Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Where you can find wisdom that endures

by Dr. Jack Graham

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17

It’s amazing to think about all the advances in human thought that have taken place over the years. Isaac Newton was sitting under a tree one day when an apple fell on his head, inspiring him to coin the Universal Law of Gravitation. And when Gutenberg saw a scribe diligently copying a scroll, he thought there must be a better way and invented the printing press.

It was Einstein who conceived the Theory of General Relativity and turned the science world on its head. And the great writer William Shakespeare penned some of the most prolific theatrical plays in the history of the world.

Yes, mankind has had some amazing thoughts that have changed the world. But I believe none of them compare to the profoundly simple words of the shepherd-king named David, who wrote, “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). In that phrase, He summed up the essence of life: to acknowledge God and find our satisfaction in Him.

Wisdom without God is temporal. But godly wisdom informs us for this life and the life to come. So grow in knowledge and remember that wisdom that truly endures comes not from the world, but from God!


Monday, January 30, 2017

God’s Reminder for Today: Don’t Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

By Debbie McDaniel, Crosswalk.com Writer
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” John 14:1
Sometimes we face circumstances in life that are just out of our control. No amount of our own planning and effort can make it better, or could have even prevented it from occurring. Hard things happen. We feel at a loss in how to fix it all. Sometimes it seems too broken. We may try hard to regain some sense of order, but life can still feel unbalanced, uncertain, even chaotic, because of the pressures that cling too tightly.
Jesus Himself understood these pressures. Over and over in His Word, He reminds us not to worry, not to fear, not to be "troubled" in our hearts.
And on the heels of the Last Supper, before His difficult journey to the cross, Christ offers comfort to His disciples, for He knew what lay ahead. He knew the trials they would all soon face. He could have said so many things in that moment, but these are the words He chose then, and the words that have such power for us still today:
"Do not let your hearts (inmost part, center of your spiritual life and physical being), be troubled (agitated, restless, disturbed). Trust (believe, to have full confidence) in God, trust also in me." John 14:1
4 Truths from this verse to help us live wisely:
- Many around us will have troubled hearts in this world, troubled souls, but Jesus reminds us, don't let "your" heart be troubled. Don't follow the crowd, stand apart, for we know where our true peace and security are found.
- Take care of your "heart" for it is "the fountain and seat of all the thoughts, passions, affections, and purposes" in our lives. Our hearts compel us in every action, thought, and decision. He reminds us to guard our hearts for "everything we do flows from it."
- Don't be "troubled." Sounds easy enough, but quite possibly the most difficult thing in the world. How can we not be troubled when facing huge trials, loss, illness, uncertainty? The only answer lies in Him, and it's how He ends this verse.
- "Trust. Believe." Have full confidence in God, in Christ. For He is the answer for our troubles, every single one. He is our help for each need that we face. He knows our road, the one ahead, and also the tough one we may have just passed through, for He is with us every step. This world is not all we have. This one may be riddled with obstacles, potholes, and even dangerous cliffs. Often we find ourselves struggling just to stay the course.
But we can have hope, still. Right in the very midst of it, in the tough stuff, in the battle. For He is secure. He is trustworthy. He is faithful.
And He has much better, and great blessing, still in store...
Intersecting Faith & Life: That one thing that’s been pressing on your heart? Give it to God. And make the choice to leave it there. Choose to trust and believe He’s working on your behalf, even behind the scenes where you can’t see. Ask Him for His Presence of peace to fill your life today.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Speak Lord, I’m Listening

by Arlene Pellicane
Today’s Truth
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10, NIV).
Friend to Friend
“I can’t hear you!” I yelled downstairs to my daughter who was apparently trying to tell me something. 
No matter how trivial or how urgent her message was, I could not receive it because I was in the bathroom! In order to hear my daughter’s words, either she had to move towards me or I had to move towards her.
I can’t help but think of how many times in the day God may want to speak to me, but I am just not in the right place to hear. Maybe my heart is filled with worry. Maybe I’m running from one activity to the next, filling my spare moments with texts and emails. 
Maybe my posture, my heart attitude, needs to change so I can hear His voice more clearly. 
Remember the story of Samuel in the Old Testament? He’s a young boy growing up in the temple under Eli’s priestly leadership. He’s in the right place to hear God’s voice (he was laying down where the ark of God was) but in 1 Samuel 3, we read he lacks experience in hearing God’s voice. 
The Lord calls out to young Samuel twice but Samuel doesn’t recognize His voice. He thinks it’s Eli calling. The third time this happens, Eli realizes it’s the Lord and he instructs Samuel to enter into conversation with this voice next time. 
Notice that even the elderly priest Eli was a little out of practice in recognizing the voice of God! But God didn’t give up on the conversation after the first failed attempt. He kept calling out. Samuel didn’t automatically know how to talk with God. He had to learn. 
The first word the Lord says to Samuel is “See” in verse 11. Isn’t that beautiful? As we learn to hear the voice of God, we see more clearly. We see His priorities. We see His hand moving in our lives. We see His way out of difficult situations.    
But what if you’re not a young boy like Samuel living in the temple? Does God still speak to us, ordinary women living in today’s world? 
Yes, without a doubt, God speaks through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), through creation (Psalm 65:8), through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), through spiritual leaders and teachers (1 Thessalonians 2:13), through godly counsel (Psalm 37:30-31) and more. 
In the same way I needed to move closer to my daughter Noelle to hear her voice, we can move closer to God by reading His Word or seeking godly counsel. 
I’m learning to say in my heart throughout the day, “Speak Lord, I’m listening.” It helps to remind me that conversation with God is a two-way street. Prayer is not just a rehearsing of my needs or even my praises, but it’s also a time of listening. May our hearts be ready - and expectant - to hear from God today. 
Let’s Pray
Dear Lord, speak to me today. I am Your servant and I am listening. I want to search for You with all my heart. I ask You to guide me with Your voice. May I have ears to hear and a heart to understand Your Word. 
In Jesus’ Name,

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The one who rescues you from death

by Dr. Jack Graham

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

Imagine looking at a swimming pool filled with people. All of a sudden, you see a small child caught out in the deep end, completely unable to swim and sinking to the bottom. So you start waving your arms and shouting at him, trying to give him some tips on how to make it back to the shallow end of the pool.

Does that make sense? Would anyone in their right mind just stand there and shout while a child is drowning? Absolutely not! Every single rational-thinking person would jump in the water and pull that child to safety.

Left in our sin, we’re exactly like that drowning child. We have no hope of escaping death on our own. And while the world’s religions wave their arms and shout instructions at us for pulling ourselves from death, Jesus is the only one who gets in the water to save us.

As we move into the season of Advent, let’s focus our hearts and minds on the work of Jesus Christ – the one who came into the world to die for our sins and rescue us from a hopeless eternity. Praise God today that He loved you that much!


Friday, January 27, 2017

Jesus Christ the Sin Bearer

The cross is so common in our culture that most people don’t think twice when they see one on a church. But unfortunately, familiarity with the symbol can actually get in the way of understanding what it truly means. So let’s stop to consider how Jesus became the bearer of sin.
We begin with Scripture written long before Jesus was born. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, explains how man chose to disobey God. Because Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their descendants are all born under the curse of death, having inherited a sinful “flesh” nature.
In Leviticus, God’s laws for the Jewish nation included observance of Yom Kippur, the day each year when the Israelites fasted, prayed, and sacrificed an animal to atone for sin. In essence, the goat would bear the wrongs done by the people and suffer the penalty that divine justice required.
Centuries later, Isaiah prophesied that a Savior would atone for transgression once and for all (Isa. 53:5, 8; Heb. 7:27). After another 700 years, John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The Messiah had come, though He was totally different from what the people expected--so much so, in fact, that they rejected Him and requested His crucifixion.

In all, God gave 613 laws through Moses. But none of us can perfectly follow even the Ten Commandments. In fact, one reason He gave us these rules is to show us our need for a Savior (Ps. 19:7; Gal. 3:24). Meditate on those commands (Ex. 20:1-17), asking God to speak to your heart.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Elizabeth: Mother of the Forerunner

by Dr. Ray Pritchard
“No; he shall be called John” (Luke 1:60).
That surprised their friends. No one in their family was named John. Everyone assumed this miracle baby would take his father’s name. In our day, we would say Zechariah Senior and Zechariah Junior. Or maybe the first and the second.
But Elizabeth knew better. The angel had specified every detail when he announced the baby’s birth to Zechariah many months earlier:
“Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John” (Luke 1:13). 
His name will be John, which means, “The Lord has been gracious.” It was a fitting name because God had indeed been gracious to this elderly couple. But it meant more than that. God was about to pour out his grace on the world in the birth of his Son. And their son—this baby named John—would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.
He was set apart for God before his birth. Everything about his career would say, “This man stands apart. He’s not like the rest of us.” Many years later, he will preach and call the nation to repentance, and he will have upon him the “spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).
Elizabeth had already seen what happened to her husband because he doubted God. She’s not about to make the same mistake. Faith stands on God’s Word even when others don’t understand. In this case, the neighbors meant well, but their advice would lead in the wrong direction.
Elizabeth affirmed God’s choice.
Zechariah wrote it on a tablet.
Suddenly he could speak again.

Fear came on everyone who heard him speak for they knew God had taken his voice away and suddenly given it back. No wonder they asked, “What then will this child be?” Even the neighbors could see God’s hand was on his life.
When we dare to trust God, others may not understand. Venturing in faith means traveling under sealed orders, obeying now and understanding later.
Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see you, open my ears to hear you, open my heart to follow wherever you lead. Amen.
Musical bonus: Written at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Noel Rigney and Gloria Shayne Baker produced a song pleading for peace in a broken world. With that in mind, listen to Do You Hear What I Hear? by Home Free.
You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.comClick here to sign up for the free email sermon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ultimate Investments

by Ann Spangler
I live in an older home in an older neighborhood. Friends sometimes comment on how much character my house has with its crown moldings, arched doorways, and built-in bookshelves. But as anyone who has ever owned an older home knows, character does not come cheaply. There is always something to fix, patch, improve. No matter how much effort and money I put into it, I know my house will eventually crumble into nothing. That’s the truth about most things. They will not last.
But some things will.
Our souls will. But that’s not all. The work we do for Christ and in Christ—that will last too.
As N. T. Wright puts it, when it comes to building for God’s Kingdom,
“You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. . . . You are—strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world.
“Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.”1
So today let us remember that because of what Christ has done in our lives, we are called, as Paul tells the Romans, to live a life of goodness and peace and joy, seeking first the Kingdom of God.

1. N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2008), 208.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Zechariah: He Doubted God

Dr. Ray Pritchard
“Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years’” (Luke 1:18).
I probably would have asked the same question.
Many times the ways of God are not obvious. If a man and his wife are elderly, if they have had no children, if she is past normal childbearing years, it would be unusual not to ask a question.
But Zechariah must learn the hard way, which is exactly how most of us learn the same lesson. When God makes a promise, it is folly and disbelief to wonder how he will keep his word. Faith does not reckon with “how.” Faith believes and leaves the “how” in the hands of Almighty God. If we spend too much time trying to figure out “how” God will take care of us, we will talk ourselves into a corner.
In this case, Zechariah talked himself not into a corner but out of talking altogether. He lost his voice and could not speak until the baby was born. This in a way was a great mercy from God. The Lord saved a good man who made a mistake from making an even bigger one. Zechariah’s enforced silence kept him from proceeding from doubt to unbelief. Now he waits and watches and listens, but he does not speak.
Christmas continually reminds us that our ways are not God’s ways. He chooses an older couple, then a younger couple, then the census forces the younger couple to go to Bethlehem where there is no room in the inn, then the angels announce Jesus’ birth to shepherds, then the Wise Men show up, then Herod gets involved, then Joseph and Mary and Jesus make a run for the border to escape Herod’s sinister plot.
Nothing goes the way we would expect it to go if we were planning the birth of God’s Son. But that’s precisely the point. We have our ways, our plans, our ideas, and God has his.
Guess whose plan wins out?
Zechariah regains his voice when John the Baptist is born. All the details fall into place, including the last-minute flight to Egypt, which turns out to fulfill ancient prophecy.
God knows what he is doing, even when the details of life seem to make no sense. He works across the centuries to establish his purposes on the earth. Just because we don’t see it on Tuesday at 6:37 AM doesn’t mean it’s not there.
It just means we don’t see it.
That’s all.

Holy Father, help us to trust you even when we can’t understand your plan. Amen.
Musical bonus: Sometimes called “the echo carol” because of its answering harmonies, While by My Sheep is based on a traditional German melody. You can hear the echoing sounds beautifully performed in this version by the Westminster Choir.
You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.comClick here to sign up for the free email sermon.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Rapid Response: “You Can’t Be Certain About the Claims of Christianity”

by J. Warner Wallace
In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone made the following statement: “No one can be absolutely certain about ancient historical claims, and the Bible can’t be proven beyond a possible doubt. The claims of Christianity are dramatic and critical. If you want me to believe these kinds of claims you’d have to be able to prove them beyond any doubt.” How would you respond to such a statement? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:
“I can empathize with this sort of concern. In fact, I often hear similar statements from prospective jurors in criminal trials. During the jury selection process, we sometimes ask jurors if they will be able to make a decision, even though they may have unanswered questions or possible doubts. If they say they wouldn’t be able to render a verdict unless every question is answered and every doubt resolved, we simply excuse them from service. Why? Because the standard of proof (the SOP) in our homicide trials isn’t “beyond a possible doubt,” it’s “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and there’s a big difference between these two standards.
Think about it for a minute. There are very few things you know with certainty beyond a possible doubt. I’ve never had a criminal case that wasn’t plagued by several unanswered questions. Even when a case is only a few decades old, there are still many uncertainties I can’t resolve for the jury. As a result, they may have a few possible doubts. These possible doubts shouldn’t prevent them from rendering a verdict, however. In fact, judges instruct juries to push past these kinds of doubts. Jurors in California, for example are told that “The evidence need not eliminate all possible doubt because everything in life is open to some possible or imaginary doubt.”
There’s a difference between imaginary doubts grounded in possibilities and reasonable doubts grounded in the best inferences from evidence. Jurors are warned against “speculating” about possibilities; instead, they are told to focus on the most reasonable, evidential inference. Jurors are instructed to avoid speculative questions like “What if…,” “Isn’t it possible that…,” or “Couldn’t this have happened?” if these questions aren’t rooted strongly in the evidence. Once jurors learn to avoid evidentially unsupported speculations, and become comfortable with the fact that every case has unanswered questions, they’ll be able to make a decision with confidence.
I’ve worked homicide cases where the jury decision was unexpectedly followed by a confession on the part of the defendant. In other words, I’ve seen cases where jurors understood the difference between “beyond a possible doubt,” and “beyond a reasonable doubt,” rendered a verdict despite lingering unanswered questions, and then had their verdict confirmed by the confession of the defendant. The legal standard (“beyond a reasonable doubt”) is sufficient; the process works.
So, when someone tells me that they can’t make a decision about the existence of God or the claims of Christianity because they still have possible doubts or unanswered questions, I simply remind them that criminal juries make critical decisions every day without possessing the level of certainty they are imagining. In fact, none of us know much of anything “beyond a possible doubt.” Instead, we move forward through life with a very different standard of proof, growing comfortable with decisions that are “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If that standard is good enough for the most critical decisions we make in the courtroom and in our daily lives, it’s good enough for any decision we might make about God’s existence or the truth of Christianity.”
This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.
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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Malachi: The Sun of Righteousness Will Rise

Dr. Ray Pritchard
“The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2).
The Old Testament ends with one final picture of our Lord.
When he comes, he will “rise” as the sun rises in the sky.
When he comes, he will banish the darkness.
When he comes, his light will fill the world.

But his coming does more than bring light into the darkness. When he comes, he brings the light of God’s righteousness with him. Here is good news for every weary sinner who feels the heavy weight of his own failures. Are you a sinner? If you are honest, you must answer yes. Have you fallen short of the glory of God? You must answer yes. Do you despair of ever pleasing God? Think before you answer! In one of her books, Ruth Graham, the late wife of Billy Graham, writes of a day when she felt overwhelmed by a sense of her own sinfulness:
“I am a weak, lazy, indifferent character; casual when I should be concerned, concerned when I should be carefree; self-indulgent, hypocritical, begging God to help me when I am hardly willing to lift a finger for myself; quarrelsome where I should be silent, silent where I should be outspoken; vacillating, easily distracted and sidetracked.”
Who among us could not say the same thing, multiplied many times over? Then she adds these words:
"What would I do," wrote Chalmers, "if God did not justify the ungodly?" And "What would I do," said Thomas Boston of Scotland, "but for the imputed righteousness?" There it is.  All that I am not, He is; all that I am and should not be, He forgives and covers (from It’s My Turn, pp. 104-105).
In the final Old Testament picture of Christ, we meet a Savior who does for us what we could never do for ourselves. At Bethlehem a baby arrived from heaven “with healing in his wings.”
Here is the doctrine of justification in one simple question: "What would I do if God did not justify the ungodly?" Ask yourself that question. What would you do? Where would you go? Where would you be if God were not willing to justify the ungodly?
But here is the good news of Christmas: Jesus came to save sinners. Are you a sinner? He came for you! Is your heart heavy today? He rises with healing in his wings.
Jesus is all you need for everything you will face today. He heals the brokenhearted, and he sets the captive free.
 Lord Jesus, we come to you just as we are. We come broken and ask you to heal us. We come guilty and ask you to make us right with God. We do not come because we are worthy, but because you are the Sun of Righteousness. Heal us and help us and make us whole again. Amen.

 Musical bonus: I hope you enjoy this rousing version of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Pentatonix.
You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.comClick here to sign up for the free email sermon.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

You Can Count on God

by Rick Warren
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV).
When everything’s changing around you, it’s important to remember that God is a consistent Father. He will never let you down. He can be counted on. He is reliable. He is worthy of trust.
James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (NIV). God is an unchanging, consistent Father.
Human fathers are often unpredictable. I’ve talked to people who said, “Growing up, I never knew how my dad was going to treat me. I never knew if he was going to be silent or violent. I never knew whether he was going to hug me or slug me. I never knew if he was going to take me in or reject me.” Inconsistent fathers produce insecure children.
But God is not moody. Your heavenly Father is consistent. One of the things you can count on is that God always acts the same toward you.
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
We know that the world is changing faster than ever before. Alvin Toffler wrote a book called “Future Shock,” in which he said that in times of rapid change, people need what he calls islands of stability. When everything else is up in the air, you need something in your life that never changes as an anchor for your soul. You need an island of stability in order to handle the stress.
There’s only one problem: On this planet, nothing lasts. There’s only one thing you can count on that is not ever going to change: the consistent, caring love of your heavenly Father.
“My God is changeless in his love for me” (Psalm 59:10a TLB).
You can count on that.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Haggai: The Desire of All Nations

Dr. Ray Pritchard
“I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come" (Haggai 2:7).
This fascinating verse apparently has a double meaning. It applies first to the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel. God promises the wealth of the nations will flow into the temple in Jerusalem. The rest of the verse promises God will fill the rebuilt temple with his glory. 
Christians have traditionally seen in this verse a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ. In John 2:20-21 Jesus referred to his body as “this temple,” meaning that in his life, death and resurrection, he would fulfill what the temple pictured through its design, its priesthood, its furniture, and its sacrifices. Jesus is the ultimate “Desire of All Nations” and the radiance of God’s glory. What the temple pictured, Christ fulfilled.
But that’s not all. 
When the writer of Hebrews contemplated the end of the age, he quoted Haggai 2:6 and applied it to the coming of Christ:
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain (Hebrews 12:26-27).
That’s what God is doing in our day. He’s shaking the nations–literally!–so the world will be ready for the coming of Christ. As Christ’s first advent happened “when the time had fully come” (Galatians 4:4), even so his return to the earth will occur when God has prepared everything just as he promised. 
Sometimes God puts us in difficult places so we will turn to Jesus. We received a letter from a prisoner who happened to read my book An Anchor for the Soul while he was in solitary confinement. Here’s what happened next:
I got into a fight and went into the hole (solitary confinement). So I was trading my food trays for envelopes (a kind of money in jail) and I wound up trading a food tray for a book to read. It’s something to do because you’re not allowed out of your cell. I looked at the book and thought, Ah, a religious book, I got ripped off. Cuz I never believed in God. I was baptized but I was a baby and it was not by choice. I decided to read the first little bit to see if I’d like it. Once I read that first prayer and everything before it, it touched me and I flew through the book. You covered every aspect I ever thought about. Thanks to you, I’ve found God. You’re right, once you’ve hit rock bottom, you can only look up.
People need Jesus but they don’t know it.
People desire Jesus but they don’t realize it.

Jesus’ appeal is always personal. He never says, “Come and join the church” or “Come and be baptized” or “Come and give money.” He simply says, “Come to me.”
If you are weary, come and find rest.
If you are guilty, come and be forgiven.
If you are far from God, come back home again.

Lord Jesus, when will we ever learn that nothing in this world can ever fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts? Only you can satisfy. Empty us, O Lord, so that you can fill us with yourself. Amen.
Musical bonus: The phrase “Desire of Nations” doesn’t appear in many hymns, but Charles Wesley included it in the well-known Advent carol “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.” You’ll hear it in this beautiful rendition by Fernando Ortega.
You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.comClick here to sign up for the free email sermon.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them - Matthew 18:20

We tend to place too much emphasis on crowds, on statistics, on the size of a particular group or movement. We, every one of us, are too easily influenced by the "mob mentality" -- the desire to be doing what everyone else is doing and going in the same direction everyone else is going.

But God is not concerned about numbers or popular approval. As Jonathan observed before facing an entire army with only his armor-bearer beside him: "there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6). For this reason the sixteenth century preacher John Knox contended, "A man with God is always in the majority."

Here Jesus promises his presence in even the smallest gathering in his name. He is just as much interested in the struggling church plant as he is in the megachurch. He is just as present and active in the small prayer meeting as he is in the Christian conference that fills a stadium.

The context of this passage, it is important to note, is a gathering for the sake of ironing out personal differences and possible offenses in the church. So Jesus is not just present when we feel the emotional high of singing praises; he is also present in the nitty-gritty work of personal admonitions and church discipline.

Jesus is concerned about people, but he is not anxious about numbers. Jesus will bless the smallest group that is faithfully seeking his glory and obeying his Word.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Prayer for Reading God’s Word

By Wendy Pope

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

For a long season of my life I was a carrier of God’s Word. I read the Bible during church when the pastor would preach, and I made sure to read enough to fill in my blanks for Bible study. But to read, highlight and apply Scripture to my life was foreign to me. How could I, a “C” student, ever understand the Bible? I wanted to be one of those women who highlighted and applied, but I didn’t even know where to start.

Then, our local Christian radio station challenged the listening audience to follow a one-year Bible reading plan. I couldn’t fathom reading the whole Bible, much less in only a year. In an effort to calm my fears, I took a trip to my local Christian bookstore. If I am going to read the whole Bible, certainly I need a new Bible to read. For what seemed like hours, I previewed various types of Bibles in an array of colors, styles and formats. Just when I was about to give up, I pulled a chronological Bible from the shelf.

The format intrigued me. Short readings. An easy-to-follow daily plan. An attractive cover. The best part: Knowing I would read the Bible in the order the events occurred. Yes! This was the Bible for me. Slowly, I began to understand the Bible as the ultimate guide to life, as Psalm 119:105 reminds us, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but not without stumbling. The year taught me so much. I learned Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are difficult to read in some parts. I learned it’s necessary to read the Old Testament to really appreciate the wonderful sacrifice Jesus made for me as described in the New Testament. Lastly, I learned it’s OK if I don’t understand the whole Bible. God will continue to reveal things to me as I continue to make His Word a priority.

Now, after reading a chronological Bible I am no longer just a carrier of the Word, I am a lover of the Word! If you’ve always wanted to read through the Bible but desired a friend to come along aside you for support, I pray you’ll take the same challenge and dig into God’s Word in 2017!

Dear God, I admit that reading the Bible is challenging for me. Yet I desire to be more than a carrier of Your Word. Give me a hunger and thirst for Your Truth. Lead me by the power of Your Spirit to study and apply Your Word to my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Editor’s Note: Content taken from the Encouragement for Today devotional, “Words That Made My Heart Ache,” written by Wendy Pope. You can read that piece in full here. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Billy Graham Gives Advice on How to Respond to False Prophets

by Veronica Neffinger | Editor, ChristianHeadlines.com

The Rev. Billy Graham recently responded to a reader’s question on how to interact with those who promote a false gospel.

A reader submitted this question which Graham responded to on the Answers section of his website:

"A couple came to our door the other day and said they wanted to read the Bible to us. They were very friendly, but later my uncle said we shouldn't have let them in because they belong to a cult. Now they want to come back and talk to us about their beliefs. Should we let them?"

According to Charisma News, Graham told the reader that being cautious and discerning of false prophets is important:

“Although you don't identify the organization or group that this couple represents, you are wise to be cautious—and in this instance, I urge you to heed your uncle's advice. Only a few decades after Jesus' ministry, the Bible warned that ‘many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1b).”

Graham went on to say that not recognizing the Bible as the Word of God and not recognizing Jesus as the Son of God are red flags.

“Don't be misled, but by a simple prayer of faith turn to Jesus Christ and invite Him to come into your lives today. Then ask Him to guide you to a church where you'll learn from the Bible and grow stronger in your faith,” he concluded.

Monday, January 16, 2017


by Russel S. Miller

Adultery heads the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, with fornication and uncleanness following second and third in succession. There is a world of sinners out there, unrestrained with unbridled lusts, to which the Lord sends His ambassadors with "the message of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:14-21).

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
envying, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like..."

It was adultery that ruined King David, for when it came time for the king to go to war, he was on his rooftop:

"And it came to pass in an evening tide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon" (II Sam. 11:2).

Did the Lord have this in mind when He said: "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28)? It is truly "from within, out of the heart of man, [that] proceed evil thoughts"; and "adulteries" are at the top of this list in Mark 7:21-23 also.

Again, in Romans Six, the Apostle Paul speaks of the works of the flesh as unfruitful and leading to death: "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death" (Rom. 6:21). In Colossians, we read that these works of the flesh originate from within, and pointing to the Christ of Calvary’s cross, Paul says: "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, YET NOW HATH HE RECONCILED IN THE BODY OF HIS FLESH THROUGH DEATH, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight" (Col. 1:21,22).

Consequently, there is real "joy and peace in believing" (Rom. 15:13) as God’s grace saves and transforms lives so that Christ may be seen, and not the works of the flesh.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22,23).

It is only right that there are laws against the works of the flesh, but how could there be laws against the fruit of the Spirit? A striking contrast indeed!