VIDEO Good News, Great Joy

Nov 18, 2013

Good News, Great Joy by Attila Juhas

Luke 2:10-11 (KJV)
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:14 (KJV)
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

He Leads Me

Sheep follow Sheep
He leads me beside the still waters. —Psalm 23:2

In Istanbul, Turkey, in 2005, one sheep jumped off a cliff and then nearly 1,500 others followed! In the end, about one-third of them died. Not knowing which way to go, sheep mindlessly follow other members of the flock.

No better word picture than sheep can be found to illustrate our need for a trustworthy leader. We are all, Isaiah wrote, like sheep (Isa. 53:6). We tend to go our own way, yet we desperately need the sure direction of a shepherd.

Psalm 23 describes the trustworthiness of our Good Shepherd. He cares for us (v.1); He provides for our physical needs (v.2); He shows us how to live holy lives (v.3); He restores us, comforts us, heals us, and bountifully blesses us (vv.3-5); and He will not abandon us (v.6).

What a comfort to know that God gently but firmly leads us! He does so through the urging of the Holy Spirit, the reading of His Word, and through prayer. God is the reliable leader we need.

In acknowledgment of our dependence on the Lord, we can say with the psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” By David C. Egner

Today’s familiar and beloved psalm has brought comfort and hope to many. And well it should. This psalm celebrates all that the Good Shepherd does for His sheep. The greatest benefit comes in the last verse: We will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v.6). God does so much to provide for and care for His sheep. However, there is an implicit idea in this text that should not be overlooked: Sheep follow their shepherd. The blessings and comfort of this psalm do not come to sheep that do not follow the Shepherd. As Jesus reminds us, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

Like sheep that sometimes wander from the flock
In tangled paths of life to lose their way,
I need my Shepherd’s hand and watchful eye
To keep me always, lest I go astray. —Sanders

The Lamb who died to save us is the Shepherd who lives to guide us.

How to Build Truth Into Our Life

James 1:23-25

As a teenager and a new believer, I would pull out my mother’s worn Bible when I needed God’s opinion on a matter. In the back, there were words written in bold type with verses beneath (I didn’t know then that this was known as a concordance). I’d look up a subject, write down the Scripture references, and then read them to get my answers. This simple activity was how I began to build truth into my life.

Believers who have decided to make God’s truth the foundation of their life need a place to start building. First, identify a point of need—some area that requires attention, like financial stewardship. Then search the Bible’s concordance for verses related to that topic. The passages on the subject will form a blueprint of what a believer’s life should look like.

The Holy Spirit provides the construction material. Using His guidance, strength, and wisdom, install new truths in your life by practicing what you read. Let’s again look at examples from the topic of stewardship: Matthew 6:24 teaches that we can’t serve both God and money, so attitudes must change. And since a borrower is the lender’s servant (Prov. 22:7), spending on credit should be carefully evaluated. That’s how new ways of thinking will replace faulty ideas.

It is a good idea to note—literally—the results of our obedience to God’s instructions. Journaling about His provision and the growth of our faith will inspire us to continue adding to our foundation of truth. That means choosing new areas to remodel according to God’s blueprint.

Prepared for You

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)

In context, this wonderful promise may apply specifically to those living believers recognized as “sheep” by Christ when He returns to judge the nations (or “Gentiles”) at the end of the age. For them He has prepared a wonderful kingdom in which they can fully serve their great King here on Earth. The “goats,” on the other hand, will be sent away into “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

But we remember also that the Lord Jesus Christ has also prepared a mansion in heaven for His faithful disciples. “In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

He is, even now, preparing for us that glorious place. One day, it will be fully prepared, and we shall see it when He brings it down from heaven, as John did in his great vision. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).

It will, indeed, be a wonderful place of “many mansions,” and John describes some of its beauties in the Bible’s last two chapters. But that is not all. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Therefore, we can say with Paul: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). He has indeed prepared a great eternal future for His redeemed children. HMM

Worlds Without Christmas

Where Celebrating Christ’s Birth Can Get You Into Trouble

Whatever you have in store for your Christmas holiday this year, consider yourself fortunate to be celebrating the beloved day. It’s surprising how many places in the world deny people this privilege.

Last year, the Somali Government banned celebration of Christian festivities in the country. The Ministry of Justice and Religious Affairs held a press conference in the capital city of Mogadishu just hours before Christmas Day to announce that no Christian festivities could be held in Somalia. All security and law enforcement agencies were instructed to counter any such celebrations.

In 2012, religious police in northwestern Saudi Arabia raided a house and detained 41 guests for “plotting to celebrate Christmas.” A Beirut newspaper reported this as “the latest in a string of crackdowns on residents perceived to be threatening Saudi Arabia’s strict religious code.” Moreover, the paper noted, Saudi Arabia, which only recognizes Islamic faith and practice, has in the past banned public Christmas celebrations, and the country’s head, Mufti Sheikh Abdel Aziz bin Abdullah, condemned “invitations to Christmas or wedding celebrations.”

While Christmas in China is now officially allowed, the government continues to impose tight regulations on religious practice making acts like caroling and public worship difficult for millions of Christians there. Ironically, since restrictions on Christmas have been lifted, the holiday, for many, has become a secular commercial affair nearly devoid of its authentic meaning. Cuba is another country with an historically acrimonious outlook on Christmas. Fidel Castro banned the holiday in 1959 when he seized power in a coup d’etat. The ban remained in place until 1999 when Pope John Paul II persuaded him to lift it.

Christians in countries where Christmas has only recently become permissible report their gratitude for new found freedoms. A Butan native who grew up in the Hindu nation of Napal recalls celebrating in secret in a refugee camp, but plans to go caroling with friends and to hang up lights this year. Tunisia, despite its overwhelmingly Muslim population, will hold Christmas Eve services in most of its churches. Shop owners around the country are advertising Christmas specials and decorating their stores with trees, mistletoe garlands, and artificial snow.

Even North Korea, which has long banned Christmas, is making concessions. Sort of. Last year Taedon Teavel, a Chinese tourist agency released the following ad: “What is your most cherished Christmas memory? Novelty knitted jumpers, overcooked Brussels sprouts and family arguments? Time to try Christmas in North Korea!” The tiny dictatorship allowed tourists who paid $1,000 to visit the totalitarian capital city, Pyongyang. That said, North Korea is still ranked among the most hostile countries in the world for Christians, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Christians are routinely arrested, tortured, and even killed. At least one has been publicly executed, and thousands are believed to be imprisoned in the country’s labor camps.

Many countries do not recognize Christmas, and some even ban it outright. Celebrating your faith publicly is one of the greatest gifts you will get this year.

by Tonya Stoneman

He will keep the feet of his saints

He will keep the feet of his saints. 1 Samuel 2:9

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. — He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.

I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1 John 1:6,7. John 13:10. Proverbs 4:11, 12, 14, 15, 25-27. 2 Timothy 4:18.

Blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ

Blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8

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: if ye continue in the faith grounded and
settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel. — That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.

Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. — Sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.

Colossians 1:21-23. Philippians 2:15. 2 Peter 3:14. Philippians 1:10. Jude 24,25.

A Chorus of Angels with Joy in Their Hearts

Luke 2:14

It’s easy to imagine what Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, or the Magi were thinking and feeling when they encountered the baby Jesus for the first time. I can imagine the mix of excitement, nerves, and expectation as they wondered when God would reveal the details of his plan and what kind of man this child would grow to be.

But have you ever thought what the angels of Luke 2 were thinking and feeling? I hadn’t until I read Rev. C.H. Spurgeon’s sermon on Luke 2:14 titled “The First Christmas Carol.”

Luke 2:14 records what the angels sang about the birth of Christ, overlooking a hillside full of sheep and shepherds. Spurgeon pointed out that, compared with the breadth of their experiences, this was a fairly humble job for a chorus of angels. These angels sang the soundtrack of creation, looking on as God spun into being all that we know. Several among their number had carried messages to kings and emperors. But on that night they carried a birth announcement to salt-of-the-earth people. And yet they didn’t hold back an ounce. They gave their highest praise. And Spurgeon said, “Methinks, they sang it with gladness in their eye; with their hearts burning with love, and with breasts as full of joy as if the good news to man had been good news to themselves.”

Why were the usually somber angels so delighted on that night? Because in the person of Jesus, all of God’s promises were fulfilled. All the attributes of God were manifest in a form that all men and women could see and experience for themselves. In the baby Jesus, God made himself accessible to us.

To the refrain they add, “. . . and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Not since the garden had true peace with God been available to mankind. Since Adam’s sin, there had always been enmity between God and men. The sacrificial system carved out an unsteady ceasefire, but lasting peace was finally possible on the night that God closed the distance between heaven and earth. He came to us because we could not go to him.

So as you celebrate Christmas this year, carve out some time to celebrate like the angels did—by giving to God the highest praise of which you are capable, and reveling in the peace that he made possible for you and me.

by Ray Deck III

The Words of Our Mouth

Psalm 19:12-14

Our voices can be tools for great good. For example, we can talk to our heavenly Father on behalf of ourselves and others; we can speak the truth of Jesus Christ and sing praises to Him; we can train, motivate, encourage, and warn; and we can express loving devotion to one another.

However, our voices also have the power to injure. It often starts out with something small—a comment regarding a church policy or a brief conversation about an acquaintance can snowball, causing unforeseen damage. At times, we may express our opinion in a critical way (“Did you see how he . . . ?”) or out of curiosity, ask a question that elicits the negative (“Do you know why she . . . ?”). Our questions and comments may sow seeds of doubt and distrust that can hurt someone else’s reputation. Another word for this is “gossip.”

God has strong things to say about gossips—they separate close friends, betray confidences, and stir up dissension. And notice how God views a gossip’s traveling companions: Romans 1:29-30 describes them with terms like unrighteousness, wickedness, and greed, as well as slanderers and haters of God. The Lord takes our words seriously.

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about your words, and let it transform any heart attitudes that might be prompting gossip. “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34). Be one who protects the reputation of others, whether family, coworkers, believers, or unbelievers. Be a blessing with your words.