VIDEO The Christmas Story – Music by Michael W. Smith

Dec 13, 2008

The real story of Christmas.

Clouds and Darkness

clouds darkness
Clouds and darkness surround Him… —Psalm 97:2

A person who has not been born again by the Spirit of God will tell you that the teachings of Jesus are simple. But when he is baptized by the Holy Spirit, he finds that “clouds and darkness surround Him….” When we come into close contact with the teachings of Jesus Christ we have our first realization of this. The only possible way to have full understanding of the teachings of Jesus is through the light of the Spirit of God shining inside us. If we have never had the experience of taking our casual, religious shoes off our casual, religious feet— getting rid of all the excessive informality with which we approach God— it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence. The people who are flippant and disrespectful in their approach to God are those who have never been introduced to Jesus Christ. Only after the amazing delight and liberty of realizing what Jesus Christ does, comes the impenetrable “darkness” of realizing who He is.

Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Once, the Bible was just so many words to us — “clouds and darkness”— then, suddenly, the words become spirit and life because Jesus re-speaks them to us when our circumstances make the words new. That is the way God speaks to us; not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God, it is by the most simple way— words.

by Oswald Chambers

Molded by the Master

Jeremiah 18:1-6

If you have ever watched a potter work, as Jeremiah did in today’s passage, you know the wonder of seeing a lovely vessel take shape from a lump of clay. God’s object lesson to the prophet was that the nation of Israel—as well as every person from the beginning of time—was to be shaped by His hand. We are all lumps of human clay waiting for the touch of the master Potter.

When clay is placed on the wheel, the potter already has a specific design in mind. The same is true of us—God has determined how He plans to work in our life and what part we are to play in building His kingdom (Eph. 2:10). He shapes with His hands and cuts with His tools so that our character begins to look like that of His Son Jesus. Each believer will be formed differently to carry out the unique service God has in mind for him or her. But regardless of our special equipping, we all bear the unmistakable imprint of our Potter.

Too often we look around at the talents and abilities of others and wish to be more like someone else. But we have been perfectly designed for the purposes God has for us, and He makes no mistakes. If we spend our time wishing for talents that do not suit God’s plan, or if we refuse to use the spiritual gifts He’s given us, we waste His effort and our opportunity to serve Him.

The Master is pleased with the way that He has designed our life and the abilities He’s poured into us. To honor the Potter as a vessel should, we must submit to being molded and used as He desires.

Tho Satan Should Buffet

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The second verse of “It Is Well with My Soul” puts persecution and troubles in perspective.

Tho Satan should buffet, tho trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Paul was given “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet” him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Almost every saint of every age could echo Paul’s concerns, for trials come to each child of God. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you” (1 Peter 4:12). God had a purpose in Paul’s life, and He has one in ours, although Paul couldn’t clearly see the purpose, and, at times, we can’t either. We can, however, “glory,” as Paul did; or “rejoice,” as Peter advises, in response to the knowledge of God’s loving oversight.

The persecution may never stop, and may, in fact, result in serious loss—even death. But through it all, we can have the controlling assurance that He has made our destiny certain, “for when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “We see Jesus . . . for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. . . . [thereby] bringing many sons unto glory” (Hebrews 2:9-10). As our text reminds us, “in the world ye shall have tribulation.” God may neither stop nor explain it, but He has “overcome” it, by shedding His own blood for our souls. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Truly, “it is well with my soul.” JDM

God with Us: The Birth of a Savior

VOD_TEMPLATE
Matthew 1:23

One of the most fascinating developments to follow through the Bible’s storyline is the concept of God dwelling with his people. God, the creator of all that exists, gradually reveals his desire to be present and active with those who belong to him. Tracing this progressive revelation is cause for great worship and wondrous hope.

After God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, God commanded them to make him “a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exod. 25:8). God had given the Israelites new hope and identity by rescuing them from the Egyptians. Now, he revealed his intention to have his presence continually with them. Through both this “tabernacle” and the temple that followed, God lived among his people. How incredible it must have felt to have the Lord of all creation make his home with them!

Yet the tabernacle and temple were only a glimpse of God’s ultimate plan to draw near to his people. Isaiah prophesied about a coming “Emmanuel” (Isa. 7:14), a name which means “God with us.” In Jesus, God entered into his creation in a very tangible way. That the temple system allowed for the high priest to enter into God’s presence was astounding, but Jesus made God’s presence readily available to all. He did this in two ways.

First, Jesus revealed the character of God. He demonstrated the love, mercy, righteousness, and holiness of God in ways that we could easily see and understand. Following God was no longer merely about obeying commands, but about following the one who lived them out perfectly.

Second, Jesus made a way for sinners to come into God’s presence by providing a “once and for all,” perfect sacrifice for sin. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christians “have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God both dwelt with us and provided a way for us to dwell with him.

With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we get another example of God’s desire to dwell with his people. Through the Holy Spirit, God intends to be ever present and active with his people, both as individuals and as the church (1 Cor. 6:19, 1 Cor. 3:16). In words only fully grasped with an understanding of the Israelite temple system, Paul asks the Corinthian church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” Just as God’s presence dwelt in the inner sanctuary of the physical temple, so now his presence dwells with his church and with individual believers.

Yet the final piece in God’s plan to dwell with his people is still yet to come. In John’s vision of the new creation, he sees “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:2). John then hears “a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Rev. 21:3). As we’ve seen time and again, God enters into our world, moves into our neighborhood. This passage does not read, “. . . the dwelling place of man is with God,” but rather “. . . the dwelling place of God is with man.” God enters into our world, our realm, our lives. He is the great initiator. And apart from his continual movement towards us, we are hopeless.

What a joy that our hope is not in “us with God,” but in “God with us.” Emmanuel.

by Derek Fekkes

… The Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me

… The Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. John 15:26

If I read aright the record of Christian experience through the years, those who most enjoyed the power of the Spirit of God have had the least to say about Him by way of attempted definition.

The Bible saints who walked in the Spirit never tried to explain Him. In post biblical times many who were filled and possessed by the Spirit were by the limitations of their literary gifts prevented from telling us much about Him. They had no gift for self-analysis, but lived from within in uncritical simplicity.

To them the Spirit was One to be loved and fellow-shipped the same as the Lord Jesus Himself. They would have been lost completely in any metaphysical discussion of the nature of the Spirit, but they had no trouble in claiming the power of the Spirit for holy living and fruitful service.

This is as it should be. Personal experience must always be first in real life. Knowledge by acquaintance is always better than knowledge by description, and the first does not presuppose the second nor require it.

What we have in the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit is Deity present among us.

He is not God’s messenger only—He is God!

He is God in contact with His creatures, doing in them and among them a saving and renewing work.

Man Has Lost God

Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. PSALM 104:29

The average person in the world today, without faith and without God and without hope, is engaged in a desperate personal search and struggle throughout his lifetime. He does not really know what he is doing here. He does not know where he is going.

The sad commentary is that everything he is doing is being done on borrowed time, borrowed money and borrowed strength—and he already knows that in the end he will surely die! It boils down to the bewildered confession of many humans that they have lost God somewhere along the way.

Man, made more like God than any other creature, has become less like God than any other creature. Created to reflect the glory of God, he has retreated sullenly into his cave—reflecting only his own sinfulness.

Certainly it is a tragedy above all tragedies in this world that love has gone from man’s heart. Beyond that, light has gone from his mind. Having lost God, he blindly stumbled on through this dark world to find only a grave at the end!

Dear Lord, thank You for the hope that I have found in Christ. And thank You for giving meaning and purpose to my life. Help me to glorify You today.