that you miss taking time each day to seek the face of God.
Spend time meditating on how Jesus Christ is the revelation of God to us.
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child."
Luke 2:1, 3–5
The Christmas story has many wonderful aspects. One of the aspects that sometimes goes unremarked is that it is a demonstration of God’s sovereignty. God exercised sovereign control over the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the birth of Christ.
The world would have said that Caesar Augustus was the ruler, but God was the one in control. He used the decree from Caesar Augustus to move Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem so that Jesus would be born where the prophet Micah had said. Christmas is the story of God working to fulfill His prophetic promises so that everything happened just as He said it would.
Though it’s not usually one of the things we focus on at this time of year, I encourage you to view Christmas as a demonstration of God’s power and allow the wonderful story of the birth of Christ to build and to strengthen your faith. The same God who sent the angels to the shepherds and the star to guide the wisemen is in control of your life today. His power and wisdom have not diminished. He is just the same today as He was when Christ was born. Things may happen that we do not understand, but we can trust that God is in control—orchestrating our circumstances for our good and for His glory.
As you reflect on the Christmas story, allow the wonderful way God worked to give you confidence in His working in your life.
"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
My wife enjoys baking during the Christmas season, but she especially delights in the opportunity it provides for fellowship as loved ones gather together to enjoy the delicious fruit of her labor. One of the precious, although sometimes overlooked, gifts we have through Christ is Christian fellowship. It is impossible to overstate the importance and benefit of Christian fellowship to our walk with God.
One of the keys to the power of the early church was the fact that they spent so much time together. It is a hallmark of genuine believers that they long to be together. Praying and learning the Word of God together strengthens the bonds of unity in the church, but it also strengthens each individual who takes part. The challenges and struggles we face as part of daily life in a fallen world require more strength than any of us has on our own. While we receive strength from God to face these battles (“the inward man is renewed day by day,” 2 Corinthians 4:16), He has also ordained that we encourage and minister strength to each other during difficult times.
Christianity is not meant to be lived in isolation but in groups. Regular fellowship with other believers—both as part of church services or activities and on a personal basis—is meant to be a source of strength and encouragement as we face the challenges and struggles of life. Thank God for the fellowship you have with His people and together enjoy the celebration of His birth.
Build and strengthen your relationships with God’s people. True Christian friendship is a gift from Him.
"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Perhaps the most remembered message of Christmas was spoken by the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). While Christmas should be a time of peace, it is often the opposite for many. Worry, family problems, and financial stress can rob us of the peace God desires for His children to enjoy.
The Old Testament prophet Daniel provides a perfect illustration of God’s peace. Notice the specifics of how Daniel prayed: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God” (Daniel 6:10–11).
The prescription for peace that Paul provided in Philippians is exactly the same pattern Daniel followed in his prayers. Although Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, he still had a peace that was beyond human understanding. This peace did not come to Daniel because he was immune to fear, but because of how he prayed and trusted God.
When we take our requests to God while thanking Him for all that He has done for us, we will have His perfect peace. All the worry in the world will never change things for the better. Until we seek God’s face in prayer, we will never know His genuine peace.
Do you want to know the reality of the angel’s Christmas message? Do you long to experience peace on Earth? Take your needs to the Lord in prayer, and thank God for His never-ending faithfulness in your life.
The key to great peace is not found in our resources or in our circumstances but on our knees.
And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; and ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; That the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.
1 Samuel 3:2–4
One of the simple pleasures I cherish during Christmas time is to sit in front of our wood burning stove. Something about the crackling of the wood, the rustic smell, the glowing light, and the enveloping warmth brings comfort after busy days of festive activities. The serenity these moments offer, however, significantly pales in comparison to the warmth of God’s presence in my life—during the Christmas holiday and throughout the year.
In the life of Eli, we see how vital it is that we desire God’s presence. Though Eli was the high priest over Israel, he was not the faithful servant of God he should have been. In the story of the boy Samuel being called by God, we see a significant indication of Eli’s failure. The lamp of God in the tabernacle was supposed “to burn always” (Exodus 27:20). The fire represented God’s presence among His people, yet Eli apparently allowed it to go out every night. We need a new sense and appreciation of God’s presence in our day.
What a joyous and eventful time of year Christmas brings! If we are not careful, however, it is possible for us to replace the presence of God with busyness in the things of God and not recognize the loss. The things that we do in service to Him and in celebration of Him must not replace the time we spend with Him. Allow the light of His presence to warm your heart this season.
Keep the fire of the presence of God burning brightly in your heart this Christmas.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Our world is certainly in need of peace. There are wars and conflicts and battles constantly raging. One of the attributes of Christ and one of the promises He brings is peace. Because He is the Prince of Peace, He provides us with what we have no other means of obtaining.
Jesus offers us “peace from God” (Romans 1:7). This is a peace unlike anything known by the world. Such peace is a gift bestowed upon us through His grace. Jesus offers us “peace with God” (Romans 5:1). This is the peace that comes from having our sins covered in His blood and His wrath and condemnation turned away from our lives forever. Jesus offers us “the peace of God” (Philippians 4:7). This is the peace that calms our fears and allows us to trust and obey even during the storms of life.
Of course, the entire world will never know peace until Jesus returns. But we who are His children and are already part of His Kingdom can enjoy peace in our daily lives. Because of the coming of Jesus into the world, and His promises to us, we can have peace regardless of our circumstances. Is the peace of God ruling your heart today? If not, spend time with your Prince of Peace and allow Him to comfort your heart in a way only He can.
Rejoice today in the wonderful peace that only comes when we know and walk with the Prince of Peace.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Christmas is a time of feasting! From family meals to church functions to cookie exchanges—the season offers many opportunities to eat! Commentator Andy Rooney once observed that the fastest moving items in bookstores were cookbooks and diet books. “The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food, and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it,” he wryly remarked. Christmas is not usually a time for dieting because, when we are not fully committed to a course of action, it is highly unlikely that we will achieve success. This principle is just as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the physical.
There will always be things to distract us from the path God wants us to walk. We cannot allow anything—even good things—to draw our attention away from God.
Rather, we must walk with a firmness of purpose and a singleness of heart. One of Aesop’s fables tells of a donkey that starved to death because he could never decide which of the two bales of hay that were set before him he should eat first. Once you have determined what God would have you do, fix your mind and focus your efforts toward that end. If you allow yourself to be double minded, your chance of success is small indeed. Instead, be like Jesus and walk with a firm and determined purpose in the path which God lays before you.
Do not allow the busyness of the season to distract you from living out God’s daily purposes for your life.
"Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see."
The city of Nazareth was not held in high regard by the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. It was considered to be a small village not worthy of notice or attention. No one expected much of anything from that source, as evidenced by the question Nathanael asked Philip when he was told about Jesus.
What Nazareth did have was a young woman who was completely yielded to the will and purpose of God. When she was presented with a plan for her life that was impossible and would expose her to ridicule and possibly even death, she did not protest against it. Instead, she praised God for choosing her to be part of His plan. Mary did not have any financial or social advantages. She was not the person we would have immediately identified as the most likely candidate to be the mother of Jesus, but God saw what was in her heart.
In her song of praise to God, Mary said, “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree” (Luke 1:52). Great works of God rarely start in big places or with big people. Instead, they usually start in small places with little people who have a big commitment and a big faith to be used of God. Good things can come from your Nazareth as you follow Mary’s example of dedication and devotion. First Corinthians 1:27 says, “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” God has a plan for you—embrace your role.
God can do great things with your life—beyond what anyone expects—when you are yielded to Him.
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
2 Corinthians 8:9
If you were to make a list of everything you want or hope to receive this Christmas, how many items on your list would be things you couldn’t live without?
In truth, the only One that we cannot live without is the One whose coming we celebrate in this season of gifts. Without Jesus we have no Christmas. Without Jesus, we have no eternal life, no abundant life. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Every need of the human heart can be met in Jesus. First Corinthians 1:30–31 tells us, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
What a miracle of God’s power that He—the Creator of the universe—could clothe Himself in flesh and come to us as a tiny, helpless baby, and that in that coming, He could meet every need of our heart and soul. What love of God to desire to give us eternal life—at His expense. And what love of God to give us full, abundant life through His life!
As you approach Christmas this year, take a moment to reflect on the riches that we have through Jesus Christ. Christmas was God’s most valuable gift delivered to Earth—to you. And in this precious Gift, you have all you need.
Jesus humbled Himself to give us His great riches. Thank Him for His grace.
"But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."
On Christmas Eve, a frazzled and stressed mother was running from store to store trying to get her last minute gifts. In the middle of her shopping, she realized she’d lost track of her three-year-old son. In a panic, she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flatly against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene.
When he heard his mom call his name, the little boy turned and exclaimed, “Look Mommy! It’s Jesus! It’s baby Jesus in the hay!”
The frazzled mom took his arm and led him away saying, “We don’t have time for all that right now! Can’t you see that Mommy’s trying to get ready for Christmas?”
How easy it can be to lose sight of the meaning, wonder, and true joy of Christmas! Obligations of the season combined with the normal pressures of life can produce stress, fatigue, and frustration—the opposite of serenity.
Mary could have easily succumbed to this same temptation. With the strain of travel and stress of finding a place to give birth, combined with the emotions of holding her Saviour in her arms and the excitement of the shepherds—she had a lot to take in that first Christmas season.
Yet the Bible says Mary took time to ponder all these things in her heart. In a moment of peaceful contemplation, she found serenity for her soul. She chose not to stress, analyze, fret, or worry.
Yes, there is much about which we can worry and fret—especially during the busy seasons of life. But there is also much for which we can praise and thank God. If your soul lacks that God-given peace, pause for a moment today and spend time with your Saviour. Ponder His goodness in your life and enjoy the serenity He can bring to a frazzled heart.
Ponder the goodness and provision of God in your life, and rest in the peace He offers.
"But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."
Matthew 1:20, 24–25
One Christmas when my children were teenagers, our family carpooled home from a Christmas gathering in Southern California. As we drove past Staples Center in Los Angeles, my wife and I made a last minute decision to create a special family memory by watching the Lakers play that night. Knowing how much joy this would bring to my sons who were following in the car behind me, I called and told them to follow me as I took a different route home, but I did not tell them why or where we were going. They obliged my request, and we were able to surprise them because of their quick obedience! As we later discussed what a great night we had together, my sons told me that after I called they almost took the normal route home so they could get to bed sooner. But they were glad they chose to follow dad’s leadership!
When Joseph found out that Mary was going to have a baby, he did not know exactly what to do. He did not want to publicly humiliate her, but he was contemplating a private “putting away” because of what appeared to be her unfaithfulness to him. Yet when the angel came to him and explained that what was happening was part of God’s plan, Joseph immediately submitted to God’s role for him and did as God instructed.
Obedience is not based on understanding or rationalizing but on faith. We don’t have to be able to figure out how things will work out. We simply have to choose to obey and follow His plan.
As you celebrate the season, remember that you can trust and obey the God who planned Christmas.
"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds."
The angelic host returned to Heaven after announcing the birth of Christ to the shepherds. God could have sent these angels across Israel and even around the world to make the same announcement. Yet instead, the shepherds were the ones who spread the news that Jesus had come. God’s plan for spreading the message of salvation is that those who have heard it will take it to others all around the world.
Writing to the church at Corinth, Paul said that God, “hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). We have a calling to proclaim the Gospel. This task falls not just on those in vocational ministry, but on every believer. The shepherds had no training, but they could tell what they had experienced.
Our focus on the shepherds in the Christmas story often begins with the appearance of the angels and ends with them at the manager, but there is more to it than that. They became messengers for God. This is a wonderful time of year to share the Gospel with others. Even people who are not normally interested in spiritual things may be more open because of the season. Be alert for opportunities to share the true meaning of Christmas and God’s plan of salvation with everyone you can.
One of the best ways to celebrate the meaning and spirit of Christmas is by sharing the Good News with others.
"And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
One of the things that I love about Christmas is that, when we observe it as we should, Jesus is the center and focus of our attention. He deserves all of the praise and glory and worship that we can possibly give Him. Jesus is the Creator of all, yet He left behind the splendor of Heaven and, as Charles Wesley put it in the wonderful old hymn And Can It Be, “emptied Himself of all but love.”
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
We should worship and give thanks all year long, but at this time of year we focus our attention on the gift of His love in a special way. Salvation is a wonderful gift that we receive only through grace; the gift of Jesus Himself is beyond anything that we could ever imagine.
He had everything, yet He gave it up so that we “through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). As you celebrate Christmas this year, take time to praise our wonderful Lord and Saviour who is the gift of Christmas. His high and holy name is above all others, and it is through His grace and sacrifice that we become the children of God.
Jesus emptied Himself that we might be made complete in Him and filled with all the fullness of God.
"And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her."
William Barclay once said that the world’s most popular prayer is, “Thy will be changed.” But the world’s greatest prayer is, “Thy will be done.” Mary displayed this attitude of submission to the will and plan of God when she received the news that she would be the mother of the Messiah. I’m sure she didn’t fully understand everything that was going to happen. What she did understand was that she was willing to do whatever God wanted her to do.
The role that God had for Mary to play involved a great deal of difficulty and sacrifice. There is a popular but false teaching today that if we love God He will make sure only good things happen to us and that we will get everything we want. It’s easy to see why people like that message, but it does not match the Word of God. God’s plan for us frequently involves things that we would not choose for ourselves, but these are things that He knows are best for us.
Rather than fight against His purpose or have our faith be shaken when things don’t go as we think they should, we should be yielded to His will. Let us say with Mary that we want our lives to go according to God’s Word.
As you yield your will to God’s will, you are prepared for usefulness in service to Him.
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
Benjamin Franklin said, “How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few His precepts! O ‘tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.” As we celebrate the love of God demonstrated to us at Christmas, we should also be showing our love for Him through our obedience to His commandments. God offers salvation freely through His grace, and we do nothing to earn His favor. He has every right, however, to expect our obedience.
The proper understanding of grace does not lead to us to live any way we please. Instead, it leads us to live in a way that is pleasing to God. Paul wrote to Titus about the role of grace: “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12). When people declare that they can do something wrong because of grace, it is a sign that they really don’t understand what grace is.
The more we love God, the more we want to do what He says—not out of a desire to earn our place or favor with Him, but from a desire to please Him. This is the way Jesus lived His life on Earth. Speaking of His Father in Heaven He said, “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29).
How would the next few days of this Christmas season be different for you if you were as observant of Christ’s commandments as you are of commemorating His birthday?
Honor God this Christmas and show your love for Him by obeying His commandments.
"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
There are points throughout the Christmas season when I don’t know what to do—primarily when it comes to gift giving. I don’t know what to purchase. I don’t know how the gifts will be received. Maybe you can identify with this feeling. Perhaps you don’t know which Christmas event to attend. Some people may not even know how much money they are spending! But there is one important truth—one important Person—that people often don’t recognize during this season.
Christmas is a tangible expression of God’s great love for us—a love so great that it led Him to send His Son to be our Saviour. Yet most of the world does not recognize the love of God or the meaning of Christmas. This is not true just for our day. It was true when Jesus was here as well. When the wise men came to Jerusalem looking for the place where Jesus had been born, the religious leaders knew exactly where to send them—to Bethlehem. Yet though they knew this, they showed no interest in going to see Jesus themselves.
The world did not and does not recognize the gift of God’s love. Even worse, the very people to whom Christ came rejected Him. So many people today are repeating that tragic error. Though they may celebrate Christmas, they do not know the Christ of Christmas. Take time this Christmas to introduce someone to Jesus Christ.
As you share the Gospel with others, you show them the meaning of Christmas they do not know.
"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened."
We enjoy the novelty of gifts given at Christmas. Once the gifts are unwrapped, it is fun to learn and experience new gadgets or toys. But our greatest gift at Christmas is not the latest technological gadget. Our greatest Gift has always existed. And even though He is the Ancient of Days, the joy, renewal, and peace He gives far surpasses the happiness found in any temporal Christmas gift ever given.
Jesus did not become God, nor was He created. He always existed, and He always was God. The full divinity of Christ is shown by Daniel who used the term “Ancient of days” to refer to both God the Father and God the Son. The Christ that much of the world pictures when they think of Christmas, if they stop to think of Him at all, is much less than the Christ the Bible describes.
This was not just any baby who was lying in the manger at Bethlehem. This was God Himself, come to Earth to be the Saviour. It is impossible for us to fully comprehend how Jesus could be both completely God and completely human, yet we believe this vital truth because the Bible tells us that He was. Without being fully God, Jesus could not pay for the sins of the world. Without being fully man, Jesus could not die and become the sacrifice that was required. Christmas should be more than just a special time of year. It should be a time when we meditate on and rejoice in the truth of who Christ is and what He has done for us.
As you celebrate the birth of Christ, remember that His coming is a powerful declaration of God’s love for you.
"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."
Because of the census that had been decreed by Caesar Augustus, when Joseph and Mary reached Bethlehem, after a long and difficult journey of some eighty miles, they could not find anywhere to stay. Travel was quite demanding in Bible times, and there was nothing like the widespread system of accommodations for travelers that we take for granted today. There would have been only a few places for visitors to stay, and there was no room in the inn.
Of course, this initial rejection was symbolic of the reaction of the world to Jesus. They did not receive Him or His message. His brothers did not believe Him until after the resurrection. The people of His hometown tried to kill Him after His first sermon in Nazareth. The Jewish leaders rejected His message and conspired to put Him to death.
But the tragedy of the full inn can easily be repeated in our own lives as well. While we would never knowingly turn Jesus away from staying in our homes, we can allow ourselves to become so busy—often with things that are right and good—that we simply have no room in our thoughts or schedules for spending time with Him. Make time during this Christmas individually and with your family to focus on Jesus and thank Him for coming to save you.
Make room in your heart and life for Jesus, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.
"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
Christmas—the first Christmas—was a package of miracles. A virgin birth, God clothing Himself in human flesh, the Father giving His amazing love to an undeserving world, Christ making Himself poor that we might be made rich. It’s an unspeakable gift that we can’t begin to wrap our minds around.
But we can open the gift. We can receive the truth that it brings to us.
Emmanuel—God with us.
Take any word of that phrase, and it is astounding.
God with us. The very God of the universe humbled Himself to take on human flesh and enter our world through a manger. Lying there in the straw was God Himself. And He chose to come to our world.
God with us. Not only has God come to our world, but He is near. His very coming proved that He wants us to know Him, to be reconciled to Him. He is not a distant God, but a God who loves us and has chosen to show His love for us in a phenomenally unthinkable way—by giving Himself for us.
God with us. We don’t deserve God’s love. Yet He came. He chose to be born into a common family and grow up in a common home and learn a common profession. He proved that He can identify with us—with you, with me.
Who would have expected that God would even want to come to us? Who would have thought that God could come to us? But God did the miraculous. He came.
And because of Christmas, every child of God can know with certainty, God is with me—right here, right now.
As you rejoice in the miracle of Christmas, thank the Lord for His immediate and continual presence in your life.
"And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel."
Long before Israel foolishly rejected God in search of a king to rule over them, God gave instruction to Moses for what the king should do when he assumed office. One of the critical assignments each king was supposed to follow was to make for himself a handwritten copy of the law of God from the scrolls carefully kept and preserved by the priests. This would be a labor-intense task that would consume a great amount of time in the life of a busy man with many responsibilities. Yet God commanded that the investment of time and effort be made.
This command illustrates the vital priority that the Word of God should have in our lives. It is from the Scriptures that we learn to fear and obey God and keep His commandments. It is from the Scriptures that we learn to be humble and to instruct others to follow God. In our day when copies of the Bible are readily available, it is easy for us to take the Word for granted. Instead, we should treasure and cherish it, and make it part of our daily lives.
Treasure the amazing gift you have in the Word of God. Read it and heed it, and you will do well.
"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
The well-loved hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is more than 250 years old. It was written by Robert Robinson when he was just twenty-two years of age. Robinson left the Church of England when his study of the Word of God convinced him that infant baptism was not scriptural, and he faithfully served for many years as a Baptist pastor. Even at a young age he was aware of the tendency of our hearts to be drawn away from God.
Solomon warns us of the importance of guarding our hearts. By divine inspiration the wise king wrote, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). This natural tendency of our hearts to stray from God is not limited to the days when we are young. The Bible contains many examples of those who followed God for years but then later turned away from Him. Tragically, one of those was Solomon himself. Despite his warnings to others, he turned from following God, and the nation of Israel was divided as a result. This set off a civil war that raged for years.
Solomon’s testimony highlights the importance of the example we set for others. When we turn from following God to go our own way, it can have a devastating impact on those who are watching. Whether we realize it or not, each of us serves as an example to others. As we guard our hearts and continue to follow God closely, we not only protect ourselves but others also.
Because your heart is prone to wander from God, you must guard it with all diligence.
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
1 Peter 4:12–13
In 1555, as part of her campaign to re-establish the Catholic Church in England, Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary, arranged for John Philpot, one of the leading Protestant ministers of the day, to be burned at the stake. When his death sentence was pronounced, Philpot said, “I am ready; God grant me strength and a joyful resurrection.” Philpot walked to the place of execution on his own, rather than having to be dragged to it, and when he reached it, he knelt and kissed the stake at which he would be burned.
It is easy for us to focus on our problems and think that they are larger than they really are. Most of us have never endured genuine persecution for our faith. A few times people have gotten upset with me for sharing the Gospel with them, but none of them have tried to kill me. There may come a day when we must make the same life-or-death decision to be loyal to Christ regardless of the consequences. However, even in lesser trials we have a definite choice to make. Will we stand firm for what is right, or will we lower the standard to avoid trouble?
Christ could easily have avoided the cross, yet He chose instead to suffer for our salvation. When we suffer for doing right, we should rejoice because we have the opportunity to follow His example. The joy that is coming when we reach Heaven is so great that we should willingly endure whatever trials come to us in this life. May God give us grace to be faithful to Him.
As you prepare for a new year, ask God for the strength and grace to remain faithful no matter what the future holds.
"Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit."
Someone once observed that a wasted life is really nothing more than a collection of wasted days. As God gives us life, each one of us starts the new year with the same number of opportunities—365—that we can choose to either use and invest in eternal things or allow to drift by without taking advantage of the gift we have been given. The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is not found primarily in talent but in diligence and effort.
Each day is precious, and it represents an opportunity that will never come again. Instead of allowing time to pass without effort and productivity, we are to redeem it—to make the most of it. Benjamin Franklin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for time is the stuff life is made of.” The time of the past year cannot be recaptured, but the pages of the coming year are still blank and waiting for us to write on them.
Because we are living in days when evil is growing, it is more important than ever that we be aware and attentive to what is happening around us. The will of God for each of us in this new year is that we be filled with and controlled by His Spirit so that we can accomplish the work which He has prepared for us to do. Commit yourself to using your time wisely, and you will have a productive year.
Be alert to the opportunities for service and ministry and growth that cross your path—they may not come again.
"Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."
As our church has grown over the years, we have built a number of buildings so we can worship and study the Word together. I have noticed as we have gone through the building process again and again, that while the structures may have different designs and different purposes, every building project has one feature in common. For instance, no building project that I have ever seen or heard of has been quick! They all take time.
It is the same way in the Christian life. We want to see immediate results, but the work that God is doing in our hearts through His Word and His grace takes time. Before any building is constructed, a foundation must be laid that will provide structure and stability so the building will last. As you look toward the new year, remember that the foundation for God’s work in your life must be solid before anything great can be done for Him. Don’t be discouraged in the preparation process.
It’s also important during any building project not to let delays and problems deter you from your purpose. Things aren’t always going to go according to plan. There will be days when it seems like nothing is happening. Yet we must not be discouraged “for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Keep on moving forward through the new year. The blueprint God has given us in His Word is tested and proven. Live each day in such a way that at the end of the year you will be closer to God than you were at the beginning. Simply trust Him to build your life!
Allow God to do His work in your life on His timetable, and you will be amazed at the results.
"For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
As we prepare to start a new year it is important for us to stop and take into account the brevity of life. When we think about how long we might live, we may take into consideration the lifespan of our parents and grandparents, our health, and where we live. Insurance companies invest heavily in actuarial tables giving statistical information on life expectancy, and they use these tables to establish insurance rates and premiums.
When we consider our lives from God’s viewpoint, two things become immediately clear. First, no matter how long we live there will come a day when our lives will end. It may be death or it may be the Rapture, but in either case our lives on this Earth are not going to continue forever. That places a premium on making wise use of the days we do have. The psalmist tells us that carefully numbering our days will lead us toward wisdom.
The second certainty is that we are not in control of the length of our lives—God is. The only day that we know for certain we have is today. James warns those who make their plans for the future without considering God. “Ye know not what shall be on the morrow” (James 4:14). Realizing that you may only have this one day, use it wisely for God.
Because the future is unknown, it is important that we make the very most of each day as it comes.
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
Imagine what it would be like to have never been able to see. For all of your life you would be dependent on someone else to help make sure that you could get where you needed to go. You would have no ability to choose your path. This is the state of the world apart from God—blind in sin. Paul wrote, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Jesus came as the Light of the World. Just as He healed a number of people who were physically blind, making it possible for them to see, He offers the light of salvation as the cure for spiritual blindness to all who believe in Him as Saviour. Yet those of us who have come to the Light must never forget what we have been given. Peter warns us: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9). God offers us guidance and direction for life, but if we are not careful, we can lose sight of the changes He has made and the path in which He desires for us to walk.
Never lose sight of the light which God has given to guide your path through life.
Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
One of the greatly effective tools of the devil is to encourage us to delay in our work for God. Sometimes, rather than directly trying to get us to do evil, he just gives us reasons to put off the doing of good until later. But the time to act is now. The great Scottish pastor and missionary pioneer Robert Moffatt said, “We'll have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only one short hour before sunset to win them.”
The fields of the world are white right now. We do not need to wait until some point in the future to start sharing the gospel with others. We do not need to wonder if we should act now to help a widow with young children or an elderly couple in the church. We do not need to find a perfect moment to say a kind word or share a prayer of encouragement. All of those things are always “in season,” and we should not miss the chance to do them.
The temptation to wait for a better time will cause us to miss what is right in front of us if we give in to it. There are people you can help today, people to whom you can witness, people with whom you can pray. Do those things today. None of us knows what the future holds.
The opportunities we have to serve God today will never come again.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
The world around us is filled with people who are living in sin. Sometimes that sin is open and obvious. Other times it is hidden from public view. In either case, that sin is there for a reason, and the reason is that people like it that way. Because of the fallen nature of every man and woman who is born into this world, we have an appetite and desire for sin. Given the choice, people will choose the darkness of sin over the light of the truth, rather than having to confront the reality of sin and the penalty for sin—and even more to avoid having to change.
So often we hear the idea that if people knew better they would do better. This leads to the notion that we can educate people to perfection. But the problem is not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of desire for what is good. Peter described this characteristic well: “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water” (2 Peter 3:5). Often times, people simply don't want to know the truth. When that is the case, all the education in the world won't change that.
The opening of our eyes at salvation gives us a different perspective. Paul wrote, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Only through the Holy Spirit can we develop a desire for the light and truth of God's Word.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
I spent several years on the mission field in Korea while I was growing up. It was a unique experience, and I'm glad I was there for those years. The country has been divided for more than seventy years now, and there are many stark differences between North Korea and South Korea. Some time ago, I saw a photo of the Korean peninsula that was taken at night and highlighted the divide. In South Korea, the cities and towns are aglow with lights; while in North Korea, it is almost all darkness. There is little economic growth or development in the Communist nation. By contrast, it's hard to find a place in the free country where there aren't lights. In a photo taken in the darkness, those lights are impossible to hide.
God has called His children to be lights in the darkness of the world around us. We don't need anyone to remind us of how dark and hopeless things are because we see it every day. Rather than being discouraged by that darkness, we should be inspired to make our lives count for God. Speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus said, “He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light” (John 5:35). The reality is that everyone around us should easily be able to see that we are children of God. This is best done not through our speaking, though we should speak the truth, but through our daily living.
If our lives are filled with the light of God, it will be impossible to conceal it from those around us.
The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
When Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man in Jerusalem, many people heard about it and were amazed. To keep them from following Jesus, the Pharisees attacked the man, questioning whether he had really been blind, and asking him again and again what had happened. In his response, the healed man declared that the miracle Jesus had done was the result of His relationship with God. He knew of the obedience of the Son to the Father, even though he had no advanced theological training, because He saw the results.
Prayer is not a ritual or an empty exercise. Prayer taps into the very power of Heaven and brings it to bear on the things of Earth. Yet if we are honest, all of us recognize there have been times when we have prayed without seeing any of that power on display. There are different reasons why our prayers may not be answered, and indeed sometimes that is a blessing from God that He does not give us what we seek. Yet the most common reason why believers do not see their prayers answered is that they are harboring sin in their lives. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).
This is the reason why Jesus included a plea for forgiveness in His model, which we call “the Lord’s prayer.” Answered prayers come when we are obedient to God.
If there are problems in our prayer lives, we should ask the Holy Spirit to reveal hidden sin and be ready to repent.
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
1 John 5:10-13
In George Orwell's brilliant satire of the Communist revolution in Russia, Animal Farm, the animals join together to overthrow the farmer and take over the farm. The plan is that they will jointly share in the rewards of their efforts. But the pigs take over the system and began exploiting the other animals, just as the farmer had done. They justified their actions by changing the rules they had laid out to govern the farm. The first rule that once had been “All animals are equal” was changed to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The animals could not depend on the pigs, because their promises for the future were false.
When we come to God for salvation, we do so because we can trust Him. He never changes His mind or goes back on His word. He has guaranteed our salvation by His very nature and character, and He has placed His name on us as His guarantee. “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself” (Hebrews 6:13). We do not have to doubt the certainty of our salvation because it is based on what God has already done.
God has given us an unchanging and unshakable promise of salvation, and we can fully trust Him.
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
People all around us are looking for a way to have a relationship with God. They may adopt a set of religious practices. They may join a particular movement. They may reject formal religion and seek God in the mountains or forests or deserts. They may be fervent and sincere in their desire to come to God, but all human efforts to bridge the gap between man and God are doomed to failure. The sinful nature each of us has at birth makes it impossible for us to reach God—He had to come to us. That is why Jesus was born into the world.
There are not many ways to God; there is only one way. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). We cannot earn our way to God. Instead we must receive the gift of salvation through faith alone. It is then that He gives us the power to enter into His family and become His children.
Salvation is not and cannot be an act of man. It must be accomplished by God. When Jesus was physically present on Earth, many people refused to receive Him as the Messiah and Saviour. It is no different today. Lots of people refuse to accept the free offer of salvation. But everyone who receives it in faith by God's grace is saved forever.
Salvation is only possible because God gives us the free gift through His Son, Jesus Christ.
And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.
In April of 1970, while on its way to the moon, Apollo 13 suffered a major catastrophe when an oxygen tank exploded. Astronaut Jack Swigert got on the radio and said, “Houston, we've had a problem.” Russia had a space program, but Swigert didn't turn to them for help. Instead he called Houston, because that was where NASA's Mission Control Center was located. He knew that his very life depended on getting help, and he knew where to turn for that help.
As we go through life all of us run into situations that are more than we can handle. In those moments, what do we do? When the Israelites cried out to God for help in the time of the judges, He responded that since they had decided to worship other gods, they should seek help from them instead of Him.
Each of us chooses what will rule on the throne of our hearts. Joshua said, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). None of us follow the Lord perfectly, but we should want to follow Him every day—not just when we need something.
When you are in trouble, cry out to God for help, but also worship and serve Him every day.
We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, most of us had never heard the expression “social distancing.” That phrase quickly became part of our everyday language, and we learned new ways to interact with others when we couldn't see much of their faces or hear their words as clearly. But while the expression may be new, the concept of separation, of dividing ourselves from others is an old one.
In Old Testament times, after the sacrifices were offered at the Tabernacle in the center of the camp of the Israelites, the priests would take the leftover parts and burn them away from the camp. This was partly for health and sanitary reasons, but it was also to illustrate a spiritual principle. Not everyone was allowed within the camp—and it was outside the camp, in the place of isolation and even disgrace, that Jesus went to pay the price of our sins.
If we are to be His disciples—His followers—we must be willing to follow Him in being hated and rejected by others. Isaiah wrote, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). We should never be offensive or obnoxious in the way we interact with others, but we should be willing to stand alone in the face of reproach and even slander just as Jesus did when He was here on Earth.
If we are living for the world's approval, we will never have the approval of God.
I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;
Many years ago, Dr. John R. Rice preached a sermon called “Church Members Who Make God Sick.” It was taken from the warning given to the church at Laodicea. “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). God is a loving Father and He is never cruel or unkind to us. But His love is not a blind love that overlooks our sins and transgressions. When we walk in our own way rather than obeying Him, and when we follow the outward forms of worship without hearts that love Him, God is disgusted.
The people in Isaiah's day thought that everything was fine because they went through the formal prayers and sacrifices. God had a different opinion. “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them” (Isaiah 1:14). No amount of church attendance, giving, singing or anything else that we do “for God” makes up for sin in our lives. And the louder we become in professing our outward religion when it is not matched by an inward heart of humility and surrender, the more disgusting God thinks it is. We may be able to fool other people, at least for a time, but God truly knows what is in our hearts.
We don’t please God by outward forms of religious activity but by a heart of humility and obedience.
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
Jesus had a remarkable effect on people. No one was neutral in His presence. Some people loved Him and flocked to hear Him teach. Others hated Him and plotted how they could stop His ministry. Invariably, seeing Jesus caused people to reevaluate their own lives and their relationship with God. While some refused to make any changes, deluding themselves into thinking they had no need of a Savior, many turned to Jesus in repentance.
We live in a day when temptations to be proud of ourselves abound. Yet if we have a clear picture of the holiness and righteousness of our Lord, pride will be the furthest thing from our minds. When Isaiah saw his vision of God, he recognized how far short he fell of what God demanded. “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
The only right and proper response to the Lord is for us to fall at His feet. He alone is worthy of praise and glory and honor. He alone deserves to be worshiped. The very best that we can do still fails to even begin to approach what Jesus deserves from us. When we begin to take for ourselves the glory that belongs to Him, we are showing both ingratitude and great self-deception.
The best way to rightly see ourselves is to first have a clear picture of Jesus.