Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sufferings of Christ - Part #2

Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. Psalms 41:9

The Roman soldiers start to their feet, and, with the priests and Judas, they gather about Christ as though ashamed of their weakness, and fearful that He will yet escape out of their hands. Again the question is asked by the Redeemer, 'Whom seek ye?' Again they answer, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' Jesus replies, 'I have told you that I am He. If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way.' In this hour of humiliation, Christ's thoughts are not for Himself, but for his beloved disciples. He wishes to save them from any further trial.

Judas does not forget his part, but comes close to Jesus, and takes his hand as a familiar friend, and bestows the traitor's kiss. Jesus says to him, 'Friend, wherefore art thou come?' His voice trembled with sorrow as He addressed deluded Judas, 'Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss.' This appeal should have aroused the conscience of Judas, and touched his stubborn heart; but honor, fidelity, and even human tenderness, seemed to have left him. He stood bold and defiant, showing no disposition to relent. He had given himself up to the control of Satan, to work wickedness, and he had no will to resist. Jesus did not refuse the traitor's kiss. In this He gives us an example of forbearance, love, and pity, that is without a parallel.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sufferings of Christ - Part #1

Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Matthew 26:45

The fearful hour in Gethsemane is past. Our divine Saviour has accepted the cup to drain it to the dregs. In behalf of man He has conquered in the hour of temptation. Serenity and peace are now seen in the pale, blood-stained face. The third time He comes to his disciples, and finds them overcome with sleep. Sorrowfully and pityingly He looks upon them, and says, 'Sleep on now, and take your rest.' Even while these words were upon his lips, He heard the footsteps of the mob that was in search of Him. And He continued, 'Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; behold, he is at hand that doth betray Me.'

The countenance of Christ wore an expression of calm dignity. The traces of his recent agony were not visible as He went forth to meet his betrayer. Judas, closely followed by the priests, led the way. Standing in advance of his disciples, Jesus inquires, 'Whom seek ye?' They answer, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' The Saviour replies, 'I am He.' At these words the mob stagger backward, and the priests, the elders, the hardened soldiers, and even Judas, fall powerless to the ground, giving ample opportunity for Christ to release Himself if He so desires. But He stands as one glorified amid that coarse and hardened band.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


by C. R. Stam

The first lesson each believer in Christ should learn is that immediately upon believing he is given everlasting life. Referring to this fact Ephesians 1:13,14 says:

"In whom ye also trusted, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also having believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise."

Mark well, the believer is not sealed by the Holy Spirit, but "with" the Holy Spirit. The Spirit Himself is the seal. Every sincere believer in Christ, then, should rejoice in an accomplished redemption and rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit will keep him eternally safe.

But while we cannot lose the Holy Spirit we can, and often do, grieve the Holy Spirit, as we read in Eph. 4:30. This is why we are told in Rom. 8:26 that the Spirit "helpeth our infirmities" and makes intercession for us, that we might live lives which please and honor God.

The wonderful fact is, however, that "nothing," not even an aggrieved Spirit shall "separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:38,39). Thus in the same breath with which the Apostle exhorts us not to grieve the Spirit he again reassures us that this same Spirit keeps us eternally safe:

"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30).

Does this encourage careless living? Those who think so have missed the whole point of Paul’s appeal. The Apostle does not warn the believer that if he grieves the Spirit he will be lost. Rather, in grace he exhorts:

"Do not grieve the very Spirit who in mercy and love has sealed you as forever His own. Do not repay such love with such ingratitude."

2Co 2:14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

"May God, Whose grace is irresistible and  all sufficient, be glorified!"

Monday, December 28, 2015


By Pastor Bob Hanna

A doctrine known as "Annihilation" thrives among the members of a particular persuasion. The essence of this teaching is the claim that the death of an unregenerated individual is simply the end: no eternal punishment or after-life at all. This position acknowledges that the saved pass on to eternal life in heaven when they die, thus having been saved to something, but not from anything. Scripture does not support this conclusion. In the Book of the Revelation, chapter twenty, verse four, the first resurrection is described. This is the resurrection of the righteous dead, who are qualified to enter the kingdom and "reign with Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:5). The rest of the dead are those with whom we are concerned in considering the doctrine of annihilation.

"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle the number of whom is as the sand of the sea" (Revelation 20:7,8). Satan attacks Jerusalem and is defeated. "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Revelation 20:10).

"And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them ... and the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works ... and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:11,13,15).

Speaking from His throne, the Lord says, "The fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).


He'll work in ways you may not recognize or understand. And He is big enough to do things you have labeled impossible. He has enough power.

*He has enough time. He is bigger than your problem. Believe in Him more than in what you may see. Trust in Him more than what you may feel.

You can question. He can handle your questions. God is highly confident in His own plans. He can do everything but fail.
Kathy Troccoli

Sunday, December 27, 2015

How Do You Treat People Who Serve You?

by Rick Warren
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NIV)

One of the greatest tests of your character is how you treat people who are trying to serve you. Whether it’s a waitress, a waiter, a clerk, an employee, a secretary, your children, or your spouse, how you treat those who serve you tells me a great deal about you.

In fact, when I’ve been involved in hiring decisions of Saddleback staff, I often take people to restaurants to see how they interact with the server. Someone who is rude and demanding in those situations has a character flaw that I don’t want as part of our team.

Jesus tells us, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31 NIV). That may be the simplest yet most important character test in the Bible.

The social psychologist Eric Hoffer once said, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” It takes no intelligence at all to be rude.

The best place to practice this important character trait of respect is at home. More marriages are ruined by rudeness than anything else. When I used to do marriage counseling, I was amazed at how many marriages are buried by one little dig after another.

Often we’re the most disrespectful to the people we care about the most. I know people who treat their families in ways they would never treat a stranger.

I read a news story a few years back about a couple that got an annulment on the basis of the husband’s rudeness. The wife went to court and claimed her husband burped all the time. She filed for an annulment. The judge ruled in her favor and granted her an annulment on the basis that if the husband really loved his wife, he wouldn’t burp so much. If it annoyed her to that degree, he should be more considerate and refrain.

Courtesy is just love in the little things. It’s showing respect for people by being kind even in the smallest areas of our lives.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Let Us Worship

"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
—Matthew 2:2

The very word "Christmas" has been emptied of its meaning, drug through the gutter, and given back to us, minus its power. Some prefer to use the more politically correct terminology at this time of year, like "Happy Holidays," "Merry Xmas," or even "Happy Winter Solstice." But I actually think those things are not as bad as the person who says, "Merry Christmas" with no idea whatsoever of what Christmas really means.

I think we should cancel the version of Christmas that is filled with hype and endless activity leading to exhaustion, the version that gives little to any thought of Christ. We should cancel Christmas and instead celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I still believe in Christmas, but not in the holiday as our culture celebrates it. I believe in the real message of Christmas, which is the birth of our Lord.

Maybe you are bracing yourself for a tough Christmas. Maybe you think Christmas won't be as good this year as it was before. But what if this Christmas were better than any Christmas you have ever experienced, because you have been freed from the pressure of having to get stuff? That could be a really good Christmas. It could actually be the most wonderful Christmas of your life.

The primary message of Christmas is this: God is with us. Isaiah 7:14 tells us, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Immanuel means, "God is with us."

So the message of the season is not, "Let it snow" or even, "Let us shop." The real message of Christmas is, "Let us worship." That is what the wise men came to do. And that is what we should be doing as well.

from Pastor Greg Laurie

Friday, December 25, 2015


By Pastor Ivan Burgener

"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.' (Now He that ascended, what is it but that He also descended first unto the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also That ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints..." (Eph. 4:7-12).

While this wording might seem strange to the modem reader, the point is simple and must not be missed! The Lord Jesus Christ is the One Who came into this world [the lower parts] in humiliation and was "found in fashion as a man..." He was obedient unto death out of which He was raised, ascended, and seated on high, "far above all principality and power" in order that He might "fill all things."

>From that exalted position and place, He received gifts of ministry from God and in turn gave them to "the church which is His body." His "giving" is an expression of His grace with the stated purpose, "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." And all this is to continue until "we all come to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect [mature] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12-13). Unity of the Spirit leads to unity of the Faith.

Rather than spiritual gifts given to individual men, these gifts are stated to be men with spiritual enablement being given to the church, the body of Christ. They must be seen as the means used by the risen Lord to continue to bless and guide this church in His absence. The apostles and prophets were men whose works were inspired and who laid the foundation by writing the scriptures. The works of evangelists and teaching pastors were not inspired but were of a continuing and subsequent nature ministering the scriptures. The latter were to continue until the stated goals are reached, evidently until this church is complete and rapture to heaven!

These apostles were not the twelve, chosen by the Lord on earth, but called from heaven and associated with Paul in His ministry. And while these have disappeared, evangelists, pastors and teachers continue "until we all come to...unto a perfect man, ...the fulness of Christ," the rapture!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Don't be a Christmas Jerk

Isaiah 9:6
One of my favorite Christmas stories is the classic Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Last year my wife and I enjoyed a fantastic stage production of this wonderful old story.
It seems every Christmas story has to have a Scrooge, from predictable Hallmark dramas to children's books. The reason we always write a jerk into our holiday stories is because it's true. It's real life. 

Today I want to encourage you not to be a Christmas jerk. Don't be the Scrooge. It's all too easy. Maybe you're expecting an Xbox and you get a sweater. Maybe your parents have to tighten the belt and you have fewer packages under the tree. Maybe Christmas is a tough time because you're reminded again of the fragility and dysfunction of your family. Perhaps you wish your family would be like the others who seem to have it all together. 
Or... maybe you're stressed out because you have a ton of stuff to do. Recitals, plays, people, parties. 

The circumstances and environment around the holidays make it all too easy to fall into jerk mode. And I'm saying, don't let it happen. Why? Because, of all people, it is Christians who should be full of joy on Christmas. Why? Becasuse this is the celebration of our story, how God moved dramatically to rescue His creation by sending Jesus to live, first as a baby, then as a growing boy, and then as a man. 

Christmas is good news. It is God's entrance into the world. God didn't stay in Heaven as a detached deity, he moved to become flesh. What a powerful story. 

How do you avoid becoming a Christmas jerk? First, meditate on the story. Go back to the chapters in Isaiah and Matthew and Luke. Remember why we celebrate. Second, go with the flow. What I mean is hold your Christmas plans loosely. Remember its about love, about giving, about peace. So if you get stiffed on the Xbox, let it go. Third, find ways to give back this Christmas. Is there a needy child, a program at your church, a community center that needs you're time and perhaps your money? Give. Fourth, don't get hung up on frivolous stuff. Don't be a Christian who whines about commercialization, about the "War on Christmas." Just fight against those with genuine, Holy-Spirit-led Christmas cheer. 
Strive this year, to be part of the good at Christmas. And leave the jerkiness to Dickens, Hallmark Channel, and others.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Spirit of Christmas is Generosity

By Rick Warren

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)

During this Christmas season, you’ll hear one word more than any other. It’s not “merry,” “tree,” “Santa,” or even — unfortunately — “Jesus.”

It’s “gift.” Starting on Black Friday (and sometimes even before then), we begin a month-long dash to find the right gift for everyone on our list. The word “gift” consumes us for a month.

Many people think that gift giving at Christmas was started by the Wise Men when they brought gifts to the baby Jesus. But it was God who gave the first Christmas gift.

God so loved that he gave. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). On the first Christmas, God gave the greatest gift of all — he gave his Son. He gave his Son to die on the cross so you can have your past forgiven, a purpose for living, and a home in Heaven. Jesus is the original Christmas gift.

We only give because God gave to us first.
Christmas is about generosity. It’s not just about compassion. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of generosity. Acts 15:11 says it like this: “We are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us” (MSG).

If it weren’t for God’s generosity, we would have nothing. The air we breathe is a gift of God’s generosity. The blood coursing through our veins is a gift of God’s generosity. The fact that our hearts are beating is a gift of God’s generosity. Every good thing in your life — including your life — is a gift of God’s generosity.

But God’s greatest act of generosity came on the very first Christmas when he gave us Jesus.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Love Beyond Doubt

by Alistair Begg
Jeremiah 31:3
Sometimes the Lord Jesus tells His Church His love thoughts. "He does not consider it sufficient to declare them behind her back, but in her very presence He says, 'Behold, you are beautiful, my love.'1 It is true, this is not His ordinary method. He is a wise lover and knows when to hold back the intimation of love and when to declare it; but there are times when He will make no secret of it, times when He will put it beyond all dispute in the souls of His people" (R. Erskine's Sermons).

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

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

Ask the Lord's people who have lived the nearest to the gates of heaven, and they will tell you that they have had seasons when the love of Christ toward them has been a fact so clear and sure that they could no more doubt it than they could question their own existence.
Yes, dear believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has soared to the heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the shoulder of our Lord, and we have not questioned our Master's affection for us. The dark question, "Lord, is it I that will betray You?" has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of His mouth and killed our doubts by the closeness of His embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Three Things That Can Keep You from Following Christ

Colin Smith
I will remove from you your heart of stone.  Ezekiel 36:26
Here are a couple more worthless stones in the human heart that can keep you from following Jesus Christ:

1. Comfort. “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27 NIV

If your heart is set on maintaining a comfortable life, that will keep you from following Christ. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that there will be a cost, and there will be pain in following him. So if your heart is set on choosing the easiest path, you will not follow Christ very far.

2. Cherished Sin. “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19 NIV

How many people have been kept from following Christ because their heart is set on pursuing a sexual impulse—whatever that may be? Satisfying the sexual appetite has become a god for many people today. If that’s what matters most to you it will keep you from following Christ.

3. Self. "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:5

Do you see what Satan was saying: “Eve, why should God be God and not you? You can be your own god! You can decide for yourself what is good and what is evil.” You cannot be a worshipper of God so long as you are set on being your own god. The desire to be your own god is a stone in the heart that resists Jesus Christ.

Are any of these things keeping you from following Christ?
[Based on the sermon series "Regeneration: How Christ Changes Your Soul"] 
For more resources by Colin Smith visit Unlocking the Bible, where you can request a free sample of LifeKEYS Daily devotional, listen to the radio program, or browse other gospel-centered, Christ-exalting resources. You can also follow Colin on Twitter.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Be Careful of Nice People

Tim Challies
Be Careful of Nice People
"Now you be nice to your sister.” “Make sure you play nice tonight.” “He is such a nice young man.” As human beings, it seems that we are drawn to niceness. We like nice people and encourage people to behave in nice ways. We dislike people who aren’t nice or who don’t behave in nice ways. We teach our children to be nice and juxtapose niceness with a host of vices: grumpiness, cruelty, mean-spiritedness.
In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the qualities of fleshly, worldly people with the qualities of Spirit-filled, godly people. He lists the fruit of the Spirit, those character traits that ought to mark God’s people, saying, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (vv. 22–23). Conspicuously absent from Paul’s list is niceness. Kindness is there; patience and gentleness too. But not niceness.
Why isn’t niceness a fruit of the Spirit? Because niceness is a hollow trait that a human can generate even without the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Niceness may require some force of will in the face of disagreement or controversy. It may require restraint. But it does not require an inward transformation.
True love, true joy, true faithfulness and gentleness—these are all qualities for which we are completely dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s work in conforming us to the image of Christ through the Word of God. As we immerse ourselves in God’s Word, as we carefully seek God and His will through the Bible, the Holy Spirit gradually but surely grants us these qualities in growing measure. Now we are able to love—truly love—whereas before we could only hate and brood and love selfishly; now we are able to display patience whereas before we would always explode with anger or perhaps simply simmer with anger; now we are able to be gentle whereas before we were so consistently harsh.
But niceness? Niceness doesn’t require that work of the Spirit. In fact, niceness is often a clever ruse Satan employs to fool us into following ungodly leaders. Be careful around nice people. Evil and ungodly men often rely upon niceness to cover their sin. Where Christians can be fast and blunt in defending the truth, unbelievers—and especially unbelievers claiming to be Christians—can look good in contrast. They can seem so nice as they nicely undermine the very foundations of the Christian faith. Their smiles, their soft words, their sympathetic questions, their niceness—these are all tools designed to mask their opposition to God.
It is not bad to be nice. It is not an evil trait. But it is far better to strive for the higher qualities, the Spirit-given qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law, because such Spirit-given qualities cannot be faked forever.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Two-Way Promises

Ann Spangler
A country road in autumnA wonderful future awaits those who love peace. (Psalm 37:37)
Though most of us think of God’s promises in positive terms, as we should, Scripture is full of promises that sound frighteningly negative. These reverse promises serve as warnings for those who show little regard for God and his ways.

The first promise for today, from Psalms, is one you can build on. It’s like bedrock for those who belong to Christ and pursue his ways. But what if you are doing just that and feeling anything but peaceful? Notice that Psalm 37 promises a wonderful future but not necessarily a wonderful present. Every life holds challenges and sorrows that must be endured with faith and trust. At such times we can cling to this promise from Romans: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (8:28). We will all know times of peace and times of difficulty because we are not yet inhabiting the future God has promised.

But for the wicked, Isaiah proclaims, there will be no true peace. How could there be, since peace comes from knowing God and from trusting him enough to obey him? A life in perpetual rebellion is a life in perpetual turbulence. Though things may look peaceful on the outside for a time, on the inside things tend to fall apart because there is no central core to hold us together.

The peace we long for depends not only on God’s promise but on our obedience. Step by step, as we place our trust in Christ, doing what we know he wants us to do, we can be confident that we are moving closer to the wonderful future God has promised for all those who love peace. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Why We Choose to Follow Christ

Colin Smith
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36, NIV

If slaves could set themselves free, they wouldn’t really be slaves, would they? But Christ says, “I can set you free.”
Christ does not drag you, kicking and screaming, to follow him. We follow Christ because we want to. God shines his light into your mind and pours his love into your heart. What happens? The rockets of the will start moving in a new direction.

Christ sets the will free in regeneration so that, gladly and freely, you choose to follow Christ! Paul says, “We make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor. 5:9). Do you see how wonderful that is? It is the evidence of this miracle in your life.
Will we always choose what’s best after we become Christians? No. The freedom Christ promises is not freedom from the struggle with sin, but freedom from slavery to sin. You will fail, because the prevailing disposition of your soul is not the only disposition of your soul.

There may be times when you fall into pride or lust or lies or greed, but at the core of your being, you know that is not what you want. You want to honor Christ. You want to walk in purity and to grow in holiness. You want that because you are a new creation in Christ.

So be who you are! True freedom is when what God calls you to do and what you most want to do turn out to be the same thing. That is the freedom Christ gives. If you have this freedom you are free indeed!

Do you have this freedom?
[Based on the sermon series "Regeneration: How Christ Changes Your Soul"] 
For more resources by Colin Smith visit Unlocking the Bible, where you can request a free sample of LifeKEYS Daily devotional, listen to the radio program, or browse other gospel-centered, Christ-exalting resources. You can also follow Colin on Twitter.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A New Struggle

Colin Smith
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
Christ gives his people a new heart and a new Spirit, but then he also gives us a new struggle. Don’t expect the road ahead to be easy.

That’s what we learn from both the story of David and the story of Jesus. After David was anointed he had to put up with Saul. What happened after the Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism?

The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil. He launched out into public ministry where he faced intense opposition and the relentless demands of the crowds. Then he goes to a cross where he suffers and dies in agony—no crown yet.

There was a great struggle between the day of Christ’s anointing and the day when he rose from the dead and ascended in power and glory to take his seat on the throne. The pattern for David was the pattern for Jesus, and the pattern for Jesus will be the pattern for us!

Christ gives you a new heart. He fills you with his Spirit. Then it’s back into the world with all its pressures and relentless demands – back to that difficult marriage, that secular school, that hostile environment. Why? To honor Christ there!
So Christ offers us a new heart, a new spirit, and a new struggle. Saul had none of them. David had all of them. Saul lived with a crown, and in the end he lost it. David lived without a crown, but in the end he gained it.
Which of these two would you rather be?   
[Based on the sermon series "A Tale of Two Kings"]
For more resources by Colin Smith visit Unlocking the Bible, where you can request a free sample of LifeKEYS Daily devotional, listen to the radio program, or browse other gospel-centered, Christ-exalting resources. You can also follow Colin on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How God's Servants Honor Him

Colin Smith
David came to Saul and entered his service.  1 Samuel 16:2
It was a not long before Saul rejected David, and in this way, David points forward to Jesus Christ. He too served sinners who hated and despised him in return.

Jesus was the Lord’s anointed, bringing good to everyone, yet he is rejected. He came to his home town in Nazareth, announcing that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to preach good news to the poor. But by the end of the service they were ready to kill him (Luke 4:29).

Jesus came to the land of the Gerasenes and delivered a man, who had terrorized the whole town, from demons. This same man, who had been a danger to himself and to the whole community, now sat dressed and in his right mind, and the people said to Jesus, “Please go away!”

Jesus came to Jerusalem with words of eternal life and they arrested him, scourged him, and nailed him to a cross: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11).

Think of all the people who saw Jesus or heard him speak during his more than three years of ministry. How many of them actually became his followers? Relatively few.
The entire company of believers in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost was only 120. Of the large crowds who at one time followed him, “Many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66).

Your experience will be the same. Your life will touch the lives of many others who may not come to faith and repentance, but by doing them good you bring honor to Christ.

Have you been given the opportunity to honor Christ this way? 
[Based on the sermon series "A Tale of Two Kings"] 
For more resources by Colin Smith visit Unlocking the Bible, where you can request a free sample of LifeKEYS Daily devotional, listen to the radio program, or browse other gospel-centered, Christ-exalting resources. You can also follow Colin on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Word" of the Year

Dr. James Emery White
Here, in a single image and a single designation, is one of the greatest reflections of the massive change in culture – and the separation of generations – of our day:

Yes, it is a pictograph; or as it is more commonly called, an emoji. But not just any emoji. It is called the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji.
But there’s more.
Oxford Dictionary has named it the 2015 “Word of the Year.” And for the first time, that “word” is a pictograph. While emojis have been around since the late 1990s, “2015 saw their use, and use of the word emoji, increase hugely.” This particular emoji was selected because it was identified as the most used emoji globally in 2015. 
In case you are a closet Luddite, an emoji is “a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication.” The term itself is Japanese in origin “and comes from e ‘picture’ + moji ‘letter, character.’ The similarity to the English word emoticon has helped its memorability and rise in use.” An emoticon, by the way, is a “facial expression composed of keyboard characters, such as :), rather than a stylized image.”
So why is this such a reflection of our day?
First, because it reflects the cultural revolution that has come with technology in general, and the smartphone world in particular.
Much of the 90’s was pre-internet (except for very, very early adopters). And the smart phone? Non-existent. The ubiquitous nature of those two things alone would decisively divide any generation. “Growing up with a supercomputer in your pocket connected to most of the world’s population and knowledge,” writes David Pakman, “has created an irreversible pattern of behavior unlikely to revert to the ways of previous generations.” Or as an article in the New York Times noted, “a 14-year-old in 2015 really does inhabit a substantially different world than one of 2005.” 
A second reason it’s a key reflection of our day is because it transcends linguistic borders. It is a form of communication that matches the inter-connected world of the internet that knows no geo-political or language boundaries. 
But a final reason that it’s such a key reflection of our day is because it reflects the changing nature of communication itself. I have long argued that there is a need to recapture a sense of the visual if we are going to connect with this world (read “The Importance of the Visual”).
But when it comes to reaching the latest and largest Generation – Generation Z – emojis are part of their language. The research of Sparks and Honey has found that Generation Z “speak in emoticons and emojis. Symbols and glyphs provide context and create subtext so they can have private conversations. Emoji alphabets and icon ‘stickers’ replace text with pictures.” 
You may want to re-read that last paragraph. It’s a stunning evolution in the very nature of language. 
A language we best learn to speak – if, that is, we want to reach the next generation.
James Emery White

“Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 is…,” Oxford Dictionaries Blog, November 16, 2015, read online.
Hannah Furness, “Oxford Dictionary swaps Word of the Year for public's favourite emoji,” The Telegraph, November 17, 2015, read online.
David Pakman, “May I Have Your Attention, Please?,” August 10, 2015,, read online.
Alex Williams, “Move Over Millennials: Here Comes Generation Z,” The New York Times, September 20, 2015, read online.
“Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials,” Sparks and Honey, June 17, 2014, read online.

Monday, December 14, 2015


Dr. James Emery White
There are a lot of traits one might wish upon pastors and church leaders. Holiness, selflessness, humility… but I find that most of them embody such traits. They are good and Godly people.
So if there is one trait that I would wish upon pastors and church leaders around the world, it would be a trait that many do not already have or aspire to; a trait that I find strikingly absent.
I would wish them to become more aggressive.
If your mind instantly leaps to someone who starts fights or quarrels, that’s not where I’m going.
I mean aggressive in the best sense of the word. As Webster’s definition puts it, aggressive as in “ready or willing to take issue and engage in direct action; full of enterprise and initiative; bold and active; pushing.”
When I think of aggressive leaders, I think of,
…“make it happen” leaders,
…people who don’t immediately take “no” for “no,”
…catalysts for change,
…those who take charge in the heat of battle,
…upsetters of the status quo,
…rabid animals for growth,
…righteous anger,
…creators of action,
…someone who is “hungry,”
…top-of-the-line, competitive athletes for the Kingdom of God.
Speaking of athletes, it was said of Michael Jordan – arguably the greatest basketball player ever – that whenever he walked on the court, he was dangerous. There was an aggressive intensity to his game that was threatening to any opponent.
I have a framed, limited edition, signed print of Michael Jordan in my office. The picture of MJ is epic, and the signature is nice, but it has always been the words that have captured my attention:
“It is a rare person who comes along and raises the standards of excellence, who captures the hearts of many, and who inspires a group of individuals on to achieve the impossible.”
May that kind of aggression mark us all.
James Emery White

About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What Do You Believe?

Ann Spangler
A white-throated sparrow perched on a branchJoan Didion’s memoir The Year of Magical Thinking chronicles her grief in the year following the unexpected death of her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne. Perhaps the bleakest moment in that chronicle is when she quotes her late husband, stating with hopeless finality that “no eye is on the sparrow.”
Though she probably didn’t intend it as an insult, the words jumped off the page at me like a slap. It was such a blatant contradiction of everything I believe to be true. Later, it occurred to me that Didion’s statement sums up our own struggle as people of faith. When life is bleak beyond imagining, what do we really believe? What do we think is going on? Either God’s eye is on the sparrow or it is not. Either God really has counted every hair on every head or he has not. Either Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about when he spoke of God as a loving and forgiving Father or he did not. It’s as simple and as hard as that.
When life is going well, it’s easy to assert the truths of the gospel. But when we are overtaken by crushing sorrows or mounting difficulties, what do our hearts tell us then?
Most of us can remember times when God came through for us in the midst of great difficulty. Let’s not forget the evidence of his faithfulness when new challenges arise, giving in to fear rather than drawing on faith to sustain us. Let’s let times of suffering strengthen us rather than weaken us, trusting that God knows how to get us through.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Ann Spangler
A man walking in a dark tunnel with a light at the endTwo weeks ago I felt like a magnet for trouble. A series of problems with a vacation property I own were conspiring to turn one family’s stay into “the worst family vacation ever.” As a part-time landlady, I enjoy creating memorable vacation experiences for people. This just wasn’t the kind of memorable I had envisioned. I cringed at the thought that the story of their week at my place might enter their family lore as the worst vacation ever. To ease the sting, at the end of their stay I gave them a check for half the rent, thereby turning the most profitable week of summer into a sizable loss for me. Ouch!
Then a problem cropped up with one of my children, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. Then my elderly mother started having difficulties. Then something happened with my other daughter. On and on it went—a great, rolling tumbleweed of trouble heading my way.
One thing about nonstop trouble is that it can help you put life’s difficulties into proper perspective. Yes, I felt bad that my renters thought they were renting a three-bedroom condo when it was only a two-bedroom condo, and that a previous renter had walked off with the pots and pans, and that the maids forgot to leave the sheets, and that the toilets backed up, and that the plumber was expensive, and that I had to make two sixty-mile round-trips to the property, and that I didn’t get any writing done that week. But at least the sun was shining the whole week and the pool worked and the beach was lovely and nobody died. After a while, you learn how to find a little brightness in the cloudiest of skies.
What troubles are you facing right now? Ask God to help you see at least a little bit of light in the midst of them—not the kind that emanates from an oncoming train, but the kind that comes from perceiving the daylight on the other side of the tunnel.

Friday, December 11, 2015

O Come, All Ye Faithful

Dr. Ray Pritchard
O Come, All Ye Faithful
“When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us’” (Luke 2:15).
“Let’s go straight to Bethlehem.”
That’s what the shepherds said to each other, and that’s good advice as we begin this musical journey through Advent. Whenever you start a long trip, you need to prepare yourself. What better way to start than by singing one of our most beloved Christmas carols?
Here’s what we know about “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” It started as a Latin hymn hundreds of years ago. It was used in Catholic churches first, then later by Protestants. It has been translated into more than 100 languages. Though its origin is obscure, traces of the song go back to the 13th century. Various authors have been proposed, including Saint Bonaventure and the Portuguese King John IV. We can, however, say with certainty that in 1743, John Francis Wade produced a standard Latin translation called “Adeste Fidelis,”
The origin of the melody is likewise shrouded in mystery. Wade may have written it also, though we can’t be sure. The definitive English translation dates to 1841 when Frederick Oakley translated Wade’s four verses into English. Additional French verses were translated in 1885.
The first verse calls us to come to Bethlehem and worship:
O Come All Ye Faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels.
The second verse invites us to join the angels in singing praise to God:
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation, Sing all ye citizens of heaven above Glory to God, all glory in the highest.
The third verse directly addresses the Lord Jesus Christ:
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; Jesus, to Thee be all glory given; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
Then the refrain calls us to respond in adoration to the Lord:
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
Older hymnals contain verses we rarely sing today. Here’s one chock full of good theology:
True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal, Lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb; Son of the Father, begotten, not created;
That verse teaches us Jesus was God incarnate even when he was in his mother’s womb. He is begotten, not created, because he eternally existed with his Father in heaven.
During this Advent journey, I will link to a YouTube version of each day’s song. I hope you’ll take time to listen and sing along. Let’s listen to a beautiful version of O Come All Ye Faithful by Celtic Woman.
Lord Jesus, as we begin this Advent journey, we pray to know you better and love you more each day. Amen.