Posts

A Year in Review

The Greatest Thing You Could Do Today

Imagine walking up a mountain alone. But it’s no ordinary mountain. The ground beneath you is shaking, and the entire mountain is covered in smoke. At its peak is a thick cloud with lightning and thunder. God descends onto the mountain in fire, and each time you speak to him, he responds in thunder. This is what Moses experienced in Exodus 19.

Now compare that experience to your last time in prayer.

Distracted, obligatory, ordinary — I doubt any such words came across Moses’s mind as he ascended the mountain. But some three thousand years later, we rarely marvel that God permits imperfect humans into his presence.

How did the shocking become so ordinary to us? Is it even possible for our experiences with God to be that fascinating? When was the last time you enjoyed meaningful time alone with God? Time so good that you didn’t want to leave. It was just you, reading God’s words, in his holy presence.

It is alone with him that I empty myself of pride (1 Timothy 6:16), lies (Hebrews 4:13), and stress (Psalm 127:1).

We live in a time when most people have a difficult time concentrating on anything. We are constantly looking for the quick fix and for faster solutions. So the thought of sitting quietly to meditate on Scripture and praying deeply in silence can be eagerly replaced by listening to a sermon while driving to work. While it’s definitely better than nothing (considering all of the other messages we are bombarded with daily), the point of this article is to say that there is no substitute for being alone with God.

We must learn to be still again.

It was simple for Paul. He loved being with Jesus. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Knowing Christ deeply consumed him (Philippians 3:8). There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End some regular commitment. There is literally nothing more important you could do today.

God literally determines whether or not you take another breath. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Could anything be more important than meeting with the One who decides if you live through this day? Could anything be better? How can we not make time to be with the Maker of time?

What plans do you have today that you think so important that you would race past the Creator to get to them?

By Francis Chan

The Glory of Christmas

Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2: 13–14).

 

Undoubtedly, we tend to put a heavy emphasis on the lowly circumstances of Jesus’ birth when we retell the Christmas story each year. Certainly this is appropriate, for the Son of God humbled Himself profoundly when He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5–8). Christ’s entire life was marked by humiliation, as He moved from a manger in Bethlehem to life as a common person in Nazareth to His ignoble death on the cross. Yet this humiliation led finally to glory. God the Father, because Jesus had been faithful to His mission, exalted Jesus and “bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Luke 2: 9–11).

 

Our Savior’s glory was veiled by human flesh in His incarnation, and it remained hidden throughout much of His ministry. Yet there were points in our Savior’s life when His glory shone temporarily through the veil. The best example of this is the transfiguration, the moment when Peter, James, and John were granted a vision of the Lord’s glory as it shone through the flesh of the Savior (Matt. 17:1–13). Furthermore, this glory also shone brightly at times when the people might not have been expecting it. In the midst of the humbling conditions of our Lord’s birth (poverty, being unable to find shelter in Bethlehem), there was a special manifestation of the Messiah’s glory to people nearby. The account of this manifestation is found in today’s passage.

 

While Mary and Joseph tended to their son, many shepherds were nearby tending their flocks (Luke 2:8). In those days, shepherds occupied the bottom rung of society’s ladder, and the average citizen of Judea wanted little to do with these keepers of sheep. No one could have predicted that the first people to hear of Jesus outside of His parents would be a motley crew of shepherds. Nevertheless, an angel of the Lord appeared to these men, who got to watch the greatest sound-and-light show of all time (Luke 2:8–9).

 

Understandably, the shepherds were afraid, but in this case the glory of the Lord’s presence, which they could otherwise not endure, was a good thing. This was the announcement of the Savior, the One who had come to redeem even society’s outcasts. So, after the angels sang their praises to the Lord, the shepherds hastily traveled into Bethlehem to see the wonderful gift the Father had given to His people.

 

The shepherds were eager to see the Savior of the world, and we should be eager to see Him as well. This involves not only coming to Him in our conversions but also seeking His face each and every day of our lives. Though we will not see the fullness of His glory until we see Him face to face in heaven, we will nonetheless come to a fuller appreciation of this glory as we study His Word and pray to Him. Let us be diligent in these means of grace.

 

R.C. Sproul

Balancing Knowledge and Love

“If I . . . know all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing” 1 Cor. 13:2.

True knowledge is always governed by love.

Christians should never take knowledge for granted. The ability to learn of Christ and grow in His truth is a blessing beyond measure. Paul prayed that we would be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). That’s what enables us to live in a way that pleases God (v. 10).

But knowledge must be governed by love, just as love must be governed by knowledge. In Philippians 1:9 Paul says, “This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.” In 1 Corinthians 13:2 he says that knowledge without love is nothing. That’s a God-ordained balance you must maintain if you want to be effective for the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 13:2 Paul uses a hypothetical illustration to emphasize the importance of love: “If I . . . know all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing.” The Greek word translated “mysteries” in that verse is used throughout the New Testament to speak of redemptive truth that once was hidden but now revealed. For example, Scripture speaks of the mystery of God in human flesh (Col. 2:2-3), of Christ’s indwelling in us (Col. 1:26-27), and of the church as Christ’s Body (Eph. 3:3-69).

“Knowledge” in 1 Corinthians 13:2 refers to facts that can be ascertained by investigation. It’s impossible to know every mystery and every fact in existence in the universe, but even if you did, without love your knowledge would be useless. Knowledge alone breeds arrogance, but love builds others up (1 Cor. 8:1).

Maintaining a balance of knowledge and love is a practical principle that influences the decisions you make every day. For example, if you have a choice between going to a Bible class or helping a neighbor with some immediate need, the better choice is to help your neighbor. You will have other opportunities to learn the Word, but it might be some time before you have a chance to show Christian love to your neighbor.

By John MacArthur

The Greatest Thing You Could Do Today

Imagine walking up a mountain alone. But it’s no ordinary mountain. The ground beneath you is shaking, and the entire mountain is covered in smoke. At its peak is a thick cloud with lightning and thunder. God descends onto the mountain in fire, and each time you speak to him, he responds in thunder. This is what Moses experienced in Exodus 19.

Now compare that experience to your last time in prayer.

Distracted, obligatory, ordinary — I doubt any such words came across Moses’s mind as he ascended the mountain. But some three thousand years later, we rarely marvel that God permits imperfect humans into his presence.

How did the shocking become so ordinary to us? Is it even possible for our experiences with God to be that fascinating? When was the last time you enjoyed meaningful time alone with God? Time so good that you didn’t want to leave. It was just you, reading God’s words, in his holy presence.

I was fifteen years old when my youth pastor taught me how to pray and read the Bible alone. Now, more than thirty years later, I still can’t find a better way to start my days. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t refocus daily by going up the mountain.

It is alone with him that I empty myself of pride, lies, and stress.

  • Pride: standing before a Person clothed in unapproachable light has a way of humbling you (1 Timothy 6:16).
  • Lies: speaking to an All-Knowing Judge tends to induce honesty (Hebrews 4:13).
  • Stress: kneeling before the God who causes men to fail or succeed replaces our anxiety with peace (Psalm 127:1).

 

Something Has to Go

It was simple for Paul. He loved being with Jesus. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Knowing Christ deeply consumed him (Philippians 3:8). There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End some regular commitment. There is literally nothing more important you could do today.

God literally determines whether or not you take another breath. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Could anything be more important than meeting with the One who decides if you live through this day? Could anything be better? How can we not make time to be with the Maker of time?

What plans do you have today that you think so important that you would race past the Creator to get to them?

We Experience the Spirit through Faith

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)

The Spirit came to you the first time when you believed in the blood-bought promises of God. And the Spirit keeps on coming, and keeps on working, by this same means.

So Paul asks, rhetorically, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:5). Answer: “By hearing with faith.”

Therefore, the Spirit came the first time, and the Spirit keeps on being supplied, through the channel of faith. What he accomplishes in us is through faith.

If you are like me, you may have strong longings from time to time for the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in your life. Perhaps you cry out to God for the outpouring of the Spirit in your life or in your family or church or city. Such cries are right and good. Jesus said, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).

 

But what I have found most often in my own life is the failure to open myself to the full measure of the Spirit’s work by believing the promises of God. I don’t mean merely the promise that the Spirit will come when we ask. I mean all the other precious promises that are not directly about the Spirit but, perhaps, about God’s provision for my future — for example, “My God will supply every need of yours” (Philippians 4:19).

 

This is what is missing in the experience of so many Christians as they seek the power of the Spirit in their lives. The Spirit is supplied to us “by hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:5) — not just faith in one or two promises about the Spirit himself, but about all the soul-satisfying presence of God in our future.

By John Piper

Served in Serving Others

Jesus said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?”(Mark 8:17)

After Jesus had fed both the 5,000 and the 4,000 with only a few loaves and fish, the disciples got in a boat without enough bread for themselves.

When they began to discuss their plight, Jesus said, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand?” (Mark 8:17). What didn’t they understand?

They did not understand the meaning of the leftovers, namely, that Jesus will take care of them when they take care of others. Jesus says,

“When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:19–21)

Understand what? The leftovers.

The leftovers were for the servers. In fact, the first time there were twelve servers and twelve basketfuls left over (Mark 6:43) — one whole basket for each server. The second time there were seven basketfuls left over — seven, the number of abundant completeness.

What didn’t they understand? That Jesus would take care of them. You can’t out-give Jesus. When you spend your life for others, your needs will be met.

“My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

 

Desiring God – Devotional by John Piper