VIDEO Perfect Love

But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 1 John 2:5

When young people leave home for college, they often hear words like these from a parent: “Remember who you are and whose you are. Your lifestyle and actions when away from home will reveal how well you have internalized and embraced the values you’ve been taught.”

The apostle John wrote something similar to his first-century audience. In short, the Christians who obey God’s words are those in whom the love of God is doing its maturing and perfecting work. Or, said another way, “By [our obedience] we know that we are in Him.” Obedience doesn’t mean perfection, or never sinning. (See the apostle John’s acknowledgement that sin happens in 1 John 1:9.) John’s word “perfected” means “completion” or “ending.” The goal of God’s love for us, and our love for Him, is that we would be conformed to His will as expressed by obedience to His Word.

Do you find yourself being conformed more and more to the image of Christ, motivated by your loving fellowship with Him (Romans 8:29)? By this you know that you are in Him.

The habitual inclination of the heart…in believers…is unto good, unto God, unto holiness, unto obedience. John Owen


Longing for the Word (1 Peter 2:1–9)

Cheerful Giver

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Nicholas, who was born in the third century, had no idea that centuries after his death he would be known as Santa Claus. He was just a man who loved God and genuinely cared for people and who was known for giving cheerfully of his own possessions and doing kind deeds. The story is told that after learning of a family who was in great financial distress, Nicholas came to their home at night and threw a bag of gold through an open window, which landed in a shoe or stocking warming by the fireplace.

Long before Nicholas, the apostle Paul urged the believers in Corinth to be cheerful givers. He wrote to them about the great financial needs of their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem and encouraged them to give generously. Paul explained to them the benefits and blessings that come to those who give of their possessions. He reminded them that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6).  As a result of their cheerful generosity, they would be “enriched in every way” (v. 11), and God would be honored.

Father, would You help us to be cheerful givers not only during this Christmas season but all year long? Thank You for Your incredible generosity in giving us Your “indescribable gift,” Your Son, Jesus (v. 15).

By:  Estera Pirosca Escobar

Reflect & Pray

Where do you see a need you could help with this week? How could you give generously of your time or resources?

Thank You, giving God, for encouraging me to be generous because in Your economy, generosity will bring the giver and the receiver abundant blessings.

A Realistic View of Life

Fearing death is fruitless and only distracts us from our true life; shifting our focus to God helps us keep a realistic view on Earth

Psalm 103:15-18

Our culture desperately tries to postpone death. Yet vitamins, exercise, and healthy diets will eventually prove futile because, as James 4:14 says, our life is “a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away.” We’ll all die, but believers have no reason to fear. In fact, the apostle Paul assures us that, far from being a dreadful change, physical death actually leads believers home to be with the Lord forever (2 Cor. 5:8).

Ultimately, none of us have control over the length of our life because all the days ordained for us have already been written in God’s book (Psalm 139:16). So the important issue is how we use the days He has allotted to us. As we share the Lord’s love near and far, we should remember our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20); we’re passing through this earthly life as travelers. If we become too comfortable here or seek to find our security and worth in worldly success, it won’t be possible to maintain an eternal perspective. 

Have you become distracted from the eternal by living for the temporal? The way to shift your focus heavenward is to know and love the One who dwells there.

The Christian’s Purpose

“According as he hath chosen us in him…that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4)

In the grand purpose of our “selection” into God’s family, two key words are used:

“Holy” (Greek hagios) stresses dedication. A holy man or woman is distinctively God’s, set apart for God’s use, separated from the secular, and consecrated to God’s service. All who are “chosen” are chosen to be holy.

The Colossian Christians were told to “mortify” the physical appetites, to “put off” their sinful mental attitudes and habits, and to “put on the new man…as the elect of God, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3:5-12). The focus is character.

“Without blame” refers to our reputations. This character will only be fully realized in heaven (1 Corinthians 1:8), but there is a present responsibility to “present your bodies a living sacrifice…And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2).

The character of holiness will become the cause of a lifestyle of blamelessness. We are to be the “sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

This holy and blameless condition will result in “the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6), where God will someday “gather together in one all things in Christ” (v. 10).

What a magnificent thought! The purpose for which we have been chosen, predestined, redeemed, and forgiven is to be holy in character and blameless in reputation, so that when God gathers us all together in Christ, we will be the praise of the glorious grace of God! HMM III

I Cry Aloud To The Lord!

I cry aloud to the Lord; I plead aloud to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before Him; I reveal my trouble to Him. Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way. Along this path I travel they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: no one stands up for me; there is no refuge for me; no one cares about me (Psalm 142 vv. 1-4).

David’s circumstances couldn’t be worse! He is hiding out in a cave with the murderous King Saul in hot pursuit. David is utterly helpless and alone. His prayer is more of a demand than a polite request. He is crying “aloud,” literally shouting at God!

Every trail and road is mined and booby-trapped, and David is spooked. He’s afraid to make a single move! Isolated, he feels that “no one cares” (v. 4).

I understand this feeling. As long as I can remember, I’ve been quiet, introverted, high-strung, and overly sensitive. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell from observing me, but deep inside is a fragile persona. There are times when I feel that I might as well drop out because no one cares. It’s the price one pays for having the volume turned up too high on life!

David has “no refuge” (v. 4), no place and no one but God. Actually, that’s exactly where the Lord wants us. The best place to be is in a position of absolute dependence on God. Most of us still believe we can make it on our own strength, that we make life work on our own. The real truth is that he gives us the power to do everything we do. “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant” (Deut. 8:17—18). Some people aren’t blessed because they’re depending too much on their own talent.

Personal Prayer

O Lord, I’m only too conscious of my weakness and vulnerability. Please show me your strength at the point of my deepest need!

An Appropriate Gospel Song

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus

No one ever cared for me like Jesus

There’s no other friend so kind as He;

No one else could take the sin and darkness from me,

O how much he cared for me!

Words and music by C. F. Weigle.

© 1932. Renewal 1959 by John T. Benson Jr.

Assigned to and © 1983 by Singspiration.

Truth in a Nutshell

On the day I called, You answered me; You increased strength within me.—Psalm 138:3

What are the benefits of keeping our gaze continually focused on God? I can think of at least three.

First, the more we study Him, the more we will want to become like Him. The most natural thing in the world, when there is a good relationship between parents and their children, is for that child to want to become like them. That is the way it is also with God our Father. The more we discover of His love, His holiness, His purity, His trustworthiness, His strength, His patience, the more we want to emulate Him.

Second, the more we study God, the better we will know ourselves. When Isaiah stepped into the Temple and had a vision of God, he also saw the truth about himself. Things that were hidden deep within him came to light in the presence of the Eternal.

Third, the more we study Him, the clearer will be our perspective on the world. When you see that God is in charge, then you won’t panic every time you open the newspaper. You can only know God, of course, through Christ, and because You have Him, instead of saying, “Look what the world has come to,” you will be able to say, “Look what has come to the world.”

The people who know their God will firmly resist the Devil, says Daniel. He writes, “The people who know their God will be strong and take action” (Dn 11:32). I can do no more than to say—there you have it in a nutshell. The more you know God, the stronger you will be.

Prayer

My Father and my God, now I set my course for the wide seas. With Your truth as my compass and Your Word as my chart, I set sail on this great adventure to know You better. I can count on You, but can I count on me? With Christ’s help I can. Amen.

Further Study

2Tm 1:1-12; Jn 17:3; Jb 19:25

What did Jesus pray?

What was the key to Job’s facing his difficult circumstances?

By What Authority?

2 Timothy 1:12

Anyone who wants to join The Salvation Army is asked to sign the Articles of War (soldier’s covenant), and to declare that he is “thoroughly convinced of the truth of the Army’s teaching.” But what is the teaching of The Salvation Army and where did it come from?

Eleven articles of faith sum up the beliefs, unchanged since 1878. Of course, the faith professed by Salvationists was not suddenly discovered in 1878. But why is it necessary to express beliefs in written statements—and why these particular eleven articles? Surely we cannot put God down on paper! Many of the ideas we find in later statements of faith are already found in Paul’s letters. There have been various important statements of faith through the centuries, including the Army’s eleven articles of faith.

By what authority? One could reply, firstly, “I know that what I tell you is true, because God has made it known to me personally.”

But there is an obvious danger in the “personal inspiration” theory. How can you be sure that your idea is right and that your new truth has in fact come from God? Personal inspiration is of great importance; indeed we cannot have a living faith until we say, “I know in my own heart that it is true.”

A second answer to the question is the appeal to tradition. Tradition plays a great part in all religious faiths. But we see at once two dangers in relying on tradition only. The first is the weakness of human understanding. Again, traditions become twisted by pride and greed.

We can reply to the question, “How do you know?” by saying, as Jesus did to the tempter, “It is written,” or “Scripture says” (Matthew 4:4).

Here then are the three sources of authority for Christian doctrine: personal revelation, tradition and the Bible. All churches recognize them in some degree. All agree that personal faith is necessary for genuine religion, all have worthwhile customs and traditions handed down from the past, and all value the Bible.

We must apply both heart and mind to the study of the Bible. We use our brains but we also need humble hearts to receive what James Denney called “the Word of God, the revelation of God to the soul in Christ, attested by the Spirit.”

John Coutts, This We Believe

VIDEO The Temple of the Holy Spirit – Life of Joseph

…only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you. —Genesis 41:40

I am accountable to God for the way I control my body under His authority. Paul said he did not “set aside the grace of God”— make it ineffective (Galatians 2:21). The grace of God is absolute and limitless, and the work of salvation through Jesus is complete and finished forever. I am not being saved— I am saved. Salvation is as eternal as God’s throne, but I must put to work or use what God has placed within me. To “work out [my] own salvation” (Philippians 2:12) means that I am responsible for using what He has given me. It also means that I must exhibit in my own body the life of the Lord Jesus, not mysteriously or secretly, but openly and boldly. “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection . . .” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Every Christian can have his body under absolute control for God. God has given us the responsibility to rule over all “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” including our thoughts and desires (1 Corinthians 6:19). We are responsible for these, and we must never give way to improper ones. But most of us are much more severe in our judgment of others than we are in judging ourselves. We make excuses for things in ourselves, while we condemn things in the lives of others simply because we are not naturally inclined to do them.

Paul said, “I beseech you…that you present your bodies a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1). What I must decide is whether or not I will agree with my Lord and Master that my body will indeed be His temple. Once I agree, all the rules, regulations, and requirements of the law concerning the body are summed up for me in this revealed truth-my body is “the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

We begin our Christian life by believing what we are told to believe, then we have to go on to so assimilate our beliefs that they work out in a way that redounds to the glory of God. The danger is in multiplying the acceptation of beliefs we do not make our own. Conformed to His Image, 381 L


Life of Joseph: From Pit to Pinnacle – Genesis 41:33-44

Illustrating Scripture

We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4

Decorative blue and white ceramic tiles commonly found in Dutch households were originally made in the city of Delft. They often depict familiar scenes of the Netherlands: beautiful landscapes, ubiquitous windmills, and people working and playing.

In the nineteenth century, Charles Dickens wrote in his book A Christmas Carol how these tiles were used to illustrate the Scriptures. He described an old fireplace built by a Dutchman paved with these quaint Delft tiles: “There were Cains and Abels, Pharaohs’ daughters, Queens of Sheba, . . . [and] Apostles putting off to sea.” Many households used these tiles as a teaching tool as the family gathered around the warmth of a fire and shared the stories of the Bible. They learned about God’s character—His justice, compassion, and mercy.

The truths of the Bible continue to be relevant today. Psalm 78 encourages us to teach the “hidden lessons from our past—stories we’ve heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us” (vv. 2–3 nlt). It goes on to instruct us to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” and “they in turn [can] tell their children” (vv. 4, 6).

With God’s help, we can find creative and effective ways to illustrate the truths of Scripture to each generation as we strive to give God the full honor and praise He deserves.

By:  Cindy Hess Kasper

Reflect & Pray

What ways have you found effective in illustrating the truths of the Bible to someone who’s new to Scripture? Who needs to know about the “praiseworthy deeds of the Lord”?

Loving God, show me ways to illustrate what I’ve learned from Scripture so others may know of Your wonders.

Learn more about the central meaning of the Bible

Sunday Reflection: A Gift For The World

As Christians, we have the best reason to celebrate joyfully at Christmas: we were given the eternally perfect gift of Christ

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the Scripture referenced throughout.

Another busy Christmas season is upon us, and the next few weeks will be overflowing with parties, gifts, and good cheer. However, this time is especially meaningful for Christians, who recognize the reason for such joy: Our Savior came to rescue us from sin and death, and He will come again in glory to make all things new (Matt. 1:21; Revelation 21:4-5).

Thanks to Christ, the One who has overcome the world, we can experience true peace. And this blessing will continue into eternity, where we will dwell forever with our heavenly Father (John 16:33; 2 Pet. 1:10-11). As members of the Christian community, we should celebrate this truth every day and share it with those around us. The gladness that binds us together in unity is our gift to the world, and when it is evident, people can’t help but be drawn in.

Think about it

  •  Do you think of the kingdom of God primarily as a present reality or a future inheritance? How does that view shape your understanding of Christian community?